Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Frostbitten by Kelley Armstrong

Spoiler warning! Spoilers for previous books ahead, read at your own risk.

"The Alaskan wilderness is a harsh landscape in the best of conditions, but with a pack of rogue werewolves on the loose, it's downright deadly. Elena Michaels, the American Werewolf Pack's chief enforcer, knows all too well the havoc "mutts" can wreak. When the Pack learns of a series of gruesome maulings and murders outside of Anchorage, Elena and her partner Clay travel to Alaska in the dead of winter, expecting to hunt down a pack of dangerous werewolves. But, trapped in a savage, frozen realm, it is their own untamed nature - and their werewolf heritage - they have to confront."

Frostbitten is the tenth book in the Women of the Otherworld series and is a return to Elena, the first and my favourite of Kelley's narrators. The previous book, Living With The Dead was the weakest book in the series by far, and I admit I was a little concerned that this would not live up to the usual expectations of her Elena books. But I needn't of worried. Frostbitten is a great return to form and may well be my second favourite book of the series, behind Bitten the first book.

Elena has been chasing a young mutt attempting to give him a warning, not from the Pack, but about a couple of other mutts. But he's doesn't want to hear it, he believes she intends to kill him. The chase leads her, and Clay her husband/mate/work partner, to Alaska. Once they arrive there though, they realise the scared, young mutt is the very least of their worries. They had been aware of a series of 'wolf' killings, but they hadn't realised just what they would be facing there.

There are rouge mutts, former pack mates and some unknown giant beast to contend with, and none of them are happy to see the Pack members around.

I loved this book. The plotting was tight and the pace fast, as Elena and Clay dealt with many problems, old and new, in the form of the other creatures around and personal ones. Both characters have grown a lot since Bitten and it's great to see them back here, just as engaging as ever. There is a good balance here with action and dealing with the more personal problems, which consists of old history and future concerns for Elena and seeing how Clay's dealing with his damaged arm after the events of Broken, not to mention the troubles of parenthood.

There is also the introduction of several new characters I think, and hope, we'll see again. They were a great addition. It was also good to find out what had happened to the Stillwells after they'd left the pack in 'Ascension' a short story I originally read on Kelley's website years ago (and now appears in the collection 'Men of the Otherworld') and had often wondered about.

Overall, a great book with great twists and turns that stopped me putting the book down until it was done. I have two tiny complains, and that was how little we got to see of Kate and Logan, Elena and Clay's twins, and Antonio in particular. Nick too I suppose, though he got a couple good moments towards the end. Still, these are little things and it was still a great book despite them.

Rating: 9/10

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

"Fifteen-year-old Clary Fray is an ordinary teenager, who likes hanging out in Brooklyn with her friends. But everything changes the night she witnesses a murder, committed by a group of teens armed with medieval weaponry. The murderous group are Shadowhunters, secret warriors dedicated to driving demons out of this dimension and back into their own. Drawn inexorably into a terrifying world, Clary slowly begins to learn the truth about her family - and the battle for the fate of the world."

City of Bones is the first book in the Mortal Instruments series. It follows Clary, a 15 year old who believes herself to be just an regular teen as she discovers the world of the Shadowhunters and learns she is anything but ordinary.

After witnessing an attack by three other teens claiming to be Shadowhunters, and realising even her best friend Simon, couldn't see them, things get even stranger for Clary. Her mom is attacked and kidnapped, but Clary has no idea why or who by. But the Shadowhunters seem to have some idea and she finds she has to rely on these strangers, who kill demons and live in a very different world to the one Clary's always known, to help her.

Soon she discovers that not only are there demons in the world, and Shadowhunters to kill them, but vampires, werewolves and various other creatures she believed to be myth, are real and all around her. Not only that, but her mom knew already and never told her. As Clary finds herself deeper and deeper in to this other world, she unravels more hidden secrets and learns a whole lot more about the real her than she'd ever imagined.

I liked this book, a lot more than I'd originally thought I would. But it's far from flawless. The writing is a little on the simple side, the plotting loose and the characters are a little flat, more obviously in some places than others. But I still found it a fairly gripping read. It's not un-put-down-able, but it held my interest well enough.

The world created is an imaginative one, with a lot to it and although not spectacularly written, it moves along at a good pace and the writing is easy to cruise along with. I found it a pretty fun read with some a couple decent twists along the way. A lot of it is given enough hints along the way that there aren't major shocks, but it wasn't enough to ruin it all.

A good, fun read if you don't mind the lighter writing and for me, I'm really looking forward to getting and reading the next two books soon. 8/10

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Apparently Having a Bad Night...

Apologies for once more intruding on reviews with my mess of a life, but I'm going to post this link anyways seeing as it's for my other blog. I just started it.

Basically, I'm having a crap night. A bad night with M.E. is...well, go read this, it might show you what it's like, or maybe just a glimpse. Life with a chronic illness is...pretty hard to describe, but this is just some of what I deal with.

If I have a separate blog to rant about life with M.E., then I'll keep it off here, so this is better and you guys won't get any more of my going on about being ill. Yay! *snort*

Going shopping for lots of books this week. Or in theory. May have to just order them.

Either way, will have 'Frostbitten' by Kelley Armstrong in the next few days and will have a review for that at least up this week. Maybe some others too, but we'll see.

Friday, 25 September 2009

On The Edge by Ilona Andrews

On The Edge is the first book in the new series 'The Edge' by Ilona Andrews, author of one of my most favourite series, Kate Daniels. So I was looking forward to this book with excitement.

Rose Drayton lives on the Edge, a place between the Broken (our world) where magic doesn't exist and is a myth, and the Weird, where technology doesn't exist and magic rules. Being an Edger gives Rose the ability to cross the boundaries from one world to the other, but she doesn't really belong in either.

An Edgers most powerful weapon is their flash, a bolt of magic like lightning. Everyone has it to a different extent, and Rose has the most powerful flash an Edger has had in 100 years. It makes her hated and envied amongst the Edgers, and wanted among the noble bluebloods of the Weird as a 'broodmare'. All Rose wants is to make enough money at her minimum wage job in the Broken to put food on the table for her younger brothers, 10 year old Georgie who's a necromancer and 8 year old Jack who is a changeling.

But bad stuff keeps happening to Edgers. There is a darkness around that's going after the most powerful Edgers, taking their magic, feeding on it. At the same time, Rose is approached by a blueblood from the Weird, Declan, who is determined to have Rose. But with her brothers and other Edgers at risk of being destroyed, he agrees to team up with Rose and the Edgers to fight the danger. If they can.

I love this book, it wasn't a disappointment at all. What did surprise me, is how much I loved it. It couldn't match the brilliance of Kate Daniels with a single book, but with more it may well do just that. Rose is a strong character, with family at the center of her heart. She would do anything for her brothers, who she's raised since her father left them in search of some 'big treasure', years after their mothers death.

Told in third person, predominantly from Rose's POV but with snatches from others, it contains much more romance than the Kate series. But there is plenty of action too and is a well balanced plot, not too much of one thing before going back to the other. Like the Kate series, the characters are well formed with flaws and plenty of intelligence. The book contains plenty of witchcraft, changelings (shape shifters), necromancers and many other magical beings. All within a well thought out and developed world with boundaries and rules, where actions have consequences. Making for a great, realistic (as urban fantasy/paranormal romance can get) book to get your teeth in to. There isn't quite so much humor in this as the Kate series, or I didn't so, but there were some good moments, and the last page in particular made me crack up.

The first Kate Daniels book wasn't spectacular, in fact, it took a lot to get in to it and at the end it was still nothing more than 'okay', compared to Magic Bites alone, this is a better start to a series. The world building is done carefully without dragging on the plot in big chunks, instead you're fed it in bits as the book goes on, learning more as it goes on. There aren't so many twists and turns in this, and less surprises as a result, but that doesn't stop it being a very good read and a great introduction to a new world and series.

Whether you'd class the book as urban fantasy, fantasy or paranormal romance, I'm not sure. There isn't really enough 'urban' to it for it to be UF, but it's not true fantasy either. And although there is a strong romance plot, it's not the whole thing. Still, I suppose each is close enough as a guide of the basic genre. And it's a great book! I really look forward to more in this world.

Rating: 8/10

The Eternal Kiss (YA vampire anthology)

"Supernatural forces and desires come alive in these thirteen vampire tales. Like love, the adventures are never safe and hungers never die. And chances are taken. If you are seduced by the mystery of the heart, beating for a destiny unknown, you will helplessly follow the characters' in this collection - longing for one to call their own. Featuring several New York Times Bestsellers, connect with the pulse of the talented Eternal Kiss authors..."

Anthologies are odd things. Sometimes they're great and you can find several new authors to try, and sometimes they're not so good and you wish you could just buy the stories by authors you already know and love, without the rest. This book falls firmly in to the former category. Here's a short review for each of the 13 stories, in order:

1. Falling To Ash by Karen Mahoney. Rating: 9/10
Fantastic short story about a teen vampire called Moth. One tiny flaw, there is not nearly enough here!! Good news is Ms. Mahoney's just been given a deal for 2 books in this world, the second of which I believe carries on Moth's story. Fingers crossed they're out sooner rather than later!!
2. Shelter Island by Melissa de la Cruz. Rating: 6/10
I've never read anything by Ms. de la Cruz before but I quite liked this story. It didn't really have an ending to it, which was a shame, I would have liked more, but it was still a decent short story.
3. Sword Point by Maria V. Snyder. Rating: 9/10
Fantastic short story! Follows fencer Ava who wants to learn from the very best. But the new Academy she's attending is not all it seems. This is the first thing by Ms. Snyder I've read, but after this, I'm desperate to check out her other work!
4. The Coldest Girl In Coldtown by Holly Black. Rating: 6/10
I really like the premise of this story. Rather than another flu the latest infection to be taking out hundreds around the world, is vampirisim. It's a decent short too. Not my favourite here, but nicely written.
5. Undead Is Very Hot Right Now by Sarah Rees Brennan. Rating: 6/10
There is a vampire in the latest boy band to hit it big. *gigglesnort* Oddly, I liked this. It wasn't great, but it was funny and kinda cute which helped.
6. Kat by Kelley Armstrong. Rating: 7/10
A YA short set in Kelley's 'Otherworld'. This sits outside her Darkest Powers trilogy, with different characters, but has ties to it. You don't need to have read any of the Darkest Powers books for this though. It's a good short and I'd like to see more of the characters in the future, but it didn't grab me like some of her other work. Kat has been on the run for 2 years with her vampire companion, but now the people chasing them have found them again. The question is, why were they being hunted in the first place?
7. The Thirteenth Step by Libba Bray. Rating: 7/10
A drug rehab center in NYC is not all it seems. I liked this short, a lot, but it doesn't get 4 stars because I was a little disappointed by the ending. It made sense, I guess, but I would have liked it to go a different way. Still, good solid story.
8. All Hallows by Rachel Caine. Rating: 6/10
Set in Rachel's Morganville world, after book 6 Carpe Corpus, but from Eve Rosser's POV rather than Claire Danvers'. Things have been better in Morganville for the friends of late, but it's Halloween and almost nothing goes to plan in Morganville and Eve finds herself in serious trouble once more. A good solid story, but rather like the rest of the Morganville series, it left me feeling like there was something missing. It's a good series, just not entirely for me I think.
9. Wet Teeth by Cecil Castellussi. Rating: 2/10
The only story in the book that I truly didn't like at all. It's just a bit strange and the ending was...unpleasant. Didn't enjoy it at all.
10. Other Boys by Cassandra Clare. Rating: 6/10
A teen girl who's lived a sheltered and restricted life suddenly finds herself getting attention from the hot new goth boy in school. Who claims to be a vampire. A decent story, easy reading, but the end was a little strange. I think it could have done with being a bit longer to show more detail, but otherwise, it was good. Will probably give her Mortal Instruments series a try after this.
11. Passing by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie. Rating: 9/10
This is another one where the only flaw is that it's far too short!! A bunch of teenagers are about to start on their final 'exam' to become vampire hunters. Fantastic short, loved the characters, the detail, the plot...would love to see more in this world from these authors. I'm planning to get the first in the 'Wicked' series which they wrote together too, to see if it's just as good.
12. Ambition by Lili St. Crow. Rating: 8/10
Really good short story about a very poor girl living in a rich girls world. The ending is frustrating, it makes sense, but leaves too much open! Would have liked a little more, but I still really enjoyed it. I gave up on one of Lili's adult series' as I couldn't strange the protagonist, but after this, I'm willing to give her YA series, Strange Angels, a try, which I otherwise wouldn't have.
13. All Wounds by Dina James. Rating: 8/10
Intriguing world. Vampires, healers and (albeit unseen) hellhounds just for starters. It felt slightly choppy, like maybe it had been cut down to length a little harshly, but other wise, really great story and I'd love to read more in this world. Fingers crossed Dina can sell it and get it published sooner rather than later!

Overall, a fantastic collection of short stories. I've added several books to my 'to buy' list as a result, and I'll be watching for books from a couple other too. Great book, and great value! 9/10

Monday, 14 September 2009

Magic Mourns by Ilona Andrews

Magic Mourns is one of 4 short stories in the anthology Must Love Hellhounds. It follows Andrea covering for her best friend Kate Daniels at work while Kate recuperates from the events of the end of Magic Strikes.

Andrea receives a call from a guy who knows Kate saying a giant three headed dog is chasing a shapeshifter, who's tail is literally on fire. Andrea jumps at the chance to go shoot something and heads out there. What she finds is Raphael, the werehyena who's been after her romantically for six months, is the one being chased by this dog, who's the size of a small house and Raphael's a little out of his league. But as they escape from the hellhound long enough for Andrea to find out what's going on, she realises it's a lot more complicated than them simply needing to eliminate the dog.

Andrea is a lot like Kate in many ways, just with different issues and specialities. But like Kate, she's got a lot of deep and buried issues and a hidden past she wants to remain that way. Not to mention a super sexy shifter fighting for her love.

I liked this short story, but it didn't have the punch of other short works I've read by Ms. Andrews. I don't really know why, but it just didn't for me. Still, it was a good story and seeing more of Andrea and Raphael was really good, they're two of my favourite secondary characters, of any series. A couple interesting tidbits about Kate and Curran from other people too, which I'm hoping will be explored more in the 4th Kate book, Magic Bleeds. Still, good short story. 4/5

Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols

"High school senior Meg revels in being a rebel. She sports choppy blue hair, and tight t-shirts, cuts class, and is often found where she's not supposed to be. Like hanging out on a railroad-tracks-covered bridge that's off-limits to trespassers. When she and her friends are busted for trespassing and underage drinking, she's sentenced to spend her spring break riding along with a rookie police officer on his nightshift patrol. Compounding the punishment is the fact that the cop, John After, is only two years older than Meg, and a former classmate to boot. He thinks he has Meg's number and has nothing but contempt for her childish rebellion. Meg in turn has nothing but contempt for Officer After's straight-laced, by-the-book attitude. But Meg has her reasons for lashing out, and John has his reasons for his need for law and order. And they're about to discover that they have a lot more in common than either one of them could have dreamed..."

This is the first non-urban fantasy book I've read in a while, and its one I saw by chance on Never heard of it or the author before, but the cover and title caught my eye so I decided to give it a try. What I found was a gem of a book I completely fell in love with.

Meg is an outwardly tough girl who lives life on the edge, but it doesn't take readers long to realise that most of it is a cover for a much more vulnerable girl. As punishment for a drunken stunt on a railway bridge she's forced to forgo spring break and spend the nights riding around in Officer John After's squad car with him. Something she's initially very unhappy about. Meg likes to break the rules and do as she pleases. John's by the book ways infuriate her.

But John has secrets enough to rival Meg's. As they work together they push each other, hard. Meg determined to discover why John's so set on staying in their small town. John determined to find out why Meg's so set of getting out and staying out. As the story unfolds, and Meg and John grow closer, both their secrets begin to come to light and things get messy.

It's a damn near perfect book in my opinion. Meg's sassy voice and the sharp dialogue kept me hooked from page one until I'd finished it, I could not put it down! Ms. Echols does a great job of capturing these teens emotions and shows how long past events can have lasting and devastating consequences.

There are a couple of good twists that I didn't see coming and the carefully built tension ensures it's a book you can't put down. I love Meg's voice and fell in love with John right along side her. At just shy 250 pages it's a quick read, but that doesn't mean it's impact free. There is a lot packed in to this shorter book. I would highly recommend it to all older teens, and reckon there are plenty of adults who would also get a lot out of it too. One of the very best YA books I've ever read. Can not recommend it high enough! I spent a couple weeks after reading it completely unable to get it off my mind. 10/10

Sunday, 6 September 2009

This has become... unintentional habit. For which I apologise and ask you to bear with me.

Anyone who's followed this blog for a little while will realise I've put barely any reviews up of late which is odd. And if you've followed it longer than that (or just read older posts) you'll know I suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (or M.E. as it's also known). Basically what happened is about a month ago I relapsed pretty badly. I get exhausted doing far less then I was before (and even then I couldn't do much) and I'm having to deal with a lot of headaches and brain fog again.

That makes it hard for me to sit and read for hours at a time and to write reviews as well. So in the last month, I've not read much at all. Or I've been rereading snippets of favourite books instead of new ones. So instead of me reading two or three books a week, I've read about 3 in 3 weeks. All it means for the blog is that for the time being, there will be fewer reviews coming. I'll get past this bad point or at least relearn how to keep going while this ill, and the pace will pick up again. I'm not abandoning the blog by any means, just can't put the energy in to reading or writing as I need right now.

Oh, and yeah, layout change. Been meaning to change things for a while, still not totally happy with it but it'll do for now.

Update over :)

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs

"Charles Cornick is his pack's enforcer and lives a harsh life, doing jobs other wolves can't - or won't. And his most recent task was rescuing Anna Latham from a life of brutality. This leaves him shot and wounded, but he's happy to pay the price. Charles is strongly drawn to Anna, and her growing 'Omega' powers will see his people through dangerous times. Anna desperately needs her new mountainous home to be safer than the life she's left behind. But when a rogue werewolf starts murdering hikers, Charles and Anna are sent into the winter forests to investigate. Charles is still weak and will need Anna's strength as they discover a web of witchcraft that could drag down the whole pack. Including its leader Bran, Charles's father, head of a vast network of wolves. And if Bran weakens, dark madness could run like a fever through half a continent."

Cry Wolf is the first Alpha and Omega book, which is the spin off series to Mercy Thompson. It picks up directly after the short story, Alpha and Omega, which appears in the anthology On The Prowl and really, you need to read that first to really understand what's going on.

The time line starts somewhere in the first Mercy book, so it's almost like taking a step back in time if you read this after reading more than the first Mercy book. It gives readers a much better look at Bran, the Marrok Alpha of all North America werewolves, and his second son, Charles as well as how the Marrok's pack works.

Unlike the Mercy series, this series is written in third person and follows a couple of different points of view. Predominantly new wolf Anna and her mate Charles, but there are little bits from Bran and two other characters as well. I don't always get on with multiple POV's, but here, it works very well. It doesn't switch too frequently and the amount we see of each fits with the story being told. It's not been balanced so everyone gets the same page time, but balanced so the story is told well from the POV most relevant at the time without jumping around.

Anna is a very different character to Mercy. New to the werewolf world and treated badly for most of it, she wishes she was anywhere else. But instead, her wolf has decided Charles Cornick, son and enforcer of the Marrok, is her mate and Anna has to stay. Out of the city, away from her old pack she fights to find security and safety to regain her lost confidence.

Charles does his best to help her, and prove that as an Omega wolf she's something rare and precious to be treated with nothing but respect and care. But when he has to go hunting for a rouge, as being enforcer entails, he knows he runs the risk of scaring her off. But an Omega wolf could be just the thing he needs to help with this rouge, so Anna gets to go along too and they soon find themselves facing something much bigger and darker than Charles could have feared.

Cry Wolf is a fantastic start to the series and I really loved it. Having read Mercy books 1-4 and seeing a little of Bran, it was nice to see more of him, how he works, how he thinks and find out more about who he is. Anna and Charles were both good characters to get to know as well. And you can't help but feel for both of them seeing both sides of the relationship. Like when Anna walks away at one point, she feels one thing and Charles assumes it's completely different. You're willing them to just talk and deal with it, but there is too much else going on. I can't wait to read Hunting Ground and see how things develop!

Rating: 8/10