Tag Archives: Rachel Caine

Friday Faceoff – Drivin’ Along in My Automobile…

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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 cars, so I’ve chosen Ill Wind by Rachel Caine.

 

willwindThis is the offering produced by Roc in December 2003 and was the reason why I selected this series of covers and it is the only one that features Joanne’s beloved car, Mona… I really like it, though I could do without that ugly black strip across the top of the cover.

 

willwind1This cover produced by Alison & Busby in January 2011 may have the inevitable beautiful girl scowling out at us, but at least she does look as if she’s in the middle of some serious weather. I also love the font design, which gives a real sense of movement and menace. This is my favourite.

 

willwind2This cover, produced by Eclipse in November 2010, is another good effort, with the tornado swirling in the distance and the girl representing Joanne Baldwin looking suitably storm-tossed.

 

willwind3This Czech edition, produced by Triton in 2006, is certainly different. I love the seascape and that magnificently stormy sky – but that oddly stilted tentacle female plonked in the middle of it rather ruins it, I think.

 

willwind4This Portuguese edition, produced by Underworld in 2010, features yet another grumpy beauty glaring out at us. She is certainly eye-catching, but I still prefer the covers featuring the dire weather as I think she is simply too generic.

Do you agree? Which of these covers do you like or loathe?

 

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Review of Two Weeks’ Notice – Book 2 of The Revivalist series by Rachel Caine

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I enjoy Caine’s writing. Her Morganville Vampires series stood out in a cluttered sub-genre as a classy, chilling take on the blood-sucking varmints – see my review of the first book, Glass Houses, here. The series I suspect she is more famous for, the Weather Warden series, is such a sharply cool idea that I recalling grinning with the pleasure of it as I read the opening pages of the first book in the series, Ill Wind – read my review here2weeksnotice.

So when I came across this offering, I immediately scooped it up figuring that Caine’s take on zombies was likely to be worth reading – and I wasn’t wrong.

After dying and being revived with the experimental drug Returné, Bryn Davis is theoretically free to live her unlife – with regular doses to keep her going. But Bryn knows that the government has every intention of keeping a tight lid on Pharmadene’s life-altering discovery, no matter the cost.

Thankfully, some things have changed for the better; her job at the rechristened Davis Funeral Home is keeping her busy and her fragile romance with Patrick McCallister is blossoming – thanks in part to their combined efforts in forming a support group for Returné addicts. But when some of the group members suddenly disappear, Bryn is called in to find out what is going on – and suddenly her life is once more turned inside out…

That is most of the blurb. I hadn’t read the first book, Working Stiff, but Caine is far too an experienced and canny a writer to lose readers like me who still insist on picking up mid-series books, so it wasn’t a major problem. I soon came up to speed as slices of necessary information interleaved the action. For the more squeamish among you, I’d like to reassure you that although this is a zombie-chick book, stomach-churning descriptions of rotting corpses are kept to a minimum.

Which doesn’t mean that it’s all sweetness and light – it isn’t. There is a torture scene where the torturer waves a spoon threateningly near the victim’s eyes and mentions how she doesn’t have to hold back. And then we cut to the aftermath. Leaving the reader to join the dots and realise the full horror of being subjected to an extraordinarily painful procedure – then left to regenerate, before having to relive the ordeal all over again.

The pacing in places is a tad uneven, and the story did take a while to get going – which those of you familiar with Caine’s other work, will know is uncharacteristic. But it wasn’t a dealbreaker – I liked Bryn and enjoyed the premise far too much to be remotely tempted to abandon this entertaining book.

Caine brought the narrative to a satisfactory conclusion – while leaving a particular plotpoint regarding Bryn’s relationship with Patrick at an intriguing impasse. So I’ll be looking out for the next book in the series called, Terminated, and if you enjoyed Caine’s other series but haven’t yet given this one a go, then track it down. It’s worth it.
8/10

Talking About the Weather…

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I tend to do it a lot on Twitter. During the last few years I’ve whimpered – online and at home – about the long, miserably gloomy winters we’ve endured and whined about the disappointing dank summers. I was always aware the weather affected my mood – but didn’t really realise just how much until this heatwave started.

summer photoI wake up with the sunshine blazing through the curtains and a grin crawling across my face before I’m properly awake. Things that would normally have me cursing under my breath and bad temperedly slamming kitchen cupboards now get a mere shrug in response. I’m ridiculously happy. Yes, it’s hot. Yes, I’m sweaty. But the light levels flooding the house and the luxury of having the back door open ALL DAY is just marvellous. I skip around the kitchen singing…

So when I read books where the weather hardly gets a mention, I’m aware there is a thinness in the scene setting – even if I don’t immediately realise why. And when books do a particularly good job of weaving the weather into the plot, it just feels… right.

In science fiction and fantasy there are a number of stories that hinge around major weather events, so they become the engine of the plot. Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden series, where Joanne Baldwin is part of an elite secret force fighting to save millions from catastrophic meteorological events, is a classic example. Caine’s entertaining, snappy writing and high octane action makes this an enjoyable read, although like many long-running series, it does get steadily darker as it progresses.

Tim Lebbon’s The Island is an interesting offering – the cataclysmic storm that creates havoc brings another threat theislandalong in its wake and only one person in the devastated fishing community is aware of just how dangerous the newcomers may be. The storm is an agent of change and misery – and makes the community a whole lot more vulnerable to any kind of danger. Lebbon fully exploits that sense of nationshock and chaos – and rising sense of wrongness. Terry Pratchett’s Nation takes a similar event – a devastating tsunami – to reshape the lives of two young people who are literally flung together in a survival situation. It is supposedly a YA novel – though I think it should be required reading for every politician on the planet, but the vivid description of the killing wave was heart-wrenching and immediately ensured that readers felt sympathetic and protective of both young protagonists.

James Lovegrove’s Age of Aztec uses the stifling humid conditions to emphasise his unusual setting of a jungle-strewn London, dotted with ziggurats, and to also enhance the sense of pervading wrongness and menaceageofaztec. Britain, the last bastion of freedom against the Aztec Empire, has at last been conquered. The weather doesn’t present the kind of drama the other books I’ve mentioned have offered – but the oppressive heat effectively mirrors doomsdaythe subjugation of the population. And Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book gives the same energy to the action, by providing a strong feeling of rising tension in the bad weather that accompanies Kilvrin, a young Oxford-based historian who in 2054 travels back in time to explore medieval life. However, due to a number of factors, she ends up in the wrong time and place, entirely at the mercy of a tiny community in deep mid-Winter, who are suddenly afflicted by a terrible illness. Without any modern comforts, the bitter weather becomes a constant challenge.

What all these books have in common, is that they provide us with readable, convincing settings – including the weather. And if I ever need a reminder as to just how vital that ingredient is, I’ll just recall my sunny response to this year’s heatwave.

Review of Glass Houses – Book 1 of The Morganville Vampires by Rachel Caine

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This is yet another urban fantasy vamp tale – but worth a serious look because Rachel Caine is also the author of the very successful and nicely plotted Weather Warden series.

Morganville is a small college town filled with unusual characters. But when the sun goes down, the bad come out. Because in Morganville, there is an evil that lurks in the darkest shadows – one that will spill out into the bright light of day.

For Claire Danvers, high school was hell, but college may be murder. It was bad enough that she got on the wrong side of Monica, the glasshousesmeanest of the school’s mean girls, but now she’s got three new roommates, who all have secrets of their own. And the biggest secret of all isn’t really a secret, except from Claire: Morganville is run by vampires, and they are hungry for fresh blood…

This tale is definitely aimed at the YA market. However, that doesn’t preclude many books from being an equally enjoyable read for those of us who a lot longer in the tooth – in a completely non-vampire way, of course. Authors such as Juliet Marillier and Trudi Canavan are often parked on the YA bookshop shelves, which doesn’t prevent me being a solid fan of both. The style and tone of this book did come across as rather young as it is written in Claire’s viewpoint and I did skim the sections where she is obsessing about the boy in her life. It isn’t a criticism, so much as an observation – I’m not, after all, the target audience this book is written for – and I was prepared to go with the flow as I found the storyline sufficiently intriguing.

One aspect I very much applaud is that Caine’s young protagonist is a highly gifted student who has been fast-tracked to college several years early. It makes a refreshing change to have an academically gifted heroine who is being seriously hazed for it, rather than the normal fashionably dumb girl very into clothes and/or shoes. It gives this fantasy a sharper, grittier edge to see school life through the eyes of this neglected minority, who after all have the potential and ability to shape our future society – and who are all too often singled out by their less able classmates.

The other aspect that sets this tale apart is Caine’s excellent pacing and atmosphere – this book hits the ground running and doesn’t let up. The initial action was all the more shocking for being committed by a gang of girls, and as Claire becomes ever more mired in Morganville’s dark side, a real sense of menace and danger is created. There is nothing remotely sexy or fun about Caine’s vampires in this book – they are lethal predators and those living alongside them are quite rightly absolutely terrified and cowed by them.

The plot twists were engrossing and the cast of characters well drawn, with several enjoyable surprises along the way. By the time we came to the cliffhanger ending, I was sufficiently hooked to want to get hold of the sequel and discover what happens next.

8/10

Review of Ill Wind – Book 1 of the Weather Warden series by Rachel Caine

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Enjoy non-stop, action-packed fantasy, complete with the mandatory misunderstood but gutsy heroine? Have to say – I love it. I’m a complete sucker for the better written series – and here’s a real treat. Caine has given us a world where naturally occurring phenomena such as weather, earthquakes and volcanoes are sentient – and strongly hostile to human existence. Enter the Wardens illwindwho possess the power to control these disasters and mitigate their effects, keeping humankind a lot safer than they would otherwise be. Her protagonist, Joanne Baldwin, is a Weather Warden.

The Wardens Association has been around pretty much for ever. Some Wardens control fire, others control earth, water or wind – and the most powerful can control more than one element. Without Wardens, Mother Nature would wipe humanity off the face of the earth…

Joanne Baldwin – fashion addict and professional, if unwilling hero – is a Weather Warden. Usually, all it takes is a wave of her hand to tame the most violent weather. But now Joanne is trying to outrun another kind of storm: accusations of corruption and murder. So she’s resorting to the very human tactic of running for her life.

Her only hope is Lewis, the most powerful Warden. Unfortunately, he’s also on the run from the World Council. It seems he’s stolen not one but three bottles of Djinn – making him the most powerful man on earth. And without Lewis, Joanne’s chances of surviving are as good as a snowball in – well, a place she may be headed. So she and her classic Mustang are racing hard to find him because there’s some bad weather closing in fast…

And that’s where this breathlessly paced story starts. Joanne, desperate and on the run. As she blasts her car at highly illegal speeds along American roads, we learn just why she’s running and what happened. It is a ripping good yarn, told with poise and ability. Caine manages to handle a lot of action in a small timescale without dropping any of the narrative tension; losing character focus; or giving us anything other than a cinematically sharp account of exactly what is happening at all times. It takes a lot of skill to write that clearly.

An aspect of these books (yes, there’s a series – eight so far. I’ve read three to date and they go on giving the goods…) that I’m really enjoying is the role of Djinn. These supernatural creatures sound quite familiar – although they have great natural powers they can be enslaved to human will and stored in a bottle. Wardens use them as tools to amplify their own abilities to battle some of the increasingly violent storms afflicting the planet and regard them as a tool. However, Joanne becomes romantically entangled with one – David. Which gives her a completely different and opposing view to the prevailing one that Djinns are merely hostile entities to be overcome and used as necessary. This ongoing story arc throughout the first three books has given me the impetus to get hold of the next book in series – as with all the most successful urban fantasy series, like Butcher’s Harry Dresden, and Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse, the characters surrounding the protagonist also matter – developing and changing alongside our heroine.

All in all, a really enjoyable romp – with the bonus of lots of weather details for those of us who find the subject fascinating. I’m now looking to get hold of the next five books…
8/10