The Premise: Cameron Lynde is an Assistant U.S. Attorney who decided to give herself a little break by staying overnight at the Peninsula Hotel in San Francisco while she waited for her hardwood floors to be sealed. Unfortunately she has a very bad night when her neighbors in room 1308 engage in a loud sex marathon until 3am. Noises cease for about half an hour and then loud banging and squealing start up again and she calls the front desk. Things get worse when hotel security finds a dead woman in the room and Cameron is the only person to have caught a glimpse of the murderer through her peephole. After that the FBI arrives and Cameron discovers that Jack Pallas is in charge- and he blames her for being disciplined and shipped off to Nebraska three years ago.
My Thoughts: Julie James' style of writing has a lot of focus on dialog. It feels like I am reading something that I can picture in my minds eye as a romantic comedy on the big screen, with a lot of banter and cute situations. I had a good couple of chuckles over some of the talks among the men (cops and FBI agents) discussing Cameron's "Meet-Cute" with Max, her date, or telling Jack that he "glowers". I think after reading three of her books I trust this author to deliver a contemporary romance of a certain level of writing and she doesn't disappoint in giving me something that I know I'll enjoy.
As in her last two books, Practice Makes Perfect and Just the Sexiest Man Alive, the heroines are lawyers and the author writes about the profession with authority. Jack's job as an FBI agent seems realistic as well although I feel like the author took some liberties with it because I had to suspend my disbelief a couple of times in the book (especially when their relationship became more heated and no one admonished Jack for his behavior). I think the liberties were taken to push the couple closer, and it wasn't something I thought that jeopardized Cameron's safety, so I was able to accept it that way.
I think it's a matter of taste whether you'd prefer this over the more relationship conflicted earlier books. I think I prefer less sexiness in my stories, and this book feels a lot more "sexy" than the other two. There's more focus on each other's bodies and in the sexual tension between Jack and Cameron than on the conflict keeping the two apart romantically like in the last two books. I felt like the conflict was lower here because the couple were more concerned about the killer who may be coming for Cameron.
The suspense is a big part of the story. We know early on who the killer is and what his motivations are. Cameron and Jack both do smart things in handling the situation - Cameron listening to the FBI and doing what they tell her, Jack covering all bases in protecting his witness and investigating leads. Despite this, the killer is pretty smart too, and he did some things I found unexpected that made the story more exciting to read. I was particularly impressed by the big finale.
Overall: This is a sexier book with more suspense in it than the last two, and these are things I don't necessarily prefer in my contemporary romance, but it has the Julie James level of quality and overall I enjoyed it although it's not my favorite one.
******* Warning: VERY MILD SPOILER about Philip Guthrie FOR THE FIRST TWO BOOKS (although I think this book can be read without reading them) ******
The Premise: In Hope's Folly, the focus was on Admiral Philip Guthrie, a commander of rebel forces of the Alliance. Now the focus on one of his brothers: Devin. Devin Guthrie is the youngest Guthrie brother, and the quiet, numbers crunching, computer guru. He's had a crush on Makaiden Griggs for years, but she was married and in his family's employ as a captain of one of their many private ships. And in the aftermath of his brother's defection from the Empire, Devin is being pushed to marry someone the family approves of. When Devin's nephew Trip, heir to the Guthrie empire goes missing, Devin takes action to find him and in the process Devin and Makaiden cross paths once more.
My Thoughts: This is a book that stands enough on it's own that I think you will be OK reading it without reading the first three books. Past characters make very small cameos or are talked about while they are off-screen, but aren't the vital to the story. I think that Sinclair does enough explaining in the first few chapters that a reader will have the basics - that the Guthries are a wealthy family with lots of holdings and with a second son who has rebelled against the current regime. Although that does color Devin's current situation, the focus is squarely on Devin and his problems, and since he's a character who hasn't really shown up till now, you don't need to have read past books.
The book is action packed as Makaiden, Devin, and Barthol, a long time Guthrie employee with an Imp-Sec background protect Trip and try to discover who is behind the security breaches on the Guthrie properties and the murder of Trip's bodyguard. The world building in this book is what I expect from Sinclair now - it's seamless. She makes it look easy and believable. The action too is well paced. It's a game of chase as Devin and friends stay ahead of whoever is following them, while trying to learn as much as possible why the bad guys are so interested in Trip. I had my guess who was behind their problems but I was perplexed as to why until the end. The surprising accomplice was also something I suspected but I saw in the review I'm linking below that it was unexpected to others.
In Rebels and Lovers we get a closer view of the Guthrie family than we ever had before. Details about the family dynamics and holdings come to light. I didn't know that the patriarch, J.M. had such power over his children, or what roles each of his sons had in the family company. It was interesting to find out what Guthries had similar traits and how they got along with each other.
Since I have a soft spot for geeks, I liked Devin's character. He's not comfortable in social situations, but he's good at his job as a senior analyst at his firm. His geekiness does not mean he's weak or incapable. The only big problem he has is knowing how to tell Makaiden that she means something to him.
Devin thinks that Makaiden is married and in love with her husband Kiler. When Kiler was fired from the Guthrie employ, she left with him. Meanwhile Makaiden believes that her low beginnings would repel Devin an the rest of his family. This is where all the romantic conflict stems. I understood Devin's point of view, but I got a little tired of Makaiden being so easy to jump to conclusions before talking to Devin about her fears. I'm not sure if this is very healthy. She often spends time assuming how Devin will feel and acts based on these assumptions. I was expecting the two of them to resolve this issue by the time the book ended so I was surprised they never really do. Maybe their talk happened off the page, or suddenly became a non issue after they survive near death in the climax. The ending threw me a little because it felt rushed after the rest of the book. It was a summarized version of things tidily and quickly wrapped up and I wanted more than what I got.
This book comes out March 23
Overall: It felt like classic Linnea Sinclair so it was what I expected and wanted to read. A straightforward science fiction romance, with the emphasis on a relationship amid action packed space opera. No frills added. Despite wishing the ending wasn't so abrupt, I enjoyed this one. ...more
Seanan McGuire may be my new favorite writer from last year. I have been anticipating A Local Habitation ever since I put down the first book in the series, Rosemary and Rue. When I won a copy of the book at Book Love Affair (awesome blog), I was ecstatic. I read this book RIGHT after I received it.
The Premise: October (Toby) Daye is a Daoine Sidhe changeling. Her mother is well known for her ability to "ride the blood" and garner memories from it. Toby has a diluted ability which she uses in her PI practice, and in her investigations as a Knight under the Sylvester Torquill, the Duke of the Shadowed Hills. At the start of this book, she's asked to check in on the county of Tamed Lightening by Sylvester. His niece, the current ruler has stopped calling him for five weeks and he wants to know that she is OK. Sylvester sends Toby along with a foster at his court, Quentin, so that Quentin can learn something. It looks to be a simple mission, but once they get there, Toby and Quentin find it's anything but. People are dying one by one under mysterious circumstances.
My Thoughts: I am so easily sucked in by the writing of this book. I've seen comparisons to Patricia Briggs, Ann Aguirre, and Ilona Andrews and I would agree that if you like those authors you will probably like Seanan McGuire too. It has only been two books but I'm already on giddy auto-buy mode. I didn't think Rosemary and Rue was perfect, but the world building was amazing, and I've been anticipating what would happen next for Toby. There are a lot of hints about unfinished business in her life in the first book which have me hooked to this series already.
Like a lot of urban fantasies, the books are narrated in first person by Toby. Her character is interesting in that she has some power - the ability to read blood and to do small magics that most fae can do, but she's a lot weaker than the purebloods and there's a high price for even simple tasks, often in the form of a killer headache from overexertion. So Toby straddles the line between human weakness and fae power, and this along with small reminders that she isn't considered to be in the same league as purebloods are, makes her a sympathetic character.
Although Toby isn't one to really dwell on her differences, she is aware of them, and we are aware as readers by how banged up Toby gets in her investigations, that she's not without weakness. I like how her bit of humanity along with her Daoine Sidhe blood makes her more able to deal with death than the regular fae, who don't die of old age. She spent some time in the Summerlands so she knows a lot about fae culture and thinking, and we don't have a heroine who needs things explained to her. She explains things to us as the story moves along, and she's only ignorant about things most fae don't know about or who the murderer is. Otherwise she is a heroine who is respected for her experience, which is something I can appreciate.
In A Local Habitation, there's a new cast of characters from the county of Tamed Lightening and we're introduced to some new kinds of fae. As in the first book, I enjoyed learning through Toby about these new fae and what their abilities are, particularly the Bannick and the Dryad. We're also treated to reappearances from the first book from Sylvester and Quentin, and from Tybalt and Connor. The reappearance of Quentin and Toby's taking him under her wing reminds me of how I thought she had a soft spot for young people in Rosemary and Rue. And there is of course Sylvester, the Duke of Torquill who Toby never thinks is anything but the perfect ruler. I wonder if he will stay untarnished for the rest of this series. In my mind Toby is a bit of an unreliable narrator, and she doesn't see things that the reader may notice. Anyway, I'm speculating out loud about where things may go, which is what this series makes you do (and I love that).
There's not really any romance in this book. There were hints of possible interest in Rosemary and Rue from both Tybalt and Conner (Toby is more aware of Connor than Tybalt because of their past history) which continue in this book, as well as from a new character. I am really fond of Tybalt, and although there is a promising early scene in A Local Habitation, there's very little interaction between them which made the situation hard to read into. On the other hand I thought Toby was getting herself into messy waters with Connor in this book, which you could have seen happening a mile away after Rosemary and Rue. The guy is married to an unhinged woman who hates Toby. You can't expect anything good to come out of that.
In Rosemary and Rue, I thought the second part wasn't as strong as the first, but in A Local Habitation I didn't have this problem, so I liked this book more. If I were to look for problems, I'd say the mystery may be the weakest part. There's a small pool of suspects and throughout the story, the pool dwindles as more characters become victims. There are some hints which point at someone who Toby kept discounting, so I had my suspect who turned out to be the murderer. On the other hand, I didn't guess the whole thing, especially why the murders were taking place, and I don't think most people would guess the Why, although they may have the Who.
Overall: I liked this one better than the first book. I love the heroine and the pacing of the story seems just right, although I wish there was a tad more romance (I hope there is in future releases). I highly recommend this series if you like Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs or Ann Aguirre. The author writes complete installments but threads each book with hints as to the ongoing drama of Toby's life,and anticipating what could happen next is delicious. This is actually a series that I hope won't end at three books.
The third book An Artificial Night comes out this September (I'm glad there isn't a long wait)....more
I liked the fun series set in Bigtime about superheroes by Jennifer Estep, so when I found out she had an urban fantasy series in the works, it went on my wishlist. I won a copy of this book over at vampirewire.
The Premise: Gin Blanco is an assassin who works at a barbecue restaurant called the Pork Pit during the day. She relies on her knives and tools for her job, but in case she needs it she's also a Stone Elemental - someone with power over rocks and Earth with a small amount of Ice Elemental power as well. One day, Gin is hired to kill an embezzler, but is surprised during the job by a double cross by the client. Within moments, Gin is wanted by the police and everyone around her is in danger. To clean things up Gin makes a surprising move: she teams up with a straight-laced cop, Donovan Caine.
My Thoughts: Reading Spider's Bite right after The Better Part of Darkness by Kelly Gay really highlighted how expectations of a character's morals and whether they live up to them is part of what affects my reading experience. Although I didn't always agree with what Gin did, I expected her to be ruthless, and it wasn't as much a problem for me when she was. I understood her rules, and although she was not above doing something I find questionable, she was consistent with what my expectations were: a killer who doesn't pretend to be one of the good guys. The interest is in knowing up front that Gin walks a fine line, and I'm not sure whether or not she will go over. Somehow, I root for her despite her profession.
Because of the female assassin, this book reminds me of Kelley Armstrong's Nadia Stafford series, which is a series I LOVE and am patiently waiting to continue. Of course this book is really different, but the smart, capable heroine is similar. I feel like this series, which has three books out this year (Web of Lies comes out in May and Venom comes out in September), fills some of the void I feel over Nadia Stafford, and I recommend this series for people who like that one.
What I really like about this book is how the hero, Donovan Caine, an honest detective with ideals, has to work with with an assassin in this story! He's the one trying to make sure that Gin doesn't do things that go over the line, and he has a moral dilemma - he likes and is attracted to her while he thinks that she's a cold-blooded killer. His his physical attraction to someone who may have murdered his partner and all the mixed up feelings of guilt and anger involved with that make their relationship kind of delicious. I'd love to see how things develop in the next two books. One thing I'd say though - Gin isn't subtle about her appreciation of the detective. Her thoughts are clear to the reader and I think that romance readers would be unfazed but readers who don't like anything explicit could be turned off.
The relationships in this series feel real life, maybe because I thought Gin felt like a three-dimensional character. The people in Gin's life felt like family - her handler Fletcher and his son Finnegan, and the twin dwarf sisters Jo-Jo and Sophia have a long back story that is hinted at but you feel like they've had years together to build their relationships.
Another thing I liked was the idea of the Elementals and how they are a normal part of society (along with giants, vampires and dwarfs). There are different shades and kinds of Elemental power: Ice, Stone, Air and Fire, and Elementals veer to certain jobs because of it just like any other talent. It's also common for people to have their own personal rune to reflect this talent.There's a promising introduction to Fire Elemental and Big Bad, Mab Monroe, who sounds like she owns the town and may be someone Gin will eventually confront in the next couple of books. Mab and Gin's past looks to be part of a larger story arc I''d like to read.
Note: for fans of Estep's Bigtime series - the Elemental Assassin series has a very different voice and a darker tone, but I noticed a nod to Estep's previous series in the form of a mention of Fiona Fine. It tickled me. :)
Overall: The more I think about it the more I like this book. I recommend this urban fantasy for people who like a smart, practical kind of heroine with a hard edge. If you liked Kelley Armstrong's Nadia Stafford, I think you will like Gin Blanco. I plan to buy the rest of these books....more
The Premise: In this urban fantasy series, the existence of races from other worlds became known when scientists discovered two parallel planes of existence called Elysia and Charbydon. The beings in them have immigrated to Earth and were named goblins, ghouls, imps, sirens, nymphs, jinn, and fae, because those were the closest words people had to describe them. Charlie Madigan works for Atlanta's Integration Task Force (the ITF) with her siren partner, Hank, to take down any off world offenders. When Charlie and Hank find Amanda Mott, Charlie's daughter's babysitter and friend in a coma-like state, they begin to investigate an off-world drug called ash which is believed to be responsible. Complications arise when the investigation unearths problems that personally involve Charlie and threaten those she loves.
My Thoughts: This is one of those urban fantasies where the heroine has a dark side. Think Dante Valentine in the series by Lilith Saintcrow. The story is in the first person POV and her personality colors the story.
There's a healthy dose of angst in Charlie's life. She is a divorced mother whose husband did a really bad thing to get the divorce. She lost a twin brother in a violent way when she was a teen. And she died eight months ago. The circumstances to that death are known, but her resurrection is shrouded in mystery. Charlie has nightmares and notices that she's different than she used to be. Charlie has good reasons to be angry, but her anger can take over, and that's where the darkness comes into the story.
To balance some of the angst and anger, Charlie has people who support her like family (her sister Bryn, and parents who are traveling), and friends ( such as her partner Hank). She's a mom to a tween, Emma. She also meets Aaron, a powerful mage, and Rex, a demon spirit. Yet, while she has so much to protect, Charlie is a heroine who rushes headlong into trouble without a moments thought. Fortunately, I wasn't the only one thinking this: her sister and Hank and everyone else lecture her to be more cautious and to not try to solve everything on her own without letting other people in. I was glad that Charlie finally started listening to them and let them help her when things got worse, but it takes her a least half the book to get there which can give you a bad first impression of her as a main character.
I think that Charlie's seeing reason helped me a lot with her character but I still had a problem with her. I think my issue was that I still don't like some of her actions. It began with her impulsive running-into-danger, but I also thought she did things that were wrong and I didn't believe in her justifications. Despite being someone who is supposed to uphold the law, she uses violence often to get what she wants. I think I expect more when a character is identified as law enforcement, rather than say, an assassin. I can accept killing in self defense for a cop, but killing a random guard in cold blood and they didn't put up a fight? Torture and humiliation for information? Maybe being a mother trumped being a cop and that was justification. I'm not sure. It made it hard for me to enjoy the story while being uncomfortable with the heroine.
It's too bad I couldn't warm to Charlie in the book because I did enjoy the writing and the secondary characters a lot. The side characters all had distinct personalities and depth. I think I was particularly fond of Rex and his sarcastic comments. The world building felt unique and interesting. Justina Robson did something similar in Keeping It Real with the worlds from different dimensions meeting, but The Better Part of Darkness still put a unique spin on the idea. And the plot and pacing felt like it had the right amount of action versus downtime.
A note on the romance. I'd read in another blog that there was a love square in this book. There are quite a few men that Charlie found attractive - many are supernaturally gorgeous, but I didn't really see anyone as a possible love interest for her. There are hints at first but I don't think anything pans out. I am not sure where the other blogger was seeing the love square, because I certainly didn't see it. There may be something in a later book, but in this one it felt like an urban fantasy without a real romantic element.
Overall: There's a lot that I liked about this book, but unfortunately I never warmed to the main character, which brought down my overall enjoyment. I would read the second book if I hear that Charlie does some learning from her mistakes....more
This book languished on my nightstand for a few months. My husband bought this series after realizing it's about assassins and he recommended it to me after he finished. The 645 page length was daunting though so I didn't get around to reading it until I was threatened, err, reminded that my husband wanted to lend it to a friend and I better read it before he gave it to them.
The Premise: The first book in the Night Angel trilogy, this is an epic tale about the citizens of Cenaria, but the focus is on Azoth, a street urchin who lives on the streets with a ragtag band of other children. His group all hand in most of their earnings to Rat, one of the "Bigs" of their group, who leads through terror. Azoth rashly provokes Rat who decides to use him as an example and Azoth's only hope for survival (and protect his two friends, Jarl and Doll Girl) is to apprentice under Durzo Blint, the best wetboy (an assassin with a magical edge) in the city. Durzo is never afraid and Azoth wants to never be afraid again. That's how the book begins, but it becomes bigger and more complex as we meet new characters and see the intricate interactions between them their ramifications on the fate of Cenaria.
My Thoughts: How do I describe this book? It starts off sort of simple and then becomes more complex as you go along. At first when I got a sense of the city, I wasn't that impressed by the world building. II felt like it wasn't something I hadn't seen before: the groups of street children, the idea of Guilds, the corrupt king and unrest while a neighboring land populated by evil magic-doers plots to invade. It reminds me of a lot of other fantasy, but that was okay, because after the world building foundation was in place, the characters and the plot were so unique fascinating my earlier quibbles were forgotten and I enjoyed the book. The author also introduces some new-to-me magical aspects which are peppered throughout the story.
The Way of Shadows begins as a coming of age tale. Azoth has nothing to protect himself or his two friends, the young, mute Doll Girl and the smart but small framed Jarl, and he dreams desperately of leaving the streets and apprenticing under the number one wetboy in the city, Durzo Blint. Azoth's dream is an almost impossible one, but he does manage to catch Blint's attention and Durzo promises to teach him only if he passes a test. I was really engrossed by this part of the story - wanting Azoth to pass his test and to destroy Rat, but it is also probably one of the most violent parts of the book. The abuse against children, by other children, while adults may know what's going on and do nothing, was really hard to read. It gave me chills, but it sets up the story so you know not to expect things to go the way you want them to.
The second part is the apprentice-ship phase where Azoth becomes someone else--Kylar. He trains and grows up and so do his friends and enemies. The focus of the book shifts a little and we get introduced to the points of view of some other characters. Brents starts setting the characters up like pieces on a chessboard. Friendships and actions that occur in this phase may be small and seemingly insignificant but have greater repercussions later on. We also get a lot of interesting characters and begin to learn about their motivations and secret griefs. I particularly liked Durzo Blint who avoids morality and emotional connection. Finding out why and whether it really works for him is part of the fun. Azoth/Kylar's training as a wetboy was fascinating but not glamorized. The book doesn't shy away from the darkness of the job.
The final part of the book is Azoth's final trial to become a full-fledged wetboy. The one thing you should keep in mind if you read this book is DO NOT expect things to go the way you think. At first the twists are minor, but the further you get into the story, the more you realize much of the book is set up for more and more surprises and turns. I think this author has an evil streak, because characters I had begun to like as suddenly killed off while characters I hated kept being despicable and unchecked. Each of the characters only knows his or her little part of the story and often acts without knowing that they're doing the wrong thing for the overall picture. If you really connect to a character you may get disappointed at what happens to them, but ultimately I thought that the book did end in a hopeful place despite all the things that go wrong. Of course, this book is LONG. I was 200 pages from the end and wondering how we weren't already at the end, because the sh*t was hitting the fan and I couldn't see how there were 200 pages to go. Usually in fantasy the ending happens shortly after a battle, but in The Way of Shadows, the author was not done, things kept coming, more and more twists showed up, I couldn't believe it. While I could appreciate the twists, if I can find any fault, I'd say they did start to feel improbable just by how often a new one was thrown in.
Overall: An gritty epic fantasy tale with more twists than a bag of pretzels. It didn't quite wring me out and I thought it was ultimately hopeful and worth the read, but it was a roller coaster. I'm very curious where things will go now....more
This is one of my reads during the 24-hour read-a-thon. I bought this a while ago but hadn't had the time to read it until now.
The Premise: This is the fifth book in the Chronicles of Elantra series which is a fantasy set in the city of Elantra, where Kaylin Neya, a member of one of the arms of law, called the Hawks, lives. Kaylin is the focus of a lot of attention because of mysterious symbols written all over her body, which have been there since her birth, and for the amazing things she can sometimes do. In this installment, the story continues shortly after the events in Cast in Fury when a message makes it's way to Kaylin, demanding her help with something that's disrupting the fiefs.
My Thoughts: By this book, the characters surrounding Kaylin have been introduced, but we get some surprising background into Kaylin's past when someone she knows from the fiefs shows up on Kaylin and Severn's patrol with a message from the fieflord Barren. I don't remember if it was mentioned in any of the earlier books in this series, but we discover that Kaylin spent time in Barren in between leaving Nightshade and before joining the Hawks. Exactly what she was doing there is slowly revealed in this book. I liked that I was learning some new back story about Kaylin, and we also get surprised by a different view of Lord Nightshade. I think I got part of my wish after reading the last book, which was to learn more about Kaylin and her powers. Each of the books in this series has delved a little into the different people of Elantra, and this time we're circling back to the fiefs and to the characters and their pasts. I'm a big fan of the way Sagara writes her cities and the characters in them. It always feels like there's a lot interesting things that the reader wants to know more about, so I'm glad that in each successive book, we learn something new. I also wanted to see more relationship development between Kaylin and the other characters, which we do see, however, don't expect much romance in this one. Although the book is published by Luna, an imprint of Harlequin books, the romance in this series is very low and usually only faintly hinted at. In this installment there is even less than that.
When this series first came out, I think I read the first book like it was candy. I loved the idea. When the second book came out, I loved it even more than the first (it's my favorite of the series). Then in the third and fourth, I started to have some problems (which I brought up in my earlier reviews): there were too many times where people either berate Kaylin for asking some obvious question about the world that she should know the answer to, or would just NOT tell Kaylin something because it was some taboo to talk about and again, Kaylin is just an idiot for asking. Meanwhile, Kaylin (and the reader) have no idea what the other character was going on about. In this book, thankfully, we don't have another situation where the story would have ended 100 pages earlier if someone had answered Kaylin's question, but we do have the usual - "Kaylin, I don't know how you've survived for so long" comments. Sometimes I agreed because I know Kaylin is not supposed to be blabbing certain things to certain people, and she just can't help letting secrets slip out, but other times, I just found that old chestnut exasperating. I know this is supposed to be part of her character (I'm pretty sure, because this is not a trend I see in other Sagara novels), but it still annoys me a lot. I hoped it would improve, but while Kaylin has grown over the course of the series, she's still considered in need of learning, so I suspect it won't for the next few books.
The other (bigger) problem I had, (and I suppose it's connected), is that so much is conveyed through dialogue and I often had trouble understanding it. Someone would say something loaded with meaning, and it would completely go over my head. But I knew it meant something because of the reactions of the other characters. So I'd reread it. And still not get it. I didn't realize how often this happened until the read-a-thon when I noticed that my reading speed was about 30 to 40 pages an hour, when my usual reading speed is more like 60 to 100 pages an hour. I just kept having to reread pages and it had a significant impact on my pace. I'm not sure if it was just because I was getting tired from reading hours on end, but I think that the way the dialogue is written lends itself to needing rereading for understanding.
Overall: My feeling are mixed. I love this author. I think that this book is very well written, especially in terms of world building, actual writing style and characters. I will keep reading to find out how things play out for Kaylin, however, with the repeated problems in understanding the dialogue and with how Kaylin's character is treated, my enthusiasm for this series is dropping. I hope the next installment renews it....more
I was pretty sure I would like this book when Graceling got glowing reviews from the usual suspects (people who have tastes that tend to mesh with mine), which is why I got an ARC copy of Fire at BEA. The next day, when I saw that the author was signing the book, I got another copy. The first copy was contested off earlier this summer, but I hadn't gotten around to reading Fire until now (what can I do, so many good books in my TBR, so little time).
The Premise: Fire is a 17 year old girl who lives in the kingdom of the Dells. This is a land where monsters live. Monsters are just like their normal counterparts, except they are gorgeous, with amazing colored skin and hair and fur, and they use their beauty to compel their victims to do what they want. Fire is the only human monster alive. The strong minded want to kill her, the weak throw themselves at her feet, and other monsters just want to eat her. This is the least of Fire's problems because the country is gearing for war. The young King Nash's position is threatened by a couple of power-hungry lords and although his brother and war commander, Brigan, doesn't trust Fire, she soon becomes embroiled in their fight to keep the kingdom together.
My Thoughts: I haven't read Graceling, and I had no problems because of this, so I will happily say that there is no need to read Graceling first. This is supposed to be an earlier companion novel set in the same world but a different geographical location, with ONE (I think) common character, and the rest are new characters. I didn't even know who this common character was until I saw reviews by people who had read Graceling before reading Fire.
This book started off with a prologue which doesn't come into play until much later on in the book. I spent some time wondering what the prologue was about because it didn't seem to affect the story for a long time. But it does finally come into play, so you do have to read it. When the book really starts, we're introduced to Fire who has just been shot by an arrow, but accidentally, which is a surprise to Fire. Fire believes at any time she could die, either from a monster attacking her and her not being fast enough to avoid it, or from someone going insane in her presence, killing her. At first I didn't really grasp the monster concept and what it really meant for Fire to be one, but over and over again, everyone's reactions to Fire, and I do mean everyone's, is to first see her as that beautiful monster. By the time I was done, I was right there with Fire in being completely sick of people who couldn't control themselves absolutely hating her or throwing themselves at her on sight, but it was realistic and a huge part of what she is. It was really a burden, especially because she was a woman.
I loved Cashore''s writing style. Fire is written in the third person, but the focus is mostly on Fire, and I think the author makes a deliberate choice to have the reader experience what Fire experiences. So there's a lot of showing, not telling, especially when it comes to emotions that belong to people other than Fire. We can see their faces, but we're left to interpret what emotions propel their facial expressions and body language. I love that I don't always know whether my guess is correct, and the author doesn't lay it all out there clearly. It also makes Fire the focus of all my emotional empathy, and boy, does this girl go through things. Because of Fire's father, another human monster, a selfish man who was adviser to the previous king, Fire is the target of hatred because of his sins. There's only her neighbors, Lord Brocker and his son Archer who seem to care for her, but as the book continues, Fire's strength earns her more friends. It's not easy. There are some scenes of very realistic grief, the kind where you are so sad and depressed, all you know is feeling, not logic. I wanted to cry with her. Don't worry though, this is not, for the most part, a sad book because Cashore writes things in a way where I could accept the sad parts and move on. There is more hope and happiness, and a big part of that is the romance.
The relationships between characters in this book were just amazing. Even the minor characters had individual personalities and impacted the major characters, but my favorite relationship was of course the romantic one! I think it was quite obvious from quite early on who Fire was going to end up with, but the journey to get there was gradual and lovely. It was a mental process, although Fire and other characters are not shy about sex. Actually, despite their young age, and although Fire is categorized as young adult, most characters had adult responsibilities and were mature people. The writing has a simple, no frills feel of a young adult book, but there are a lot of themes which makes this book have an adult appeal.
Overall: I thought I would like it, but Fire really bowled me over: I loved it! Superb writing, fantasy with a really sweet romance, and amazing character development. It's a young adult book that has adult appeal. I highly recommend it, especially if you are a fan of Robin McKinley or Sharon Shinn or Maria Snyder. I closed the book with a sigh, and then I hugged it....more
I read the first book in this series, Spiral Hunt, last year, and I liked the story enough to get Wild Hunt when it came out this year.
The Premise: This is an urban fantasy series set in Boston, where the protagonist is Genevieve (Evie) Scelan, a bike messenger who also has a side business finding things for people with her highly advanced sense of smell. A sense of smell that is a genetic gift from a famous ancestor, which is the reason for her nickname - Hound. In this installment of the series, Evie is called in for a special last request for a customer, and finds out about a foul family artifact and an ill-fated expedition to Boston. Another customer asks her to find out about some objects that their ancestor stole. As Evie tries to do her job, she discovers more connections between the two jobs, and strange goings on in the city, like a call to Hunt which Evie can't help responding to.
My Thoughts: The main character in this series is a working class girl with a little bit of power and a lot of responsibility. She knows some things about magic but it's what she's learned on the street, and it's not very much. She has a small group of friends, who make reappearances from the first book - Rena the cop, her friend Sarah, and Nate, a graduate student raising his younger sister. You need to read this book after reading the first book in the series, otherwise you will probably be very confused about what's going on. I had some trouble remembering things myself, which made me wish I had the first book to flip through, but I remembered the ending at least which is referenced a lot in Wild Hunt.
In this book there isn't really a clear objective for the protagonist other than to try to do a job or two and to do the right thing. We follow Evie in her day-to-day work, and like Evie, we know something is going on, but we don't have an idea of the big picture until three quarters of the book is done. This is a urban fantasy where the heroine does a lot of catching up: she isn't really investigating anything in particular, just doing a couple of jobs for customers and stumbling onto odd things, but eventually discovers connections. Despite being considered one of the big guys in Boston after her role in the last dust-up, Evie is fairly unschooled in magic. The other characters expect her to know more than she does, and then berate her when she shows her ignorance. This was an irritating thing for me - I'm not sure where people expect Evie to have gained this knowledge, and I'm not fond of this device. Fortunately for Evie, her tenacity counts for something, and she comes out stronger than before. It's done without fanfare and a lot of work, but I think that through no plan of hers, Evie gets more knowledge and power each time she has one of her adventures.
One of the things I enjoy about this series is that the author integrates myths I hadn't heard of before. There's the Celtic mythology of the first book, and in this second one there's mythology and magical lore from other places which combine well with what Evie has learned thus far.
Another thing I liked was the romantic relationship in this series. The love interest is a nice guy, and his relationship with Evie feels like real life. It reminded me a little of the relationship in the Kitty books by Carrie Vaughn. In fact, I would recommend this series for people who like Kitty Norville. There is interest in both sides but both people are too shy to admit it, and it's sweet when they finally get together as we hope (thankfully the author doesn't torture us)!
Overall: I enjoyed this one more for the characters than what Evie gets involved in. It has a more character driven feel despite the fast-paced plot, and the author left me curious as what would happen to Evie next. Not in a cliffhanger way, but I'm definitely interested in finding out more....more
This has been a book I bought which languished on the TBR for a while, but when I wanted a simple fantasy story, this standalone with a modest 263 pages seemed the perfect fit.
The Premise: Mirasol has had a simple, uncomplicated life as a beekeeper. She has had nothing to do with the governing of her demesne. That has been something she left to the Master, his Chalice, and the other other members of the Circle. Then one day, both the Chalice and the Master are killed in one fell blow. Suddenly Mirasol finds herself as the new Chalice, with no idea what she’s doing or how she’s going to keep her demesne from falling apart. The new Master is the old Master’s younger brother, but they called him back home as he was about to become a fourth level Fire Priest, and he barely remembers how to be human. Now these two inexperienced and unlikely stewards somehow have to settle their land. Failure means severe hardship for the demesne, if not utter annihilation, and many don’t think they can do it. They must not fail.
My Thoughts: This is a fantasy story told in the third person, but with very subjective narration focused on Mirasol’s character. Despite it being a third person POV, there’s a dreamy, stream of consciousness feel to the writing. Some of the writing is almost poetic in the way McKinley plays with the rules to tell the story. The reader is very close to Mirasol’s thoughts, which are often a jumble of wondering how she got where she is now and how she should proceed. There’s a lot of stress but at the same time, Mirasol is has a natural knack for her work and she she throws herself into researching her Chalice duties to expand this knack.
“ Every day her mind swam and struggled while her face and body demonstrated serenity and control. She went home exhausted every night, with the Master’s exhaustion haunting her. What a pair, she thought sadly. Poor Willowlands. Furthermore she had even less time to pursue her studies — and she urgently needed to continue her studies. She had grown accustomed to sleeping badly as a result of not being able to turn her thoughts off; now she slept worse on account of the pain in her hand. She lay awake in the dark, thinking about what she could be learning if she sat up and lit a candle, and too bone-weary to fumble for her tinder-box. But since the Master came, she thought, am I not putting out fewer fires? Perhaps that is only because I am spending too much time bearing Chalice to a Circle who will not let me bind them together? Is that my failure or theirs? She should be asleep now. But you could pick at a dingy bandage in the dark and put off making even the tiny additional decision of lighting a candle.”
The world building happens organically as Mirasol tries to adapt herself to her new position. What we learn is that the Chalice is the second most important person in an eleven person Circle which is lead by a twelfth, the Master. She (for the position is always a female one) holds a chalice and mixes the right ingredients into it for every ceremony and occasion, which then all circle members sip. The concoctions the Chalice makes have special significance, and have potent powers (Mirasol can mend the damage of an earthquake and calm agitated animals among other things). She and the Master are most closely connected to the land and their task is to keep their land calm and happy. The land itself is like a living breathing animal, or maybe many living animals, which Mirasol and the Master have a connection to. When the connection is broken, so is the land.
Mirasol is unique as a Chalice both because of her abrupt appointment and lack of knowledge (in a strange oversight, the neither the last Chalice nor the last Master had an official Heir), and because her affinity is for honey. This is a strange affinity, but the talk of Mirasol’s bees and her relationship with them is sweet and wondrous. The writing here makes this part of her life is warm and golden; a summer day. In contrast, her dealings with the Circle have a stressed out, jagged feel.
The only person who seems to be on the same page, albeit in a incredibly quiet way, is the new Master, a man who everyone is more than a little afraid of. His skin has been blackened by fire, his eyes are red, and his touch has burnt the Chalice, leaving her with a wound will not heal. He’s a dark and mysterious figure, but when he was fully human he loved the land, and even now he wants to help it. Mirasol and he have a quiet relationship that grows because they keep finding themselves in the same place, and have to face the same threats. But I’m not sure I’d categorize the story as romantic. What romance there is, is so subtle if you were to blink, you’d miss it.
Overall: This is not a story that really made my heart race – it was more of a story that centered me: a comfort read, a nice fantasy story to escape in for a few hours, leaving me with a pleasant but ephemeral aftertaste. While I wished that there was a little more, it was a good read.
P.S. I ADORE the cover of the Firebird trade paperback I own. So pretty and matches the dreaminess of the inside pages....more
Oh this cover! The girl with the red pickup truck and the gun captures the backwoods feel of the setting, but not a fan of the floating head, this would have been perfect without it. I know it's a signal for "this is a romance", but eh, the model is not cute.
The Premise: Rose Drayton lives in the Edge. The Edge is the place where our world, the Broken, overlaps with the Weird, an alternate dimension where magic is real. The people who live in the Edge are poor, and have to go over to the Broken to make money. They can do small magics, but most of their bloodlines are diluted. So when Rose proves herself to have a remarkable mastery to control her "flash", suddenly the out-for-themselves Edgers will stop at nothing to have Rose, either to enhance their own bloodlines or to sell to the highest bidder. One day, Declan, the Earl of Camarine, a pureblood from the Weird appears at Rose's door.
My Thoughts: This is much more romance focused than the Kate Daniels series and falls under paranormal romance rather than urban fantasy, but the great world building I'm used to is still there. The idea of the different worlds is a really interesting one, sort of a spin on a faerie world we can't see except it's really just down that road there. It's just that only people who have the right bloodlines can see it and walk past the boundary. I'm always a fan of Andrews' detailed world building, because it's so well thought out. Like they've said, "You can build a most fantastic world, if you take care to make it logical and follow its own rules." This is what I always appreciate in an Ilona Andrews' series: a fantastic world that makes sense.
The Edge is like the Wild West. They don't belong in the Broken, where magic doesn't exist, but they aren't part of the Weird either, where pureblood magic families rule. In the Edge, it's everyone for themselves, but families band together. The Edgers are poor, some rather trashy, lawless, and feisty. There are some real characters living in the Edge, especially with magic thrown in the mix. Rose herself has two younger brothers, Georgie and Jack who exemplify the oddness of the Edge. Georgie is a little necromancer with a soft heart. He resurrects animals he feels sad have died, and their grandfather Cletus (who gets drunk on dog brains). Jack was born a changeling, and like the cat his other half is, is easily distracted by birds and climbing trees.
So Rose has her hands full raising her two brothers because their parents aren't in the picture, but they're good kids (who also bring something to the story). Rose also has to deal with all the people who are after her because of her amazing control over her flash, and when Declan arrives at their door, a pureblood from the Weird who says he will have her, Rose isn't pleased. At first Declan's statements would dismay me. He would often spout some really over-the-top alpha hero stuff, but Andrews manages to fix this for me later on with a viable explanation (thank goodness). Maybe there's also a touch of Pride and Prejudice here: Declan making his remarks and Rose taking offense, thinking that he's the typical blueblood. Rose's circumstances are much lower than Declan's but she's being avidly courted by someone who is obviously a catch. The book takes on a romance feel with Rose's awareness of Declan's appearance (I imagined He-Man) and breeding, and his alpha male assertions that he will get what he wants. On the other hand, Rose is pretty cool, and it makes sense that Declan realizes this. She's a good sister, working hard and going without so that she can buy her brothers those Inu Yasha comics they're obsessed with (Inu Yasha, good choice kids), and she's smart and determined, but just has a hard life where she has to be independent in order to survive.
The paranormal/contemporary fantasy aspects of this story had probably about equal footing as the romance. Creepy rotting creatures in hound like form start terrorizing the Edge, and the mystery of what's going on keeps Declan and Rose busy. The results aren't pretty, but it makes for a great story.
Overall: A paranormal romance with awesome world building and the perfect balance of romance and fantasy. There's more romance in this than the Kate Daniels series, but expect the same fantastic storytelling.
I'm looking forward to reading the second book. This time, William, who was introduced in On The Edge will be the hero. ...more
his review is for an ARC I received from EOS books
The Premise: This is the third Dark Days novel, narrated by Mira, a 600 year old vampire, known as the Fire Starter, the only nightwalker (aka vampire) with the power over fire. Mira is in the middle of a war between the nightwalkers and the naturi, a race of beings who think that all humans and nightwalkers should be eliminated to cleanse the earth. Mira's fight with the naturi has traversed the globe, from her home in Savannah, to London, to Venice and back. Now things have progressed so that the naturi are about to break free out of the seal keeping most of them out of the world, but Mira is hellbent on stopping them.
**** There are minor spoilers for the past books from this point on ****
My Thoughts: I had very similar thoughts about this book as I did for the previous two, except I would say that this book has even more action. Dawnbreaker is like one of those blockbuster movies with plenty of fights and pyrotechnics (which makes for a quick read whenever I picked it up). The book starts off where Daywalker left off, with naturi pursuing Mira while she tries to stop them from breaking the seal that keeps most of their kind from returning to the world. By Mira's side are several people who we've been introduced to in the past couple of books. There's a lot of characters to keep track of, but I had no issues remembering who they were because of quick summaries of who is who exactly when I needed it. All of these people are under Mira's protection and she takes her job very seriously, but the bombardment from the naturi means Mira is a busy woman.
One of the people surrounding Mira is the vampire hunter Danaus who over the past couple of books has become something of a friend. Their relationship is an odd one. They have to work with each other because only Danaus is able to expand Mira's abilities, but they are natural enemies. This book is very much an urban fantasy because there is almost no romance, but there are hints that Danaus and Mira feel more for each other than they are willing to admit. These hints were *very* few and far between, and are about equal in number to the comments that one day Mira and Danaus will kill each other. They both seem able to understand one another in times of trouble, but Mira and Danaus have seen each other do things they didn't approve of. In any case, because this book was focused on the race to stop the naturi from re-entering the world, there was less time to delve into relationships as deeply as they were in previous books. Much of the interesting interactions happened in the last quarter of Dawnbreaker. I don't doubt we'll see more of that to come, both between Mira and Danaus, and between Mira and others, including the vampire Coven leaders, whose long term plans are hard to guess, and Mira's new vampire family. This book leaves us with some problems solved and other problems appearing (Mira's seat on the Coven, Danaus' identity, The Great Awakening). I can't wait to see how Mira and Danaus tackle them!
My family used to live there, so I have a very small nit about the Peruvian weather: Peru isn't far from the equator and the change of seasons is quite mild, so the description of the winter winds and seasons being the opposite of North America's isn't accurate. I'd say Cusco is only colder because of the altitude and there really is only a dry season and a rainy season, not four seasons.
Overall: Ramps up the non-stop action which is found in the first two books. This book continues with the same dark, Gothic undertones and epic scope. I love the complex relationships between characters which is sparingly doled out here, but I have no doubt they will come to the forefront again soon enough. There are a couple of juicy issues left for Mira and Danaus to tackle after this book, and I'm looking forward to the next installment....more
I kept seeing good reviews of the debut novel by Seanan McGuire everywhere, but Urban Fantasy (one of my fav blogs), really cinched my interest when they recommended Rosemary and Rue "especially for fans of Ilona Andrews or Patricia Briggs." After that I was sold! I planned to buy this, but got lucky and won it over at Lurv a la Mode. :)
The Premise: This is the first book in a series about October (Toby) Daye, a changeling living in San Francisco. Toby is detective who has had it with the world of the Fae but her resolve to stay far from it dissolves when a pureblooded fae calls her before being murdered and puts a curse on Toby to find out who killed her and why.
My Thoughts: It didn't take me very long to fall in love with the world building in this book. The prologue was a mind blower (and in this case you HAVE to read it to make sense of what happens afterwards and why Toby wants to distance herself with her faerie friends), and I started getting excited about having another author to stalk. Deety at Urban fantasy had said, "there’s a level of uniqueness that makes this book stand out from the pack" which I saw in the way the world of the faerie blended so well against the backdrop of San Francisco. I just loved how Toby, our narrator would explain the world as things were happening. I could see San Francisco and I could see the hidden parts and faerie creatures that were everywhere for Toby, but hidden from human eyes. Some parts are beautiful, some are scary and gritty, and there are so many varieties of creatures from Pixies and Undine to Cait Sidhe to Kitsune. And then we have the halfbreeds and the changelings, like Toby, who are considered lower caste for their human blood, diluted magic, and shorter lives. In Toby's opinion, changelings have the short end of the stick, because no one knows what to do with them really, they don't belong in the human world, but they aren't treated well by the faerie.
There are quite a few characters we're introduced to throughout the book. Toby has a lot of friends, many with back stories hinted at throughout the book. I liked a lot of them and wanted to read more. Hopefully many of them will be reoccurring characters in this series. There's also suggestions of possible romantic interest in Toby, but only very brief ones, this is still an urban fantasy. Two of these guys I firmly believed to be *wrong* for her and I was rooting against them. I already had my favorite ship, which I share with Ana of the Book Smugglers - Tybalt, the king of the Cait Sidhe. Ana says in her review, "Even though you try to hide your feelings, I know, deep down you so totally love the woman." - exactly!
Toby is unusual for wanting her own life and a job outside of the faerie world. After what happens to her in the prologue her pulling away from it further made sense as well. The prologue gives you a pretty good indication of the author's storytelling - things get messy for our heroine. This book has some gritty aspects along with the prettiness: deaths, kids being exploited, unhappy people. Toby makes mistakes and the bad guys are willing to do anything to get what they want. This means Toby gets very beaten up in this book while trying to figure out who killed her friend.
And this is where the flaws in the book come in. I was really happy reading the book until about halfway, when my glee and lovefest began to dim. I wasn't sure why until I read some other reviews which pointed out what the problem was: Toby kept getting railroaded by the bad guys, over and over. She almost dies a few times, and still she has to keep moving and running around or she will die. When Toby finally figures out what was going on, I didn't think it was her sleuthing skills so much as dumb luck and a lot of help along the way. The consequences of who it ended up being are very interesting, and I liked that Toby finds out some harsh truths about herself, but the constant rebounding Toby has to do to get there was exhausting. I also ran into a pet peeve which is a character having sex after almost dying - that's just not realistic!!
Anyway, despite those quibbles, I really liked this book, and I'm very happy that there's a second and third book coming out quite soon - A Local Habitation comes out in March 2010, and An Artificial Night comes out in September. The only problem is that I've gotten sucked into another series (I can't seem to help myself), which doesn't really seem to have an end in sight (the author's FAQ says "several" and hints at eight or more books).
Overall: I'd say it made me excited to read this. The world building was very strong (LOVED it!!!), but the plot isn't without it's flaws which made the second half weaker than the first. I am eagerly anticipating the second and third book just to see where things go and hoping Toby gets together with the love interest I'm pulling for....more
preordered this one because this anthology of four paranormal stories featuring hellhounds has a couple authors I like in it.
1) Magic Mourns by Ilona Andrews: This is the third story in the anthology but I read it first. :)
The Premise: This is a story set in the same world as the Kate Daniel series, but this time the first person narrator is Kate's best friend, Andrea. Andrea is filling in for Kate one day, when a call comes in about a member of the Atlanta Pack being chased after by a giant, three-headed hound. Andrea goes out to help and is dismayed to find Raphael, a were-hyena is the Pack member in trouble. Raphael has been pursuing Andrea for a while but Andrea is afraid he's only interested in her for her novelty, not for herself.
Excerpt of Magic Mourns
My Thoughts: It's probably better to have read the Kate Daniels series before reading this short story because much of the back story on Andrea's origins and her relationship with Raphael is in those books, but that's also reiterated in this story, so it's not hard to understand what's going on. I thought Andrea's personality was similar to Kate's (independent woman, hiding something, and doesn't trust easily), but her voice was different enough from Kate's (more wry humor I think) to make the story interesting. I enjoyed reading this one, because the pacing was just right to me, with a good balance of urban fantasy action and romance. I could savor it slowly. The reader already knows what will happen between Andrea and Raphael, especially if you've been following the Kate Daniels series, but it's satisfying anyway. I also liked how well the story intersects with the Kate Daniels series and reveals a couple of things for people paying attention, but you don't have to have read that series to follow this story (and there are no spoilers).
Overall: I'm a big fan of Ilona Andrews so no surprise: I liked this story a lot. A must read for Kate Daniel's fans.
P.S. Is anyone else noticing some re-occurring themes in Andrews stories? Like the protection of children? Not that this is a complaint, I just find it interesting.
2) The Britlingens Go to Hell by Charlaine Harris: This is the first story in Must Love Hellhounds, and by one of the two headlining authors (the other is Nalini Singh).
The Premise: Batanya and Clovache are both part of the Britlingen Collective, highly trained bodyguards for hire, who are assigned an unusual client. Crick wants Batanya and Clovache to protect him in Hell while he retrieves an item that he'd been hired to steal but he was caught the first time he was there.
My Thoughts: It's a quirky, odd tale and not quite what I was expecting from Charlaine Harris. It takes some time to figure out who the Britlingens are and they use a combination of high tech and magic for their jobs, and hell is a bizarre place with a mixture of mythical creatures in it. Their client and others they run into are oddball people, and the whole tale uses a rather cheerful, matter of fact tone no matter what is happening. An example of bizarre is that someone has 2 penises. TWO PENISES!! It's half-funny and half-I-don't-know-what.
Overall: I'm not sure if this will appeal to everyone depending on their sense of humor or level of tolerance for the off-beat. I didn't dislike it, but it didn't love it either. So I suppose it was in the "OK" to "good" range for me.
3) Angels' Judgment by Nalini Singh: Set in the same world as Singh's Angel series, this story centers on vampire hunter Sara Haziz.
The Premise: Sara Haziz's job is to bring back runaway vampires to their angel masters. Her latest retrieval is of a vampire whose head was almost cut off. Word is that a rogue hunter who has killed other vampires this way is responsible, and Deacon, the Slayer, is brought in.
Excerpt of Angel's Judgment
My Thoughts: This was a straightforward whodunit with two ass-kicking characters and romance between them. The world building was interesting, and I didn't have any problems following what was going on even though I haven't read any of the novels set in this world yet. I couldn't tell where this novella fit in the timeline of the Angels' series though. At first I thought it was after Angel's Blood, the first book, and was concerned that I was being spoiled, but then later on it sounded like Elena, Sara's best friend and the heroine of the series, hadn't met an archangel yet, so maybe this novella is supposed to happen before the series starts. The biggest issue I had with this was the repeated references to the sexual attraction of the two main characters, which made the romance very physical and not mental enough for me. Deacon bluntly tells Sara he wants to take her to bed within a very short time of knowing her and they pretty much sleep together while on a job together. In the middle of their investigation when Sara is going to be the next hunter Guild Director? I also found it silly that Deacon was so big that he couldn't fit into Sara's car and had to follow on his motorcycle. Other than my inability to suspend disbelief at these things (and I think I'm in the minority from what I've seen), the story itself was relatively enjoyable.
Overall: Not bad but the romance was too predictable and physical for my tastes, but I think it would appeal to those who like a little steam in their stories.
4) Blind Spot by Meljean Brook: This one is another story linked to a series I haven't read, which is the Guardian series.
The Premise: Maggie is the equivalent of a butler for a very wealthy and powerful family, and her boss happens to be a vampire. When Maggie's employer's niece, Katherine, is kidnapped in New York, Katherine's brother, Goeffrey Blake goes to get her, but he runs into some trouble and Maggie is sent over. Maggie and Geoff must work together (along with the family's hellhound, Sir Pup) to find his sister.
My Thoughts: I haven't read the Guardian series, but I have read another novella set in this world in the Wild Thing anthology. I remember liking the worldbuilding in that story, but this one is even better. I think this author has grown, and I'm impressed! I felt like I was seeing Geoff and Maggie get to know one another and that although they each had an interest in each other they were aware that finding Katherine was more important. The attraction is shown more subtly, like their mutual curiosity for each other, and in gestures, like Maggie's quick looks everywhere but pauses on Geoff's mouth and hands. Meanwhile, Geoff's thoughts reveal that he has known and thought about Maggie far before they ever met, which pulled me in because I wanted to know why and how that happened. The fantasy elements, such as Sir Pup the shape-shifting hellhound, and interesting abilities (really cool but I don't want to spoil you), were unique and fascinating but also help along the story. I adored Sir Pup, the half-scary chaperone and comic relief.
Overall: Really enjoyable blend of the fantastic and romantic. I liked this more than I expected to: it ties with the Ilona Andrews novella as my favorite in this anthology. ...more
The Hero series so far: Book 1: Resenting the Hero Book 2: The Hero Strikes Back Book 3: Heroes Adrift
****** mild spoilers for the rest of the series, go read my earlier reviews if you aren't up to this book yet *****
The Premise: This is the fourth book in the Heroes series. Shield Dunleavy (Lee) Mallorough and Source Shintaro (Taro) Karesh are back on the mainland (they henceforth only refer to Flatwell as "that damned island") and have to face their old life and friends again, which leads to some awkward situations because their relationship is not really clear. Meanwhile High Scape has gone from being a hotbed of disaster to a cold spot, but the people of High Scape have taken to a new trend - dabbling in magic. Some particularly misguided citizens are murdering "lucky" people so they can use their ashes for these spells. Of course, Lee's first thought is that her handsome partner is prime pickings for another kidnapping.
My Thoughts: This was a good one. I don't know what it is, but I love to analyze these characters, especially Lee, and we get a lot of fodder for discussion when Lee as usual gets everything all wrong by assuming things in her own blind way. Oh god do I want to shake this woman! Of course, if she was the type of person who was better at reading people (or even as half as good as she thinks she is), I don't think this series would be as fun. As people have commented on my earlier review, she's the ultimate unreliable narrator. I was amused that in this book Lee's faults such as this one, are pointed out to her face, much to her irritation. I agreed with Lee that it was rude, but I think she should listen to some of these criticisms sometimes.
The primary relationship I love to observe is of course Lee and Taro's. I'm going to point at Angie's review where she said it perfectly with "it's always a treat to watch them circle each other once more, to attempt to navigate the treacherous waters that lay between their opposing natures and meet somewhere in the middle". After the events of the last book where the Pair reach a new plateau in their relationship, some may think that everything is settled, but this is Lee we're talking about. She as usual makes her assumptions about Taro and when they're back in High Scape, she bases her actions on these assumptions. It's a little telling how Lee shields herself from grief by doing things like this, but she's emotionally inexperienced. Taro's reaction to this is so Taro as well - he gets emotional, but his reaction seems to bounce harmlessly off Lee's Impervious Wall of Logical Assumption. Watching things come to a head was one of the reasons why I love this series.
While I'm obsessed with gleaning meaning from every interaction between Taro and Lee, the story is really not primarily focused on their relationship. Lee spends a lot of time in the city trying to learn about the new trend in dabbling with magic. She questions why it's considered illegal if it is supposed to be all fake anyway, and her discoveries raise some interesting questions about whether magic is real and what it means for Sources and Shields. This intersects with some of the other odd discoveries that she and Taro have made over the past few books regarding their powers and their world. I'm not sure where the author is going to take this, but I sense she has a plan, and I'm really curious to see how it all comes together. Moore introduces a new group of people in High Scape who seem to know a lot about magic and hold a lot of power, and meanwhile there has been a shift in rulers which suggests that their world is on the cusp of change. I think I'd be most happy to see some sort of change in the expectations that are put on Sources and Shields. Throughout the series, there have been questions about how Things Are Done regarding for example, the role of the Triple S in politics, if Sources and Shields are allowed to have a relationship, and whether it's fair that Sources and Shields never have to pay for anything or never get paid.
A not on the cover: I love the colors and I like how Lee looks, but this is not what Taro looks like in my head. He doesn't look good to me here.
Overall: Possibly my favorite book in this light fantasy series so far. I'm loving Lee and Taro's relationship, and the way the series is unfolding has me very interested in where it's all going....more
This book was sent to me by Dorchester as well (yes a string of books from them here lately). I had mentioned my interest in anything like the Shomi line, and this has some science fiction, paranormal and romance elements in it, which seemed to be in the same kind of vein.
The Premise: Maddie Temple is a promising young ER doctor who for the past three months has gone from being well-liked to unreliable and flagged for psychiatric screenings at work. The problem lies in Maddie's past and a very troubled twin named Sarah. Sarah, who was put into long-term care for a vegetative coma after a car accident that killed their father has somehow invaded Maddie's mind, slowly pushing Maddie into madness. Psychiatrist Jarred Keith wants to help Maddie, but he doesn't know what's going on. Is Maddie losing touch with reality like her twin? Is that the family's curse? Or is there some other conspiracy going on?
My Thoughts: This was mostly romantic suspense although the psychic aspects made also a paranormal. There's a lot of action, much of it involving Maddie and Sarah's mental instability and trying to stop them from hurting others because of it. Moments of clarity seem few and far between and the reader is propelled along a dark and disturbing ride with confusing images of a reoccurring nightmare involving the Raven, trees, a gun, and someone screaming. This nightmare is repeated throughout the story, sometimes interrupting other events and jarring the reader as much as it probably jars the characters.
There are a lot of disjointed sentences. In the dialogue there's people interrupting each other, letting their sentences trail off and yelling. Even the third person narrative gets interrupted by the dialogue. Other times, Maddie or Sarah are interrupted by each other's mental link, so Maddie will suddenly undergo a transformation from herself into a hateful screaming banshee. It's frustrating to read. You want to shake the characters so that they'll listen to whoever is speaking! Unfortunately most of the characters are angry and confused about what's going on so there are a lot of verbal fighting. It made me dislike them sometimes. All of these things added up to an emotionally draining reading experience. I think this was probably all deliberately done by the writer to make the drama the characters experience more realistic to the reader, but you do have to be in the right frame of mind for it, and I'm not sure all readers would be happy with the technique.
There is a romance that is going on at the same time as the suspense between the two doctors, but it seems that it's an already mostly established one. Dr. Keith is already in love with Maddie, she just wants to push him away before he gets embroiled in her mental nightmare. Of course Dr. Keith won't have any of this, and is pretty patient with Maddie, going beyond what I thought a normal guy would have accepted. His persistence pays off in saving Maddie, but because of where the story is, I had to just suspend disbelief and believe that Maddie was worthy of his loyalty. I understood that his patience and mental connection makes him the perfect partner to her and I hadn't seen Maddie before she was close to a psychotic break, but there was so much angry emotions surrounding the story it was hard to concentrate on the romance. I also had to suspend belief when they were having sex, because it felt like inappropriate timing. There was a lot of feelings going on by then that I was not really connecting to, plus I didn't like some of the phrasing during the act.
Overall: A fast-paced suspense, but very dark and emotionally draining. It's one of those books where you have to be in the right frame of mind to read it because there's mental mind games and turmoil and really angry (and at times unlikeable) characters. The anger is done realistically, which means things are messy, and that could be a difficult read for some. It looks like there may be a sequel to this one, but I probably won't pick it up....more
This is a review for an ARC copy that I got at BEA. Intertwined is another offering from Harlequin's new line: Harlequin Teen
The Premise: Aden Stone is a teen who has been in and out of trouble for a really long time. The reason is that he can hear voices that no one else does. When he replies to them out loud, people think he's crazy. What's really going on is that Aden has four souls trapped inside him, who each have an ability which means Aden also has that ability. One day he runs into Mary Ann Gray, a girl who completely stops the voices inside him. They feel an interesting bond between them, but soon afterwards they meet a werewolf who has an interest in Mary Ann and a vampire princess who Aden is pulled towards.
My Thoughts: I liked that Aden Stone was a character with very serious past mistakes, the kind that means treatment options and people not trusting him. This is something you don't always see in YA, but I've seen in before in another Showalter YA novel, Red Handed (where the main character was a drug addict in recovery). For this reason I found Aden the strongest character in the book, although the focus sometimes shifted off him onto Mary Ann. Mary Ann had a happier past, but she also had some depth, particularly in her relationship with her father and best friend.
There are two romances in here and although the blurb pretty much gives you an idea of who is interested in who (so this isn't a spoiler), the first people who meet in this book are Aden and Mary Ann. The third person narration focuses on them, so I thought they were being set up as a couple, but they're not. They meet the other two main characters and immediate crushes are fostered. I would have liked the getting to know you to happen before each character decided they were smitten, and less telling rather than showing, so the romances didn't do it for me, but were a couple of sweet moments. I of course had my cynic's cap on regarding the vampire princess being 80 years old, but that's a personal pet peeve, and here vampires mature less slowly (the equivalent of terrible twos is several years for example) which made it feel a bit more acceptable.
Besides the action in the very beginning of the book, it was a lot of set up into the world and the pacing felt slow at first. It is a long book (442 pages in this ARC) and about 200 pages of it is the protagonists meeting, finding out about each other's powers and basically going to school. Things became more interesting when Aden's time travel came into play. From that point on, I was reading at a happy speed, but once the significance of what he saw when he time-travelled was resolved the book sort of fast forwarded through to a quick ending that left me a little unsatisfied. It wasn't quite a cliffhanger, but it felt really abruptly (and conveniently!) done.
A biggest problem I had with the book was that there were a lot of ideas being thrown at the reader. It's hard to list them all. There's all of Aden's abilities, his past, Mary Ann's affect on Aden, their relationship to each other, romances with others, and several kinds of supernatural creatures for starters. There felt like a lot of story arcs without a distinct focus. I think I'd have preferred that the author concentrate on Aden and his story rather than bringing in all this outside elements and jumping back and forth between Aden and Mary Ann.
Overall: As escapist fun, this was OK but flawed (uneven pacing and too much going on, things where YMMV). If I think about it there were a few things plot-wise which I hope get cleared up in later books, but the start of this series hasn't wowed me....more