I should say, in the interest of full disclosure, that I grew up with the Kay Scarpetta series. I started reading it in my early teens and stayed withI should say, in the interest of full disclosure, that I grew up with the Kay Scarpetta series. I started reading it in my early teens and stayed with it through good times and bad, several awful books and many spectacular ones, deaths, disasters, epidemics, and many, many tears. To say that I’m a bit biased is an understatement; after 21 installment, these characters are practically family, their hurts are mine and their successes something I celebrate with a smile and a full heart.
Admittedly, the series went through a very rough patch just recently. Several books were written in third person POV, for no apparent reason other than Cornwell experimenting, and it was in that time that she lost a great number of her readers. I myself came very close to abandoning her, too. But the second she went back to first person narrative and Kay Scarpetta’s sharp and intelligent voice, those of us who are most faithful to her didn’t hesitate for a second.
In Dust, we find Scarpetta in a very bad place. She just survived a horrible ordeal and she’s down with the flu. With Benton away in Washington DC, she is alone in their huge house, with no one but their rescued dog for company. When a case comes her way, a murder Kay knows is more than it seems, she has to get up and work with Pete Marino, regardless of their strained relationship.
The case itself is extremely sensitive and complicated. With her husband Benton Wesley ostracized by his FBI peers and her niece Lucy Farinelli somehow involved, Kay must walk around on eggshells, careful of her every word. It’s not just the case that’s at risk, but all their careers and Lucy’s freedom as well. With Marino kept in the dark and acting more like an enemy than an ally, our dr. Scarpetta has a very difficult task ahead.
Just like the series itself, Kay and Benton’s marriage went through a pretty rough patch, but we see a significant change in Dust. As I was growing up, Benton was always my idea of a perfect man: highly intelligent, polished, graceful and strong, radiating confidence and competence both. Dust reads a little like a love letter to him, which I didn’t mind one bit. It’s been a long time since we’ve really seen him through Kay’s eyes – him, and not accumulated resentment and hurt. Even close to retirement, in his late fifties (or so I assume), Benton is marvelous.
Kate Reading did an excellent job with Scarpetta’s voice, making it sound calm and measured, extremely educated and intelligent, but never cold. Scarpetta’s feelings may be well hidden from everyone, sometimes including Benton, but they’re never hidden from us, not when we’re privy to her thoughts.
I am thrilled to see this series finally back on track, and after 14 hours with Kay, Lucy, Marino and Benton, I’m looking forward to many, many more.
My interest in the Mortal Instruments vanished completely right around the time the original trilogy ended. I resented Clare for milking the cash cow,My interest in the Mortal Instruments vanished completely right around the time the original trilogy ended. I resented Clare for milking the cash cow, so to speak, and dragging out something that ended quite nicely in book 3. However, my investment in some of the relationships, especially that of Magnus and Alec, never quite disappeared.
In this novella, we find them at their very beginning, shy and tentative, careful not to overstep the boundaries. It’s Alec’s birthday and Magnus wants to give him something thoughtful and memorable, something that says just how much he’s grown to care for the shadowhunter. Being who he is, he goes about it in his usual, outrageous manner. Seeing Magnus “officially besotted and revolted by himself” was hilarious and absolutely delightful! This is a fairly brief novella, but fans of the couple will certainly enjoy seeing Magnus so completely infatuated with Alec. Although we don’t see much of Alec himself, he is present in Magnus’ every thought.
Jordan Gavaris is my favorite narrator of these novellas. His voice is very light and humorous, with a barely discernible seriousness underneath, which fits Magnus extremely well. For this too, I highly recommend getting the audio version.
It was clear right from the start, in City of Bones, that Magnus Bane will never be content to remain in the background. He is too fabulous a characteIt was clear right from the start, in City of Bones, that Magnus Bane will never be content to remain in the background. He is too fabulous a character to ever be called side, secondary, or anything else to that effect. The Bane Chronicles finally put this powerful, yet kind-hearted immortal front and center, right where he deserves to be.
The Midnight Heir takes place in Edwardian London, and it gives us an opportunity to reunite with Will, Tessa, and even Jem. It is a great introduction into the upcoming trilogy centered around Will and Tessa’s children and their peers. It was clear, even from this very short story, that we can expect a lot of pain and heartbreak from the lovely 17-year-old James Herondale. He is Will’s son after all, and judging by this glimpse into his life, he is just as tortured as his father used to be, albeit in a very different way.
Each of the Bane Chronicles stories is narrated by a different person, which I don’t really understand, but luckily, they’ve all been great so far. David Oyelowo gave a wonderful voice to Magnus Bane, laced with wisdom, humor and kindness. The audio version doesn’t really cost much more than the ebook, but it will give you 90 minutes with Magnus and the others, and reading the ebook would take no more than 10. If you don’t already have your copy, I highly recommend getting the audiobook.
Thanks to a lucky streak, I've discovered a few fantastic indie reads lately, and Nameless by Mercedes Yardley is a shiny star among them. It is a darThanks to a lucky streak, I've discovered a few fantastic indie reads lately, and Nameless by Mercedes Yardley is a shiny star among them. It is a dark and edgy mix of genres, a novelty both in urban fantasy and in horror. As an author, Yardley makes her own way, leaving behind all well-worn paths and familiar tropes. If you think we've seen it all, think again. With Nameless, surprises are around every corner.
Nameless came to my hands entirely by accident. I so rarely accept random review requests these days, but I've heard a great many wonderful things about Ragnarok Publications and I was determined to give them a chance. After reading Nameless, I'll never hesitate to buy one of their titles again.
Luna Masterson has been seeing demons since she was a little girl. She inherited the horrible ability from her father, a wonderful, yet tortured man who killed himself years ago. Luna and her brother are all alone, and they live together in Seth's house and raise Seth's baby daughter all on their own. Luna is far from your average heroine. She is headstrong, prickly and extremely difficult, but the amount of sympathy she provokes makes all her faults instantly forgivable. Despite being a bit hard to like at times, Luna is a character I had no trouble understanding. Her awful temper and solitary ways are a direct consequence of her ability, and she's always quick to hurt those she cares about before they get a chance to hurt her.
The secondary characters are every bit as strong and well-developed as Luna herself. The moment Luna meets Reed Taylor, it's clear how important he'll become in the overall storyline and his character is developed accordingly from the start. Their relationship did feel a bit like instalove, but it was so multi-layered and messed up that the term simply didn't apply. My favorite character by far, though, was Mouth, a demon determined to help Luna in any way he can, even if said help was less than welcome. In order to accept and even befriend Mouth, Luna had to overcome years of ingrained prejudices, but she did it in her usual prickly and obnoxious manner.
It should be said that the elements of horror become stronger as the story progresses and that the final part is especially gruesome and disgusting. But even if you're not a fan, trust me when I say it's worth it. The emotional impact this book had on me is a rare and beautiful thing and I doubt it would fail to touch any of you.
There were a few minor problems I cannot talk about for fear of spoiling the delightfully unpredictable plot. Some very important moments felt rushed and not properly explained, and the choices some characters made (one character in particular) seemed far too extreme. There was also the small matter of Luna referring to Reed Taylor as 'Reed Taylor', name and last name, every single time*, which certainly took away from my reading enjoyment and threatened to drive me bonkers. That said, Nameless is a read not to be missed at any cost and Mercedes Yardley an author who will surely give us many more exciting reads.
*I call this an estepism after Jennifer Estep, who used to do the exact same thing with her character Donovan Caine.
There’s something to be said about a series that’s reliably good even after ten installments. Chicagoland Vampires may not be my favorite urban fantasThere’s something to be said about a series that’s reliably good even after ten installments. Chicagoland Vampires may not be my favorite urban fantasy ever, but it’s certainly on my list of favorites. And as other series disappoint me and the list gets shorter, Chloe Neill can be counted on to deliver. That’s not to say that the series didn’t have its ups and downs. There was a low point a few books back that’s pretty much forgiven and forgotten. The last few books have been excellent and the next few will likely be fabulous as well.
In Blood Games, Merit, Ethan and Jonah investigate the death of an ally. The son of a detective, a well-known friend of vampires no less, has been brutally murdered. The manner of his death blatantly points to vampires themselves, which can be taken as a warning to those who help them, or as a direct move against Merit’s kind.
On top of that, Ethan is right in the middle of a major political battle, and the story arc about GP is finally brought to its boiling point. I have to say I was a bit surprised, but very happy with how it was resolved. The alternative had the potential to ruin the series, not to mention Ethan and Merit’s relationship.
Ethan Sullivan, I’m afraid, is his usual stubborn self. No matter how many times he gets burned for being stubborn and difficult in his relationship with Merit, the man just never learns. Honestly, by now Merit should have thought of some sort of cruel and unusual punishment for this type of behavior, preferably something that includes Ethan on display with very little clothes on. Or you know, none. Through it all, though, Merit was consistently mature. She handled the situation with her usual calmness and grace. She, apparently, learned a lot, while Ethan remained frustratingly oblivious.
The secondary characters remain just as strong. I’m surprised by how much I’ve warmed up to Jonah, considering my initial feelings about him. But I like discovering his character, finding out details that further convince me of his intelligence and integrity. Neill has had a lot of time to develop his personality, and she’s done an amazing job of it.
I love these guys so much by now and I can’t wait to continue their adventure.
2.5 stars Having just recently finished Altered, I more or less knew what to expect from the sequel. Both books are excellent for when I’m otherwise pr2.5 stars Having just recently finished Altered, I more or less knew what to expect from the sequel. Both books are excellent for when I’m otherwise preoccupied: fast-paced, romantic and extremely easy to follow.
Despite its high entertainment value, Erased is chock full of issues. Unfortunately, it’s even more predictable than the previous novel, its every single twist and turn visible from a mile away. The predictability doesn’t matter too much when combined with such rapid pacing, but a few surprises along the way would have been nice anyway.
Even in Altered, I found Anna’s relationship with Sam, her older sister’s ex-boyfriend, extremely creepy, especially because neither of them could really remember Anna’s sister. In Erased, the creepy factor has increased tenfold, to the point that really made me uncomfortable. Both Anna and Sam’s memories have been wiped far too many times and their history is too complicated to allow for a healthy relationship. Instead of making me swoon, I was a bit weirded out by it.
I did enjoy Nick’s much bigger role in this book, even when he was being his usual obnoxious self. Despite guessing his part in Anna’s childhood traumas extremely early, I still liked seeing him realize the depth of their relationship. Funny, lighthearted Cas remains the only source of comic relief, his significance in the main story arc minor, but his importance for the fans and the overall picture monumental.
All things considered, this is not a series I’d recommend for a more demanding reader. It’s fun and the writing is pretty decent (though nothing to write home about), but don’t expect a life-changing reading experience.
Although I’m understandably wary of self-published books (and growing more so as the time passes), sometimes it’s good to take a leap of faith and seeAlthough I’m understandably wary of self-published books (and growing more so as the time passes), sometimes it’s good to take a leap of faith and see where it takes you. Jenny Undead came recommended by Tim Marquitz, a great author whose opinion I trust, and let me tell you, I have a lot to thank him for. Jenny Undead is perfect for zombie fans, and especially for fans of Rhiannon Frater.
Jenny lives in a brutal, unforgiving, zombie-filled world, and her own family is to blame. Both her mother and her grandfather were scientists who experimented on Jenny, her brother Casey and several other kids. Jenny escaped her family years ago, but every day, she regrets leaving Casey behind. In her desperate attempt to find and save her brother, Jenny falls straight into a trap and her life (and afterlife) get changed forever.
Jenny is a heroine you’ll have no trouble following into one bloody battle after another. She is strong and charismatic, a natural born leader, yet she also has a softer, more vulnerable side, one that is scared to hope for a better life. After surviving a horrendous childhood and just marginally better adulthood, Jenny is a woman with strong principles and a very kind heart.
Ah, but let’s not forget the romance! When we meet Jenny, she’s already in a long, loving relationship with Declan Munro, a strong man with a reputation for being vicious and merciless. The depth of emotions these two share is astonishing and heartwarming. Jenny is the only thing that matters to Declan, and their relationship is the pillar that makes this book much stronger. Finding a book with an already established romance is a rare treat, and Jenny and Declan proved that authors should definitely do this more often.
To people who are understandably cautious when picking up an indie book, I’ll say only this: Jenny Undead is perfectly written, perfectly edited and perfectly formatted. I’ve seen traditionally published books in far worse shape. Don’t hesitate to pick this one up, I promise you won’t regret it for a second.
Rosamund Hodge’s debut novel, Cruel Beauty, is a bold and imaginative retelling of Beauty and the Beast. With this highly ambitious book, Hodge attempRosamund Hodge’s debut novel, Cruel Beauty, is a bold and imaginative retelling of Beauty and the Beast. With this highly ambitious book, Hodge attempted to take the wildly popular retellings one step further, mostly by making the connections between Cruel Beauty and the original story very loose, and wrapping what was left into much violence and darkness in her richly imaginative world. Consequently, we’re left with no more than a few vague similarities between Beauty and the Beast and Cruel Beauty, just enough to justify calling this a retelling at all.
Nyx, for one, is nothing at all like Belle. She is hateful and stubborn, quick to lash out at those she should aim to protect. I suspect some readers might find her less than endearing, and that’s putting it mildly, but I wasn’t troubled by her anger or her actions. In fact, her rage was the only thing about her I was able to fully understand, the injustice of her life from the moment she was born a constant burning sensation in my throat. It was obvious that Hodge strived to make her characters endlessly complex, but Nyx is the only one with whom she actually succeeded. The secondary characters, Nyx’s father and aunt in particular, were two-dimensional, archetypal and utterly predictable.
There’s no denying the lushness and elegance of Rosamund Hodge’s prose. Her writing is a thing of beauty, atmospheric, gorgeous and alluring. Yet oftentimes, the tenor of the prose prevented me from immersing in the story or caring about the characters. While I enjoyed her words, put together so prettily, I also found them to be emotionally sterile. Nothing about them felt real or emotional or visceral or true. Dark, twisted and beautiful Cruel Beauty may be, but emotionally, it leaves a lot to be desired.
The romance was certainly the part I liked best, Nyx’s moral dilemma making it more interesting and real. My failure to connect with Nyx took away some of my reading enjoyment, but seeing as I liked the Gentle Lord immensely, I found him and their relationship to be the saving grace of this book.
I still haven’t managed to find a retelling I actually liked, so do take my opinion with a grain of salt. I went into this because I was promised lush, atmospheric prose, and that’s what I got, so I shouldn’t complain too hard.
Clean Sweep was first published on Ilona Andrews’ website as a serialized online novel, entirely for free. Serial novels seem to be rapidly growing inClean Sweep was first published on Ilona Andrews’ website as a serialized online novel, entirely for free. Serial novels seem to be rapidly growing in popularity, but in many ways, Clean Sweep is still a novelty. What makes it different from other serial novels is the high level of reader–writer interaction. Since it was published by Ilona and Gordon themselves, on their website, and not by a big publishing house (St. Martin’s and Penguin in particular have taken to publishing serial novels), readers were allowed to comment and their comments were taken into consideration.
This type of writing had to have been extremely stressful for the authors since it doesn’t come with a rewind button. Once something is posted, it can’t be un-posted and if it later proves to be detrimental to the plot, they just have to find a way to work around it. On the other hand, since every part has to bring something of import, the pacing is tight and basically flawless.
Once again, Ilona and Gordon put their vast imaginations and their impressive knowledge on all things mythological to very good use. Clean Sweep is full of wonderful surprises, interesting (and horrifying) creatures, and faraway worlds. Theirs is not a worldbuilding done pro forma, it is thorough and quite remarkable.
Dina is an innkeeper, a young girl in charge of a magical inn. The inn is supposed to be neutral ground for all alien species, and it’s Dina’s job to keep everyone calm and safe. As the daughter of two innkeepers who have gone missing a few years back, Dina takes her job – and her neutrality – very seriously, but when something starts threatening her small community, she can’t stop herself from getting involved.
With pretty much everything about this book close to perfect, something somewhere had to go wrong… and it did, with the love triangle that somehow reared its ugly head. Admittedly, it’s not a real, fully developed, angsty LT. It’s pretty much clear who Dina wants to be with. But the very existence of it, no matter how mild, pretty much ruined the romance for me. And just like always, Ilona and Andrew are taking their sweet time with Dina’s romantic interest; rushed relationships aren’t a part of their repertoire.
Book two has been announced for early 2014, published exactly the same way, with an extra person to moderate the comments. I needed Clean Sweep to wash away the bitter disappointment that was Magic Rises and to restore my faith in Ilona and Gordon – and lo and behold, that is exactly what it did.
3.5 stars After a very rough beginning that almost made me drop Pawn and never go back to it, Aimee Carter’s first foray into dystopian fiction turned3.5 stars After a very rough beginning that almost made me drop Pawn and never go back to it, Aimee Carter’s first foray into dystopian fiction turned out to be pretty decent after all. Even with a few significant flaws, it is an utterly absorbing read.
The rough beginning and the desperate choice Kitty was forced to make almost made her unredeemable in my eyes. There are very few things I find unforgivable, and Kitty came very close to making the biggest mistake of her life. Truth be told, it wasn’t the job she signed up to do that bothered me so much, it was the loving boyfriend she left behind, her overall attitude and lack of tying to find a different solution. I don’t take kindly to heroines who give up too easily, especially when they hurt other people in the process.
Fortunately, as the story progressed, Kitty miraculously discovered that she does in fact have a spine, and she learned to fight back, no matter the cost. Being thrown in the middle of a twisted family makes you or breaks you, I suppose, and Kitty turned out to be quite a fighter.
After being lead to believe that there was a strong love triangle in Pawn, I was thrilled when one didn’t truly develop. A mild attraction to Lila Heart’s gorgeous, competent and kind-hearted fiancé was more than understandable, but there was only ever one boy for Kitty, and it wasn’t Knox Creed. This is why one should never trust back cover descriptions – they are sensationalized and therefore misleading, and just as they can make a bad story sound interesting, they can make quality seem formulaic as well.
While I found Carter’s world interesting, her worldbuilding left a lot to be desired. No explanation was offered for how the Hearts came to power, and the infamous Elsewhere, where all the undesirables get sent, was never properly outlined. We caught one horrifying glimpse of it, but since it was constantly used to threaten Kitty into obedience, more details were definitely required. In addition, I find it hard to believe that Kitty’s dyslexia would go undiagnosed in a futuristic society. Considering her circumstances before she became Lila Heart, a treatment was highly unlikely, but surely her new “family”, with all their resources, would know what to do about it. Their doctors can make someone taller, and yet they can’t recognize a reading disorder.
Overall, however, I found Pawn to be a surprisingly good beginning to a new dystopian series. The person Kitty has become gives me much hope for the next installment, which I’ll be picking up the second it becomes available.
There have been quite a few good books about Spanish Influenza in the last few years, but A Death-Struck Year stands out among them as unusually realiThere have been quite a few good books about Spanish Influenza in the last few years, but A Death-Struck Year stands out among them as unusually realistic. Put simply, it is a story about unlikely heroes, regular people who chose to help others when help is most needed, regardless of the danger. A Death-Struck Year is about a teen girl who joins the Red Cross volunteers during the outburst of Spanish Influenza in Portland, despite being far too young to do so. I myself have spent many, many years volunteering for the Red Cross, and although my work was much simpler and far less dangerous, I loved seeing these people portrayed in such a wonderful way.
Just like everything else in this book, Cleo struck me as an unusually realistic character. She wasn’t particularly bold and she didn’t make the decision to help rashly. She was scared and uncertain like any other sane person would be, but she swallowed her fears, hid her age, and volunteered to help where help was most needed. It’s people like Cleo who are true heroes of every story, and I appreciated her uncertainty just as much as I appreciated her courage.
The romance is subtle and uncomplicated, strong and reliable, and certainly not at the forefront of anyone’s mind at such a terrible time. Cleo and Edmund both have their hands full caring for the sick, which leaves them very little time to spend together and get to know each other, but his constant concern for her and vice versa is touching. Lucier chose to make her romance as straightforward as possible, leaving the drama completely out of the picture. The focus was always on the devastating effect the Spanish influenza had on Portland in October and November of 1918.
Because of its realism, A Death-Struck Year has tremendous educational value. It’s obvious from this debut that Makiia Lucier is a very promising young writer from whom we can expect many more extraordinary novels. I cannot recommend this book enough.