Category Archives: vampire

Review of KINDLE Ebook Sweep in Peace – Book 2 of the Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews

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Back in February, I read the first book in this entertaining series, Clean Sweep – read my review here. At that point, Himself bought the other two books in the series so far and tucked into them, but I don’t like reading books from the same series back to back. However, I hadn’t planned on leaving it quite so long before returning to this world.

Dina DeMille doesn’t run your typical Bed and Breakfast. Her inn defies laws of physics, her fluffy dog is secretly a monster, and the only paying guest is a former Galactic tyrant with a price on her head. But the inn needs guests to thrive, and guests have been scarce, so when an Arbitrator shows up at Dina’s door and asks her to host a peace summit between three warring species, she jumps on the chance. Unfortunately, for Dina, keeping the peace between Space Vampires, the Hope-Crushing Horde, and the devious Merchants of Baha-char is much easier said than done. On top of keeping her guests from murdering each other, she must find a chef, remodel the inn…and risk everything, even her life, to save the man she might fall in love with. But then it’s all in the day’s work for an Innkeeper…

Dina is on a mission. Her parents, along with their magical inn, disappeared without trace some six years ago and despite an exhaustive search, no one has seen any hint of them. She has now decided to settle down and run her own inn – though she has also posted pictures of her missing family and watches every guest’s reaction as they walk through the door, hoping that one day someone will offer valuable information – or betray a shocked jolt of recognition. However taking on this particular mission is doing things the hard way.

I loved the sense that Dina is plunged into a situation well over her head and scrambling to keep up, often several steps behind. She is a likeable protagonist – steady and determined, particularly when under pressure, but with the ongoing vulnerability of constantly missing her parents.

Andrews is also good at writing animals – Dina’s little dog is suitably annoying and yappy, except when he… isn’t. And when a cat makes an appearance, I was also convinced – I get a bit fed up when pets are depicted with too much treacly sentimentality. But what sets this intriguing fantasy/science fiction mashup apart is the originality of the premise – and how effectively Andrews raises the stakes. We are left in no doubt as to the high cost of this terrible war raging between two warlike species – and the impact on everyone, those taking part as well as those caught between them.

In addition, Dina finds her own happiness held hostage as to the outcome of the peace conference. Andrews’ pacing and handling of the narrative tension is spot on as she steadily ramps up it up with a mixture of the domestic mundane with a twist of fantasy – the galactic superchef produces wonderful meals and Dina has to spend a lot of time and magic ensuring each delegation’s needs are fully met – with the crucial details we need to understand exactly how important it all is. This is all deftly done, producing a smooth, enjoyable read that covers all the epic consequences of this nasty war through the fallout in Dina’s magical inn.

I have the next book in this entertaining series – One Fell Sweep – and I won’t be waiting so long to get to it and if you are seeking an interesting fantasy with a sci fi twist, then this series comes highly recommended.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – All that is gold does not glitter…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is gold, so I’ve chosen Making Money – Book 36 of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett.

 

This is the cover produced by Harper in September 2007. I look at it and recall the early wonderful, busy Discworld covers of Josh Kirby with a sigh of nostalgia. Oh well. Having said that, there is a sense of energy in the shower of money being scooped up by the top hat. I also like the hatching in the background, which gives a sense of depth to a fairly simple image.

 

This edition, produced in June 2008 by Corgi, is the cover of the book that I owned. I find the black background a bit grim, but I do like the image of the main protagonist, Moist von Lipwig. He is the epitome of a money-making capitalist. It is a testament to Pratchett’s success that his name is featured with the same size and impact normally reserved for the title.

 

Published in February 2014 by Transworld, this is another gloomy offering with a single spotlight on the pile of gold. Given that this is Discworld novel with a fair degree of humour, I find the gloom prevailing surprising.

 

This cover, produced by Pocket in February 2016, is my favourite. I very much like the background of the large, slightly distorted bank as he scampers down the front steps with money fluttering in his wake. There is a real sense of gleeful mischief depicted on this French cover missing from the others. But which one do you prefer?

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Ninth Rain – Book 1 of The Winnowing Flame by Jen Williams

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Williams is already a go-to author whom I love – her Copper Cat trilogy saw to that – see my review of The Copper Promise. But this time around, I think she’s excelled herself…

The great city of Ebora once glittered with gold. Now its streets are stalked by wolves. Tormalin the Oathless has no taste for sitting around waiting to die while the realm of his storied ancestors falls to pieces – talk about a guilt trip. Better to be amongst the living, where there are taverns full of women and wine. When eccentric explorer, Lady Vincenza ‘Vintage’ de Grazon, offers him employment, he sees an easy way out. Even when they are joined by a fugitive witch with a tendency to set things on fire, the prospect of facing down monsters and retrieving ancient artefacts is preferable to the abomination he left behind. But not everyone is willing to let the Eboran empire collapse, and the adventurers are quickly drawn into a tangled conspiracy of magic and war.

For starters, this isn’t a straight swords and sorcery. The city of Ebora might be a faded version of its former self, driving Tormalin to seek his fortune elsewhere, but it isn’t the only place enduring sustained and catastrophic deterioration. Sarn and the other surrounding countries are still suffering the ravages of the last invasion by the lethal aliens, the Jure’lia. Wildlife and vegetation have been mutated wherever the huge spaceships have crashed, which also attracts the very dangerous parasite spirits that turns their unfortunate victims inside out if they so much brush against them. Where the huge maggots crashed through, they excrete a thick transparent sludge that hardens to an impervious block of varnish, trapping people inside like flies in an amber. In short, the world is still reeling from an apocalyptic attack several generations earlier.

As you must have gathered, William’s depiction of her ruined world made a deep impression – I’ve even dreamed about it. This could have been a completely bleak tale, but it’s not because the main protagonists, particularly the wonderful Lady de Grazon, ping off the page with a fine disregard for local customs as she insists on investigating every aspect of the alien wreckage, instead of trying to ignore it like most of the population. There is a fair amount of humour scattered through this story, which makes it far easier to read, though that doesn’t mean it’s innately funny – it isn’t.

Tension winds through the story as we are pitchforked right in the middle of this fascinating wrecked world and then try to figure out exactly what is going on as slices of information is steadily fed our way. I also loved the young fell-witch, Noon, kept in a horrible prison called the Winnowry, where others like her who involuntarily summon fell-flame, are incarcerated – apparently so they can atone for their innate wickedness and to protect the rest of society from their fell-fire. Though the fact that their flaming energy is harvested and used to craft a number of exclusive, highly expensive artefacts is also a major factor.

Each one of the three protagonists have their own journey through the book which involves different aspects of this shattered place and unlike a number of epic fantasy tales, I didn’t find myself wanting to know more about one of them such that I skimmed through the others to get back to it. For this rich world sank its hooks into me and since I have finished reading it, I still find myself thinking of it. And I’ll be on the lookout for the sequel as I’m looking forward to revisiting this unusual world.

While I obtained the arc of The Ninth Rain from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
9/10

Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling My TBR – February Roundup

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After reading Jo Hall’s post on the problems women authors have with getting discovered, I’ve been taking part in the challenge to read and review at least 24 books by female authors each year that were previously unknown to me for the last two years. During February I read three books towards my 2017 Discovery Challenge, making my yearly total seven books so far.

My February books are:-

Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey
Miranda is a lonely child. For as long as she can remember, she and her father have lived in isolation in the abandoned Moorish palace. There are chickens and goats, and a terrible wailing spirit trapped in a pine tree, but the elusive wild boy who spies on her from the crumbling walls and leaves gifts on their doorstep is the isle’s only other human inhabitant. There are other memories, too: vague, dream-like memories of another time and another place. There are questions that Miranda dare not ask her stern and controlling father, who guards his secrets with zealous care: Who am I? Where did I come from?

This book is written as a dual narrative, with both Miranda and Caliban giving their different version of events from the time Caliban enters Miranda’s life when she is a six-year-old. If Shakespeare’s The Tempest is told from the viewpoint of Prospero, then this story is from the point of view of two of the characters who are most impacted by the events unfolding around them.

 

Demon Hunting in Dixie – Book 1 of the Demon Hunting series by Lexi George
Addy Corwin is a florist with an attitude. A bad attitude, or so her mama says, ’cause she’s not looking for a man. Mama’s wrong. Addy has looked. There’s just not much to choose from in Hannah, her small Alabama hometown. Until Brand Dalvahni shows up, a supernaturally sexy, breathtakingly well-built hunk of a warrior from – well, not from around here, that’s for sure. Mama thinks he might be European or maybe even a Yankee. Brand says he’s from another dimension. Addy couldn’t care less where he’s from. He’s gorgeous. Serious muscles. Disturbing green eyes. Brand really gets her going. Too bad he’s a whack job. Says he’s come to rescue her from a demon. Puh-lease. But right after Brand shows up, strange things start to happen. Dogs talk and reanimated corpses stalk the quiet streets of Hannah. Her mortal enemy Meredith, otherwise known as the Death Starr, breaks out in a severe and inexplicable case of butt boils. Addy might not know what’s going on, but she definitely wants a certain sexy demon hunter by her side when it all goes down. . .

This is not my normal fare – I freely admit it. But this was just plain fun. While the insta-love was more about insta-lust, I was prepared to go with the flow as Addy is just so much fun. I enjoyed the fact that she was still concerned about what the neighbours thought and was very mindful of her mother’s opinion even after all the life-changing adventures. Meanwhile, she plays with the trope of the good Southern girl, looking for a husband, concerned with her appearance and intent on putting on a good front for the neighbours.

 

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Patricia Delfine talks to trees and birds in the hope they will answer back, as they did one amazing day when she was little… Laurence Armstead invents a two-second time machine in his bedroom. Unsurprisingly, they are both targets for the bullies at school who make their lives hell. So under duress, they become unlikely friends. A friendship that is tested and often found wanting as their lives both spin off in amazing directions…

What I won’t be doing is telling you that this is a fantasy or science fiction book, because it’s a little bit of both. After all, one of the major protagonists is a nerdy scientist and the other is a witch. And what Anders is doing throughout this highly readable, roller-coaster adventure is exploring the space between the magical, natural world and the high-tech, scientific community.

 

This month I managed to clear five books from my teetering TBR pile – they are:-

Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey
See above.

Demon Hunting in Dixie – Book 1 of the Demon Hunting series by Lexi George
See above.

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
See above.

Clean Sweep – Book 1 of The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews
On the outside, Dina Demille is the epitome of normal. She runs a quaint Victorian Bed and Breakfast in a small Texas town, owns a Shih Tzu named Beast, and is a perfect neighbor, whose biggest problem should be what to serve her guests for breakfast. But Dina is…different: Her broom is a deadly weapon; her Inn is magic and thinks for itself. Meant to be a lodging for otherworldly visitors, the only permanent guest is a retired Galactic aristocrat who can’t leave the grounds because she’s responsible for the deaths of millions and someone might shoot her on sight. Under the circumstances, “normal” is a bit of a stretch for Dina. And now, something with wicked claws and deepwater teeth has begun to hunt at night… Feeling responsible for her neighbors, Dina decides to get involved.

Dina is a thoroughly engaging protagonist. Impulsive, brave and with an over-developed sense of responsibility, she immediately plunges into this adventure when she feels the caretaker of this territory is not doing enough. I really enjoyed her character, particularly as she also has a vulnerability that pulled me further onto her side. She has lost her parents, who disappeared from their thriving Inn and though she has spent years trying to track them down, all her efforts have ended in failure.

 

Twelve Kings – Book 1 of The Song of the Shattered Sands by Bradley Beaulieu
Sharakhai, the great city of the desert, center of commerce and culture, has been ruled from time immemorial by twelve kings—cruel, ruthless, powerful, and immortal. With their army of Silver Spears, their elite company of Blade Maidens, and their holy defenders, the terrifying asirim, the Kings uphold their positions as undisputed, invincible lords of the desert. There is no hope of freedom for any under their rule. Or so it seems, until Çeda, a brave young woman from the west end slums, defies the Kings’ laws by going outside on the holy night of Beht Zha’ir. What she learns that night sets her on a path that winds through both the terrible truths of the Kings’ mysterious history and the hidden riddles of her own heritage. Together, these secrets could finally break the iron grip of the Kings’ power…if the nigh-omnipotent Kings don’t find her first.

Bradley is clearly an experienced and capable writer. He introduces his main protagonist – an orphan with a terrible backstory – and little by little, we understand exactly who she is and why she is so driven.

Review of KINDLE Ebook Clean Sweep – Book 1 of The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews

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Himself had picked up this one up as a Recommended Read and loaded it up on our Kindles – and after reading it, enthusiastically suggested I also read it. And I generally listen to Himself on the subject of books…

cleansweepOn the outside, Dina Demille is the epitome of normal. She runs a quaint Victorian Bed and Breakfast in a small Texas town, owns a Shih Tzu named Beast, and is a perfect neighbor, whose biggest problem should be what to serve her guests for breakfast. But Dina is…different: Her broom is a deadly weapon; her Inn is magic and thinks for itself. Meant to be a lodging for otherworldly visitors, the only permanent guest is a retired Galactic aristocrat who can’t leave the grounds because she’s responsible for the deaths of millions and someone might shoot her on sight. Under the circumstances, “normal” is a bit of a stretch for Dina. And now, something with wicked claws and deepwater teeth has begun to hunt at night… Feeling responsible for her neighbors, Dina decides to get involved.

Dina is a thoroughly engaging protagonist. Impulsive, brave and with an over-developed sense of responsibility, she immediately plunges into this adventure when she feels the caretaker of this territory is not doing enough. I really enjoyed her character, particularly as she also has a vulnerability that pulled me further onto her side. She has lost her parents, who disappeared from their thriving Inn and though she has spent years trying to track them down, all her efforts have ended in failure.

As for this particular threat – she quickly finds she has met her match and needs some help. Once again, this urban fantasy adventure delivers in giving us an interesting take on both vampires and werewolves. The science fiction twist is a delight and I liked the supporting cast – Sean, the touchy alpha werewolf and her one and only permanent guest, Caldenia, the aristocrat in hiding. There is plenty of sharp dialogue with a fair amount of humour.

Meanwhile, I cared about the main plotline – Andrews puts her young innkeeper in real jeopardy and I stayed awake reading far longer than I should have in order to discover how the final climactic battle would resolve itself. For fans of urban fantasy, this is a well written, enjoyable take on the genre with some refreshing touches. No wonder Himself recommended it – I do, too.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week’s theme is shoes, so I have chosen Undead and Unemployed – Book 2 of the Queen Betsy series by Mary Janice Davidson.

 

undeadandunemployedThis is the cover produced by Berkley in August 2004. It accurately reflects the light-hearted romantic content of this bubbly urban fantasy offering. As well as displaying Betsy’s obsession with shoes… I like it and as this is the cover of the book I read, I’ve a somewhat soft spot for it, though I don’t think it is the best cover here.

 

undeadandunemployed1This cover, published by Piatkus in February 2006, is more effective than the first in that it depicts Betsy’s immortality, clearly flagging that this story has a supernatural element. The colours work better with the night sky in the background and we still have the humour with Betsey looking for a job while surrounded by her beloved shoes.

 

undeadandunemployed2This French edition, published in March 2011 by Milady Poche, has Betsy a lot curvier and wearing significantly less. Though I do like the artwork in this one and the nod to her royal status. I’m also pleased that every cover has her hair colour correct.

 

undeadandunemployed3This German edition, produced in November 2007 by Egmont LYX Verlag, would be yet another enjoyable addition to these cartoon covers, except that the cover designer was clearly colour blind. Or on something. WHAT possessed them to think that a mustard yellow background would work well with her blonde hair, which now looks as if it is doing weird spiky things to the title font…

 

undeadandunemployed4This Italian edition, produced in May 2012 by Delos Books, is the snappiest cover and my favourite. I like the shades of red and pink, indicating that it is a funny chicklit book and the font clearly indicates it is paranormal. The red against the white background works well as does giving us a view of her legs and shopping bags.

 

undeadandunemployed5This is Berkley’s 2011 attempt to update their original cover. This time they have departed from the cartoon effect, by giving us a human version of Betsy. While I like the model’s stance and the backdrop – I think they have ruined it by that ghastly snot-green band running behind the font, which surely could have been made to stand out effectively against the nightscape without resorting to such a clunky solution. And I don’t think you would immediately look at the cover and know you’re getting a humorous read.

Friday Faceoff – And Soul Meets Soul on Lovers’ Lips…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week’s theme is lips, so I have chosen Living Dead in Dallas – Book 2 of the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris.

 

livingdead1This is the cover produced by Orbit in April 2004. It is certainly has a very different feel to most of the subsequent covers, but I think – despite the rather crude depiction of Sookie – probably better captures the tone of the book. The rather random font gives the book a rather folksy ad hoc feel that is far closer to the actual content than some of the subsequent covers, though I don’t really like it all that much.

 

livingdead2This 2009 cover, published by Gollancz, directly refers to the very racy HBO TV series True Blood. While many of the storylines are reasonably close to the books, there was certainly a lot more sex and gore in the TV series which had a far darker, Southern noire vibe than the books, which are in Sookie’s homespun first person viewpoint. I do wonder how many people picked up the books expecting a whole lot more bedroom action than they actually got.

 

livingdead5This French edition, published in August 2009 by J’ai Lu, certainly doesn’t feel the need to hold back in emphasising the sexiness of the series. Notice the prominent name check for True Blood.

 

livingdead3This cover, produced in August 2009 by Ace again references the True Blood series, but has the actress playing Sookie superimposed over the Dallas cityscape and dark sky. As Anna Paquin was spot on as the beleaguered, telepathic waitress, this works well, I think. This is my favourite cover.

 

livingdead4This is another Gollancz offering, in October 2011. The purple cover with a splash of blood glistening across it certainly is eye-catching. There is an additional quote from a review in one of our more Conservative newspapers, which has me wondering whether the publishers felt the need to distance themselves from the previous raunchy cover, though they do mention ‘sultry scenes’…

Which is your favourite cover?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review KINDLE Ebook American Monsters – Book 3 of the Demon Road series by Derek Landy

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This is the final instalment of this YA horror series, featuring Amber, a demon who shape-shifts when the going gets tough – see my reviews of Demon Road and Desolation. And the going is continually tough…

americanmonstersBigger, meaner, stronger. Amber closes in on her murderous parents as they make one last desperate play for power. Her own last hopes of salvation, however, rest beyond vengeance, beyond the abominable killers – living and dead – that she and Milo will have to face. For Amber’s future lies in her family’s past, in the brother and sister she never knew, and the horrors beyond imagining that befell them.

Amber has teamed up with Milo and his magical car to fight a series of lethal opponents. However, they all rather pale against her struggle with her seriously unpleasant parents, who raised her for the sole purpose of eating her once she came into her demonic powers. I really like the fact that when she isn’t a tall, red-skinned demon she is a rather plump, nondescript-looking girl. And her prospective girlfriend is attracted to the human side of her, rather than her charismatically fearsome alter ego.

Once again, the story starts with a bang and doesn’t let up as we are whisked from one crisis to another. There are a range of unpleasant monsters and creeps in this story, the most memorable being the murderous clown fixated on killing sixteen-year-olds. The action is vividly portrayed, with plenty of gore and a number of key characters dying off – to an extent that I was a tad winded when one of them met his end…

I’ve enjoyed this series, but I’m not quite sure who it’s aimed at. There is an awful lot of violence and murder, with not quite enough emotional bonding for it to truly appeal to the teenage girls I know – and while the non-stop action would definitely tick the boys’ boxes, I can’t see them warming to a gay shape-shifting female who beats up several men who bad-mouth her in sexist terms. While it is marketed as YA, I’d recommend that you check it out before you allow your younger teens to read it. Many, no doubt, will be perfectly able to cope with the action, but it is very graphic and there are some horrific moments that could upset sensitive children with vivid imaginations.

I received the arc of American Monsters from the publishers via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
7/10

Friday Faceoff – There’s blood on thy face…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week we are looking at covers featuring blood. I have gone for Matt Haig’s witty, clever book The Radleys.

 

theradleys

This offering was published by Canongate Books in 2010. I really like it – the white picket fence with a dribble of blood. Spare and effective, it captures the uncomfortable collision the Radley family encounter between their everyday suburban life – and their hidden vampire selves struggling to foreswear their blood addiction…

 

theradleys1

This version was produced by Free Press in 2011. It alludes to a particular event in the book. Another effective cover, with the young girl in the floating red party dress.

 

theradleys2

This edition was published in 2010 by the Free Press and closely follows the Canongate design, but the main difference is the more eye-catching font in blood-red.

 

theradleys3

This is the paperback edition produced by Canongate in 2010 and again, features a blood-red font that gives a sense of the comic content, yet still giving a sense that it isn’t a cosy read.

My personal favourite is the first cover. I really like the darker font, which allows that dribble of blood to really pop on the white fence. Do you agree?

Friday Faceoff – Who’s at the door?

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week we got together in Proxy’s absence and decided to feature covers with a door or gate on them – so I’ve gone with the second book in Meg Cabot’s enjoyable vampire tale – Overbite. Though looking at it, I’m now wondering if I should have used this one for last week’s Lady in Red…

 

overbite

This cover was released by Harper Collins back in July 2012. It is stylish, with plenty of eye appeal – though whether it effectively reflects the sheer fun and humour of this book is debatable…

 

overbite1

This is the German publication, produced by Blanvalet Verlag in June 2011. This version of Meena (presumably that is the mysterious woman depicted) is more demure – however we still have a door in the background…

 

overbite2

This is the Portuguese version, published by Galera Record in June 2011. I’m not sure if Meena is even dressed to go through the door! Still rather brooding and menacing, whereas the book is anything but…

overbite3

This Kindle version was produced by Harper Voyager in 2013 – she now looks like Little Red Riding Hood. However, I personally like this cover the best. There is a playful quality about the font, hinting that this book may be funny rather than horrific. Which is your favourite?