Written in Red

While I enjoy any book by Anne Bishop, I haven’t been quite this excited about a series since her Black Jewels Universe stories came to an end (sob).

 While I enjoy any book by Anne Bishop, I haven’t been quite this excited about a series since her Black Jewels Universe stories came to an end (sob).

She has this amazing ability to create a world with characters that are unusual but so very appealing.  If I was explaining to someone what this series was like, I would say the Others are a bit like the Kindred in the Black Jewels but also, so much more.  Neither human nor animal, they are something… Other.  The Terra Indigene (Earth Natives) – Deadly, feral, guardians of the world of Namid. Humans live by their sufferance and largesse, and woe betide them if they trespass on land that does not belong to them.

Simon Wolfgarde is the leader of the Lakeside City Courtyard – a place of the Others to live, work, rest and play.  Human laws do not apply.  Trespass and you may be eaten, and they aren’t kidding.  Meg Corbyn is an enigma to the Others, obviously human, she doesn’t smell like them, but doesn’t smell like ‘prey’ either.  Appearing from nowhere half frozen, and running from something, she applies for the job as Human Liaison between the Courtyard and the human world.  And so begins a very confusing and enlightening time for the residents of Lakeside.

This book is just so full of charm, from Meg herself to the Others and their interactions with her, and with each other about her.  Often hilarious as they try to figure out what to do with this strange short human who is willing to interact with their kind and as she creeps into their hearts, they all crept into mine.

I suppose the closest thing to call the others is shapeshifters, vampires, elementals etc. but those labels do not do them justice.  The creation of the world and the Others place in it is brilliant and without having to use lengthy explanations, Bishop manages to give you a broad view of the way it works.  Humans are not the dominant species even though their nature is such that they don’t believe half of what they hear about the Others and that is always their first mistake.  And there are some horrible humans.  There are also some amazing ones but you come to think of them as part or extension of the courtyard.

There are so many characters to love here, Meg first and foremost.  She is just so loveable and her innocence could have been annoying but it’s not at all.  You just want to look after her.  Simon is a close second and his confusion over dealing with a human female that does not smell like prey is just priceless.  There are quite a few laugh out loud moments where that is concerned.  Tess and her ever changing hair is both scary and awesome.  Sam is just so adorable as a wolf puppy, your heart just goes out to him for everything he’s suffered.

The rest of the cast are numerous and each and every one has a personality that shines – not always in a good way, but in their experience of humans and their distrust, Meg is something entirely new.  Anne Bishop keeps it simple though and you can identify new characters quickly by their surname as to what type of Other they are.  Wolfgarde for wolves, Crowgarde for Crows etc.

The story is fascinating and even the simple details make for enjoyable reading.  Pace wise, it never moves slowly without good cause and makes perfect sense for the plot happening at the time.  When it speeds up though, it really gets going.

Whether the Others will match my fangirl love of the Black Jewels books it remains to be seen, but after one novel, it’s off to a fantastic start!

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Anne Bishop
  • Series: The Others (1)
  • Format: Kindle
  • Publisher: Roc
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy
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Vampire Watchmen

 It’s been a year since Samantha Carter blasted back to 1888, barely escaping with her life. Now, returned to present-day London with only her nymphomaniac flatmate for company, she’s starting to believe that everything – the blood-curdling vampires, her strange and sudden skills with a gun, even her mysterious lover Harry – was nothing but a dream.

Just when Sammy is about to lose all hope that her friends and memories were real, it finally happens again. This time she’s pulled back to a city she does not recognise: a London in the grip of a terrible plague, where death haunts the night and a deeper, darker threat lurks underground, waiting for its chance . . .

Fighting side by side with her friends once again, Sammy encounters horrors beyond her imagining; yet what really terrifies her are the endless questions, one most of all: who is she really? Torn between the life she longs for and the life she can believe in, Sammy must decide whether she’s brave enough to risk everything, even her heart . . .

Well, I have to say I enjoyed this book more than I did the first.  The writing was smoother although I still found it a little on the immature side, and while the story still jumped around from scene to scene without much transition it was easier to follow this time.

I warmed up more to the characters and Sammy in particular but I still found the connections hard – especially between Sammy and Harry.  Their sex scenes were much more readable but there still doesn’t seem to have been anywhere near enough interaction between them to make it seem real rather than a bit tawdry or meaningless.  Also the multiple references to listening to her nymphomaniac flatmate having sex (or Preacher and Louise) was a bit off-putting.

The plot makes a bit more sense in that it’s obviously going to be a recurring theme for Sammy to time travel but have no idea why or remember where, and the groundwork that should have been in the first book was finally present in the second one.  There are still some moments where Sammy does idiotic things for the plot’s sake and I find that hard to take – she is not a stupid woman yet does stupid things.  For example, she gets warned not to do something and with very good reasons and then she goes and does them anyway.  It just makes me facepalm.

By the end I did want to know more and Sammy and a couple of the other characters were starting to grow on me but overall, it was not a book I found gripping or exciting, and was just an OK read.  I will read the next book because the big picture plot is quite interesting, but I strongly hope the series continues to improve as much as this book did.

Book Information
  • Author: Tim O'Rourke
  • Series: Samantha Carter (2)
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Rating: ★★½☆☆ 

Vampire Seeker

 Samantha Carter believes a vampire is responsible for the brutal deaths of four women in London and finally she has the chance to catch him. Desperate to prove the killer’s identity, she chases him onto a late night tube train. But Samantha doesn’t reach the next station – instead she’s pulled into a very different journey, back in time to the Wild West – where friendship, desire and even love all come hand in hand with deadly danger.

To stay alive she’ll have to work out who to trust – and when to resist temptation. For Sammy’s nightmares are about to come true – vampires are real and more lethal than she ever imagined…

I’d heard a lot of good things about Tim O’Rourke so was quite looking forward to discovering his work.  Having just finished Vampire Seeker, I’ll be honest, I’m quite disappointed.

The story is written in a first person perspective, from the point of view of the female protagonist, Sammy.  Overall, the writing felt immature to me and in too many places it did not flow well at all.  The action felt very jumpy, and I just couldn’t settle into it.  At times, despite the perspective being Sammy’s, the author made assertions about what the other people were feeling, which broke the illusion of first person.

I think the hook of any book is to have characters you love or love to hate, someone you can root for and in all honesty, there was just no-one in Vampire Seeker that I felt this way about.  Even the main character was irritating, thinking one thing then doing the exact opposite the next minute.  If Sammy had been 18 and a bit starry eyed, it might have worked but she was supposed to be 22 and a smart girl.

The plot was convoluted for no apparent reason.  Things just came at you without any groundwork being laid, so it felt as if the author was just throwing things in to make it more interesting but without taking the time to blend it.  There were a couple of attempts at foreshadowing but they ended up being just obvious and clumsy.

I felt the masturbation leading into the only sex scene was actually quite cringe-worthy and on reflection, because there was no groundwork laid for this, apart from a few thoughts from Sammy thinking ‘he’ was a bit hot and some mild flirting, it made me slightly uncomfortable.  That’s on top of it being hurried and unrealistic.

There are some positives, it was a short book so it was easy to read and there were a few moments that made me chuckle.  I am going to read the second book because I’m hoping it might explain what the heck happened in the first one!

I’m sad because I really wanted to enjoy this book but it just didn’t do it for me at all.

Book Information
  • Author: Tim O'Rourke
  • Series: Samantha Carter (1)
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Rating: ★½☆☆☆ 

Breaking Dawn

I was a bit on the shelf (as was the book for a while!) about this novel.  I’d heard both extremely good and bad things and it was very dependant on who was talking to me about it.  It’s a terrible cliche, but I wondered if Breaking Dawn was a Marmite type of book – maybe you either loved it or you hated it.

I finally decided to read it with the film coming out and while I won’t watch it until it’s released on DVD, I still wanted to know how the series ended.  I’d read the previous books some time before but hadn’t really found myself in the right mood to read this one until now.

Having finished it, I’m surprised to say… its not terrible.  That’s not to say it’s a great book either, just my expectations were low and it surprised me.  If anything, it was the book I enjoyed the most in the series; less angst, more signs of Bella taking control of her ‘life’, Edward being less of an idiot and Jacob becoming less selfish.

I felt the writing in this book was a lot better than the previous novels, whether that was down to a different editor or Meyer getting better at her craft I can’t say but it was a much smoother read.  It could have done with being shorter in my opinion but there weren’t many scenes that I felt could or should have been cut completely so that was a big plus for me.

The plot was decent and I liked how some story threads from previous books had prepared the reader for a big one here.  That it got straight down to the story without preamble was another positive for me, I didn’t have to force myself to keep reading until it caught my interest.  I did have to suspend disbelief on a few major events but in the context of the book, they fit and I could accept them.  The pace was well judged by Stephenie Meyer and unlike previous books wasn’t stop/start and that was some of what kept me reading.

The characterisations seemed much stronger and less annoying, and perhaps that is because the cast have matured from big decisions and events previously, but I just liked them a lot more.  There was humour to balance any angst and I found new respect for Bella in the decisions she made in this story, likewise the antagonism between Edward and Jake lost its childish and hard edge and became almost a familiar teasing thing.  The Cullen family as a whole I’d always liked, and their role in Breaking Dawn didn’t change that opinion, if anything, it cemented it.  Alice was a star and her part in it all was really well thought out and planned.  The end results of her actions were a bit ‘TA-DA!’ but I liked it all the same.

The big finale didn’t ruin the series for me but I did feel after all the build up and preparation that had gone on, it fizzled out a bit like a damp squib.  Since the book wasn’t just about that moment, the rest of the story carried it through and when I finished I was surprised to find not only had I enjoyed it but I was happy with the outcome (yes I am a hopeless romantic!).

Not an amazing book but a decent fantastical read and while I now understand why some people either love it or hate it, I find myself in the middle – I just liked it.

Rating: ★★½☆☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Stephenie Meyer
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I enjoyed this take on the red riding hood fairy tale, the premise that somewhere in Elodie Rose’s heritage was the woman who spawned the myth.  The book itself is a very sweet story of Elodie, a seventeen year old girl who just wants to be normal, but tragedy and a shocking truth divert the course of her life.  Her father, a man who would do anything to protect her from the curse that follows their family, drills and trains her to survive in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Sawyer is a young man who has his own family secrets and when Elodie comes to work on his father’s research project in the Park, he finds there is something irresistible about her; something that draws him to her but raises his suspicions.

Both characters are solid and likeable and work really well together.  You can believe their instant attraction and the struggle they have dealing with more than just the usual teenage hormones.  The intensity between them was well written, powerful and tasteful, leaving me and them just on this side of wanting more.

I liked the plot, that tragedy had followed Elodie’s family for generations and it was poignant that she believed she would succumb to it too.  The scenes in which she acts out her worst fears were especially emotional.  I enjoyed seeing Elodie’s confidence grow as she dealt with the more mundane bullies.   I also liked that she was willing to stand up for a new girl, it said a lot about her character.  The choice of ‘bad guy’ was good and made a lot of sense after the reveal, and it certainly had me fooled!

The pace was good and well judged, there were no moments where nothing happened, and there was always something pertinent to the story going on.

An enjoyable and engaging read in the Young Adult genre and Kait Nolan is an author I would like see more of.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Kait Nolan
  • Format: Kindle
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River Marked

Marrying a pack Alpha might have its own problems but for Mercy and Adam, their honeymoon getaway should have been fun and peaceful.  However, when werewolves, the fae and Mercy’s newly discovered heritage get mixed up together, the results become more than explosive.  Has the coyote walker finally bitten off more than she can chew?

It always feels good to be back with Mercy again, every time I get the latest book in the series.  I even feel it when I pick them up again to re-read.  She is one of my favourite and most consistent heroines, and I have never been disappointed when it’s time for the next release.  River Marked takes that enjoyment up yet another notch in my estimation and not only because Mercy and Adam finally tie the knot.

There was just so much in this book.  The romance between the two of them is so sweet and I think the book worked really well in that the cast was actually quite small in comparison to the earlier books.  Not that having the pack around is a bad thing, it just made a nice difference.  It started out great with the wedding and got even better, even though I knew their honeymoon wasn’t going to be all happy and easy.  Things just don’t work like that in their world and I would be disappointed if I expected it to!

The outstanding part for me was Mercy finally learning her history, who her father was… or wasn’t and coming to terms with what that meant.  Also that walkers aren’t quite what she expected.  Another part was Adam trying to be a good husband as well as the pack Alpha, and the conflict between those two roles was well written.  Being Alpha and having to leave most of the tough stuff to Mercy because so much of it involved water; definitely not an easy thing for Adam.

The theological side was a little bit confusing but I was also enthralled by it.  The stories were well crafted and I don’t know how much of it was based on Native American lore but it was intriguing and felt believable.

The action was fast paced and the fights with the river monster were exciting and had so much peril that I seriously wondered if Mercy was going to come out of it OK.

She is just a gutsy woman, aware of her limitations but refuses to give up anyway, has tenacity and love and makes the odd mistake.  My favourite type of heroine!

The letter at the end though, that made me cry.

A truly great read and a brilliant addition to the series.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: Patricia Briggs
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After a series of gruesome murders take place in Alaska, Elena Michaels agrees to investigate as they could be the work of a rogue werewolf.  Joined by her husband and pack enforcer Clay Danvers, they arrive to find all is not as it seems, and that there are things stranger than werewolves hiding in the icy wilderness.  Elena is already on edge due to a letter regarding her childhood and the mutts they have to deal with threaten to push her over the edge and render her incapable of action.  Her beast is something she worked hard to tame but unleashing it could be the difference between life and death, and they have to survive.

As I’ve noted before, Elena is probably my favourite heroine of Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld series.  She’s just one of those characters that strikes a chord with me; her strength, compassion and love shine through in spite of the ordeals she has been through in life.  It was great to have another novel based on the werewolves and the Danvers pack.  They are always entertaining and while the book may not feature many of them other than Clay and Elena until later in the story, they don’t disappoint when they arrive.

I love how the relationship has evolved between Clay and Elena, especially now they are parents to twins.  Elena’s past rears its head in a sense and causes a lot of internal struggle for her.  It affects how she reacts to events going on and causes her to doubt herself and could cost her her life as well.  I admire the way Armstrong handled it to be honest, it was tactful but realistic and the way she resolved it led to a much greater understanding for Elena, to gain strength from it rather than let it diminish her.

The plot was actually very simple in this book, easy to understand but it suited the style, anything more complex and it would have detracted from the characters and what they have to do.  It was also brutal at times, but never gratuitously so.  There are a couple of  twists towards the end which were quite sad and as I was totally gripped by the story by this point, I felt the outrage along with Clay and Elena.  The odd spurts of humour and banter between the two even at the most dire of times were great and spoke volumes about how they feel about each other.  They are quite possibly one of Urban Fantasy’s most Kick-Ass couples.

All in all, this is a book I enjoyed a lot, and a great addition to the Otherworld series and the Danvers Pack ‘section’ of it.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Kelley Armstrong
  • Series: Women of the Otherworld (10)
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At 12 years old, Cheyenne Clark’s life was changed forever when she watched a werewolf devour her father.  Traumatised yet lucky to have escaped the same fate, she drifted through life, unable to forget the gleam of the monster’s unnatural green eyes.  Now 24, a chance meeting leads Chey being offered the chance and training for revenge, some closure and help prevent it from happening again.  All she has to do is travel into the arctic alone.

Cursed is a book I would not normally have picked up.  While I might like to think my reading range is quite broad, the truth is I’m a bit of a wuss.  Blood, guts and gore don’t particularly bother me but emotions are what get me every time and horror is a very emotionally and psychologically charged genre.

Having said that, when I was directed to David Wellington’s online stories, I was intrigued and once I’d started reading one, that was it, I had to work my way down the list.  Cursed is the result of one of those stories being expanded upon and released as a novel; and it deserved to be.  David has a very easy to read style of writing but that in no way lessens the impact the story has.  It’s gritty, raw and at times disturbing but I had to keep reading, I had to know how it turned out.

It’s not a werewolf story in the current and popular mold of wolf and human living symbiotically.  It looks back to the older stories of the wolf half being pure predator and the human side having to live with they find after they change back.

Wellington adds in his own twists to the lore which I found fascinating and he really manages to convey a heady dose of mixed emotions, from one end of the spectrum to the other.  By the end I felt a bit wrung out, but also that I’d read something different and really, quite special.

If you like your werewolves fluffy, funny and tamed by their human half then this book isn’t for you.  If you like a gripping horror/thriller that has a unique look at an ages old myth with some truly emotional scenes then read Cursed.  I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Cursed has been published in the US as Frostbite and you can also read more fiction by David Wellington on his website.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: David Wellington
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Kitty and the Midnight Hour

I first read this book quite a few years ago.  Having bought the two latest books and wanting to re-read them all from the beginning, I decided the early ones deserved reviews too.

Kitty and the Midnight Hour is the first book in the series and introduces us to Kitty and her coming out of the werewolf closet.  She’s a graveyard shift DJ for a Denver radio station until she fills in for someone on the midnight hour request show.  Instead of music, it turns into an advice/talk show for and about the supernatural and becomes her regular gig.  Eventually though, problems within her pack, her Alphas not liking the success she is finding and the enigmatic Cormac, supernatural bounty hunter, paid to kill her live on air, Kitty wonders if she has bitten off more than she can chew?

This book really is about a young woman who through no fault of her own was turned werewolf and tries to find her way in an ordinary world when she herself is anything but.  She still wants the life she would have had, and works hard to try and make that happen in spite of the people who would rather she be a good wolf and sit, stay.  I have nothing but admiration for her and I absolutely love the character of Kitty. She starts off being as submissive in nature as her wolf side, but as she matures and grows in success and confidence, you start seeing glimpses of the sassy, sarcastic, stubborn and kick ass woman she will become.  The talk show segments of the book are really good and the advice Kitty gives often make me laugh out loud, as do the questions.

I thought the pace of the book was good, even the radio segments, and when the action does kick in, it goes with a bang.  I like that she isn’t a fighting expert but relies on her wits, intelligence and her wolf instincts to survive.  That and the ability to talk the hind legs off a donkey!

It’s a great story, and the first read through left me hungry for the next book, and that didn’t change at all on this re-read.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: Carrie Vaughn
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On the Prowl

Still managing to hide her ‘hairier-than-thou’ status while holding down her job as an auditor, Sophie Garou thinks she’s finally getting a handle on her life.  If it wasn’t for the fact her attractive lawyer boyfriend has been working later and later with his beautiful assistant Miranda, life would be perfect.  Almost.  Her most prestigious and handsome client is making it clear he’s interested in more than business and the mysterious hot Tom Fenris confusing her every time he appears complicate things in the worst.. or best way.  The Houston Pack has finally found out about her existence and they now have to make a decision whether she should be killed, made to leave the area, join the pack or come to some arrangement if she carries out a teensy task for them.  Not much to ask at all…

This book was a little different than Howling at the Moon.  The pace was faster, with more action and Sophie gets into more trouble than is good for her but it was a good read.  The only complaint I have is the shaving thing.  Wear trousers girls for goodness sakes!  Also the fact that while when transformed into their wolf selves, they are naturally hairy… except for the shaved bits.  Not sure why that bothers me but it does.  Other than that, like the first book it’s a fun read, not as quite as lighthearted but I think that is better in several ways – more character depth and development which at times can be bittersweet.  I loved the addition of several new characters and Sophie meeting more of her kind, with often hilarious interactions.  I’ll definitely be looking out for the next book in the series.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Karen MacInerney
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