May 092013
 

The Shambling Guide to New York City (The Shambling Guides) Zoe Norris is a successful guide book writer/editor who lost her job due to a dalliance with her boss.  Unfortunately the boss turned out to be married, a fact he’d neglected to tell Zoe until his wife, also the town’s Chief of Police found out and became very unhappy. Conveniently made redundant and strongly encouraged to leave town for her safety, she heads back to her home city of New York.  A job advert pinned up in a very odd old bookshop seemed tailor made for Zoe except that she keeps being told that she wouldn’t be suitable… Being human had never had a downside before.

This is the first book I’ve read by Mur Lafferty and I really enjoyed it.  A travel guide for the non-human visitors and denizens of New York City was a brilliant premise and the author built up a great cast of characters centred around Zoe.

Each chapter is separated with an excerpt from the guide and they make great little informational snippets that helped flesh out the ‘world’ Zoe never knew existed before applying for the job.  Often they relate to a place you’ve recently discovered in the story and it was a really nice touch.

Zoe herself is a really well written character, and I loved her a lot; her sense of humour is very appealing and matched well with my own.  She also has a huge amount of determination and balls of steel to enter into a world where she is at the bottom of the food chain… literally.  Her co-workers and new boss are brought to life (so to speak!) with equal care and attention and made this an extremely well rounded book.

The pace of the book was well measured; slow at the start while Zoe was still trying to come to terms with the massive change in her life and figuring out what her new direction would be.  As she discovered this supernatural half to the city she never knew about, it started to pick up.  As she got to grips with it and the story progressed, it sped up until it was running full tilt at the end.  I was quite breathless!

The plot was equally as measured, and we discovered the new ‘world’ at the same time as Zoe and went through it all with her.  From co-workers who would love to have her for dinner to weird and wonderful establishments catering to the weird and wonderful, it was a great read.  What really made it good though, was the threat hanging over her that someone was out to get her and would stop at nothing to mess with her life.  Who that was, was very well concealed, and I was kept guessing right to the end.  The action scenes were entertaining, sometimes funny and it was a refreshing change to have a heroine who wasn’t suddenly a kick ass fighter with unimaginable power.  She was however organised enough to keep working on the book as her new found life threatened to come crashing down around her!

In summary, this is a great book and highly recommended to fans of Urban Fantasy.  I can’t wait for the next book in the series!

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: Mur Lafferty
  • Series: The Shambling Guides (1)
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Jun 202012
 

Bitter Seeds (Milkweed Triptych) STOP!

No doubt having read the title of this book you will have already tagged it as another Agatha Christie style doppelganger (nothing wrong with that of course).   However, the reality could not be more distant.

In Bitter Seeds, Ian Tregillis sends us back to 1939 Britain; a nation at war and about to suffer its worst military defeat in living memory upon the shores of Europe.  In this book Ian cleverly interlaces the supernatural with the history of the time, pitting the dark magic of the old empire against weird science of the new.

Too far fetched you think?  Not so.  I found the tale both convincing and absorbing, and the strong story line had me galloping along towards the final page at a breakneck pace.    The backdrops too are atmospheric, the plot lines strong and the characters full of life and interest.  I found Bitter Seeds to be a real breath of fresh air, perhaps with subtle aromas of H.P. Lovecraft here and there.  I certainly can’t wait to read book two.

So what of the writer?  Certainly I had not heard of Ian Tregillis before.  However, throughout the book Ian demonstrates great skill.  Clever details in a character’s manner are picked out, lending them depth and humanity.  Similarly, places are given atmosphere with subtle hits of smell, sound or feel.  The net result is a very immersive experience that you are going to want more of.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Book Information
  • Author: Ian Tregillis
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Aug 112011
 

Jane True is a young woman living in a small town, with a love for the sea that borders on the unnatural and a history she can’t seem to escape from.  On one of her nightly swims, she finds a body and while trying to avoid even more unwanted attention, she lands right in a world she never thought could possibly exist.

Nicole Peeler is another author that is new to me and I kept putting off reading Tempest Rising in favour of authors I regularly read.  I feel like smacking myself now having just finished the first book in the series because it is spectacular.

The characters and setting are so vividly written that it was very easy for me to see it all in my mind’s eye as I was reading.  I couldn’t put the book down and devoured it in one sitting.  It’s funny, entertaining, gripping and exciting with love scenes that are hot but don’t leap over the fence into gratuitousness.

The major character of Jane True is really well created and I absolutely loved her.  I think I connected with her so much because I could see a little bit of myself in her.  Obviously not the being half-human part, but her humour, blurting out comments without being brain filtered first and tripping at the worst time possible.  I think perhaps a lot of people will feel that connection as keenly as I did!

The character of Ryu quickly grew on me too, blasting into Jane’s life like a hurricane but without the aggressive/possessive/misogynistic masculinity that seems very prevalent in the genre at the moment.  I quite enjoy aggressive and possessive but I really find misogyny a bit of a turn off for me.  Having a male character that is hot, charming and extremely personable was refreshing and I couldn’t help but like him.

Jane’s history is both poignant and sad.  Integrating that history into the plot was very well done, and it was nice not to have it all laid out for you right away.  The murder/mystery aspect isn’t exactly original but Nicole Peeler put her own slant on it and made it her own.

The pace of the book is a bit like the sea that Jane loves so much, it ebbs and flows but in a natural way.  It never felt forced or dragged and the quiet reflective times were no less gripping than the action scenes.

All in all this is a book I wish I had read ages ago and goes firmly into my list of favourites.  Nicole Peeler is a breath of fresh sea air to the genre!

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Nicole Peeler
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Dec 132010
 

The Beladors are a race of supernatural warriors whose oath of honour means they stand vigilant, fierce and lethal in the war between humans and demons.  Working with the governing body of supernatural races, the coalition called VIPER, Evalle Kinkaid is part Belador, part something else.  Not knowing her history isn’t as frustrating to her as knowing her mere existence could mean she is imprisoned, not for something she did, but for something that she might become.  As Atlanta is chosen as the latest battleground in the war, she has to constantly prove to herself and her superiors that she is as much Belador as her brothers in arms and holds to her oath with everything she has.  Even if it means it will be the end of her.

I liked the premise of Blood Trinity and the Beladors but it took me a while to warm up to to it.  I found it a bit confusing at first as there was no explanation as to who or what the Belador race and their enemies are.  It didn’t need to be much but I did feel it needed it rather than launching straight into the story. Once I understood how they fit into everything, I did like their power system and ability to be stronger together than alone.

The story didn’t flow as smoothly as previous books by Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna Love which was a shame, as it is definitely something I’ve come to expect from the pair in previous collaborations.  Maybe it’s because the background to the B.A.D. Agency books are much simpler and you could assume a lot of what was happening that didn’t need to be explained.

The plot felt jerky and at times a little contrived.  I also felt there were too many things in play – the VIPER organisation itself was multifaceted and sometimes had me reading back to understand something.  The Deities, several bad guys, and supporting characters just felt a bit too much at times.

Having said that, once I’d gotten past those issues, the things I really enjoyed about the book are as usual, the characters.  The main character of Evalle has all the things I love about a female lead; attitude, strength, kick ass abilities and sarcastic wit.  The male characters of Tzader and Quinn I particularly liked, powerful, strong and lethal but with no romantic link to Evalle.  They played a brotherly and protective role to her which I thought was a nice touch.  The characters that could be romantic interests were just as exciting and lethal but had that edge of sensual interest which made them very hot.

All in all, not an easy read but enjoyable enough with loveable characters.  I will definitely be reading the second book, but I hope it flows more easily than the first.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon, Dianna Love
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Dec 102010
 

Rose’s story is told across six books in the Vampire Academy series.  You can read all the reviews I’ve done for them before reading this one if you should so desire: Vampire Academy, Frostbite, Shadow Kiss, Blood Promise, Spirit Bound.

To say life is complicated for Rose Hathaway would be an understatement.  She is imprisoned and awaiting trial for a murder she didn’t commit, her father insisting she will not face trial and inevitable execution.  Abe seems to have something up his sleeve and all Rose’s friends seem to be in on it,  but they are determined to keep her out of it.  Once the plan is underway, she goes on the run with her ex-Strigoi ex-boyfriend Dimitri, and much to her surprise, Sydney the Alchemist.  Firm instructions are given for Rose to stay safe and hidden until the others can figure out who framed her and why, but safe and hidden aren’t in Rose’s vocabulary, especially not when her loved ones are at risk.  She has a plan of her own, one that could see Lissa’s royal family name restored.  Now she just has to convince Dimitri to go along with it, convince herself that Adrian is the one she wants to be with and convince everyone else that she hasn’t gone completely off the rails.  Simple really.

So here we are, on the last book to finish Rose’s story.  In the Vampire Academy series, we’ve watched her grow in just a few short years, from a young and impetuous teenager into a formidable and fiercely loyal guardian with no qualms about her duty to Lissa.  She’s known love, loss and rejection, she’s travelled the world to try and save the man she loves.  While she wants to be Lissa’s guardian she knows with some of the choices she had to make to keep the people she loved safe, that she would be deemed unsuitable to guard a Princess of Lissa’s stature.  Now she is on trial for a crime she is innocent of, but someone has gone a long way to make sure she will be found guilty.

Lissa has truly come into her own as a spirit user, being able to cure Strigoi and turn them back into their former selves.  Something that was once thought impossible, but her love for Rose and affection for Dimitri gave her the strength to fight for them.  Her confidence has increased with Christian’s love, the unwavering support of her friends and her shadow kissed bond with Rose, meaning the last of the Dragomir royal line is never really alone.

It’s been quite a journey and one I’m so glad I made.  Right from the first book, Vampire Academy, Rose has been an outstanding character; funny, determined, loyal and fierce and she has fast become one of my favourite heroines.  I love the fact that she isn’t perfect, she makes wrong choices, she gets confused by her hormones but she does her utmost to ultimately do the right thing.  Those she loves mean everything to her and she would do anything for them, especially Lissa.

While the point of view is always from Rose’s perspective, that she can see through Lissa’s eyes because of the bond, is a unique way of letting the reader know what is going on with her.  It works really well and as they spend a lot of time apart in this book but is essential you know what is happening back with Lissa, it was a clever way to achieve this.

The writing, as it has been all the way through the series, is consistently crisp, clean and easy to read.  The characters have always been consistent, their personalities solid and very real.

The plot in Last Sacrifice is simply outstanding.  I knew there would be a twist at the end but for the life of me, I didn’t see it coming.  I even went back and re-read to see if I’d missed any clues but no, nothing.  It was very well done.

The plot arc that connects all the books was also very good, often coming to full circles on a couple of issues.  Again, I thought it a very nice touch.

When the real action kicks off in this last book, it doesn’t let up til the end, carrying you with it until it’s inevitable conclusion.  That unseen twist, Lissa’s surprise and the last sacrifice pretty much finished me off and I had to break out the tissues.  I can give no higher praise than that.

While Rose’s Story may have ended with Last Sacrifice, there will be more from Vampire Academy to come and I can’t wait to see who it will be about next.  They will however have big shoes to fill to be comparable to Rose.

There is only one negative thing I have to say about Last Sacrifice and that is the Author’s note at the start.  Just one line took away any mystique as to whether Rose would survive.  I understand why the author’s note is there and for the most part, it’s appropriate, but maybe putting that part at the end with the acknowledgements would have been better.

That doesn’t stop it from being an incredibly engaging and exciting book, even so.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Richelle Mead
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Dec 092010
 

Please be aware this review may contain minor spoilers.

For Rose Hathaway and Lissa Dragomir, it’s time to graduate and be let out into the real world.  A real world that has many dangers – Dimitri intent on hunting Rose down and if he can’t turn her, kill her.  A Queen that has her own plans for the last royal Dragomir and several people who resent Rose’s influence with Lissa.  When a chance to save Dimitri and potentially turn him back into the dhampir he once was is discovered, Rose and Lissa must break more laws than they ever dreamt to free someone who they helped imprison.  With friends and family willing to do what they can to help, what they set out to do, could be life changing for dhampir and vampire alike.

Given her experiences in Blood Promise, Rose feels like a much more mature character.  That’s not to say she has suddenly become a model student else she wouldn’t be the Rose we know and love.  Her wit is still sharper than any knife and she will bend as many rules as she needs to, to protect those she loves.  I expect nothing less!

Lissa has grown up quite a lot as well, I think being without Rose for a lot of the last book, even as difficult as it was for her, helped her be aware she isn’t without talent of her own.  Of course that goes along with realising how vulnerable she can be, but maybe being aware of that isn’t such a bad thing, losing that naivety only creates more strength in her.

I loved the run up to Rose’s graduation and her final trial.  I wanted to cheer as she went, proving to her teachers and peers, just how formidable she has become.  I was a little disappointed that not much was made of the vampire side of graduation but I guess since it’s Rose’s story and being a dhampir it made sense.

Now they are out in the real world, at the royal court and no longer students.  Lissa is the Dragomir Princess, the last of her royal line which makes her extremely valuable, and Rose has the unfortunate record and reputation of being a troublemaker but with excellent and proven guardian skills.  I wanted to protest every time someone wanted to pull the two apart which seemed to happen a lot.  Admittedly not all of Rose’s choices have been good ones but no one could doubt her devotion to Lissa.

The action starts as they realise Dimitri is still obsessed with either turning or killing Rose.  A chance comment in the last book leads to a real possibility of saving him, but the only way to get the information they need is to do something unthinkable and highly illegal.  Break out the man who kidnapped and tortured Lissa in the first book, who they also testified against to put him in prison in the first place.

The pace of the story really picks up as they need to get things moving and in place before Dimitri can catch up with them and take any chance of saving him out of the equation.  Rose being torn between Adrian and Dimitri is quite sad as Adrian is a great character and I believe Rose does love him, just in a different way to what she feels for Dimitri.  She may be a lot more mature now but she is still an 18 year old dhampir.

Where Lissa really comes into her own is when she defies Rose and learns some combat skills to be able to carry out her plan to save Dimitri.  Christian does as well to a certain extent, and their interplay as ex-lovers was funny and heartfelt. I just wanted to tell them to get back together already!

What follows is just simply breathtaking.  Lissa’s empathy and determination, Christian’s love for her and both of them prepared to do anything to help Rose.  That whole section of the book had me on the edge of my seat and hoping for the best but fearing the worst.  Outstanding emotional and heartbreaking writing, and I wish I could say more about it but that would be a major spoiler and I am struggling enough with the minor ones.

Mead has a real talent for putting in a whammy at the end of her books that leaves Rose imprisoned and on trial for High Treason.  A crime that the punishment for isn’t imprisonment, it’s execution.

And so the story remains utterly engaging and enthralling as we go into the final book in Rose’s series; Last Sacrifice.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Richelle Mead
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Dec 062010
 

Please be aware this review contains a few minor spoilers.

The time has come for Rose Hathaway to make a choice.  After the attack on St. Vladimir’s Academy left so many dead, injured, or missing, Lissa needs her more than ever.  Rose is frantic after Dimitri was taken and with her worst fears confirmed, needs to find him and give him the peace they both said they would have wanted, if the worst should ever happen.  Does Rose have the strength to leave the Academy and say goodbye to her best friend?  To cross countries in search of Dimitri and if she can, kill him for the final time.  In doing so, can she survive it.

Blood Promise has so many heartbreaking moments, I’m not even sure where to begin.  I thought Shadow Kiss was emotionally charged but this one is just on a whole new level.

Rose is such a wonderful character.  The amount of strength she has, the pain she has to go through and the determination to see someone she loves find peace is just amazing.  She is so well written she feels like a real person and I feel for her with everything she has to endure.  And she really does get put through it in this book.

I found Lissa’s feelings of abandonment very sad and it didn’t surprise me when she started to go off the rails.  You knew all wasn’t right with her, when new character Avery seemed to be trying to take Rose’s place.  I felt nothing good could come of it.  I did think Avery’s character was well written, just little hints but it was only really when you knew what she was up to that it added up.  It was also hard knowing Rose could see some of what was happening and it was just adding to the guilt she already felt about leaving.

A new organisation and character was introduced and I liked the concept.  It did seem strange that even though the living vampires and dhampirs kept themselves out of human society as much as possible, there needed to be something that allowed them to cross paths without too much trouble.  Enter the Alchemists.  Sydney is an interesting character and I thought the way her dislike of dhampir’s and vampires started to change over the course of the story was well done.

Dimitri.. aaah.  Those sections were the hardest for me to read, to see Rose come so far, so determined then almost give in and become what she dreads the most.  Dimitri as a Strigoi is just plain scary.  A nice touch, however, is that even undead he still feels a strong connection to Rose, even if it is now a broken and twisted thing.

The real strength of character in Rose came to the fore, when she realised Lissa was in serious trouble and she had to finish what she came to Siberia to do.  She still has a place in the living world, however tormented she felt about it, and that she still wanted to find peace for Dimitri through love and not hatred was very powerful.  It still wasn’t easy though.

Managing to save Lissa, even though she was thousands of miles away was brilliantly done.  Using her shadow kiss bond along with another spirit user, to do what she always promised; to protect her.

Rose’s last moments with Dimitri are the most heartrending and what she was prepared to do rather than be turned reduced me to tears.

An emotional, engaging and thrilling read.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Richelle Mead
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Dec 042010
 

With the vampire community horrified and on full alert after a vicious and deadly attack on one of the royal families, St. Vladimir’s Academy is relocated for the holidays to a secure ski resort.  Rose is glad to be away from the school and with Lissa, but trouble seems to follow her wherever she goes.  Her feelings for her Guardian tutor may be mutual but can never be acted on, a close friend confesses his own feelings for her and when the amusing and aristocratic Adrian enters the scene, she is more confused than ever.  After a terrible lapse in judgement sends people she cares about into danger, Rose feels responsible and falls back on the training she has had for most of her life.  Protect at all costs.

It was good being able to dive straight into book two of the Vampire Academy series.  I enjoyed the first book a great deal and it left me wanting more.

Rose is the focal character once more and picks up where the first novel ended.  Just as an aside before I get into it, I thought the Prologue was nicely done, a recap of the previous book but entertaining enough to read even if you had already read Vampire Academy.

It was really interesting how both main characters developed throughout this story.  I admire the way Richelle Mead has taken teenagers around seventeen, with hormones and angst, and merged it with great responsibility and peril.  Maturity can and often does go out the window but I loved the reasoning behind it and thought it quite clever.

Rose and Lissa’s friendship gets more complicated and conflicted as more is revealed about Lissa’s abilities and what her bond with Rose means.  Rose has a unique perspective on life and it can cause amusing results as she uses sarcastic wit almost as a weapon to get out of awkward situations.  As her extra Guardian training with her tutor, the lovely Dimitri progresses, she certainly starts to kick some serious butt and becomes even more formidable.

The two main characters are supported by a group of friends and their relationships play a big part throughout the story.  Even with unrequited and forbidden love, they definitely make the book well rounded and enjoyable.

Mead’s writing was once again clean, crisp and easy to read but spared nothing with the emotional and action scenes.  They had a lot of impact and one scene in particular was very shocking and brought tears to my eyes.

Any book that grips me enough to be able to do that is definitely recommended!

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Richelle Mead
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Dec 042010
 

Two seventeen year old girls running away from school might not raise many eyebrows, but when one is the last living vampire of her royal line and the other her best friend and dhampir bodyguard, both vampire and dhampir society are scandalised.  Dragged back under heavy protest, Rose Hathaway is frantic to protect Lissa Dragomir, not only from the rigours of high school life, but also from the very thing that caused them to flee St. Vladimir’s Academy in the first place.

I’ve not read Richelle Mead’s work before, so I had no expectations when I started Vampire Academy, the first book in this series.  I’m not really one to take much notice of labels such as ‘Young Adult’ – if the story sounds interesting, I’ll give it a try and in this case it turned out to be a real treat.

Mead has a very clear style of writing that is both easy to read and very entertaining.  I like the dry sense of humour that comes through in the story and the darker scenes evoked an emotional response in me.

One thing I found to be very well done was the explanation of the differences between dhampir/living vampire/undead vampire.  That could have been extremely confusing but it was actually well explained and written as part of the story, so I didn’t feel jerked out of it, while you learn some essential history.

The characterisations are superb and pretty spot on in how I think teenagers of sixteen/seventeen would behave with a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. Rebellious on the one hand, seriously protective of a best friend on the other.  The book is told from Rose’s perspective and she really stood out the most for me.  Sarcastic and sassy but with so much love and empathy for her best friend Lissa.  She manages to get in and out of all kinds of situations, some of her own doing because of her temper and nature, but others not of her own making.  She handles herself well and thinks fast on her feet, even if she is losing.  Lissa is a bit of an enigma, and I didn’t connect with her as well as I did with Rose early on, but that changed quite a lot as the story progressed.

The plot was good, not overly complicated but had enough mystery to keep me turning the pages.  With a few shocks, tantalising forbidden crushes and very entertaining secondary characters added in, this book became a gripping and highly recommended read.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Richelle Mead
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Nov 242010
 

At 15, Nick Gautier thinks he knows it all.  How the world works, his place in it, the school he hates and the love for his mother he would do anything to protect.  The night his best friends turn on him is the night his life changed forever.  He is saved by Kyrian, a mysterious man who says he is a Dark-Hunter, an immortal guardian standing between humanity and those that would prey on it.  An introduction to a whole world he never knew existed leaves him bewildered but determined and suddenly, high school doesn’t seem the worst thing he has to survive.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up Infinity to read.  Given how adult Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter series is, I wasn’t sure she could translate that world into the young adult field.  Would she still retain her ability to tell a fantastic story without the romance I’ve come to know and love?

The answer is yes, yes she can, and very well too!

It was no less gripping for being targetted at a younger audience and it was really intriguing meeting Nick when he was a fifteen year old with no idea what was really out there.  I’d known brief snippets of his history from the main books but seeing the start of it all from his perspective, it really brought home what a complex character he is.  The love and fierce protectiveness he has for his mother was so sweet, his brash acerbic wit made me laugh and some of the key choices he had to make made me want to cheer.  Nick’s young character is distinctly at odds with who we know now in the main series, and there also lies the charm of this book.

Several factions are in play to try and influence Nick in some of those key choices, and there are some very interesting developments with regards to the history I thought I knew.  It’s dizzying at times as you try and work out if who he is now is the result of Infinity or if there is something big coming in the next few books.  My feeling is the latter.

I loved seeing Kyrian as a dark-hunter again (of course this is previous to his book) and as always I wanted to both cheer and melt when Acheron arrives.  What did make me laugh was meeting Tabitha as a schoolgirl, she is very much the same character we know now, just younger and maybe a little crazier!

The plot was actually really interesting and kept me turning the pages.  I wondered how it would work since Nick had no idea about daimons, dark-hunters and the like and kind of got thrust into the middle of it all.  The main plot point though, and I say this with a completely straight face, was zombies.  Both living and undead.

And there lies why I was unsure what to expect.  Zombies?  In a Dark-hunter world book?  But it worked!  Everything else that was going on was woven around that central theme and it made for a very entertaining read.  I also loved the reason they were there in the first place, and felt it was very clever.

How Sherrilyn Kenyon keeps all this straight boggles me.  I envision all the walls of her writing room being filled with cards and strings leading to several others.  I suspect it would look rather like a web!  However she manages it, I have to give her huge kudos as she does keep it straight.   I honestly don’t come across things that jerk me out of the story and think ‘that’s not right’.

So I went from being unsure if this was a book I wanted to read to absolutely loving it and now I can’t wait for the next one.  Sweet torture!

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)