Saturday, 31 October 2009

Tempted by P.C. and Kristin Cast

"Zoey needs a break after some serious excitement. Sadly, the House of Night school for vampyres doesn't feature breaks on its curriculum - even for a High Priestess in training and her gang. Plus juggling three guys is no stress reliever, especially when one is a sexy Warrior so into protecting Zoey that he's sensing her emotions. Wider stresses lurk too, and the dark force in Tulsa's tunnels is spreading. Could Stevie Rae be responsible for more than a group of misfit fledglings? And Aphrodite's visions warn Zoey to stay away from the immortal Kalona and his dark allure - but they also show that only Zoey can stop him. She's not exactly keen to meet up, but if Zoey don't go to Kalona he'll exact a fiery vengeance on those closest to her. She just has to find the courage to do what's necessary, or everything that's important to her will be destroyed."

Tempted is the sixth book in the House Of Night series. It's no secret that I'm not a fan of this series. I've found it far too cliched and irritating to be good. For me, books 2 and 3 were the best (though by no means great) and the previous book, Hunted, was simply appalling.

Hunted, in essence, was several hundred pages of repetitive talk about what was happening, why and Zoey's complete lack of ability to choose just one guy out of three. I find it very hard to put down a series if I make it past book two though, even if it's really bad. I saw this cheap on Amazon, so bought it, to give the series one more shot. The first thing to note is that this book is not told purely from Zoey's perspective. Most of it is, but there is a chapter from Stark, Heath and Aphrodite's POV's, a couple from the perspective of a Raven Mocker and several from Stevie Rae's.

First up, the good points. There is very little of the repetitive back story from Hunted here. There aren't the (very) questionable sexual scenes (there is one, maybe two, close calls, but compared to the threesome scene from Hunted, they're very tame). The far too cliched (and extremely annoying) gay characters Damien and Jack, seem to have been toned down here. They get a bit less page time, and when they are seen, they're not nearly so annoying. Finally, there is more progression to the overall story here than Hunted. The progression in Hunted could fit in to about 2 pages, here, there is enough to fill a chapter or two.

On to the bad. Zoey is still juggling three guys (and it would seem Stevie Rae is heading that was too), Heath (her human consort), Stark (her red vampire warrior) and Kalona...the bad guy, who's influence she's attempting to fight, with very little success. Erik, who was the first boyfriend, is (thankfully) ditched early on in this book. Now, I've never liked Erik's character, but even I will admit the authors have changed him a lot from the guy he originally was, and seem content to have Aphrodite saying stuff like 'he was always like that' in an attempt to make us think he really was always like that. Stevie Rae is given much more page time with chapters from her perspective for the first time. She is, frankly, dull. I had to force myself to read her chapters because I just don't care what problems she has or what new secrets she's keeping from Zoey or why. The chapters from the POV's of Stark and Heath at least have their place and reason, and actually work fairly well. The raven mockers though, I seriously disliked. Again, just a character I don't care about.

I can sum up this book in one word: Dull. There is very little action, it's almost all talk; what's going on, why it's happening, how to stop it, Aphrodite's visions (none of which are all that new from previous ones), who's keeping what secrets from who now, who the group are using their affinities on now...the list goes on.

And once again, the real action and progression of the plot occurs at the end. I got there and wondered why the authors couldn't have cut down on a load of the talking earlier on, and added to the ending. Because as it is, there really isn't one. There is an epilogue to this book, and I think one of two things should have happened to it. 1) It should have been cut completely ending with the previous chapter, which would have been a reasonable ending. 2) It should have been seriously extended. As it is, it just ends, almost like it's been chopped in the middle of a paragraph. Leaving it in a strange place with no explanation as to how you got there.

As always, the language causes a few stumbling blocks. The constant use of 'poopie' and 'bullpoopie' in place of crap, s*it and BS, is annoying. If the authors don't want their characters swearing, there are far more realistic ways around it. They're meant to be 'tough' kids going through big, life changing stuff, but when they keep saying 'poopie' you can't help but see them as little kids playing dress up. A new addition to the trying-too-hard language, is the repetitive use of 'heart' in place of 'love'. I know a lot of teenagers, and none of them regularly trade the words.

Overall, yes a slight improvement on Hunted, simply because the characters aren't so annoying. However, the reason they're less annoying is because they're all so flat. Almost all their fizz seems to have disappeared and for no reason I can see. Zoey spends a lot of the book either in or close to tears for one reason or another, and that's fairly annoying, but still better than she's been for several books. There is a death in this book, which goes hand in hand with a 'big twist' at the end, but you can see it coming. And really, it's very similar to something that's already happened, just with slightly different players. Definitely wouldn't recommend this series. Actually, would recommend not to bother with it! 2/10

Dawnbreaker by Jocelynn Drake

"Those of her race fear Mira for the lethal fire she bends to her will -- a power unique among nightwalkers, both a gift ... and a curse.

The naturi despise Mira for what she is -- as they prepare the final sacrifice that will destroy the barriers between the worlds. And once the naturi are unchained, blood, chaos, and horror will reign supreme on Earth.

Mira can trust only Danaus, the more-than-mortal vampire slayer, though he is sworn to destroy her kind. And now, as the day approaches when titanic forces will duel under cover of darkness, destiny draws them toward an apocalyptic confrontation at Machu Picchu. But all is not lost, for a wild card has been dealt to them: a rogue enemy princess who can change the balance of power and turn the dread tide."

Dawnbreaker is the third book in the Dark Days series. It takes place a little while after the events of book two, Dayhunter, and Mira is back in her domain, Savannah.

This third book starts off with a punch as Mira, along with three of her 'family', are in their car being chased by several of the Naturi. In the middle of the fight, Danaus, a vampire hunter, returns to help Mira out. The Naturi are gathering their forces once more, determined to free their trapped queen, Aurora. Rowe, her husband and strongest supporter, wants Mira there to see it.

But before anything can happen at Machu Picchu, the place of Mira's nightmares, where centuries ago she was tortured by the naturi and they failed to open the door between worlds, Mira must deal with the problems closer to home. Namely, the naturi taking over control of the werewolves, once strong allies of the nightwalkers, in an attempt to catch Mira in a trap.

For me, this series has just gotten better, and this is the book where I feel it's really hit it's stride. The pacing is good and fast with plenty of action, with some great twists. Mira is tougher than we've seen her, more in control and determined, not to mention showing some cool new powers. And I like it, a lot. She and Danaus continue to keep the other alive, so that they can kill each other one day. Except, at this point, the threats are sounding more like foreplay. They have great tension and dynamic to their relationship and I'm hoping the next book or two sees it become a romantic involvement. Dawnbreaker also sees the introduction of a couple new and interesting characters, in particular a rouge naturi princess. And we get a better look at a couple previously seen characters as well.

Overall, easily the best book in the series so far. The next two books in the series are out next year, the first of which, Prey For Dawn, will be in Danaus' perspective for the first time. Personally, I can't wait! 9/10

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

"Choose: A quick death...or a slow poison...About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace - and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia. And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly's Dust - and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonising death from the poison. As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can't control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren't so clear..."

Poison Study is the first book in the 'Study' trilogy.

Yelena is given a chance to escape being hung, but it's a stay of execution. After a year in prison she becomes food taster for the Commander, ruler of Ixia, the land Yelena grew up in. She trains and is supervised closely by the Commander's assassin, Valek. Deadly and uncaring, he gives just enough hope for Yelena to take his proposal to be the food taster, but not enough for her to believe she will live all that much longer.

But Yelena can't worry only about whether Valek intends to kill her or not. She has much more obvious enemies to contend with, and threats from unknowns as well. She finds herself wanted dead by the magicians of Sitia, a forbidden land, but Yelena has no idea why anyone there would even know about her, let alone know enough to want her dead. At the risk of their own lives. If the magicians are caught in Ixia, Valek will kill them, without question.

The longer Yelena's inside the castle, home of the Commander, the clearer it becomes that the Commander himself is in danger from an unseen enemy. And Yelena and Valek may be the only ones capable of saving him.

I really liked this book. Yelena is tough, a real survivor, but she has a soft voice and obvious vulnerabilities, making her very real, easy to like and empathise with. The world created here is simple enough to understand and get in to. The author hasn't bogged the book down with information either, but gives enough that you're not left wondering about the way things to work. The story moves along at a good pace, with some great twists along the way. And great likable (and those you love to hate) characters. There is good depth to the story, but it's tame enough for younger teens to read as well.

Overall, great story with a great ending leaving a lot of promise for the next book. Looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy. 8/10

Monday, 26 October 2009

Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs

"Anna Latham didn't know how complicated life could get - until she became a werewolf. And now she's not just part of any pack, but under the direct supervision of Bran, leader of the North American werewolves. And her mate is his son Charles, the pack enforcer. With all the advances that have been made in forensics, the werewolves will not be able to hide their existence from humans much longer - and Bran wants their coming out party to be on his terms. But his European counterparts don't see things the same way. Anna and Charles are chosen to represent Bran at a key meeting. But when a French werewolf, one of Bran's most vocal opponents, is found murdered, Charles's reputation shoots him to the top of the suspect list. And among the wolves, there is one penalty for breaking the law: death. The killer must be found, or Charles will take the fall."

Hunting Ground is the second in the Alpha and Omega series, which is the spin off series to one of my favourites, Mercy Thompson. A&O follows Charles Cornick, son of the leader of all American wolves Bran, and his new mate Anna.

Anna and Charles have only been mated, and married, for a month, and they haven't known each other much longer than that. They're still trying to get to know each other, adjust to shaving their lives, and Anna is trying to get over the pain and fear that her first alpha inflicted on her for three years. But around the foreign wolves, Anna and Charles need to show unity, not weakness, so they're playing it by ear.

Anna is a rare thing among wolves, she's an Omega. And that makes her something of a trophy in the eyes of some of the foreign wolves. When Anna is attacked though, Charles realises that they may not be the only threat to her.

The most frustrating thing about this book is that the attack and murder mentioned on the blurb, doesn't happen until 3/4 through the book. So you know it's going to happen and the rest is really build up for it. Bad summery on part of the publishers would be my guess on that one. The other thing I found frustrating, was that I figured out who the killer was, pretty early on. So for me, the tension just wasn't there while Anna and Charles figured it out.

The development of Anna and Charles relationship was good though. The way they were learning about each other and didn't try to run from the other too much. although they both felt the need at times. It's good and sweet, but I didn't hang on it. For me to really get in to a relationship in a book, I really need to be able to fancy the guy, and with Charles, I just don't. So there isn't a whole lot of tension to their relationship like there could be.

Overall, a good story and well written. The different third person perspectives work really well with this series and give a great overall view of everything. But for me, it's no where near as good as the Mercy Thompson series. Still worth reading though.

Rating: 6/10

Haunted by Kelley Armstrong

"Eve Levine - half-demon, black witch and devoted mother - has been dead for three years. She has a great house, an interesting love life and can't be killed again - which comes in handy when you've made as many enemies as Eve. Yes, the afterlife isn't too bad - all she needs to do is find a way to communicate with her daughter Savannah and she'll be happy. But fate - or more exactly, the Fates - have other plans. Eve owes them a favour, and they've just called it in. An evil spirit called the Nix has escaped from hell. She feeds on chaos and death, and is very good at persuading people to kill for her. The Fates want Eve to hunt her down before she does any more damage, but the Nix is a dangerous enemy - previous hunters have been sent mad in the process. As if that's not problem enough, it turns out that the only way to stop her is with an angel's sword. And Eve's no angel..."

Haunted is the fifth book in the Women of the Otherworld series and has been out for years. I've read all the other books in the series, both before and after this one, but until recently this has sat untouched on my shelf. I didn't much like Eve when she appeared in the previous book, so I wasn't interested in reading a story entirely about her. But I'm currently leading the series to a friend of mine, and I decided I couldn't lend her Haunted without reading it myself first.

Haunted is different to the other books in the series because it takes place in more than one world. And in each world, there are different rules about what is and isn't possible in them. It gets a bit tiring having constant world changes, but I didn't really have a problem keeping the rules for each one straight, so it could have been worse.

I did really quite like this story, although it's not my favourite of Kelley's work. Eve's character grew on me a lot as I followed her struggles. Eve wants nothing more than to find a way to interact with her daughter, Savannah, to still be able to protect her, despite being dead. When the Fate's call in their favor, she hopes it could bring her a way to do just that. But Kristof Nast, Savannah's father (also deceased) would love for Eve to just accept she's dead and make a life with him on the other side, leaving Savannah behind.

Eve's task also gets her involved with the Angels. And like the Fates, they seem to have their own agenda for Eve. One thing is for sure, Eve won't play by anyone else's rules. She'll complete her favor, as promised, but she's going to do it her way, no matter what anyone else tells her.

Overall, a really good read. Elena Michaels is still by far my favourite of Kelley's characters/narrators, but Eve's got a fun, sharp tongue and her brake the rules attitude makes for an entertaining read. Also gives us a good chance to see another part of Kelley's world and other characters from a different point of view.

Rating: 7/10