Beginning the Bel Dame Apocrypha series is God’s War by Kameron Hurley, a new dystopian fantasy series set amidst a never-ending war.
The book begins with heroine, Nyx, having just sold her womb on the black market to earn enough money to get to her assassination target. She is a bel dame, an assassin who kills those who are contaminated and a risk to entire villages and towns. To make sure her targets are dead and the bodies no longer contagious, Nyx has to cut off the heads of her victims, making her deadly and amoral in the process. Added to this is the ongoing war between the districts of Nasheen and Chenja, which has resulted too many casualties for both sides and shows little sign of ending.
At the novel’s beginning, Nyx’s mission goes wrong and earns her a one-way trip to prison, being released a few years later. Dismissed from the bel dame sisterhood, she has formed her own team of bounty hunters and earns her living bringing in targets dead or alive. When she receives an unexpected message from the Nasheenian queen, Nyx is given a target that could potentially end the war, competing against several other bounty hunters. This mission could regain her status as a bel dame, which she is desperate to return to for the prestige of the sisterhood.
Nyx is self-centred in her desire to carry out the assassination, having little care for the crew she has put together and worked with for the last few years. She has a shape-shifter, Khos, with whom she rarely sees eye-to-eye; a ruthless mercenary; a comms technician with too much family loyalty; and Rhys, a Chenjan magician of mediocre ability. As a Chenjan, Rhys is subject to racial abuse wherever they go and prays several times a day. He is the polar opposite of Nyx’s godless behaviour, often keeping her grounded on their mission and providing a firm moral compass.
As the search for their target leads them across the border into more dangerous territory, the action in this book descends into increasing bouts of violence, often quite graphic. Any injury suffered by Nyx or the team can be repaired by the magicians (loss of limbs and organs can be replaced, etc.), with the only irreparable action seemingly being the removal of ones head. I thought that some of these action scenes made the plot more exciting and fast-paced, but at the same time the book became more like a sequence of action scenes with little plot linking them together.
When it came to the protagonist, I found it very difficult to empathise with Nyx, as she was entirely amoral and sexually ambiguous throughout. She would sleep with both men and women to get what she wanted, which most often was her next target. Although she does seem to care for Rhys, I felt that she had little empathy for the rest of her team, and thought that she owned them rather than worked with them. I understood that she was a hard nut and had been bred to be that way, but at the same time she didn’t really soften during the course of the book, and instead didn’t seem to progress as a character.
Instead, it was Rhys who stole the limelight, with several chapters being from his perspective. He was more caring about the welfare of the team than anyone else, as well as dealing with his personal issues and keeping his own secrets. We know little about why he left Chenja, but I highly respected the way he dealt with the racist taunts that followed him, and his devotion to his god and his morals. He made it clear from the outset that he would not resort to killing for Nyx, and instead tries to subtly guide her to the right path, regardless of whether or not she listens to him.
In terms of the plot, I thought that the bounty hunt took a bit of a backseat at times, as there was always another battle looming on the horizon. It also wasn’t made clear why the target was so important to stopping the war, as I felt like we were only given vague reasons or half-truths. These weren’t big enough questions to have me reaching for the next book, as I found that this story didn’t really pull me in at all. It was a difficult read, especially as the opening chapters are very confusing in terms of world building. The reader is thrown straight into this warring environment with little explanation of who or what Nasheen and Chenja are, left to puzzle out the meaning for yourself to some extent.
I would have liked better foundations for this story to be built on, as it seemed to dive too much into the action scenes and not enough into the explanations. There wasn’t an even balance to keep the plot moving, so I struggled very much to associate with the characters or to care about certain demises. The ending is left open for a sequel, but I think it also ends suitably enough that you won’t be desperate for the second instalment. I think that there was a great concept here that got a little lost amidst the fighting, but I think a little more description would make book two worth a read. Verdict
I found this book very confusing to begin with, as it throws you straight into the world with little build-up. As a result, I found it difficult to connect with the characters or to understand where they were coming from, but this became easier as the plot moved on. The book seemed to move from fight to fight, so I would hope for a little more character development in the second instalment. Rating: 3 Stars
God’s War by Kameron Hurley (Bel Dame Apocrypha #1) Dystopian, Fantasy Del Rey UK (2 May 2013) Ebook: 432 pages
I know when I open a book by Marcus Sedgwick that I’ll be sucked straight in to his masterful prose style, and it was no different with She Is Not Invisible.
The book begins by delving straight into the action, with sixteen-year-old Laureth Peak having somewhat abducted her seven-year-old brother, Benjamin, to board a plane from London to New York. She has used their mum’s credit card to book the flight, and withdrawn cash to use when they get there, all with the aim of tracking down their father. Their whirlwind scheme is made all the more difficult by the fact that Laureth is blind, and relies on Ben to guide her and make it look as though she can actually see where she’s going.
This scheme was hatched on a whim, as their father is an author and Laureth is responsible for responding to his emails. When she receives one from a Mr. Walker in New York, claiming to have found her dad’s beloved notebook, she knows something is not right, and that he couldn’t possibly be in Switzerland as he is supposed to be. Her mother is seemingly uninterested, dismissing her questions as nonsense and refusing to entertain the possibility that their father could be missing.
With her father meant to be on a research trip for his next novel, Laureth knows that he wouldn’t go anywhere without his notebook and the ideas it holds. He has been working for a years on a book about coincidence and particular numbers which keep cropping up, telling Laureth his ideas every step of the way. She has become as attuned to spotting these coincidences as her father, and will stop at nothing to put the clues together and bring him home.
It may seem like Laureth jumps to farfetched conclusions easily, especially with the snap decision to jump on a plane with her younger brother, but she does have very good instincts and is quick to put together clues as to where her father might be. She is very aware of how others might see her if they learn she’s blind, and is scared that they might not even let her on the plane – despite not being able to find a regulation against it. Her blindness is by no means the central theme of the book, but at the same time it cannot be forgotten as it is a factor in every decision she makes for both her and Benjamin.
As a protagonist, Laureth is a very strong character and is well-developed by Sedgwick, who manages to define every nuance of her personality as the book goes on. She is smart and brave, determined to look after her brother despite the guilt of bringing him on such a journey. We get to see her fear at being in the big city of New York with just a seven-year-old to rely on, as well as those instances when the clues are running out and she must think of new solutions on her feet. It was clear that she had a close connection with her father, and felt guilty at being unable to channel his thinking and find the much needed solutions to their problems.
At the heart of the book was the ongoing debate over coincidence, the topic which has absorbed her father’s mind for years and which is holding him back from writing his next book. He is obsessed with finding an answer to coincidence, and whether it can ever really be explained or understood. There are passages from his notebook interspersed with the chapters, which gave a good insight into his thinking considering we hadn’t met him as a character. These notes are intriguing and pose noteworthy questions about the world, as well contemplating known mathematicians and philosophers, such as Carl Jung.
With time (and money) running out in the search for their father, I thought the conclusion of this book was wonderfully written and engaging, with more than a little coincidence added for good measure. The book gripped me, and I read this in little over a day as I simply couldn’t put it down. It was fast-paced with several surprises along the way, and I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Laureth and Ben, as he is bright for a seven-year-old and doesn’t seem to mind guiding his big sister around. His attachment to his toy raven, Stan, was especially amusing, providing dashes of humour at just the right moments. This book is an example of Sedgwick at his best, and I cannot wait for his next YA title. Verdict
A fast-paced mystery that completely drew me in and left me unable to put it down until I’d reached the final page. Laureth is an understandable narrator and one which gives an insight into how the world is perceived by the blind, especially with her reliance placed on a seven-year-old. I loved watching the clues unfold, and the book really makes you think about coincidences in your own life, and how they affect the world around you. Rating: 4.5 Stars
She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick Thriller, Young Adult Indigo (3 July 2014) Paperback: 354 pages
A series first released in 1971 and now enjoying an ebook release, Created, The Destroyer by Warren Murphy & Richard Sapir is a ruthless action series about an assassin who no longer exists.
The book begins with ex-police officer Remo Williams awaiting the electric chair on death row, framed for a crime he did not commit. A known criminal was found beaten to death in the street with Remo’s police badge next to him, rendering his defence appeal insignificant and the death row decision rushed through the courts. Having accepted his fate, all Remo is waiting for is that final walk to the dreaded chair.
However, his world is turned upside down when he is whisked away after his supposed ‘death’ and trained by the Korean martial arts master, Chiun. He is shaped into the ultimate assassin for CURE, an organisation which aims to remove enemies of democracy using any means possible. With his death row performance rendering Remo an officially ‘dead’ man, he is beyond the reach of suspicion and the perfect undercover operative for the organisation.
His first mission leads him in pursuit of ‘Maxwell’, a person or organisation at the head of organised crime in the city. With few leads to follow, he is lead to seduce the daughter of criminal Norman Felton, in the hopes that Felton will lead him to his goal. As the body count begins to rise, will Remo achieve his goal or become the dead man he is believed to be?
I really enjoyed the opening to this book, as Remo’s fate on death row seemed all but sealed when he was waiting in his cell. Although it was obvious that he would be freed, I had no idea how it would happen or what awaited him afterwards. The build up was so well-written that I was hooked immediately and couldn’t put the book down until I found out what would happen next. However, it was after this that the plot went downhill for me.
From the moment of his transformation, the narrative began to feel more clumsy and action-packed, as if the authors were trying to cram too much action into too short a space. The goal of the story seemed to become lost, as Remo had been transformed into this assassin but was not sure of the purpose or end goal of CURE. With little explanation he seemed to become ruthless and cold, not afraid of seducing the twenty-year-old daughter of Felton and taking her virginity from her. It was these scenes that I found slightly uncomfortable to read, as he had no trouble in making her believe he loved her, despite only knowing her a matter of days.
As a hero, I found Remo a strange one to follow as I really liked him at the beginning on death row because his feelings came through a lot more. After his rescue it became increasingly difficult to associate with him, as he became cold and hard, determined to do his job as an assassin without questioning why or what purpose he had. The organisation he worked for viewed him as expendable, yet he put his all into working for them regardless. We seemed to be given less and less of his personal views, with the third-person perspective distancing us from Remo and only giving us an outsider’s view of the action.
On the whole, for a quick action story that you can easily read in the space of a day, this book is definitely worth a read. However, if you like your characters to have more emotional depth then this book is not the one for you. It is more concerned with the ever-increasing body count and action scenes than building up character relations, but this may well change in future instalments. Verdict
This book has an amazing opening sequence that is sure to draw you in, but then slowly begins to fall by the wayside as the plot continues. Remo Williams makes for a unique hero, but we learn little of his emotions regarding his death row sentence or of his life afterwards. He becomes an emotionless enigma, seemingly ruthless in his approach to his targets and who gets hurt along the way. If you like cutthroat action scenes then this series is one for you, with the body count increasing with every chapter. Rating: 3 Stars
Created, The Destroyer by Warren Murphy & Richard Sapir (The Destroyer #1) Thriller Sphere (21 Aug 2014) Ebook: 187 pages
The first in a new fantasy series, The Godless by Ben Peek is an action-packed tale of rival nations in a battle over the territory of a buried God.
The book begins with cartographer’s apprentice, Ayae, in the city of Mireea, where she lives a content life with her partner, Illaan. Mireea is built atop the burial ground of the god, Ger, who many believe to be dormant rather than dead, waiting for the time to rise once more. As a result, the ground is believed to be infused with his magic, and can ‘curse’ a selected few with new abilities or powers. When the cartographer’s is set on fire and Ayae does not suffer a single burn, it becomes apparent that she has developed the ability to control the flames.
With the town turning against her, as they do against all who are ‘cursed’, Ayae finds guidance with Kaifyr, an ancient individual who is believed to be a god. He has lived for thousands of years, but we are only given a little insight into the how or why this happened to him. His powers are equally dubious, but he can talk to the dead, or ‘haunts’ as he calls them, using their spirits as guidance for hidden locations and such like. He is desperate to avoid the war Mireea faces with their neighbours, Leera, preferring to remain impartial to avoid the prospect of seeing all the dead spirits.
Somewhat separate to this action in Mireea is the perspective of Bueralan, an exile and mercenary from his nation of Dark who is commissioned by the ruler of Mireea to go behind enemy lines and sabotage Leera’s attempts to attack. This does not go as planned, and instead Bueralan is captured and forced to watch exchanges between Leeran leaders from the sidelines. He is determined to get a message to the people of Dark to protect them from the upcoming war, but there is little he can do from the inside of a cage.
I have found it exceptionally difficult to sum up the plot of this book, as I found it very confusing to read the whole way through. I expected Ayae to become more of a protagonist, but the book switches between the three perspectives of Bueralan, Kaifyr and Ayae, leaving little space for each character to develop fully. Admittedly, I think Ayae was given more of a back story and personality than the others, but it was still difficult to connect with her or to understand her power in more detail. The book seems to be prioritised with the politics between the two nations and establishing the battle more than anything else.
For me, the characters were one of the main problems in the book, as not enough time is spent establishing them or developing them to a point where the reader should care. I had times where I admired each one for a certain action or speech, but these were fleeting as the characters were lost beneath the weight of the too-serious plot. As the chapters switch rapidly between perspectives, I found that often they don’t flow smoothly, as there is little common ground to pinpoint time or place. With Bueralan in a separate city, his views had nothing to do with Ayae or Kaifyr, and felt as if they were taking place in a completely different span of time to the others.
It was the discontinuity of time which also made this a hard read for me, as it became increasingly hard to tell how long the action was taking to happen – whether it was days, weeks or months. I also found that chapters would jump backwards in time with no warning, flashing back to a character’s past suddenly and leaving a feeling of disorientation. It wasn’t always immediately apparent that they were back in the past, which made it very confusing to read and led me to keep putting the book down in frustration.
Some of the battle sequences and political disputes are well-written, but this book definitely was not my cup of tea. I had expected more of a heroic protagonist than I received, and thought that there would be explanation of the god’s deaths which had occurred years previous. All we really learn about Ger is that he is buried beneath Mireea, and not how his power chooses people to ‘curse’, or even if this is the root of the power. I think more establishment of world building and plot was needed in this series, so I don’t think I’ll be reading the sequel. Verdict
This book just didn’t grab my attention enough to keep me interested, and as a result I found it to be a very difficult read. The timeline seems to be all over the place, jumping backward and forward with little warning and making it difficult to understand what’s going on at any given time. The characters take a lot of hard work to understand, especially as the chapters flit between three perspectives which often share little or no connection with each other. Rating: 2 Stars
The Godless by Ben Peek (Children #1) Fantasy Tor UK (14 Aug 2014) Ebook: 448 pages
Despite the first instalment not having grabbed my attention as I hoped, I decided to take a chance and pick up the second book in the Midgard series by Susan Krinard, Black Ice.
Set in the streets of San Francisco, Valkyrie Mist and her crew are back on the hunt for the relics of the gods, having already secured three of them. Her nemesis, Loki, the trickster god, is still at large and threatens to take over Midgard (Earth) if he can reach the relics first. With Mist’s crew growing ever larger and now including a biker gang, she looks to stand a good chance, but there is the added difficulty of her mother, goddess Freya, who continues to keep her secrets closely guarded.
Added to Mist’s list of worries is her companion, the Alfar, Dainn, who seems unable to control his beastly side. His curse of the beast is becoming stronger and more difficult to control, especially with his instincts to protect Mist. He knows she is unlikely to return his affections for her, but stays loyally at her side to do her bidding and protect her from Loki. Regardless of this, he always seems to be keeping some kind of secret from her, or failing to inform her when Loki visits him alone.
Loki’s secret weapon this time around is his son, Danny, a quiet boy whose powers are yet to be explored. All we know is that he will be strong, but the identity of his other parent is kept secret until the end of the book (although it is very easy to predict who it is). As well as Loki’s secrets, there is the appearance of Anna, a woman descended from one of Mist’s old lovers and in possession of one of Odin’s ravens. The raven seems to have an important message to bestow, but no-one can get him to talk besides Anna.
With a whole host of mysteries set to be uncovered in this book, I was hoping that the plot would shape up to be an exciting tale full of action and intrigue. However, I felt disappointed that the plot didn’t pick up until after the first hundred pages so. Until this point, I had completely forgotten about the search for the god’s special relics and for Mist’s Valkyrie sisters, as the focus is purely upon the relationship between Mist and Dainn and the battle with Loki. Albeit, the plot does pick up after this, but it just didn’t have enough at the beginning to hook me into the action.
Once again, I had problems with Mist as the protagonist, as we are given very little insight into her personal feelings about what’s going on. To some extent we are told what she is feeling rather than being made to feel it ourselves, which just didn’t work in the same way to build up a relationship with the character. She always seems distant from those around her, not exactly letting anyone in or trusting completely. Admittedly, with the number of times she has been betrayed this is understandable, but at the same time she expects others to trust her completely and doesn’t grasp that this is not a one-way street.
I felt very much the same about Dainn, as he keeps secrets from Mist throughout the entire book, and is very rarely honest with her about his encounters with Loki. He uses the excuse of ‘she’d never believe me’, but he never gives her a chance despite claiming to love her. What I did appreciate is that we got more of an insight into his struggles with his inner beast, as he is scared of himself and what he could be capable of. This resulted in a lot of angst from his character, as he does repeatedly ask Mist to kill him rather than let the beast thrive.
Unfortunately for me, this series did not pick up in book two as I had so hoped it would. It was still an enjoyable read, and the action scenes are written well, but my issues with the characters were too large to ignore. I feel that there are a lot of unanswered questions and characters with loose ends that are yet to be tied up, so the sequel could have a lot of work to do to bring all this together. I admire Krinard’s research into Norse mythology and the dedication to bringing out Loki’s trickster nature in all its glory, as Loki is what makes these books interesting for me. His character is probably the most explored and detailed of them all, so I’m hoping to see a lot more of him in the sequel – preferably at his despicable best. Verdict
Once again, this series failed to grab my attention in the way I hoped it would. On paper it has everything – the mythology, action, romantic tension – but it is still missing that crucial spark. It seems like the plot to regain the god’s relics is strong, as is Loki’s character development, but Mist and Dainn are falling by the wayside as protagonists. This series has a great premise, but I’m just looking for a little bit more in terms of character engagement. Rating: 3 Stars
Black Ice by Susan Krinard (Midgard #2) Urban Fantasy Tor Books (12 Aug 2014) Ebook: 400 pages
After enjoying the first two books in the Faerie series, I was looking forward to getting my hands on book three, The Magic Between Us, by Tammy Falkner.
The previous two books in the series were concerned with faerie women falling in love with human males of the ton, so I was interested to see how this book would turn out when the tables were turned slightly. The main character in this book was Marcus Thorne, another fae sibling of the Thorne family who occupies a difficult position between the fae world and the human one.
Six months ago, he left the world of the fae and his childhood sweetheart, Cecelia, to join his parents and siblings in the human world. He has usurped his younger brother, Allen, as the heir to their estate amongst humans, and is struggling to adjust to his life with Cecelia and his new world of pomp and ceremony. There are frequent cameos from his family members of the previous books, all of whom are incredibly loved up and happy.
In a stark contrast, back home in the land of the fae Cecelia is struggling to carry on with her life without Marcus. After he left her six months ago, her mother passed away and her father has been struggling to cope with the loss ever since. He has descended into the world of drink, getting foxed every night and lashing out at the staff, occasionally at Cecelia too. She is desperately missing her best friend and her love, but at the same time despises him for leaving her in the interests of pleasing his family.
When she turns up in the human world on a mission, Marcus realises that he has always loved Cecelia and regrets ever leaving her side. He is desperate to win back her trust, returning to the fae world in pursuit of her. It is here that he discovers the truth of what happened to her family in his absence, with him being forced to step in and sort out her father’s alcohol dependence. As he slowly starts to win her back around, will she agree to be a part of his life once more and settle in the human world? Or will Marcus be forced to give up his family’s dreams for him and live once more in the land of the fae?
I found it hard to sum up the plot of this book, as not a lot actually happens in the course of the novel. The book is primarily about the romance between Marcus and Cecelia, with any other occurrences being passed over at best as a subplot. For example, the family are supposedly concerned about the return of the Earl of Mayden, who featured earlier in the series, but he is forgotten about for the majority of the book and only reappears to add drama to the climax. I found it difficult to connect with the book because of this lack of ongoing plot behind the romance, as I found that the previous instalments had more substance.
Marcus was a decent male protagonist, but I wouldn’t describe him as an outstanding lead or one that you could easily fall for. On one hand he was caring and protective of Cecelia, but on the other it seemed to be his way or no way at times, with his forceful male nature coming through. I thought this was most prominent in the sex scenes, with some instances being cringey rather than romantic and slightly forced. He was somewhat overprotective by the end and became sex-obsessed, which I didn’t find very appealing.
As for Cecelia, I really liked her as a heroine at first, especially with everything that she had to deal with at home. She was tough and brave to deal with her father in the way she did, but at the same time I thought she was weak when it came to Marcus. I expected some degree of softening because of her love for him, but she seemed to forgive him for leaving very quickly and was soon giving herself up to him. She was thoughtful and passionate about those she loved, so was mainly likeable, but I would have liked to have seen more development between the pair.
Overall, I was disappointed with this book as I have come to expect slightly more from this series. My rating of three stars results partly from some of the minor characters and recurring ones in the series, who provide some much needed comic relief at times. I particularly liked Marcus’ brother, Allen, who was cheeky and forthright and happened to fall in love with Cecelia’s best friend, Ainsley. Yes, this was somewhat cliché, but it was still fun to read and added a touch more substance to a plot that was all about the romance and not much else. Verdict
Unfortunately this series seems to have slipped slightly, as this book wasn’t as enjoyable as the previous two. The plot wasn’t as strong, and the characters didn’t feel as well-defined as those featured earlier in the series. There was still a likeable romance to the book, but if you’re looking for some substance behind it then this isn’t the book for you.
Rating: 3 Stars
The Magic Between Us by Tammy Falkner (Faerie #3) Paranormal Romance Sourcebooks Casablanca (7 Jan 2014) Ebook: 320 pages
Another addition to the paranormal and historical Relics of Merlin series, Enchanting the Beast by Kathryne Kennedy introduces spirits and ghosts into the pre-existing paranormal world of shape-shifters and magic.
Philomena Radcliff is able to see ghosts, and the book opens with her conducting a séance in the vicinity of Sir Nicodemus Wulfson, a werewolf visiting the city. He is impressed by her supernatural talents and commissions her to ghost hunt for him at his home, Grimspell Castle, where his brother is being haunted by nightmarish spirits. Phil agrees, eager to get involved in a hunt, bringing along her trusty shifter companion, Sarah, a were-snake.
Phil finds herself being visited by the castle’s restless spirits, each one taking her down to the mysterious basement which Nico has asked her never to enter. It is clear that whatever has riled the ghosts is to be found within the castle itself, but without Nico’s help Philomena is powerless to explore the full extent of the mystery. She is shunned by some of Nico’s relations and his pack, and is wary of forming an attachment to Nico due to their age difference. Following her somewhat dubious profession has left Phil unmarried at the age of forty, whilst Nico, alpha of his pack, is just beginning at age twenty-seven.
This age difference becomes the root of conflict between the pair, despite the growing level of attraction between them as the book goes on. Like the majority of Kennedy’s couples, they share a lasting will-they-won’t-they tug of war with their emotions. At times it seemed like the plot fell by the wayside in pursuit of the romance, as I found myself forgetting about the premise of Merlin’s Relics, which barely garnered a mention until the end. It was almost as if the focus had been a lost a little in this book, and would not give much of an insight into the Relics unless previous books had been read.
On the whole I did enjoy the ghost hunting plot of the book, as Phil is able to see ghosts from the castle’s history – meaning a variety of different times and costumes, even the odd dragon. Aside from the Relics, I felt that more attention could have been given to Nico’s past, as we learn that his fiancée was murdered and the suspect is still on the loose, but he seems to be completely over the recent death and barely discusses it with Phil. It was a means to an end, to let suspicion fall on other characters in the book, with the conclusion intended to shock more than it did.
I did like Philomena as a heroine at first, as she seemed strong and in touch with her ghosts, caring about them like a mother figure, there to help them over to the other side. However, as the book went on she seemed to grow more subservient to Nico and I failed to understand why she should suddenly lose some of her independence to her relationship. She suffered a lot of emotional conflict when it came to him, as the age difference was more of an issue to her than to him. I could empathise with her worry that he was younger than her and might go on to find someone else, but she did yo-yo a bit too much between rejecting him one minute and being on top of him the next.
With Nico I found that his werewolf nature dominated his personality, as he is the alpha wolf and very much tries to dominate Phil in the same way as his pack. His main emotional conflict comes from trying to keep his wolf in check rather than any issues surrounding Phil, and I began to grow tired of his inner debates over control, as he had never once lost control of his beast side. I did like him with Phil, as their personalities mesh well together, but at the same time I found him to be a bit too pushy, and seemed prepared to go to any lengths to get Phil to stay with him, even some which were too underhand for my liking.
I did enjoy this instalment to the series better than the last, but I did think there were several plot points which could have been given more attention, or just missed out. For example, we are given barely detail about Phil’s companion, Sarah, and as a result it was difficult to feel any compassion when she was attacked or under threat. Similar instances occur with some of Nico’s family members, who are merely mentioned by name in passing and then suffer later on. I thought the ending was a little unexpected but not very, as the book makes the culprit very obvious quite early on. The epilogue was wrapped up in the usual Kennedy style, so if you like the romance to take the fore rather than the plot, this series is one for you. Verdict
This instalment to the Relics of Merlin series was better than the last, although it still didn’t contain many shocking moments that couldn’t be predicted early on in the plot. The characters were very standard for Kennedy, mirroring those of the other novels. I felt that Merlin’s Relics played less of a part in this novel, so hope that this is rectified in future additions to the series.
Rating: 3 Stars
Enchanting the Beast by Kathryne Kennedy (Relics of Merlin #3) Paranormal Romance Sourcebooks Casablanca (1 Apr 2014) Ebook: 352 pages
Like the previous books in the Relics of Merlin series, Everlasting Enchantment by Kathryne Kennedy can be read as a standalone, without any prior knowledge of the fantasy world.
Again set in Victorian England (this time with cameos from the Queen herself), book three in the series follows the story of Millicent Pantere, a were-panther who dwells in the underground of society and has no desire to enter the high life of the upper classes. She is under orders from the Duke of Ghoulston to acquire one of Merlin’s relics, believed to harbour a vast quantity of magic. The Duke has groomed Millicent to be a lady, training her in the arts of social etiquette and giving her an exact plan to stick to.
She is introduced as a country lady, to explain her social short-comings, and finds herself placed into the company of Lady Chatterley. The Lady has gathered together a group of eligible maidens present at the ball, and presents them with a moonstone bracelet – otherwise known as one of Merlin’s relics. According to Lady Chatterley, it harbours the spirit of a knight who is an expert in the arts of seduction and challenges anyone not to give into him after just one night.
Handing the bracelet around the group, it will supposedly tighten onto the arm of its chosen female and, surprise, surprise, it choose Millicent. She is shocked, expecting her were nature to have deterred the magic of the relic, but it makes her job of acquiring the relic that much easier. However, upon returning to Ghoulston’s manor Lady Chatterley is proved right when a handsome medieval knight materialises before Millicent’s very eyes. He is Sir Gareth Solimere, one of Sir Arthur’s knights who is destined to spend eternity inside the relic, only materialising at night, unless he can find his true love to break the curse.
He has spent the last few hundred years seducing the women who wear the bracelet in the hopes of finding his true love, and is soon shocked to find that Millicent won’t be that easy to convince. She has too much riding on her discovery of the relic, as Ghoulston is keeping her best friend, Nell, a prisoner in return for Millicent’s cooperation. However, with his gentlemanly nature Gareth is not prepared to let Ghoulston be in control of her, and suggests that they work together to free Nell from his evil clutches. However, both are soon to learn that their actions are not without their consequences, and that the spell might not be broken after all…
On the surface, for a paranormal romance this book had an interesting premise, as it’s not every day that a handsome man will materialise in front of you every evening demanding your attention. Unfortunately, aside from this it didn’t seem to hold my attention very well, as there was a lot going on but it didn’t seem to build up to much. It was very systematic and predictable, especially where the romance and the ending were concerned.
As for characters, again they seemed to fall into very stereotypical roles. Millicent was the angst-ridden heroine, plagued by a host of misfortune in her past which left her with Nell as the only one she could rely on. As a result of her upbringing, she is slow to trust anyone and doesn’t let anyone get close to her heart. This makes her reluctant to open up to Gareth, despite her obvious like of him, and makes you question how long it will be until she finally does give herself up to him.
Gareth fulfilled the role of the male hero in somewhat spectacular fashion, always quick to brandish his sword and jump into the fight. He is exceptionally talented with a weapon, proving a valuable asset throughout the novel, but also a bit of a show off at first. I didn’t like how self-assured he seemed of acquiring Millicent’s love, or even of bedding her, as it seemed at odds with his more gentle side of taking care of her and Nell. Another thing I disliked about Gareth was the timing of the sex scenes, as some felt completely of place and unnecessary to the enjoyment of the plot. I liked the moments in which he demonstrates his caring for Millicent, but of course she misinterprets them, a typical trope that causes some tension between the pair.
It was these somewhat clichéd moments that made the plot easy to predict, although there was one event which I hadn’t anticipated. I don’t want to spoil this point, but I will say that my shock at this was ruined by the conclusion of the book. It was very much an ending of convenience that has been constructed purely for the purpose of a happy ending. This is great if you want to pick up a simple romance story, but if you want a bit more depth to the love and story surrounding it, then this isn’t the book for you. Verdict
I found it hard to connect with the characters of this book, particularly as there seemed to be much angst throughout the plot. There were also a lot of elements added purely for plot convenience, and which I thought the book would have worked well without. On the whole, the romance was new and intriguing, but I thought the timing of sex scenes could have been better.
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Everlasting Enchantment by Kathryne Kennedy (Relics of Merlin #4) Paranormal Romance Sourcebooks Casablanca (3 Dec 2013) Paperback: 384 pages
Dead Silent by Shirley Wells is the follow-up to Presumed Dead, in which Dylan Scott finds himself called back to the Lancashire town of Dawson’s Clough – a place he never thought he’d see again.
This time the private investigator has been called upon to solve another disappearance case, that of Samantha Hunt. Sam was a bright and bubbly young woman with her whole life ahead of her, until she failed to show up for work one morning and was never seen again. She was a tomboy, more at home in jeans than dresses, and a mechanic at the local classic car garage. Her parents seem to adore her, her boyfriend loved her and everyone has nothing but good words about her – so why would anyone want her gone?
Dylan is hired by Rob Hunt, Sam’s father, to track her down no matter the cost, as he has been diagnosed with lung cancer and doesn’t have long left. He and Sam’s mother, Marion, are divorced, so his daughter is all he has left to hold onto. However, there are very little details that he can tell Dylan about her disappearance, and it is clear that he couldn’t stand her boyfriend, Jack.
Jack was one of the last people to hear from Sam, having had a phone call from her before she went missing. He also had an argument with her the night before, making him the police’s prime suspect in the case. Dylan isn’t so sure, as all he can see when he questions Jack is a man who would have done anything for his girlfriend. Jack also reveals some details about Sam that no one else knew, and perhaps some things that were better left hidden.
As for Marion, she is as desperate as Rob for their daughter to come home, but at the same time has accepted the reality that it might be a hopeless cause. After her divorce she married Alan Roderick, a man whom no one seems to have a good word for. He is abrupt, callous and aggressive, seeming not to care about his step-daughter’s disappearance, and not interested in Dylan’s questions. Definitely not a man to be messed with, could he be responsible for disposing of Sam?
On top of this investigation, Dylan is still struggling to cope with family life, as his wife is yet to take him back after their separation. He is dividing his time between Lancashire and London yet again, placing a large strain on his finances. Will he and Bev ever reconcile, or will he be forced to continue sharing a tiny flat with his mother? Needless to say this causes an awful lot of tension throughout the novel, being forever at the forefront of Dylan’s mind.
I really enjoy reading this series, as so far the mysteries have been so well crafted that I’m never entirely sure what will happen next, or where the case will take us to. In book one it was France, and in book two we are taken to Scotland, an amazing gamble for the investigator to take in pursuit of clues. Particularly in this sequel it was unclear for a long time whether Sam would be found dead or alive, which really added to the tension and the desperation to solve the case sooner rather than later.
However, this book did fall down a little from the first instalment as I found that the final revelation was a little predictable. By the end of the book I had long since guessed who was involved, even if I wasn’t quite sure how it had been carried out. Despite this it was still a highly enjoyable read, and like the first book it was interesting to see how all the loose threads would come together. The only other plot issue I had was one of convenience, as the end discovery was incredibly convenient for Dylan, more a case of luck than skill, and I felt that from there everything was rushed.
As for Dylan, he annoyed me somewhat in this book with his comments regarding his wife, as they were borderline sexist and blaming her reactions on her hormones. There were only a few instances of this though, as he grows as a character throughout the rest of the book. Unlike his first adventure, Dylan doesn’t feel the need to drink as much, proving he has matured and is learning to cope with his life.
I can’t wait to see where Shirley Wells takes this series next, as for a sleepy Lancashire town Dawson’s Clough seems to be full of mysteries. I look forward to Dylan’s next investigation, and am particularly interested in how his family dynamics will change after what we learn from the final chapter. Another great mystery that will have you on the edge of your seat! Verdict
A great follow up to Presumed Dead, this series achieves a great balance between the investigation, plot and Dylan’s personal problems, incorporating a vast wealth of detail. The plot of this sequel was a little more predictable than that of the first book, but the conclusion is still fairly shocking and the ending makes me wonder where Dylan Scott will go next.
Kicking off a new historical romance series is A Wicked Pursuit by Isabella Bradford, the first in the Breconridge Brothers series.
As the eldest son of a duke, Harry Fitzroy is expected to marry well and start producing heirs – sooner rather than later. He thinks he has found his match in Julia Wetherby, the most beautiful girl of the season and the ideal catch for an amorous duke. However, when he visits her at her country home intending to propose, a simple horse riding expedition turns disastrous. Harry falls from his borrowed horse, unconscious in the woods whilst Julia returns home for help.
What Harry finds when he awakes is the watchful gaze of Julia’s sister, Lady Augusta, who has nursed him since his accident and kept a careful vigil at his bedside. His leg is broken in two places, carefully strapped to a splint and leaving him bed-bound for the foreseeable future, as well as a prisoner in the Wetherby family home. However, Gus seems to be his only companion, as Julia has abandoned him completely in the face of his disability and returned to London for the remainder of the season.
Whilst nursing him back to health, and becoming increasingly infuriated at his demands for musicians and the like, Gus finds herself falling in love with Harry, and he with her. She doesn’t care about his leg, or that he may never walk again, as she loves his wit and humour as well as his charm. Although Gus is not the prettiest lady by far, Harry becomes enamoured with her plain beauty and her attentiveness to his condition, as she treats him normally and does not pity his bed-bound condition.
As the two get closer, Harry realises he was planning to marry the wrong sister, and sets his sights on Gus instead. She might doubt her abilities to become a duchess, but she is efficient in running a household and can cope with Harry’s temper far better than Julia would be able to. I really enjoyed watching the progression of their relationship, as they grow closer gradually, without the need for rushing. I also liked that Harry tries to make romantic gestures from his bed, such as organising a romantic meal for her without her loyal staff letting slip any details.
I think this was partly what made Harry such an interesting male lead, as he showed signs of tenderness and desire for a family, besides what was expected of him as his ducal duty. He frequently got frustrated with his condition, as he was dealing with the feeling of emasculation and the inability to carry out simple tasks which were so easy for him before. Throughout it all, he holds on to the hope that one day he will regain the use of his leg, remaining stubborn in his ways and sometimes offending Gus in the process. This was understandable given what he was used to, but I enjoyed seeing him humbled and brought down to Gus’s social level.
Similarly, I found Gus to be a pleasant heroine, as she was devoted to Harry and found herself falling in love with him all at once. She resented Julia for how she treated Harry, abandoning him in his hour of need for the frivolities of the city, but she becomes increasingly grateful for the opportunity to fall in love. She is reluctant to spend time with him at first, wary of what her servants might say in their gossip and infuriated by his arrogant manner. However, when she spends more time with him and sees how much he cares about her, she cannot bring herself to stay away from him, no matter how scandalous it might be.
I thoroughly enjoyed the writing style of this book, as the story flowed nicely and there was a perfect amount and pace of character development. The characters are given the space to grow together and to combat their own problems, with a smattering of sexy scenes thrown in for good measure. There were times when I thought more could have been going on in terms of drama, as it didn’t seem like there many threats to their relationship, or obstacles to be overcome, except for Harry’s injury. Nevertheless, I am thoroughly looking forward to reading the second book in the series, as Harry’s brothers were only mentioned in passing and I cannot wait to meet them. Verdict
An enthralling historical romance, this novel features two main characters that you can’t help but love, rooting for them to get together the whole way through. I enjoyed the fact that the book didn’t end with a wedding, as is so common in historical fiction, as it gave further depth to their relationship and more indication of a lasting future. The writing was strong and engaging, so I cannot wait to meet the second Breconridge brother. Rating: 4 Stars
A Wicked Pursuit by Isabella Bradford (Breconridge Brothers #1) Historical Romance Headline Eternal (25 Feb 2014) Paperback: 337 pages
Set three-hundred years after the Mistborn trilogy, The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson visits the reshaped empire of Scadrial, which has been changed by the dawn of technology, with railways and skyscrapers clouding the landscape.
Amidst the town of Elendel, the magics of Allomancy and Feruchemy remain prevalent, although magic such as Kelsier, Vin and Elend’s is long since consigned to the history books. However, there are those who are twinborn, possessing one element of both Allomancy and Feruchemy, such as our protagonist, Waxillium Ladrian, who can both increase and decrease his weight with Feruchemy, as well as being able to Push on metals when he burns steel. If you haven’t read the previous Mistborn books then this might sound confusing, but this can easily be read as the start of a new trilogy, with a handy glossary and explanations throughout to introduce the concept.
The book opens with Waxillium and his partner, Lessie, in what is known as The Roughs, an area outside of Elendel which reminded me of the Wild West, where outlaws and honour go to die. Wax is a lawkeeper, bringing in those outlaws for a reward, but something goes wrong in this opening scene that changes his outlook. He promptly returns to Elendel to take his rightful place as a lord of house Ladrian, with a family tragedy leaving him alone and destitute, with marriage seeming the only option. He has been paired with Steris Harms, an uptight young girl who humorously presents him with a contract, but also meets her cousin, Marasi, who is seemingly a quiet student.
It is during one of his meetings with Steris that his old friend from The Roughs, Wayne, turns up and causes havoc, purposefully teasing Wax to get a reaction out of him. He is desperate for Wax’s help in discovering the cause of a spate of robberies, perpetrated by those known only as ‘The Vanishers’. Despite his claims to have given up lawkeeping, Wax is nevertheless intrigued, as the thefts are linked to a rare metal, Aluminum, which can kill an Allomancer, as it cannot be Pushed or Pulled on. The thieves have also started taking female hostages, with an apparently unknown link between each captive.
As usual, Sanderson weaves an intense plot in a short space of time, pulling you in completely into his labyrinth of fantastic elements. Even newcomers to the series won’t find it hard to become absorbed in the magic, especially as an intriguing mystery plot is weaved throughout the novel, culminating in a surprising conclusion. There are a number of action-packed gun fights throughout, combining the characters’ magical abilities with physical combat to take the battlefield to another level.
For a protagonist, Wax was certainly different to Elend and Vin from the previous trilogy and yet still possessed some of their soul. He was tortured by his experience in The Roughs, yet his intelligent mind couldn’t help being inspired by the mysterious thefts plaguing Elendel. I thought he was a great protagonist, with just the right level of angst and bitterness to his foes. Sanderson has a great skill for crafting finely tuned main characters, and you can really feel how every blow affects Wax, and how deep a friendship he shares with Wayne. The banter between the two of them was infectious, and I loved how well they fit together as a double act, both in and out of the fighting.
The main female character of the novel, Marasi, was subtly developed throughout the book, and it is obvious that she has feelings for Wax, despite the large age gap between them. She was strong in her own quiet way, refusing to back down from a fight despite her inexperience. I particularly liked that when in a crisis, her panic mode induces her to start quoting facts from her criminology studies! She is definitely one of Sanderson’s more interesting characters, and I look forward to getting to know more about her in the sequel.
As usual, Sanderson is at his fantasy best with the Mistborn series, creating the most intricately crafted characters I’ve ever had the fortune to read. If this trilogy ends up like the previous one, then there are definitely great things ahead for this spinoff series. I can’t recommend this series enough, and if the previous weighty volumes put you off, then the smaller page number of this volume should definitely entice you. Verdict
A brilliant follow-up to the initial trilogy, this new spinoff is easy to read as a standalone without prior knowledge of the universe. Setting the book three-hundred years in the future works well, as it allows the intermingling of Allomancy with technological advances, as well as high-powered gun fights that are reminiscent of the old west. I loved the connections between the characters, and know that this new series definitely has a lot of potential.
Rating: 5 Stars
The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn #4) Fantasy Gollancz (10 Nov 2011) Paperback: 327 pages
For a book that opens with a funeral, Dear Lizzie by Annie Lyons turns out to be about the search for happiness, spurred on by the sisterly bond.
With the knowledge that she had terminal cancer, Lizzie’s sister, Bea, left twelve letters for Lizzie – one for each month of the coming year after her death. Having been separated from the family for fifteen years, Lizzie’s only friend was Bea, and losing her is like losing a part of her heart. She is struggling with the pain of her grief, but decides to follow Bea’s last wishes for her and begins to open the envelopes as instructed.
Detailed within the envelopes are a series of tasks which Bea thought would bring happiness to Lizzie’s lonely life, including the difficult task of reconnecting with their mother and even finding love. However, her sisterly guidance is not as easy to follow as it first appears, and along the way there are some harsh family secrets which threaten to tear Lizzie’s world apart. Regardless of this, Lizzie starts to build a more confident, happy life for herself, and learns that she was never as overshadowed by Bea as she first thought.
Lizzie works in a small independent bookshop in London, and finds herself following Bea’s instructions and making friends with their café neighbours. She is drawn to the owner, Ben, who is going through his own emotional drama after a messy divorce and a character who is easy to like from his first introduction. However, there is the confusion of her feelings for Alex, her ex, with whom there are many unresolved issues and one of the reasons why she moved away in the first place.
I highly enjoyed the plotline of this book, although it did remind me strongly of 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson. Despite this, the idea of being left envelopes by a loved one seems thoughtful and challenging, as Lizzie likes to feel that a part of Bea is still there with her. It also made it somewhat more difficult to come to terms with her death, especially after certain revelations are made that would necessitate some kind of showdown with her sister. The unseen presence of Bea can be seen to both ruin and improve Lizzie’s life over the course of the book, and I think the full impact of the letters is to be judged by the reader.
As a main character, Lizzie had everything I look for in a romantic protagonist, as she had a traumatic past, a pessimistic outlook to life and the desire to settle for what was easy. Of course, all of this was set to change, and I loved seeing her transition from wallflower to confident, inspiring woman. Having outcast herself from her family, it was the hardest decision to reconnect with them, and I really admired the sense of courage she had to finally face her fears and make her mother see the pain she had caused all those years ago.
What I also enjoyed was Lizzie’s attempts to forge a relationship with Bea’s son, Sam, who was harbouring his own secret about his mum that was leading to feelings of hatred rather than adoration. He is difficult but fragile, and I felt that both he and Lizzie were instrumental in bringing each other out of their shells. For a kid, he also has surprisingly good instincts about people and seems to know who isn’t trustworthy.
I thought that the progression of the letters happened at the right pace, although sometimes it was difficult to believe that a whole month had passed between certain events. I also appreciated certain creative decisions about dates, such as Lizzie choosing the most sentimental moments to open the letters, and choosing the right time to reveal them to other people. I think one of the few things which let the book down for me, however, was the romance storyline. From the beginning, I felt sure that Lizzie and Ben would develop a relationship with little problem, but then Alex was back on the scene and Lizzie immediately seems to jump back into his arms. As a result, the conclusion of the book felt incredibly rushed, as I felt that there wasn’t enough time given to developing a romantic connection, it simply happened and that was that.
Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and struggled to put it down. The chapters were engaging and funny, with characters that seem to bounce straight off the page and into your imagination. Like Lyons’ previous novel, this one makes you re-evaluate what is important in your life, and what you might like to say to those you would leave behind. I have to say that I am growing to like Lyons’ writing style a lot, and I look forward to seeing what she does next. Verdict
A heart-warming tale with a twist, this novel likes to throw you off course at every opportunity and question everything you think you know about Lizzie’s life. There were many shocking revelations which changed the family dynamics forever, as well as a shocking romantic decision that left me more than a little concerned. The ending is fulfilling for Lizzie, as she undergoes a deeply emotional journey throughout the book, but I was hoping for a more thorough description of her romance at the story’s end. Rating: 4 Stars
Dear Lizzie by Annie Lyons Contemporary Romance Carina UK (8 July 2014) Ebook: 320 pages
Establishing a brand new concept is never easy, but that’s part of the joy in reading The Seventh Miss Hatfield by Anna Caltabiano.
I was drawn to this series precisely because of its intriguing premise, as a young girl called Cynthia encounters the mysterious Miss Rebecca Hatfield. Miss Hatfield is their newest neighbour, having just moved in across the street, and draws Cynthia to her house one day under the mistake of a parcel being delivered to the wrong house. Despite knowing she shouldn’t talk to strangers, Cynthia accepts Miss Hatfield’s invitation for cookies and lemonade, continuing to drink up even after seeing Miss Hatfield put a drop of something into her drink.
This single drop of water is from a legendary lake that makes people immortal, with Cynthia now in her adult body and faced with a wealth of confusion. Miss Hatfield goes on to explain about the Hatfield legacy and how Cynthia will become the seventh Miss Rebecca Hatfield, whether she likes it or not. They have the ability to travel backwards through time, but are not permitted to remain for too long in any particular place, as they will soon feel an uncomfortable pull that only intensifies the longer they stay.
As the newest Miss Hatfield, Rebecca is given the task of returning to turn-of-the-century New York to steal a painting. This portrait may reveal some of the secrets to immortality, which must be kept hidden at all costs, placing high stakes on the job at hand. It is up to Rebecca to infiltrate a wealthy household, posing as a cousin, in an attempt to regain this important artefact. However, her job could be in jeopardy when she begins to fall for Henley Beauford, the young master of the house who goes along with her secret identity with no questions asked.
On the surface, this book has an interesting plot with elements I have never come across before, succeeding in mixing fantasy, history and romance. However, I felt that once the main plot points had been explained at the beginning, such as the origin of the Hatfields, the pace became very slow and laboured. As Rebecca becomes closer to the family, the book seems to be more about her relationships with Henley and the staff and very little about the painting at all. In fact, there were times when her goal of stealing the portrait felt forgotten, as if this was only a minor point to consider.
I think it didn’t help that Rebecca was a somewhat difficult character to get to grips with as a protagonist. Her childhood self in the beginning was an outsider, preferring to play alone and yet still wary of her neighbour. She seemed almost idiotic in accepting the drink when she knew something was inside it, and even more accepting when Miss Hatfield explained the legacy and thrust her into the past. I felt that there should have been more outrage from her, or more confusion and rebellion, as she readily accepts being in her adult body and the transition into the past without batting an eyelid.
When she begins to forget her own name and accept her identity as the next Rebecca Hatfield, I found this difficult to comprehend, as she had only just become this new person and surely could not forget everything about her previous life. There were also no regrets about leaving her parents behind, or many fears for her future. The only thing that seems to affect her at all is her relationship with Henley, who was pleasantly amusing and brought jokey warmth to the pages. Their connection was fairly obvious from the start, but was still developed nicely and allowed further exploration of the problems surrounding a Hatfield’s identity.
I also really enjoyed sharing in Rebecca’s experience of the servants and the houses of the era, as she courteous and respectful of all, often implementing more modern attitudes in her treatment of her maids. There were a few conflicts between her and Henley’s father, Charles Beauford, as he has become obsessed with the legend of immortality and it becomes clear that he might know more about the truth than he realises. The historical elements of this book made it become more of a historical romance than a fantasy, as Rebecca’s immortality is forgotten in the face of her relationships with the Beauford household, yet always lurking in the background.
As a completely new concept, I thought this book worked surprisingly well and certainly set the stage for an exciting story. It was only the pace and plot development which let it down for me, as the Hatfield legacy is explained in a rush, whilst the theft of the painting is drawn out to an excruciating length. The ending was somewhat foreseeable, whilst being left open for possible sequels. Now the concept is firmly established, I hope to see more improvement in any further instalments which may follow.
This book starts off well with a refreshing concept that incorporates time travel, immortality and the Miss Hatfield legacy. Unfortunately, it felt like once this concept had been established the plot slowed right down, becoming a seemingly never-ending search for a portrait. The relationships with other characters are developed well, but for me it just felt like there was something missing.
Rating: 3.5 Stars
The Seventh Miss Hatfield by Anna Caltabiano Fantasy Gollancz (31 July 2014) Ebook: 320 pages
I always look forward to reading the next book in the Dylan Scott MysterySeries, but this time, Dead End by Shirley Wells provided even more than the usual thrill.
In a storyline that was subtly foreshadowed at the end of the last book, Dylan Scott has begun receiving death threats over the phone, claiming that he will get what’s coming to him. Having built up a long list of enemies in his days on the force and as a private investigator, Dylan has no idea where to begin until he learns of the release of Leonard King, who he caught during a drugs bust several years previous. Lenny is nowhere near as dangerous as his partner-in-crime, Max, but he remains safely behind bars and couldn’t possibly be involved, could he?
Then there’s a conman by the alias of Brad Goodenough who was seducing a wealthy man’s daughter with the aim of making off with her money. Having exposed him for the liar he is, Dylan is surprised to see him crop up again near his office and begins to wonder if he could be involved with the threats in some way. On top of all this is the desire to keep the messages secret from his wife, Bev, who has recently been diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing intensive treatment.
With all this action surrounding Dylan, I was surprised to find the plot was interspersed with chapters from the point of view of Jimmy, a highly disturbed individual who was kidnapping men and murdering their families. These chapters are chilling and engaging, as the kidnappings are carried out in several stages over the course of the book, maintaining a high level of suspense and intrigue. As this happens completely separate to Dylan’s investigations, for the majority of the novel I had no idea how their paths would cross, or even if they would, but all I will say is that Wells weaves an absolute shocker of a finale.
I think I enjoyed the fact that this book wasn’t set in Dawson’s Clough, as even though the Lancashire town has been a special place throughout the series, it isn’t Dylan’s home. With these threats being so personal, it made the prospect of crime seem closer and more real, especially with the troubles being faced by the Scott family. I was sucked in to the separate plots of Jimmy and Dylan, with their separation giving a sense of urgency to the plot, as if both are racing against each other to reach a certain destination, even if we don’t know what that might be.
As always, one of my favourite things about this series is getting inside the mind of Dylan Scott, who always seems to pull a solution or a lead out of the bag at the last minute. He becomes embroiled in solving both the Lenny King case and the Goodenough con, whilst at the same time worrying about Bev. It was his worry for his wife that gave his character further depth in this instalment, as he is desperate not to face the extent of her condition and continues to hope for a miraculous cure. All he can think is that she is too young and fit to be facing the big ‘c’, and seeks solace in his investigations to avoid facing the truth.
Being completely unaware of how the storylines would interact, I became increasingly engaged with the twisted perspective of Jimmy, as we are given an insight into his home life and his murderous tendencies. He ignores his sons, thinking they are too soft, and cannot stand his wife’s ‘nagging’ – even though she only asks him where he keeps disappearing to. Having just been discharged from the army, it is clear that he still has psychological issues to resolve, but it remains unclear for the most part what his victims have to do with his end plan.
Considering how this novel ends, I have no idea where the Dylan Scott Mystery series will go from here, but only hope it will continue to go from strength to strength. Each of the characters lives is thrown into disarray by the end, and I certainly hadn’t seen this particular ending coming. It was so well written that I barely noticed the pages flying by until I had reached the final page, and I can’t wait to see where Dylan’s life will go from there. The Dylan Scott Mystery series has me firmly in its thrall, and I don’t want it to end any time soon. Verdict
By far one of the most standout books of the series, Dead End had me on the edge of my seat and dying to know what would happen to everyone’s favourite detective, Dylan Scott. I really had no idea who his mystery caller was, or how the two storylines would intertwine, but the ending was well worth the wait. There is the added tension of Bev’s ongoing cancer diagnosis, which adds a whole other level to Dylan’s emotional stresses, culminating in an ending which may well leave you gasping in shock. Rating: 4.5 Stars
Dead End by Shirley Wells (A Dylan Scott Mystery #7) Mystery & Detective Carina Press (7 July 2014) Ebook: 268 pages
Returning to the Lancashire town of Dawson’s Clough, Dying Art by Shirley Wells marks the fifth instalment of the Dylan Scott Mystery series – a series which shows no sign of slowing down.
Private investigator, Dylan Scott, is sitting in his office waiting for business when an old girlfriend of his turns up to present him with a case. Maddie Chandler’s sister, Prue, was found dead in her home in Dawson’s Clough, with the police stating that she interrupted a burglar. They aren’t treating it as a murder enquiry, but Maddie is sure that something is wrong as she received a strange phone call before Prue was killed. Although reluctant to return to Dawson’s Clough, Dylan cannot resist the sound of this case and gets straight into his car.
Prue’s home had been ransacked, but nothing had been taken – not even the sixty pounds in cash on her kitchen table. This immediately makes Dylan question the police’s verdict of murder, as the supposed ‘burglar’ was obviously looking for something specific. Whilst helping Maddie clear the house, they find a miniature portrait by renowned artist, Jack McIntyre, which is worth thousands. What was Prue doing with such a piece, and could it have been the reason behind her death?
Knowing little about the art world, Dylan begins a research mission to find out about Jack McIntyre, and whether it’s possible Prue ever knew him. Along the way he begins to build a list of suspects, including a local bar owner, Prue’s landlord, Maddie’s husband, Tim, and even Maddie herself. It is clear that his ex-girlfriend has been suffering from a number of problems, and Dylan has to keep his adult head on to ensure he doesn’t fall for any of her advances. It is no secret that Maddie actually loathed Prue, but would she really use her sister’s death just to reconnect with an old flame?
This mystery was as well-crafted as the previous instalments, with frequent trips to the Clough, Manchester and even France providing the much-needed clues. I really enjoyed the multiple perspectives, as we get sections from Maddie’s point of view (which is somewhat twisted), and from teenager, Kevin, who witnessed a man leaving Prue’s home on the night of her death. These additional perspectives lent some space to the story, as the reader is not limited by Dylan’s perspective and can perceive clues for themselves. As always, the mystery was solved by the end of the book with a surprising flourish, as well as a few epilogue scenes which reveal even more explanatory secrets.
What slightly let this book down for me was my frustration with Dylan as the protagonist. As much as I love the way he goes about solving the crimes and the dedication to his work, I disliked his attitude to his family in this book. The frequent reiteration that he was now forty seemed to be used as an excuse to have a mid-life crisis, and he did little to discourage Maddie’s advances. When he did reject her, it wasn’t because of his family loyalty but because he thought Maddie might be unstable. As much as I like Dylan, I very much wanted to punch him after such statements were made.
However, I continue to enjoy the scenes which Dylan spends with his family, particularly his hippie mother, and there was the amusing side plot about Dylan’s father in this book. Having no idea who his father is, when his mother brings an old associate to dinner there is the nagging ‘what if’ that causes Dylan to carry out a DNA test on the sly. This sideline was particularly comic for Dylan’s blunt refusal to accept the possibility, and it is mainly his wife’s teasing that makes him want the truth.
As ever, it was the well-written nature of this mystery series which hooked my interest, as I truly had no idea of the culprit until the final few chapters. It perhaps wasn’t as exciting as previous reveals, but it was the repercussions afterwards which lent that extra touch to rounding off the plot. I particularly enjoyed the forays into the art world, but I would have preferred less of the connection between Dylan and Maddie, so I’m hoping she doesn’t feature in future books. Nevertheless, I’m excited to continue the series and find out what will happen in Dawson’s Clough next. Verdict
Another well-written and intriguing mystery, this book cleverly intertwines the high end art world with the rainy town of Dawson’s Clough. The case was solved once more in a gripping fashion, keeping you guessing until the very end. There are chapters from multiple perspectives which also offer a better insight into the characters involved. Rating: 4 Stars
Dying Art by Shirley Wells (A Dylan Scott Mystery #5) Mystery & Detective Carina Press (12 Nov 2012) Ebook: 239 pages
On beginning book six in the Dylan Scott Mystery series, I knew Deadly Shadows by Shirley Wells would return us to the dreary town of Dawson’s Clough, but I hadn’t expected an undercover operation.
Having been dismissed from the police force before becoming a private investigator, Dylan Scott had been working undercover as David ‘Davey’ Young, and was associated with the ruthless Joe Child. Child is known to the police and to Dylan as a dodgy character, who always seems to have an alibi when his enemies turn up dead. There is little doubt that he is behind such atrocious killings, but without proof there is nothing the police can do.
However, having supposedly reformed his character, Joe is now running a refuge in Dawson’s Clough which is based on Christian morals and helps to feed the homeless. The centre is known to have taken in two young girls, Caroline and Farrah, who are now missing with no leads to their whereabouts. At a loss for evidence, the police reluctantly send Dylan into the refuge under his previous guise of Davey Young, in the hopes that he can find some evidence without arousing suspicion. If Child gets a hint that Davey isn’t all he seems, it will be Dylan’s life on the line.
There are few clues to be found around the refuge, but Dylan knows all is not as it seems when it comes to Child’s miraculous conversion to Christian faith. There is a supposedly deaf and dumb gardener, Kennedy, who seems to know more than he lets on, and Child’s wife, Doll, who keeps sneaking off to meet ‘friends’ in town. On top of all that is Dylan’s home life, as his work undercover prevents him from contacting his wife, Bev, who is worrying about her health. Having developed abdominal pain, Bev has been undergoing tests that may or not be cancerous, giving Dylan further stress at his inability to be at her side.
Once again, Shirley Wells weaves an interesting and cleverly constructed mystery, as I truly had no idea what had happened to the missing girls, or whether Joe Child would finally meet his rightful end. I really enjoyed the added element of Dylan being undercover, as for the first few chapters only Davey Young had been introduced, and I was wondering where Dylan was. Needless to say, I enjoyed the twist at the end of the story, as it builds to an incredibly dramatic conclusion with some much unexpected revelations.
I found that there were even more dimensions to Dylan’s character in this book, as we got to see him tested to his limits as he went undercover, taking extra precautions to avoid detection. It also gave an insight into how he would have acted during his police days, a time which is always skirted over due to his bitterness at being dismissed. He also seemed more caring for his family in this book, a trait which has often put me at odds with him. His concern for Bev was more profound towards the end of the story, but he was still concerned about all the time he was missing with his wife and children.
Added to this were the chapters from Bev’s perspective, as we get to see her growing fears for her health and her constant worry for her children. She has a bad feeling about the blood tests and ultrasounds the health centre want to send her for, and just knows it will have bad results. She isn’t sleeping and is desperate for Dylan to come home and comfort her, despite knowing how important this job is to him. I really enjoyed getting more of an insight into her character, as she was largely in the background in previous instalments.
I think this sixth take was one of the best in the series so far, as the story was so well-crafted that there were clues and red herrings coming from all directions. I was desperate to know what had happened to Caroline and Farrah, which was made more distressing due to the segments from Farrah’s father’s perspective. Wells manages to give us an insight from all parties involved, including Joe Child, yet still succeeds in withholding the most vital pieces of information until the conclusion. There were also hints of the next mystery to come, as Dylan and family begin to receive disturbing phone calls that contain threats to Dylan’s life… Verdict
This was another standout instalment in the Dylan Scott Mystery series, as we are taken back to his roots as a policeman and get to see another side to his investigative skills. Being undercover was refreshing, and added a new dimension of suspense and fear for his identity being uncovered. I also enjoyed the combination of Bev’s perspective and her fears for her health, as it grounds the plot more and makes Dylan seem more human. Rating: 4.5 Stars
Deadly Shadows by Shirley Wells (A Dylan Scott Mystery #6) Mystery & Detective Carina Press (7 Oct 2013) Ebook: 212 pages
I absolutely adored Kendare Blake’s series, Anna Dressed in Blood, so when I found out she was writing a new series based around the Greek gods, I knew I had to get my hands on Antigoddess, the first in the Goddess War series.
The book alternates perspective between goddess Athena and her brother, Hermes, and the everyday life of teenager, Cassandra, and her boyfriend, Aidan. Both Athena and Hermes are dying slowly, as Athena’s body is slowly becoming filled with feathers whilst Hermes’ is diminishing and leaving him bony and weak. This is the first time anything has happened to weaken the gods of old, and they are desperately seeking a cure for their ailments. They are aware that the other gods are also suffering, but there are two sides to this fight as gods are being targeted in the hope that their life force will cure this imminent death.
Elsewhere, Cassandra and Aidan attend school like any normal teenager, maintaining a close relationship with their friend, Andie. They have been friends for years, and Cassandra seemingly has the ability to predict the future. She can predict the outcome of a coin toss or hockey game but, so far, nothing more serious than that. There is a blank space in her future which she believes is the loss of her power, proving to be more of a concern when her visions intensify. She begins to receive images of the dying gods or of impending threats, but has little idea how to prevent them or even where they will occur.
During their search, Athena and Hermes are told that they must seek out the prophetess, Cassandra, who was once known as Cassandra of Troy. In doing so, they risk bringing trouble to her front door and leading their enemies right to the person who could be the key for the cure. They meet up with other gods and heroes along the way, and find that they have a big fight on their hands to get past Aidan’s protection and unlock Cassandra’s power.
I found this book quite confusing to describe, as despite being the Goddess War series, there wasn’t really a hint of a war until the concluding chapters. Yes, there was animosity between the gods, but the opposing factions are relatively small and the majority of well-known mythological figures have not yet been featured. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the concept of gods walking the earth, as well as several of the Trojan characters being resurrected in the present day.
Throughout her respective chapters, I found Cassandra to be a captivating and well-developed character, as there is a fine balance between her anxiety about her visions and her normal teenage life. She has her family, friends and boyfriend, not sharing in the angst that is so prevalent in current YA literature. What I also liked was her underlying strength, which came out in full force towards the close of the book, when she is under pressure and has to defend those she cares about with all she has.
Sadly, what let this book down for me was the other perspective of Athena and Hermes. I just couldn’t connect with her as a character, especially one who seems to be the main protagonist, as she was apathetic and cruel for the most part, with little vulnerability to empathise with. She was known as the virgin goddess, and plays around with the emotions of hero, Odysseus, despite knowing how much he cares about her. I thought she was utterly ruthless at times, in such a way that was cold and unnecessary, making her almost as barbaric as the ones pursuing her. She wasn’t like those who are so bad you can’t help but love them, so I think a lot of development is needed to make her relatable.
On the whole, I thought that the initial set up for this series was a little shaky; as one of my characters was killed off who I felt sure would be instrumental to the plotline. There was still no explanation for how the killer diseases started amongst the gods, or why some have turned against each other and how Cassandra could possibly cure them. I’m hoping a lot of these questions will be answered in book two, as so far this series was missing that spark that keeps me hooked. Admittedly, my expectations are high for any work by Kendare Blake, so I definitely haven’t given up hope yet. The fight scenes and pacing were still impeccably written, so I’m expecting great things. Verdict
I wasn’t sure what to make of this new series, as it didn’t excite me quite so much as Anna Dressed in Blood. I found myself more drawn towards Cassandra and Aidan’s story, and almost disliking Athena’s plotline. She was a difficult character to connect to, and considering how the book ends, I would hope that she improves in the sequel. Rating: 4 Stars
Antigoddess by Kendare Blake (Goddess War #1) Fantasy, Young Adult Tor Teen (10 Sept 2013) Hardback: 333 pages
Already a bestseller in ebook format, Not Quite Perfect by Annie Lyons has now been released in paperback in an attempt to introduce more readers to this quirky contemporary romance.
The book follows the relationships of sisters, Emma and Rachel, with their respective other halves and the sense of discontent which is sneaking into their lives. Emma is a high-flying book editor on the verge of securing a potential bestseller for the company, and is looking forward to planning her wedding with fiancé, Martin. He adores her, frequently surprising her with meals, champagne and weekends away. However, Emma can’t help but feel a little wary at the prospect of married life, having no desire to give up her career just yet. When her handsome and devilish new author starts making advances towards her, she finds herself struck with a moral dilemma.
Elsewhere, Rachel is happily married to Steve and spends her days looking after their three children while he works. With how her children behave, her days are often a long, hard slog, struggling to get them ready to go out or to have a minute alone. When Steve drops the bombshell that he has been offered a job in Edinburgh, there is increasing unrest in the home, as Rachel is conflicted about leaving everything she knows behind. The bond between them starts to break down, and she finds solace in talking to her kindly neighbour, Tom, who is clearly attracted to her, even if she can’t see it.
With their relationships under stress, both Rachel and Emma find support in each other and in their parents, Diana and Edward, from whom we also get some perspective passages. They provide some much needed grounding for the girls, even if they can’t solve all of life’s problems. We also get to meet Rachel’s fellow mothers and Emma’s work colleagues, who each provide copious amounts of humour and help to lighten the tone of the book.
What this book prides itself on is the deliverance of the classic message, ‘you don’t know what you have until it’s gone’. It helps to put life into perspective, and reinforce that boredom or dissatisfaction with a relationship can be temporary, and to be careful how you act upon it. I think the book was somewhat more serious that I expected in its treatment of family life and relationships, as I had anticipated more of a predictable happy ending than I received. I was pleasantly surprised, and enjoyed getting to know the sisters in more detail as the plot progressed.
For once, in a book with multiple perspectives, I didn’t actually have a favourite sister, as I enjoyed both Emma and Rachel’s dilemmas in equal amounts. Emma’s work/life balance was in dangerous territory as she grew closer to her new author, Richard, despite knowing that he has a dreadful reputation as a ladies man. I think she was somewhat typical in wanting a touch of excitement before settling down into marriage, but at the same time she maintains her morality and is always mindful of Martin’s feelings. There are obviously moments when she slips up and drama ensues, but I think everything worked out as it should in her story.
As for Rachel, I really enjoyed seeing her daily struggles with the children, as it gave ample opportunity for witty, childish antics, and perfectly captured the difficulties of parenthood. Like her sister, Rachel felt her brain had become numb from disuse in being a housewife, growing bored with her suburban life when Steve is repeatedly late home from work. She feels trapped, despite the love she feels for her children, and finds it more and more difficult to have an adult conversation with Steve without it descending into a row. I think she just needed to find a chance to be herself again, and would have liked a little more detail about Rachel in the concluding chapter.
As expected, the book does have a happy ending, albeit coloured by events that transpire. There is a genuine sense that happiness will now be possible for both parties, and that a balance will be achieved in both lives. I really enjoyed the overarching message of the book, and found that I could really connect to both sisters. Both of their dilemmas are something that many women experience and easily relatable, as the seriousness of life becomes repetitive and fun feels like it is disappearing.
I did have a few problems with this book, which I think primarily resulted from the writing style. It was written in the present tense, an unusual choice for most novels, and I thought it sometimes jarred and made it a little more difficult to read. I also found some of the girls’ actions repetitive, as I lost count of the number of glasses of champagne, wine or gin and tonics that were consumed throughout the book. It seemed that whenever there was a problem, out came the alcohol and the potential drunken drama that might follow. Regardless, I thought this was a fun book with a serious message behind it, and I owe a special mention to Rachel’s Swiss friend, Christa, who has a witty tale at every juncture and often stole the show. Verdict
This was a fun contemporary novel that lives to remind us that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. It teaches you to appreciate the relationships in your life, but at the same time is a little too serious if you’re expecting a fun romance read. Nevertheless, the sisterly protagonists both have interesting lives, and it is difficult to choose a favourite between them. Rating: 3.5 Stars
Not Quite Perfect by Annie Lyons Contemporary Romance Carina UK (18 July 2014) Paperback: 384 pages
After the climactic ending to book one, vampire Karl and his newly-turned love, Charlotte, are living happily at the beginning of A Dance in Blood Velvet by Freda Warrington.
Alas, this is not to last for long, as Kristian’s death has upset the Crystal Ring, awakening the vampires he had placed there for the punishment of eternal sleep. One of these vampires is Katerina, Karl’s ex-lover and his closest companion before Charlotte came along. She has been sleeping for forty years, and awakening has left her weak and starving for blood. Karl feels obligated to help her recover to full health, but Charlotte begins to feel excluded from their close bond, becoming further removed from Karl as all his time is devoted to Katti.
Instead, Charlotte seeks solace in the theatre, becoming enamoured of ballet sensation, Violette Lenoir. Her talent can bring any character to life, pouring out her emotion into the audience and capturing Charlotte’s undivided attention. Finding herself in love with the ballerina’s persona, Charlotte begins to grow closer to Violette, infiltrating the dancer’s defences and falling deeper under her spell. This not a romantic love, but one of kindred spirits, and one which Karl struggles to understand or condone, as he is sure it will end in disaster for Charlotte.
On top of all these personal dilemmas, two human brothers, Lancelyn and Benedict, have grown to possess occult powers which allow them to penetrate the Crystal Ring, a realm thought only visible to vampires. Benedict uses his power to draw the newly-awakened vampires to him, which happens to include Andreas, the final member of Karl and Katerina’s beloved trio. Somehow Benedict has the power to control Andreas, making him unable to feed without his permission. There is a long-standing sibling rivalry between him and Lancelyn, with both vying to prove who is more powerful.
Each of these plotlines continues throughout the book, often clashing or interacting with each other as the plot builds to its final conclusion. I was unsure what to make of the story, as for the most part I felt like I was drifting, as I had no idea where the plot was heading or whether all these details were relevant. I thought that it was a bit much to mix together so many different types of jealousy and betrayal, especially as there is a thread of ‘why are we here’ and ‘is there really a God’ flowing throughout the whole book.
I liked that Charlotte’s basic character hadn’t changed in this book, as she is still just as caring and contemplative about her life as before, refusing to take victims without caring for them first. Her love for Karl is obvious, as she is pained whenever they are apart, but at the same time she cannot resist the pull of Violette, even though she doesn’t understand why. I was unsure what to make of her infatuation, as at first I didn’t empathise with her at all and grew frustrated at her obsession. All does become clear by the end, but I think more could have been done to evoke sympathy or understanding with Charlotte.
As for Karl, I felt like his character had completely changed since book one and I found myself growing to dislike him, as he couldn’t see anything wrong in caring for Katerina over Charlotte, and dismissed her feelings as if they were nothing. He is always claiming that their love is strong and powerful and will endure, but I felt like he’d almost thrown Charlotte away to Violette, and didn’t put up a fight for her at all. His worries seemed to eclipse caring for Charlotte, always pursuing his own goals and answers without even considering how she might feel about him putting himself in continual danger.
However, I did enjoy exploring the new characters we are introduced to, particularly Katerina and Andreas. Their relationship with each other and with Karl is complex to say the least, as there seems to be jealousy on both sides and a difficulty to adjust to modern times. Having been asleep for so long, they both have a lot to catch up on, which Katti finds hard to accept, especially when it comes to Karl. She was hoping for a reunion of their trio, and it takes her a while to see that Karl has moved on. Contrastingly, Andreas seems laid back, prepared to go with the flow and see where his allegiance with Benedict takes him. He is not necessarily happy about being controlled, but nevertheless he is a deep character who still has a lot left to be explored.
Unfortunately, this book didn’t captivate me as much as the first one, as I really struggled to get into the plot and couldn’t see what the writer was trying to build up to. I think some of the plotlines were too conflicting and confusing, with some taking too long to come to fruition. At over 500 pages, this is a long book to commit to and I had to keep putting it down and leaving it for a while before coming back to it. It is not the easiest of reads, although it is well-detailed and does have a satisfactory conclusion. If you like more drawn-out plots, then this series will definitely suit you better. Verdict
Although I didn’t enjoy this as much as book one, this instalment to the series continues to weave together an intricately detailed plot which seems to anticipate a dramatic climax. For the most part I had no idea what the plot was leading up to, which made the book a hard read and difficult to get into. Although a well-crafted series, this is not an easy book to immerse your self in for long periods of time. Rating: 3.5 Stars
A Dance in Blood Velvet by Freda Warrington (Blood Wine #2) Paranormal Romance Titan Books (25 Oct 2013) Paperback: 505 pages
Taking place after the cataclysmic events of Fortress Frontier, Breach Zone by Myke Cole reunReviewed by Rebecca for www.bookchickcity.com - 4.5 Stars
Taking place after the cataclysmic events of Fortress Frontier, Breach Zone by Myke Cole reunites the characters of the previous novels for a heart-stopping showdown in New York City.
This time around, our protagonist is Colonel Jan Thorsson, aka Harlequin, an Aeromancer in the SOC who played a crucial role in book two. He is drafted in as the commander of New York City’s resistance, as the newly-freed Scylla has finally played her trump card. She has opened a portal in New York City, similar to those created by Oscar Britton, but made using her particular brand of rotting magic. Through this portal she has brought her army of goblins and Gahe, mountain guardians who are immune to human weaponry.
Scylla’s goal is the removal of the McGauer-Linden Act, the government protocol that makes Latent humans who manifest in magical arts subject to capture and discipline. She wants Limbic Dampener, the drug which enables Latents to control their power, to be freely distributed rather than the property of the government, enabling more freedom of choice for magical humans. However, what she also believes is that Latent individuals are above normal humans, becoming a war for supremacy rather than equality.
With Scylla’s Gahe being unaffected by human weapons, Harlequin needs the support of the magical armies and illegal arts to even have a ray of hope. This means fighting the governmental red tape which prohibits the use of such magic, drawing together General Bookbinder and Oscar Britton from the previous novels. Sarah Downer also makes a welcome return, although her character does not feature massively throughout the book despite her usefulness.
Interspersed throughout the book are flashback sequences to six years previous, the time when Scylla and Harlequin first met. These scenes are pivotal in understanding both the corruption of the government, and the emotional reasoning behind Scylla’s actions. I wasn’t expecting to form such a close connection with a character that, up until now, has been solely evil and can only destroy rather than create.
These flashbacks did not impede the pace of the novel in any way, as they provided a welcome respite from the battle as well as being interrelated. I thought the whole book was fast paced and exciting, as if running on an adrenaline high from the battle, and it is easy to overlook the fact that it takes place over the space of only a few days. I hadn’t anticipated that Scylla would take her revenge in such a public way, and it demonstrates the misuse of magic juxtaposed with the good it can do.
I really enjoyed getting into Harlequin’s mind in this book, as he seems to be the most emotionally involved of all the protagonists. When he suffers a loss in the war he really seems to feel it emotionally, caught in the crossfire of what is right and wrong. His own ideals are questioned as the government’s ways are continuously proven to be flawed, and it is only through his thought processes that we can see the glimmer of what could be. I hadn’t anticipated the connection between him and Scylla, and I really thought this added to the emotional ride of the book.
Until this third instalment, we hadn’t seen much of what Scylla’s magic could really do to people, as it is most often used to rot objects and weaponry. The full extent of her power is truly horrific, and I thought Cole captured this perfectly and at just the right moments. Not only is her magic powerful, but she is a great public speaker, and Cole pulls off some truly political speeches throughout the book, and not just from Scylla. The glimpses of her previous life, when she was known as Grace, make you wish for a redemption, but whether this is realised must remain unknown until the final pages.
Overall, Breach Zone combined all of my favourite elements from the previous books, despite wanting to see more of certain characters (such as Britton and Bookbinder). I think Cole has grown over the course of the series, as his action scenes flow with more grace and subtlety than before, forming a perfectly rounded whole. There was just the right balance of action versus discussion, as no element of warfare is overlooked, right down to the last snippet of red tape. I think these books have resonance in real current affairs, despite the magic, making them that much more gripping.
In what proves to be a show-stopping third instalment, Cole doesn’t pull any punches as a full scale war rages in the streets of New York City. The action is at an all-time high, and the emotions of war really come across as the desperation of the forces is at the forefront. What surprised me is that you can even sympathise with Scylla, who until now has been a sadistic antagonist, turning the book into a full-on emotional rollercoaster....more
Slick as Ides by Chanse Lowell was my first foray into erotic romance, and I have to say that this wasn’tReviewed by Rebecca for www.bookchickcity.com
Slick as Ides by Chanse Lowell was my first foray into erotic romance, and I have to say that this wasn’t the best book to get me started.
Ides is an incredibly intelligent computer hacker and inventor, worth millions of dollars and currently undergoing a lawsuit that claims one of her inventions can be used criminally rather than for good. She is a recluse, intensely shy about the outside world as a result of her germ phobia, which makes her frequently use hand sanitizer and clean every inch of her house. The only contact she has is with her lawyer, Riot, who makes no secret of his feelings for her, and online hacker rival, Vapor.
With Vapor she has intensely sexual and erotic conversations, in which he tells her all the different ways he wants to have sex with her. The language he uses is crude and vulgar, but for some reason Ides still finds this appealing and finds herself thinking about him. She is attracted to him merely through online conversation, despite admittedly only knowing him for a couple of months, with this allowing her to stay detached from forming too strong an emotional attachment.
When Ides leaves her home to deliver her new invention (in a Veyron, no less), a stop for petrol leads to an encounter with the mysterious Nick, who promptly steals her car. He is a thief, in the business of stealing cars and doing them up with his friend, Westin. However, he hasn’t counted on Ides having tracking devices implanted into the car, as she shows up at the garage and reclaims her vehicle. She thinks she’s removed all of Nick’s tracking devices, but then he turns up at her home and somehow bypasses all of her home security.
Of course, it turns out that Nick is the real name of alias Vapor, and he has his sights set on getting into Ides’ bed. He goes so far as to cuff her to the bed while she is still sleeping, and then has forceful sex with her. This happens several times throughout the book, as Ides repeatedly tells him she will increase her home security so he can’t get in, but he continues to find ingenious ways of entry. I found this to be almost stalker-like, as his pursuit of her is relentless and he barely gives her a moment’s peace.
As for the plot, after the initial encounters between the pair, I thought that it got very confusing and illogical. I could accept that the pair had known each other previously, but then there were revelations that their families were connected as their fathers knew and hated each other. It all became very strange and I admit that I switched off for part of it. I felt that the story could easily have ended half-way through, without the need for the last part, especially as the closing chapter felt very cliché and predictable.
For a main character, Ides (real name Dena), was easy to connect with at first and I could sympathise with her phobia of germs, even if it was a little extreme. However, after she met Vapor I found it increasingly hard to understand her, as I didn’t find anything that he did attractive or sexy, and couldn’t see why she would want him to keep pursuing her. She liked him calling her names such as ‘dirty bitch’, and it seemed like her phobia disappeared around him. I could understand feeling more comfortable around someone you love, but it seemed unrealistic for her fears to dissipate completely.
As previously indicated, I didn’t find Vapor/Ides appealing at all for a hero. He was almost violent in their sexual contact, with BDSM elements coming through, and his sexual appetite was unrelenting. He was always hard for Ides, and there were numerous scenes where he would wake her up just to satisfy his own urges. I admit that there were a few moments when he showed genuine caring and emotion, but on the whole he was very animalistic and primal.
The sex scenes in this erotic romance were heated, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that they were always passionate. In fact, there are times when they border on the ridiculous as well as the crude. For example, many times during their intercourse they stop to have conversations that can be profound or trivial, with one notable instance where they are supposedly having a conversation whilst Ides is sucking him. It was moments like these that removed all the sexiness from their relationship, as well as Nick’s repeated use of the c-word and other unattractive words that you wouldn’t want to hear during intimacy.
Overall, this book wasn’t really for me, but I suppose if you’re into the BDSM theme then it might be more your cup of tea. It was hard to connect with characters that both carried so much angst, especially as their histories coincidentally intertwined, as the sex scenes formed the majority of the text. As a first experience of erotic fiction, I was expecting a sexier read and was unfortunately disheartened, but if erotica is your genre then you may well form a different opinion.
This book is full of sex scenes, some of which have dubious consent, as well as being littered with crude language and repeated use of the c-word. The scenes didn’t feel at all sexy, as at times they felt forced and ridiculous, and the characters both seemed to have a ridiculous back story that was too coincidental. A good read if you like erotica with dubious consent as a theme, but if you like it to actually seem sexy then this isn’t the book for you. ...more
A book that plays with both witches and ghosts, Haunted on Bourbon Street by Deanna Chase makes a good start to a new supernatural series.
The book begins similarly to other haunted stories, with Jade Calhoun having moved into a new apartment owned by sexy landlord, Kane. She has two jobs, one running a glass blowing class and the other as a barista in coffee shop, The Grind, which is also owned by Kane. The object of her interests also runs a strip club, Wicked, with both of these businesses run by the excitable Pyper, a formidable female who fights for the rights of her staff and has welcomed Jade with open arms.
After a visit from her childhood best friend, Kat, and an altercation with her ex, Dan, Jade returns to her flat to take a relaxing bath. However, she is soon creeped out by ghostly goings on when some body powder clouds around her and the top is mysteriously placed back on the bottle. She gets her landlord to inspect and then dismisses the event for the day, climbing into bed. However, her dreams are soon plagued by the ghost in a sexual way, as he starts touching her and seducing her in her sleep. The dreams then change when Kane makes an entrance, with the other male disappearing.
Jade is confused by her dreams, and by her connection to Kane, with Kat encouraging her to call in a ghost expert, Ian. He and his team carry out all kinds of tests on the apartment, testing how the ghost reacts to Jade’s presence, but are unable to find any solid clues as to how to remove the presence. Jade thinks it could be due to her nature as an empath, a secret she has kept for many years as it tends to unsettle those around her. She can feel others’ emotions and react to it, which was ultimately the reason for her split with Dan, as he felt violated.
As the ghost situation starts to get worse, it is not only Jade but Pyper who starts to feel a presence, with her dreams also being invaded. It is unclear if the ghost intends on harming them, with Jade preparing to call on the nearby spiritualist store to solve their problem. In amidst all of the ghost drama there is also the formation of a relationship with Kane, as well as interest from Ian, to keep Jade occupied. She feels unable to reveal her empath secret to him, as she fears he will run away like Dan did and she will be forced to start afresh all over again.
It as these hidden doubts throughout the book that made Jade a likeable character, as she had been burned in the past and was determined not to let that happen again. However, it was also frustrating at times, as Kane had revealed his secrets to her and it was clear that he would accept hers no matter what. Despite this, I did like her as a protagonist as she was slightly crazy and confident, managing to put her foot in her mouth on several occasions. This made her funny and easy to relate to, as she slowly started to open up throughout the book to those around her.
I didn’t like the attempt to form a love triangle between her, Kane and Ian, as it never really felt like Ian was much of a competitor at all. It was clear that he was interested in her, but that might have been because of her connection to a ghost rather than because of her personality. I could see that she was never really attracted to him, despite agreeing to a date, as it was obvious that she would end up with Kane. I did like the formation of the relationship between them, as it wasn’t too rushed and some of the scenes between them were hot and steamy. However, I did think Kane’s attraction and pursuit of her was a bit instantaneous, as he seemed to get jealous easily of her interactions with Ian.
As a love interest, Kane was sexy and attractive but at the same was caring of Jade and wanted to look out for her. I thought he was protective, but not so much that Jade couldn’t put him in his place, and had her best interests at heart. I liked how understanding he was of her, as he wasn’t without his own abilities and understood how rejection could feel. This made him more endearing and made you root for their relationship to succeed.
I enjoyed the overall plot of this book, and I thought the haunting scenes and romance was written very well. What I didn’t like was some of the finer plot elements, such as the convenience of the ghosts’ connection to one of Jade’s students, and the use of witchcraft and rituals to fix the problem. I found the ending to be a little exaggerated and repetitive as the ritual went on, especially with how many characters ended up being involved in the final showdown. However, I did really enjoy this as a first instalment in a series, as it definitely sets up some interesting and likeable characters that are fun to read about. There were several humorous scenes that made you appreciate the setting, as the strip club is often the perfect location for a showdown and the subject of many great jokes. I’m looking forward to finding out what’s next for Jade Calhoun as her abilities grow. Verdict
This is a book full of ghostly goings on that may make you shudder at times, especially as they have a tendency to invade dreams with inappropriate thoughts. It wasn’t overly creepy, and there were some large doses of romance between Jade and Kane. I didn’t like the attempt to create a love triangle, as it never felt like Ian stood a chance, but regardless this was an exciting, spooky read.
Rating: 3 Stars
Haunted on Bourbon Street by Deanna Chase (Jade Calhoun #1) Paranormal Romance Bayou Moon Publishing (24 July 2011) Ebook: 253 pages