Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Review: Spirit Dances by C. E. Murphy ★★★★★

Spirit Dances by C. E. Murphy
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Book six in the Walker Papers series
Publication Date: April 2011
ISBN: 978-0373803255
Page Count: 384
My Rating: ★★★★★

Summary

For Seattle detective Joanne Walker, spring is about new beginnings. She's mastered her shamanic abilities (mostly), survived a cannibalistic serial killer (barely) and now she's facing the biggest challenge of her career -- attending a dance concert with her sexy boss, Captain Michael Morrison. But when the performance -- billed as transformative -- actually changes her into a coyote, she and Morrison have bigger things to deal with.

And there's more. Homeless people are disappearing, a mystical murder puts Joanne way out of her jurisdiction and with the full moon coming on, it's looking like the killer is a creature that can't possibly exist.

But Jo could probably handle all of that, if one ordinary homicide hadn't pushed her to the very edge....

Review:

Whew!

This was a great book, and easily my favourite so far. As you can see from the back cover blurb Joanne actually goes on a date with Morrison! Did you hear what I said? A Date! With Morrison! I know!

Of course partially shifting into a Coyote during a "special" dance performance will put a dampener on most romantic evenings. Still, progress is progress and I'm taking it where I can get it!

I don't want to spoil the rest of the plot from here but let's just say that, whereas other books have involved a mystery for Joanne to chase down and solve, this time the stakes are higher and a lot more personal.

Joanne is really living up to her abilities in this one, too. She has fully accepted what she is and what she has to do. Even though her "warrior's path" is perhaps a cause for concern between her and her mentor, it's a role that Joanne, with her police training and new sword fighting abilities, seems made for.

I wish you could have seen my face after finishing this book. Do the words "About damned time!" mean anything to you C. E. Murphy? I loved the ending and I hated it because after reading these books back-to-back over the last week or so, I have now run out! And have to wait until NEXT YEAR for the next one! Grr. I think I might be suffering actual, physical withdrawals...Okay, it's okay, I'm okay, I'll be fine, this is just the adjustment period, I'll get over it.

Five goddamned stars!


Sunday, 27 November 2011

Review: Demon hunts by C. E. Murphy ★★★★★

Demon hunts by C. E. Murphy
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Book five in the Walker Papers series
Publication Date: June 1, 2010
ISBN: 0373803141
Page Count: 361
My Rating: ★★★★★

Summary

THIS NEXT CASE IS WAY OUT OF HER JURISDICTION...

Seattle police detective Joanne Walker started the year mostly dead, and she's ending it trying not to be consumed by evil. Literally.

She's proven she can handle the gods and the walking dead. But a cannibalistic serial killer? That's more than even she bargained for. What's worse, the brutal demon can only be tracked one way. If Joanne is to stop its campaign of terror, she'll have to hunt it where it lives: the Lower World, a shamanistic plane of magic and spirits.

Trouble is, Joanne's skills are no match for the dangers she's about to face--and her on-the-job training could prove fatal to the people she's sworn to protect....

Review:

Another great book, this time hitting all five stars!

The plot this time is, as the title suggests, a hunt for a "demon," or whatever it is that's leaving half-eaten bodies all over Seattle. Joanne and her partner-in-crime, Billy Holliday, are called in to check over the crime scenes as there's something funny about the way the bodies are being found. Even though it's late December and there is snow all over the ground, there are never any tracks around the dumped bodies...

Now that Captain Morrison has well and truly had his blindfold ripped off where all things magical are concerned, he uses Joanne and Billy as his own personal X-files department. He may still not like the supernatural side of the world he's been forced to acknowledge, but he's too good a cop not to utilise every one of his available resources. But the thing is, both Joanne and Billy have got nothing this time; there are no spirits for Billy to question, and no magical tracks for Jo to follow. So they are at a loss as to what to do.

Refusing to just sit back and wait for the next victim to turn up, Joanne takes herself off to a cabin retreat out in the woods, setting herself up as a big, shiny, magic-filled demon bait. What could possibly go wrong?

Ha.

There were a couple of big surprises in this book. Like, BIG surprises. And it was a really good read for those alone but with the addition of the high octane demon hunt it was definitely one of the best of the series so far. I loved it.

Next!


Friday, 25 November 2011

Review: Walking Dead by C. E. Murphy ★★★★

Walking Dead by C. E. Murphy
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Book four in the Walker Papers series
Publication Date: September 1, 2009
ISBN: 037380301X
Page Count: 384
My Rating: ★★★★

Summary
SEATTLE'S A GREAT PLACE TO LIVE...IF IT WEREN'T FOR THE UNDEAD.

For once, Joanne Walker's not out to save the world. She's come to terms with the host of shamanic powers she's been given, her job as a police detective has been relatively calm, and she's got a love life for the first time in memory. Not bad for a woman who started out the year mostly dead.

But it's Halloween, and the undead have just crashed Joanne's party.

Now, with her mentor Coyote still missing, she has to figure out how to break the spell that has let the ghosts, zombies and even the Wild Hunt come back. Unfortunately, there's no shamanic handbook explaining how to deal with the walking dead. And if they have anything to say about it -- which they do -- no one's getting out of there alive.

Review:

Another exciting, action-packed story from C. E. Murphy. I'd say overall I enjoyed it just as much as the previous one. It had a strong mystery plot once again and Joanne is getting increasingly better at handling her many different abilities when put to the test. Even without the help of her mentor, Coyote, who is still M.I.A.

I did have an issue with one small aspect of it, though. My little niggle was that, in between this book and the last book, it seems Joanne has started a relationship of some kind with one of the secondary characters. This bothered me, not because of who the guy is - I like him just fine - and not because it's not the one we've been getting hints and clues about - I can wait, I am patient like a spider - but because it happened IN BETWEEN books. I hate that! When you come to read the next book in a series only to find out that rather significant things have happened to your lead character in the weeks or months between stories that you don't get to "see". It just doesn't make sense to me to have something as important as a new love interest begin without us being privy to it. This led to me having to try and work out for myself how important he is to her - are they just "dating"? Are they in a sexual relationship? How much am I supposed to care about him? I still don't know the answer to these questions which I find annoying to the nth degree.

Anyway, I got over it. And on the plus side, it did at least serve as a warning to certain other parties that Joanne won't stay on the shelf forever!

The main plot this time revolved around the time of Halloween and had zombies! How cool is that? It also saw the reappearance of "The Hunt" from the first book as it's the time of year that they have to Ride, and that was enjoyable too.

I'm still enjoying the relationship Jo has with the adorable septuagenarian Gary, the cabbie. He's like the father-figure she no longer has. And even though there was obviously no progress on the Morrison-as-love-interest front because of the new guy, what was good was that he at least now has no choice but to believe in Joanne's shamanic abilities, as he definitely gets sufficient proof in this one!


Review: Thunderbird Falls by C. E. Murphy ★★★

Thunderbird Falls by C. E. Murphy
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Book two in the Walker Papers series
Publication Date: May 1, 2006
ISBN: 0373802358
Page Count: 416
My Rating: ★★★

Summary

It's the end of the world . . . Again.

For all the bodies she's encountering, you'd think beat cop Joanne Walker works in Homicide. But no, Joanne's a reluctant shaman who last saved mankind three months ago -- surely she deserves more of a break! Yet, incredibly, " Armageddon, take two " is mere days away.

There's not a minute to waste.

Yet when her spirit guide inexplicably disappears, Joanne needs help from other sources. Especially after she accidentally unleashes Lower World demons on Seattle. Damn. With the mother of all showdowns gathering force, it's the worst possible moment for Joanne to realize she should have learned more about controlling her powers.

Review:

I have to confess to finding this a slightly disappointing entry to the series after the strong start of book one: Urban shaman. Essentially, the main problem for me was that for the first three quarters of this book, there just wasn't enough going on. I didn't feel engaged in the mystery element of the story, which is unusual for me because I'm normally keen to pick up on any clues left for the reader, and often, (sometimes annoyingly so) work out who the "bad guy" is way ahead of the big reveal. But in this case, when there was a big ta-da! moment, I was completely taken by surprise, but I think this was more to do with there not actually being any breadcrumbs left for me to follow prior to this, than me just not observing them. I hadn't been looking in that direction for anything untoward. So on the one hand it was nice to be surprised for a change, but on the other hand, my inner smug know-it-all missed out on being able to say "Ha! I knew it!"

Joanne also spent a large portion of the book bemoaning her new shamanic abilities or wishing them away all together, which I found very contradictory to the way she'd accepted them without question in book one. What she really needs is to learn how to properly use her abilities instead of just bumbling around, but unfortunately, her spirit guide and mentor, Coyote, was noticeably absent for most of the book. Something Joanne barely seemed to register.

I did, on the plus side, really enjoy seeing more of the great characters I had met in book one. For me, the best thing about this series is the strong characterization. Murphy's secondary characters are exceptionally well-written, and I'm developing a big ol' soft spot for a couple of them in particular. And Joanne, herself, is growing on me now, too. Aside from the girlie whining about her magic in this book (which I hope was simply added to show character growth later on and that I won't have to suffer too much more of in subsequent books), she is mostly a cool and collect, dry-humoured kind of gal, and I love her tom-boy nature and her deep love for her car, Petite. She's also taken up fencing (she might as well since she stole an immortal warrior's sword, right?) so I'm hoping this means she'll become even more of a badass without her magic, as she is with it.

The last quarter of the book was very exciting, although it can get very confusing at times when Joanne is out of her body or on another plane of existence. I'll confess to only just barely following what was going on during these end scenes, but they were fascinating nonetheless. I'm hoping as the series progresses I'll be able to wrap my tiny brain around the different realities Joanne can exist in and it will all make way more sense to me.

Here's hoping!


Review: Coyote Dreams by C. E. Murphy ★★★★

Coyote Dreams by C. E. Murphy
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Book three in the Walker Papers series
Publication Date: May 1, 2007
ISBN: 0373802722
Page Count: 416
My Rating: ★★★★

Summary


Much of the city can't wake up. And more are dozing off each day.

Instead of powerful forces storming Seattle, a more insidious invasion is happening. Most of Joanne Walker's fellow cops are down with the blue flu—or rather the blue sleep. Yet there's no physical cause anyone can point to—and it keeps spreading.

It has to be magical, Joanne figures. But what's up with the crazy dreams that hit her every time she closes her eyes? Are they being sent by Coyote, her still-missing spirit guide? The messages just aren't clear.

Somehow Joanne has to wake up her sleeping friends while protecting those still awake, figure out her inner-spirit dream life and, yeah, come to terms with these other dreams she's having about her boss...

Review:

From the opening scene of this book, when Joanne wakes to discover she has the world's worst hangover...and a strange guy in her bed, I just knew I was going to enjoy this more than the first book. It made me realise what was lacking last time, actually, and that was that everything just plodded along too nicely, there was nothing that happened that really ruffled Jo's feathers, but I enjoyed the fact that from the very first paragraph in this book, she was already thoroughly discombobulated.

Now, ideally it would be Captain Morrison she found in her bed, because, let's face it, those two are so gonna get it on eventually. But sadly, no, it was a perfect stranger. One who plays an interesting part in the book and I enjoyed a lot of the scenes with him.

The mystery part of this story was also a lot stronger and easier to follow than the last book. Whether that is affected by my growing understanding of Joanne's magic or whether it was just better is up for your own interpretation...Maybe a bit of both.

As you can see from the blurb, people are falling asleep and not waking up. Joanne, using her ability to touch people's minds when they are asleep or unconscious, determines that it is not a natural sleep. There is some kind of magic, like a dark blanket, holding them to sleep. When someone Joanne cares about is affected, she is determined to get to the bottom of it.

All of this was handled brilliantly, and I really enjoyed this aspect of the story. What I also enjoyed was learning more about Joanne and what happened to her up until she was around 15 and how those events may have helped shape the Joanne we are growing to know and love today.

There was also some progress in the relationship (can I even get away with calling it that?) between Jo and Michael Morrison, her boss. But don't get too excited. Progress is this instance could easily just mean not driving each other insane for five whole minutes, so don't expect anything too spectacular, but there is at least a thawing starting to happen...I think.

Looking forward to the next one!


Friday, 18 November 2011

Review: Urban Shaman by C. E. Murphy ★★★★

Urban Shaman by C. E. Murphy
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Book one in the Walker Papers series
Publication Date: June 1, 2005
ISBN: 0373802234
Page Count: 352
My Rating: ★★★★

Summary
Joanne Walker has three days to learn to use her shamanic powers and save the world from the unleashed Wild Hunt.

No worries. No pressure. Never mind the lack of sleep, the perplexing new talent for healing herself from fatal wounds, or the cryptic, talking coyote who appears in her dreams.

And if all that's not bad enough, in the three years Joanne's been a cop, she's never seen a dead body -- but she's just come across her second in three days.

It's been a bitch of a week. And it isn't over yet.

Review:

This was a bit of a mixed bag for me. There were elements that I really liked, that I thought were written exceptionally well, and then there were elements that were lacking and spoiled the journey.

I'll start with the positives since, as you can see from my rating, they slightly outweighed the negatives for me.

The biggest positive by far was the characters. Particularly secondary and ancillary characters. I fell almost immediately in love with one in particular: Gary the Cabbie. It's so unusual to find a character of his advanced years (he's 73) and I just thought he was wonderful. It just proves not everyone in an urban fantasy has to be young, beautiful and badass (although, he is pretty badass if you ask me) and Gary's character brought a real richness to the story and I really believed the friendship that was formed between him and the main protag, Joanne Walker. I found myself "aw"ing at him frequently. He's a peach;)

Joanne herself took me slightly longer to warm up to . I found her "voice" seemed to change considerably over the course of the book, and I enjoyed her much more in the second half.

Another character that I enjoyed, and whom I suspect may have a wee soft spot for Joanne, was her boss, Michael Morrison. He, again, isn't described in the usual tradition of potential love interests as a flawless alpha male type - I believe she describes him as a super hero that's just starting to go to seed. At 39, his greying hair and laughter lines give him flaws that just set to make him all the more interesting in a way, and I really enjoyed their scenes together. Theirs is a very combative, antagonistic relationship which is amusing to read. I don't know for sure if he's meant to be love interest potential, but that's the feeling I got. I'll have to wait for future books to be sure.

Another aspect I really enjoyed was the overall plot. This one features the Wild Hunt. How many miles to Babylon? Unfortunately, though I did enjoy it, I had experienced similar themes in my beloved October Daye series, where they were done much, much better.

Onto what I didn't like so much.

Basically, it was a combination of two things: one, being the story telling. The plot was hazy and seemed to meander at times. And two - and this was the main one: the amount of stuff Joanne took in her stride. She experiences many life-altering things and learns much about herself in this book, and, not that I wanted her to fall apart or anything - it's good that she's strong - but she didn't ask one single question! Not one! There's taking things in your stride, and then there's completely unrealistic character behaviour, and Joanne fell on the wrong side of that fence. It almost would have been better if she had started out the book already knowing what she was and what she could do, because to start from nothing to where she ended up, with barely a raised eyebrow, just seemed incredible to me. And I didn't buy it.

So, as I said, a mixed bag, but I loved the characters so I will be giving book two a whirl to see how things go on from here. Hopefully the storytelling will have improved and, now that Joanne knows all of her abilities, the other issue won't matter as much either.



Review: Rapture Untamed by Pamela Palmer ★★★★

Rapture Untamed by Pamela Palmer
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Book four in the Feral Warriors series
Publication Date: June 2010
ISBN: 978-0061794704
Page Count: 384
My Rating: ★★★★

Summary:

The most combative - and tormented - of all the Ferals, Jag is a predator who hunts alone - until daemons terrorize the human population. To stop them, he partners with Olivia, a flame-haired Therian temptress as strong as she is beautiful. But Olivia is no ordinary immortal. The survivor of a vicious supernatural attack, she possesses a deadly and forbidden skill - one that must remain hidden, especially from the powerful Feral Warriors.

As Jag and Olivia's sensual dance of dominance and seduction gets wilder and hotter, a dark force sets its sights on Olivia, threatening to destroy everything she has vowed to protect. And the only one who can save her soul is the arrogant jaguar shifter she lusts for but dares not love.

Review:

This is the fourth in the Feral Warriors series and by now I have a very firm grasp of the world Palmer has created, and also an idea of what future books might be like based on what I've seen of the other warriors in the series, who no doubt have their own books coming up. So, coming into Jag's book I was expecting to find a couple of things: firstly, for Jag to start out the book being his usual annoying, arrogant, insulting, lewd, crude and rude self, but to ultimately be found to be a nice guy, perhaps with a bad history, that was just misunderstood. We've seen glimpses of his secret nice guy persona in several of the previous books, particularly when he's dealing with the females or with Pink, the cook/flamingo. I just really had my hopes set on the fact that once you got rid of all the bravado, he would actually be nice and respectful to his female, Olivia, and turn out to be one my favourites in the series once he was reformed. Everyone loves a reformed bad guy, right?

And, to a degree, he was reformed. Just. However, for the majority of the book, I was bitterly disappointed and frustrated with him.

In fact, during the first sexual encounter between the pair, I found his behaviour so abhorrent that I had a moment of asking myself if there was actually anything in him to redeem, or if I'd been overly optimistic where his character was concerned.

For this reason the book was disappointing on the romance front. Because he behaved like such a prized jerk and treated her so terribly and, more importantly to me, disrespectfully, and he didn't really do enough to counteract his behaviour by the end of the book in my view. I almost wanted her to tell him to go fish. It would have been no more than he deserved. Even finding out the reason for his behaviour and why he hates himself so much did little to endear him to me.

However, on the positive side, the rest of the plot was solid as usual and I really enjoyed the overall story. There was a major event towards the end of the book which has me desperate to get to the next one which is Kougar's story. I'm slightly worried about his story as well, though, because we know from this book that he has a mate from 1000 years ago that he thought was dead until recently. He believes she faked her death and is naturally furious with her. So I guess that means the next book is going to be filled with lots of bad feelings and hate sex as well then? I just hope the one after that, Hawke's book, will bring some much needed levity and real romance back to the series, the likes of which we haven't really seen since book one. A couple who get together because they actually want to, because they like each other. Imagine that, huh?




Monday, 14 November 2011

Review: Blood Bound by Rachel Vincent ★★★★

Blood Bound by Rachel Vincent
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Book one in the Unbound series
Publication Date: August 23, 2011
ISBN: 978-0778312550
Page Count: 400
My Rating: ★★★★

Summary
As a bloodtracker, Liv is extremely powerful. And in a world where power is a commodity that can get you killed, Liv's learnt to survive by her own rules.

Rule number one? Trust no one.

But when a friend's daughter goes missing, Liv is bound by a potent magical oath. She can't rest until the child is safe.

And that means trusting her dangerous ex, Cam.

A sinister prophecy tells that she and Cam will be the death of each other, yet Liv's tired of being a slave to destiny. She's ready to play the forces controlling her world at their own game.

Review:

This was an absolutely fascinating read. I love it when an author comes up with something new and exciting. Something we haven't already seen a million times before. Another one I really enjoyed discovering this year for this exact reason was Diana Pharaoh Francis' Horngate witches series.

So, the basic set up here is to do with magical bindings, oaths and promises. Being forced to comply against your will, and having the strength to push against such ties to do what you think is right. The magical element was somewhat small in this book, nobody had any really flashy powers as such, and there were no vamps or werewolves (shocking I know), but there are magical or "Skilled" people, and they are, for the most part, either trackers, binders or travellers.

There are two main types of trackers. Our protagonist, Olivia ''Liv'' Warren, is a Blood Tracker. One with an exceptional range which makes her a popular girl. She needs only a small sample of someone's blood to track them down. Another type that we meet is a Name Tracker. With the use of your real names (the more names they have the better) they can trace people within their range.

There were also Flesh Binders who bind with blood tattoos or a contract sealed with blood, and Travellers who can move through shadows. It really was interesting to learn about these abilities and how they came into use. Essentially, the city is split into three sections, two of which are run by opposing Mafia-like factions, and the third is a relatively safe or "neutral" zone. The heads of the two factions are Jake Tower and Ruben Cavazos. Liv works for Ruben.

It's safe to say there is no love lost between Liv and Ruben and she doesn't work for him for the pleasure of his company alone. There is a lot more to this part of the story and I found theirs to be a very weird and slightly twisted working relationship that was nonetheless intriguing to read.

A former lover of Liv's comes back to town, a name tracker called Cam Caballero. It's been six years since they broke up and a lot has happened in that time. We find out exactly what as the story progresses, and interestingly, the story is actually told from a first person perspective equally split between Liv and Cam. I had to do a bit of a double-take when the first switch happened because with it starting out in first person I wasn't expecting it to change, so this aspect was usual, but it really worked.

Overall, this is a gritty, dark world and a story that sucker punches you in the guts a few times before it's finished with you. I was surprised at how quickly I got engrossed in the story and the characters and it managed to shock me once or twice along the way.

I think the main reason it didn't make 5 stars for me was simply the fact that, at one point, a mystery is about to be revealed and they are discussing it for quite some time, but I'd already worked it out about 3 chapters back, so I found myself giving the book the wind it up sign because I already knew what they were getting to. I don't know how obvious this will be to others, or if I'm just some kind of evil genius, but it was a slow section because of that.

The next book is about a different character all together. One of the secondary characters in this story, so it will be interesting to see how different that book feels. Vincent's certainly taking the road less travelled here, and it's great fun to read.


Review: Drink Deep by Chloe Neill ★★★★

Drink Deep by Chloe Neill
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Book five in the Chicagoland Vampires series
Publication Date: November 1, 2011
ISBN: 978-0451234865
Page Count: 368
My Rating: ★★★★

Summary
Clouds are brewing over Cadogan House, and recently turned vampire Merit can't tell if this is the darkness before the dawn or the calm before the storm. With the city itself in turmoil over paranormals and the state threatening to pass a paranormal registration act, times haven't been this precarious for vampires since they came out of the closet. If only they could lay low for a bit, and let the mortals calm down.

That's when the waters of Lake Michigan suddenly turn pitch black-and things really start getting ugly.

Chicago's mayor insists it's nothing to worry about, but Merit knows only the darkest magic could have woven a spell powerful enough to change the very fabric of nature. She'll have to turn to friends old and new to find out who's behind this, and stop them before it's too late for vampires and humans alike.

Review:

This was one of my most highly anticipated reads of the year, and also the one I was least looking forward to reviewing. Because how can I review it without giving away that thing you're not supposed to know? Because you can be sure there's one BIG THING people are dying to know. It's all to do with what happened in the last one. You know, the last one? With the thingy and the whatsit and the doo dah?


Hmm, hmm. You know it.

What I can tell you is that I enjoyed this book. I loved getting back to these characters, especially Merit. She's one of my favourite Urban Fantasy females. And even though she's having a tough time of it, she still maintains that strength of spirit and determination we grew to love in previous books.

The mystery element was particularly strong and was very well-executed. As you can see from the blurb, weird things are a-happening in Chicago, starting with Lake Michigan turning black. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Merit and her team work tirelessly to try and help the situation, even in the face of accusation from the humans that they're the ones responsible. They can't seem to do right for doing wrong where humans are concerned at the moment. This is further fuelled by the new Mayor. If you thought the last one was bad (which he kinda was) at least he was pro-supernaturals. This new one? She's got a face you'd never get tired of slapping.

Some of the secondary characters had time to shine this time as well. I feel like I got to know Jonah a lot more, and remembered just how much I love Lindsey's character. She has some great one-liners.

The reason this one isn't getting the full 5 star treatment is the ending. While I was happy with the events that took place, they felt very rushed. My emotions just didn't have time to catch up with how quickly everything got wrapped up, so this was a little disappointing.

I am really looking forward to the next one, however. Hopefully by then it will be slightly easier to talk about this series without everything you say being a potential spoiler. I'm pretty sure just acknowledging this book exists is some kind of spoiler. It's that much of a minefield.

Can't wait for the next one.
4 stars! ★★★★



Review: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand ★★★★

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
Genre: YA Paranormal
Series: Book one in the Unearthly series
Publication Date: January 4, 2011
ISBN: 978-0061996160
Page Count: 435
My Rating: ★★★★

Summary

In this first book of a thrilling trilogy about angels, one girl must choose between fulfilling her Purpose and following her heart.

Clara has known she was part–angel ever since she turned fourteen two years ago. But now she is finally getting visions of what her Purpose—a rite of passage for every part–angel—is to be, and it happens to involve a gorgeous guy. Of course, there is the raging forest fire surrounding them, too. When Clara’s Purpose leads her family to Wyoming, Clara finds the boy of her visions, Christian, but complicating her mission are her growing feelings for another guy, Tucker. As the day in her visions draws closer, Clara discovers that her Purpose may play into a larger struggle between angels and Black Wings—fallen angels who spread sadness and misery wherever they go. But when the fire erupts and both Christian and Tucker are in danger, who will she choose to save?

From debut novelist Cynthia Hand comes a riveting tale full of supernatural powers, forbidden romance, and the choice between fulfilling your destiny or following your heart.

Review:

A YA paranormal that gets my official stamp of approval.

This was a charming read with some truly wonderful endearing teenaged characters. I was delighted both the main character, Clara, and the two boys in her life.

And, yes, sadly that does mean there is a love triangle of sorts in this story (I know - groan. I feel your pain, too). However, it's not quite a simple as all that. I can't really explain why without giving too much away, but suffice it to say, the way it's written is unlike any other love triangle set up I've experienced before, and it left me rather flummoxed. You see, normally, with these love triangles I will simply pick my favourite team and the other one can go jump off a cliff for all I care. But here, with the clever way Hand steered me one way, then all of a sudden threw in a game-changer until I was totally facing the other way, I was left kind of dazed and confused and a little bit in love with both of them. They're just so... nice! You know? Why couldn't one of them be a butthead just to help a girl out, hmm?

Aside from boy troubles, I also really enjoyed the angel mythology aspect. The fact that each angel is taxed with his or her own Purpose (with a capital P) that comes to them through visions somewhere between 14 to 20 years of age. They don't always know what the visions mean right away, as they tend to come to them (rather conveniently) in little short snippets and bursts of images which they have to slowly decipher. It's these visions of a boy and a forest fire that cause our protagonist, Clara, to move with her family from California to Wyoming. She finds the boy but still has no idea how or when she is supposed to fulfil her Purpose, so she sets about trying to settle into the new school and make friends and hopefully, get to know her quarry in the process while she figures it out.

The pacing of this settling in process was quite gentle, and life in Wyoming was portrayed as very peaceful and laid-back, and I enjoyed the imagery Hand provided. As someone who usually enjoys faster-paced novels, I found it surprising how much I enjoyed the pacing and style. It was quite relaxing and the characters personalities were able to slowly emerge, and I really enjoyed getting to know them all.

At the ending we were left with a few loose ends, and I cannot wait to read the next one, Hallowed, to see how everything pans out from here

4 Stars! ★★★★


Sunday, 13 November 2011

Review: Passion Untamed by Pamela Palmer ★★★★

Passion Untamed by Pamela Palmer
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Book three in the Feral Warriors series
Publication Date: August 2009
ISBN: 978-0061667534
Page Count: 384
My Rating: ★★★★

Summary

They are called Feral Warriors—an elite band of immortals who can change shape at will. Sworn to rid the world of evil, consumed by sorcery and seduction, their wild natures are primed for release . . . Though the Mage witch Skye has a gentle heart, demonic forces have enslaved her, forcing her to kidnap Paenther, a powerful and dangerous Feral Warrior. Even chained and naked, Paenther is a cunning prisoner who seduces her, body and soul, turning captive into captor. Paenther's pride demands revenge against the enchantress who emerged from the deep woods like a sensual vision and enthralled him, even as she makes his body burn with passion. Despite his fury over her treachery, Skye's gentle beauty calls to his soul, calming the wild chaos within him, and stealing his heart. But when evil threatens, Paenther and Skye's only chance at survival is to trust in one another . . . and the power of love.

Review:

This has been a tricky one to be-star for me, because out of the three books in this series I have read so far, this one had one of the most interesting plot-line, but also the most disturbing. And it's this slightly uncomfortable feeling that I am left with upon finishing the book that causes me to mark it at 4 stars, and not the 5 it probably deserves.

Already quite a dark series as PNRs go, with some sexual rituals which I find rather uncomfortable, this one really upped that level of discomfort for me. Where before any violence in the series was directed outwards at whatever foe the warriors were currently battling, this one had our hero and heroine forced to cause injury to each other. This was not enjoyable or romantic (state the obvious much?), and I had to will myself to keep reading in the hopes that it would get better somewhere along the way. I'm not sure, judging by the hinky feeling still lingering, that it ever really did.

There were also disturbing scenes of sexual rituals and forced sexual encounters - I hesitate to use the word rape, because both parties ultimately submitted, but only because submitting was the lesser of two evils. This was also incredible hard to read and not the ideal start to a romance of any kind.

So it's this kind of thing that is sitting ill with me. It's definitely not a book that you would finish and then sigh contentedly at how perfectly everything is in the Feral Warrior universe.

Having said all of that though,  I can wholeheartedly say I am never, ever bored when reading a Pamela Palmer novel. Even as darkly disturbing as they sometimes are, she definitely knows how to create tension, both of the sexual, and of the nail-biting kind.

I will be moving on to the next book soon. I am excited to get to Jag's book after seeing him meet his potential female in this one. That was an introduction the likes of which only the eternally annoying Jag could make!


Friday, 11 November 2011

Review: Lord of Rage by Jill Monroe ★★★

Lord of Rage by Jill Monroe
Genre: Paranormal romance 
Series: Book two in the Royal House of Shadows series
Publication Date: September 20, 2011
ISBN: 978-0373618682
Page Count: 288
My Rating: ★★★

Summary

Once upon a time...the Blood Sorcerer vanquished the kingdom of Elden.

To save their children, the queen scattered them to safety and the king filled them with vengeance. Only a magical timepiece connects the four royal heirs...and time is running out....

Princess Breena had been dreaming of her warrior lover when she was ripped from her Elden castle and thrown into a strange, dangerous realm. Lost and alone, she prayed for survival and vengeance for her stolen kingdom. She found both in a woodland cottage...in a dark bear of a man.

The golden-haired beauty had eaten his food and slept in his bed when Osborn found her. Though he wanted to awaken his virgin princess to carnal pleasures, Breena wanted more—including his warrior skills. Skills the once-legendary mercenary had long buried. Now Osborn had a choice—risk his life or deny his princess her fairy-tale ending.

Review:

Being the optimistic sort that I am, I was thinking I couldn't possibly hate this any more than I did the first one.

And guess what? I didn't!

It was a much better quality of writing and of plot and I didn't want to stab the characters in the eye with a spoon, which is always a bonus.

One thing I completely failed to even realise whilst hating on the first book in this series, is that these books are actually supposed to be a retelling of a classic story/fairy tale- this one being Goldilocks and the Three Bears and the first one being Alice in wonderland. I guess it must have slipped my notice first time around. To be fair, my intense hatred was talking up a lot of my attention.

So anyway, this one is Goldilocks and, I kid you not, the story is all there. She even steals their porridge, falls asleep in their bed, and when they return...she's still there!

Tee-hee!

I think this may just be so silly that it's actually gone all the way around the cool-o-meter back to cool again.

...Or maybe I'm just ready for my next tablet.

And the three "bears" in this story are actually...wait for it...Bear-serkers!

Oh, come on! How cool is that?


Okay, so all mockery aside (really, can you blame me?) as I said, this was a vast improvement on the last one and I did actually enjoy it in some bizarre way. The world-building was better explored and the characters showed some depth and pulled a reaction from me when certain truths were revealed. The sex scenes were hot, and I was cheering for the couple by the end.

All in all, it's never going to be deemed literary genius - I'm pretty sure that's not the point of this series. And, you know, so what if I couldn't get through telling my friend the premise about the "bear"serkers without laughing until I cried? At least the love story was good and I got the chance to sample Jill Monroe's writing for the first time.

See. Optimistic. Told you so.


Review: Dragon bound by Thea Harrison ★★★★★

Dragon bound by Thea Harrison
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Book one in the Elder Races series
Publication Date: May 3, 2011
ISBN: 978-0425241509
Page Count: 336
My Rating: ★★★★★

Summary:

Half-human and half-Wyr, Pia Giovanni spent her life keeping a low profile among the Wyrkind and avoiding the continuing conflict between them and their Dark Fae enemies. But after being blackmailed into stealing a coin from the hoard of a dragon, Pia finds herself targeted by one of the most powerful—and passionate—of the Elder Races.

As the most feared and respected of the Wyrkind, Dragos Cuelebre cannot believe someone had the audacity to steal from him, much less succeed. And when he catches the thief, Dragos spares her life, claiming her as his own to further explore the desire they've ignited in each other.

Pia knows she must repay Dragos for her trespass, but refuses to become his slave—although she cannot deny wanting him, body and soul.




Review:

This is my first experience of reading Thea Harrison, and I have to say I have found a new favourite Paranormal Romance writer right here! No need to look anywhere else. This chick is the da bomb!

I was under the impression that this was a debut novel, but in actual fact, after doing a bit of digging, it turns out that Thea Harrison is also out there on the shelves under the name of Amanda Carpenter with a handful Harlequin Mills & Boon romances. That was some considerable time ago. though. Like in the eighties, which I believe is near the time Jesus was born.

So, let's fill you in on the world Harrison has created here. There are no vamps or werewolves which is a refreshing change. Instead we have shifters, or "Wyr", and these come in a variety of shapes and sizes from gryphons to thunderbirds and, as the title suggests, dragons!

It's the leader of the Wyr, Dragos, that we are concentrating on in this first instalment. And believe me when I tell you that concentrating on him is no great hardship at all. In fact, I reckon Dragos could hold my attention for a long, long, long, long time.........


Harrison managed to bridge the rather tricky gap between the gruff, arrogant, ancient and powerful male-beastie-with-the-ability-to-snap-you-like-a-toothpick side of this character, with the modern-day, funny and strangely endearing side. The fact that he openly admits he doesn't quite understand all the intricacies of human emotions, and will often miss the subtle cues altogether, I found adorable. He's basically saying he knows he's impossible, and doesn't "get" stuff, but he tries! And we all love a trier, don't we?

I totally fell in love with his character and thought Harrison did a spectacular job with getting that balance just right.

I also loved Pia. She was softhearted and yet by no means a pushover. I found her funny and intelligent. Right from the first pages when she's referring to her ex-boyfriend as "the shithead" I knew Pia and I would get along just fine. She was also intriguing; we don't know quite what Pia is at the start of the book, we are only told some of what she can do, and I found this to be another really well executed aspect of the story. I enjoyed trying to puzzle out what she could be from other people's reactions to her.

The romance element was also perfect. They actually took some time to get to know each other and didn't jump into bed straight away. Not rushing it made it all the more special when they did eventually get together because by then you were rooting for them and cheering them on (in a totally non-voyeuristic kind of way of course). I really enjoyed their relationship a lot and hope they feature often in subsequent books.

I could easily gush about this for another few paragraphs, but I'm going to reign myself in and sum up with: Read this book- it rocks!

Can't wait for the next one!


Friday, 4 November 2011

Review: Lord of the Vampires by Gena Showalter ★


Lord of the vampires by Gena Showalter
Genre: Paranormal Romance 
Series: Book one in the Royal House of Shadows Publication Date: August 23, 2011
ISBN: 978-0373618668
Page Count: 288
My Rating: 

Summary:

Once upon a time…the Blood Sorcerer vanquished the kingdom of Elden. To save their children, the queen scattered them to safety and the king filled them with a need for vengeance. Only a magical timepiece connects the four royal heirs…and time is running out.

Nicolai the Vampire is renowned for his virility, but in a cruel twist of fate “The Dark Seducer” has become a sex slave in the kingdom of Delfina—stripped of his precious timepiece and his memory. All that remains is a primal need for freedom, revenge—and the only woman who can help him.

When the wanton vampire summons Jane Parker, she is helpless to obey. She's drawn to his dark sexuality and into his magical realm. But for this human, all is not a fairy tale. For saving Nicolai could mean losing the only man she's ever craved...

Review:

I don't seem to be having a good week for reading Gena Showalter this week. I read The Darkest Prison Novella and was...unimpressed, shall we say? Now this effort.

This is book one in a multi-author series called the Royal House of Shadows. With this only being book one, I don't as yet know how each book is connected with the others, or whether or not I actually needed to read this one to get background information for the rest of the books in the series. Out of the four authors currently in this series (not all of them released yet) I have previously only read books from Nalini Singh and Gena Showalter, but I am looking forward to trying the other two: Jill Monroe and Jessica Andersen.

I actually felt quite confident starting with Gena, whom I'd read before. But unfortunately, unlike her Lords of the Underworld series which I really enjoy, and which has been known to make me laugh, cry, and often blush, this one brought out some very, very different emotions in me.

Mostly annoyance.



Okay, so let's just get the things that annoyed me off my chest first, then we can move onto the positives.

1. It was incredibly cheesy. I feel like sometimes Paranormal Romance writers treat their readers like they are as stupid, vapid and insipid as their own heroines. Like I'm being guided around by the elbow and told in a very patronising voice "Okay, here in this room we have the hero of the story. Now I know he is very good looking and has slabs of muscle and smells all nice and manly, etc., but he is very bad and you mustn't like him. No matter how much you already know from a) the fact that you are reading a paranormal romance, and, b) it usually tells you in the blurb on the back cover exactly who the hero and heroine are going to be, I'm still going to be telling you for roughly three quarters of the book that he is out of bounds and you mustn't look at him, or think about him or have any kind of lustful thoughts about him at all, until I say so. Okay?"

How many times must we have this same plot? It's the basis of nearly every paranormal romance out there, and, okay, sometimes, if it's done well and you actually believe the reason they can't be together, and you believe the attraction they have for each other, and can understand why they are struggling to fight it, that's one thing. But so often, as in this case, it's not believable, it doesn't feel genuine, it's just a BLATANTLY OBVIOUS PLOY TO CREATE CONFLICT that you just want to say, "Do you think I'm stupid? Oh, you do? Oh....O-kay then."

This leads me to the next issue.

2. The speed at which they fell in love. So, without spoiling it too much (and it does tell you this in the blurb too) the hero of the book has been sold as a sex slave. Now, maybe being sold as a slave and sexually violated on a regular basis whilst chained, starved and tortured affects different people in different ways. Who am I to judge? But I'm just thinking that maybe, just maybe, that might have some kind of emotional, or maybe even psychological, impact on a person. If only just a little bit. And say, for example, were that person to escape such a...predicament, they might feel inclined to seek out some kind of help, maybe spend some time alone to try and come to terms with it, attend a class.....What I'm pretty sure they would NOT do, is seduce their rescuer and declare undying love for her after about 20 minutes, and then bind themselves to her for the rest of eternity...I'm just sayin'

Issue three.

3. Heroes that can't string a single sentence together, other than maybe "Og smash", and who say "Mine" more times than the seagulls from Finding Nemo, are not sexy. They just aren't.

 Exhibit A. Not sexy.

The delightful chap also likes to reminisce about the threesomes and foursomes he used to enjoy (prior to being a sex slave, naturally). Not that he has any interest in such things now that he's met the love of his life (about 5 minutes ago) of course. He's just remembering them because... um...because...

"Og smash!"

And finally.

4. The female character. She was just an empty vacuum of space from what I could ascertain. She served absolutely no purpose other than to provide the eyes through which we could ogle Nicolai's physique.

So onto what I did like... Um, the title font's quite pretty don't you think?


Tuesday, 1 November 2011

New UF and PNR releases for November


Goodreads

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Series:  Otherworld/Sisters of the Moon #10
 
Summary:  We're the D'Artigo sisters: sexy, savvy ex-operatives for the Otherworld Intelligence Agency. But being half-human, half-Fae means our powers go haywire at all the wrong times. My sister Delilah is a Death Maiden and werecat who belongs to the Autumn Lord. My sister Menolly is a vampire who's dating a gorgeous werepuma, and the godfather of the undead-set. And me? I'm Camille, Priestess of the Moon Mother, married to a dragon, a youkai, and a Svartan. But my dragon father-in-law has decided that he doesn't like having me for a member of the family...

It's Winter Solstice, and Aeval welcomes me into her Court of Darkness. With Morio still dangerously weak from his injuries and Vanzir alive only thanks to my silence, the thought of training under Morgaine doesn't seem as daunting as it did. But then, Hyto returns to shatter my life. Captured and swept off to the Dragon Reaches, can I manage to stay alive long enough to escape, even as Smoky's father intends to break my spirit, then my body?
Goodreads 

Genre: Urban Fantasy Romance

Series: World of the Lupi #8

Summary:  It was white.  Maybe that’s why she immediately thought ghost.  It drifted on a diagonal like three-dimensional rice paper—translucent, not transparent, its edges too clearly defined for smoke, its shape vaguely human but faceless.  It floated on a steady, nonexistent air current, starting at the left-rear of the range . . . and coming straight at her.

The quick clamp of fear, irrational and immediate, stiffened her spine as it widened her eyes.  As the thing floated closer it stretched out a hand—and yes, it was a hand.  For all the vagueness of the rest of the form, that milky hand was painstakingly clear, from the mound at the base of the thumb to the lines crossing the palm to the band of a ring on the third finger.  A hand, palm up.  Beseeching.

Goodreads 

Genre: Urban Fantasy Romance

Series: Chicagoland Vampires #5

Summary:  Clouds are brewing over Cadogan House, and recently turned vampire Merit can't tell if this is the darkness before the dawn or the calm before the storm. With the city itself in turmoil over paranormals and the state threatening to pass a paranormal registration act, times haven't been this precarious for vampires since they came out of the closet. If only they could lay low for a bit, and let the mortals calm down. 

That's when the waters of Lake Michigan suddenly turn pitch black-and things really start getting ugly. 

Chicago's mayor insists it's nothing to worry about, but Merit knows only the darkest magic could have woven a spell powerful enough to change the very fabric of nature. She'll have to turn to friends old and new to find out who's behind this, and stop them before it's too late for vampires and humans alike.
Goodreads 

Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

Series: The Morganville Vampires #11

Summary:  With her boss preoccupied researching the Founder Houses in Morganville, student Claire Danvers is left to her own devices when she learns that three vampires have vanished without a trace. She soon discovers that the last person seen with one of the missing vampires is someone new to town-a mysterious individual named Magnus. After an uneasy encounter with Morganville's latest resident, Claire is certain Magnus isn't merely human. But is he a vampire-or something else entirely?

Goodreads 

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Series: Allie Beckstrom #7

Summary:  In the secret lockup of the Authority, the council that decides what can
 and can't be done with magic, an undead magic user has possessed one of
 the prisoners. He wants his freedom-and then some. Now Allie Beckstrom 
and her lover, Zayvion, are the first line of defense against the chaos 
he's about to unleash on the city of Portland...
 
Goodreads 

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

Series: Strange Angels #5 - Final Book

Summary:  The electric finale in New York Times bestselling author Lili St. Crow’s Strange Angels series! 

Nobody expected Dru Anderson to survive this long. Not Graves. Not Christophe. Not even Dru. She’s battled killer zombies, jealous djamphirs, and bloodthirsty suckers straight out of her worst nightmares. But now that Dru has bloomed into a fullfledged svetocha—rare, beautiful, and toxic to all vampires—the worst is yet to come. Because getting out alive is going to cost more than she’s ever imagined. And in the end, is survival really worth the sacrifice? 

DRU ANDERSON’S NOT AFRAID OF THE DARK. 
BUT SHE SHOULD BE.

Goodreads 

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Series: Dream-Hunter

Summary:  Dream-Hunter Lydia has been charged with the most sacred and dangerous of missions: To descend into the Nether Realm and find the missing god of dreams before he betrays the secrets that could kill her and her kind. What she never expects is to be taken prisoner by the Realm’s most vicious guardian…

Seth’s time is running out. If he can’t hand over the entrance to Olympus, his own life and those of his people will be forfeit. No matter the torture, Seth hasn’t been able to break the god in his custody. Then there’s the beautiful Dream-Hunter Lydia: She isn’t just guarding the gates of Olympus—she’s holding back one of the world’s darkest powers. If she fails, an ancient curse will haunt the earth once more and no one will be safe. But evil is always seductive..
Goodreads 

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Series: Lords of Deliverance #2

Summary:  The signs are everywhere...disastrous world events. Evil rising up, unleashed upon the innocent. The prophecies were there...but no one listened. Until now. The time has come for those who can either usher in Doomsday...or prevent it. They are here. They ride. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Arik Wagner, a soldier with the U.S. Army's paranormal unit, the R-XR, kissed a girl and liked it. And then he went to hell as punishment. Where he's spent weeks being tortured...and plotting revenge.

Limos, Horsewoman of the Apocalypse, isn't your average girl. She's immortal, dangerous, and her fiancé is Satan himself. In a moment of weakness, she gave in to her desire and kissed Arik, triggering her fiancé's wrath - and his claim on her. In order to save Arik, and the world, Limos must make a dangerous pact with her recently turned evil brother, Pestilence. A deal that might just cost her her soul...and her heart.
Goodreads 

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Series: Royal House of Shadows #4

Summary:  Once upon a time... the Blood Sorcerer vanquished the kingdom of Elden. To save their children, the queen scattered them to safety and the king filled them with vengeance. Only a magical timepiece connects the four royal heirs... and time is running out....

As the dark Lord who condemns souls to damnation in the Abyss, Micah is nothing but a feared monster wrapped in impenetrable black armor. He has no idea he is the last heir of Elden, its last hope. Only one woman knows—the daughter of his enemy. 

Liliana is nothing like her father, the Blood Sorcerer who’d cursed Micah. She sees past Micah’s armor to the prince inside. A prince whose sinful touch she craves. But first she has to brave his dark, dangerous lair and help him remember. Because they only have till midnight to save Elden.
 
 


   

Goodreads 

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Series: The Edge #3

Summary:  

The Edge lies between worlds, on the border between the Broken, where magic is a fairy tale, and the Weird, where the strength of your magic can change your destiny.
Audrey Callahan may come from a family of thieves and con men, but she left that life in the Edge behind and has gone straight with a legitimate—and thoroughly unmagical—job in the Broken. Then her brother gets in trouble, and her father cajoles her into helping out on one last heist.
But Audrey is about to meet her match in Kaldar Mar, an Edger who has been on the wrong side of the law himself. Kaldar, a sometimes gambler, lawyer, thief, and spy with some unusual talents of his own, is assigned to track down a stolen item… and the trail leads him to Audrey.
Forced to work together, Kaldar and Audrey discover that the missing item has made its way into the hands of a dangerous criminal organization—one they will have to outsmart if they want to live.