Friday, 29 January 2010

The Novice by Trudi Canavan

SPOILER WARNING! Possible spoilers for the previous book, The Magicians' Guild. Read at your own risk.

"Sonea knew the other novices in the Magicians' Guild all came from noble families and that, as a former slum-dweller, she could expect to be treated as an outsider, but she little realised the level of animosity she would face from her fellow students. The sons and daughters of the most powerful families in the realm, her classmates seem determined to see her fail - even if they have to engineer her failure themselves. Dannyl and Rothen offer Sonea what help they can, but when someone starts spreading malicious rumours about her, Akkarin, The High Lord, steps in to put a stop to it. But Sonea may soon wish she was still enduring the taunts of her peers, for in accepting the protection of the guild's high lord she may have embraced a far bleaker fate. It seems that Akkarin harbours a secret that is far darker than his magician's robes. Taken into his confidence, Sonea must keep the truth hidden. But by doing so, is she showing loyalty to the head of her guild, or making the worst mistake of her life?"

The Novice is the second book in the Black Magician trilogy. It's a little slower than the first book, with more talk than action to start, but it's still a great read. Like the first book, it's written in third person but from the perspective of several people. Sonea is struggling with her knowledge of the High Lord's activities, her studies and the other novices determination to get rid of her. Dannyl is working well away from the Guild, as an Ambassador and researching ancient magics for several people, while trying to avoid issues from his past. Lorlen is trying to cope with the knowledge he gained from Sonea and what it means for his friendship with the High Lord, but he's also busy trying to get to the bottom of ritual murders taking place in the city which seem to have roots in black magic. Rothen, Sonea's guardian, is also trying to accept what Sonea knows, whilst teaching her what he can and keeping her safe. But before long things go very wrong for everyone in one way or another and they find themselves wondering just what the truth is and how to deal with it.

While it may be slower than the first book, I didn't enjoy it any less. It's written in such a way that my interest was held and continued to grow as the book wore on. There are some good twists and turns through the book and you really feel for most of the characters, Sonea in particular, as they face their various trials. I like how the story is told from the different perspectives, without really missing anything or switching too often. All the characters who get page time for their perspectives, get it for a reason and it gives a great 3D view of life at the Guild, and away from it, and how it all works for different people.

We get to know all the characters better through the book and meet some interesting new ones too who add to it well. Sonea's character grows and develops the most through the book and it's an interesting journey to be on as she faces the hatred of the other novices (and some teachers), the threat from the High Lord, her training and meeting someone who has the potential to be more than just a friend. I really felt for Rothen as well with the situation he was stuck in, with no one to turn to. And I couldn't help but be more and more curious at High Lord Akkarin's actions and motives. A great follow up to The Magicians' Guild!

Rating: 9/10

Speak of the Devil by Jenna Black

"For a kick-ass exorcist, it’s all about staying alive . . .
Morgan Kingsley, America’s most successful exorcist, is paying the price for an exorcism gone wrong. The victim’s family is suing the daylights out of her, the Exorcism Board has suspended her, and now she’s living on a diet of ramen noodles and bad coffee. But Morgan has a few good men at her side. One is her current boyfriend, nice-guy legal-eagle Brian, who’s starting to reveal his inner bad boy. The other is Philly cop Adam White, who’s trying to help Morgan find out who sent her a little present—a severed human hand—and why someone seems determined to destroy her.
As her stalker turns more violent, leaving dead bodies in his wake, Morgan turns to the dark side of her life: a group of demons seeped in secrets, sinful eroticism, and otherworldly family feuds, including one sexy beast who shares Morgan’s body—and some X-rated fantasies. Soon Morgan must choose between her friends, her enemies, and her libido: to escape a mad demon determined to destroy her completely."
This is the fourth book in the Morgan Kingsley series. There were a few threads left open in the previous book that pick up in this one, and quickly become much bigger than first thought. Morgan is also facing some tough personal questions and decisions around her (very human) boyfriend Brian, but at the same time is finding herself more and more tempted by the demon sharing her body and the fantasies he creates for her. As Morgan's professional problems mount they collide with her personal ones making things even harder for her, and her guys, to work out where the dangers lie and how to handle them.

There is some really good character development in this book, and I like Morgan more for some of the decisions she makes. The book starts up pretty quick and doesn't really let up. Like the previous book, there is a lot going on and figuring out how it all connects is part of the fun. There is the added presence of a new female character in this book, which helps break up the, at times, oppressive testosterone of Morgan being surrounded just by (mostly very hot) men.

This is my favourite book so far in the series so far with the developments, but the ending makes it clear while somethings may be improving for Morgan, they're not going to stay that way. Things are going to get worse for her before they get better. And me, I'm looking forward to seeing what happens! Can't wait for the next book, The Devil's Playground.

Rating: 8/10

The Devil's Due by Jenna Black

"Things aren't going very well for exorcist Morgan Kingsley. She's been betrayed by her boyfriend of her dreams, her brother has been repossessed, and she's unable to escape from the hunky demon who shares her body. All Morgan wants is to curl up and avoid reality for a while. But she can't. A woman named Claudia Brewster seeks her services. During the brief time that Claudia has been on a cruise, her son, Tommy, has changed from an invective-spewing member of an anti-demon society to a happy little demon host. Claudia smells a rat - as does Morgan - but all the paperwork looks legal. That is, until Morgan begins digging up the secrets of Tommy's past and finds herself deep in another deadly conspiracy..."

This is the third book in the Morgan Kingsley book and it's a series that's growing on me more with each book. The plot of this book sees a lot more of Morgan doing her normal day job, something we haven't seen that much of to this point. But it doesn't take long for her 'regular' job to get mixed up in the problems of her hosting demon king Lugh and his brother (back in the demon realm) wanting him dead.

There was a lot going on in this book and it wasn't that easy to keep track of it all at times, and what linked in to what, but it all came clearer by the end. There were some good twists and the personal things going on between Morgan and her team were handled well and gave really good insight to their characters and why they do some of the things they do, adding to the story. Not a series that is a top favourite, but it's got good characters and a well thought out plot. A series well worth reading.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, 18 January 2010

The Devil You Know by Jenna Black

"The beautiful. The bad. The Possessed.

Some people worship them. Some people fear them. And some people—like Morgan Kingsley—go up against them toe-to-toe, flesh-to-flesh, and power against power. An exorcist by trade, Morgan is one of the few humans with an aura stronger than her possessor, even though her demon can tease her body senseless. She's also a woman who has just discovered a shocking truth: everything she once believed about her past, her identity, may have been a lie… With a family secret exploding around her and with a full-scale demon war igniting, Morgan is a key player in an unsettled world. Then a rogue, sociopathic demon enters her life with a bang. His name is The Hunter. And since she is the prey, Morgan has only one choice: to hunt The Hunter down—no matter what heartbreaking truths she uncovers on the way…"

This is the second in the Morgan Kingsley series, which started with The Devil Inside. I liked the first okay, but didn't love it. Some pretty graphic m/m, torture and BDSM scenes, none of which is to my tastes. But I liked Morgan's character and the plot was strong enough that I decided to give this book a try and I'm glad I did because I find it better than the first. There is some heavy m/m still, but less of the rest and the plot was heavier.

Morgan is facing some nasty family secrets whilst still trying to deal with being possessed by the king of demons, Lugh, a guy who can tease her senseless knowing what she desires. But before long Morgan is facing bigger problems in the form of 'The Hunter' a demon who gets off on killing and who is determined to find Lugh. His only lead being Morgan and he doesn't care who he has to use or possess to get to her.

Morgan grew on me through this book and I could really feel for her as she tried to deny the reality of her situation and why she wanted to. And as she found the strength to face ugly truths. The plot was pretty solid and moved along at a good pace. There were a couple times when I felt the sex took over a little, but when it did, it didn't last long and quickly got back on to the main plot so I could ignore it, and it was only a couple of times. Some of the plot was predictable, but the there were some good twists as well. There was a fair bit of character development for several of the characters and left some interesting things open for the next books. I'm looking forward to reading them.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Betrayals by Lili St. Crow

"Dru Anderson's not afraid of the dark. But she should be.

Poor Dru. Her parents are long gone. Her best friend Graves has been bitten by a werwulf. And she just learned that the blood flowing through her veins isn't all human. Now Dru's strange and handsome saviour, Christophe, has her hidden away at a secret Schola for djamphir and wulfen teens. Trouble is, she's the only girl in the place. The really bad news? Dru's killer instinct says that one of them wants her dead.

With all eyes on her, discovering a traitor within the Order could mean a lot more than social suicide..."

Betrayals is the second book in the Strange Angels series and picks up right where the series titled first book left off. Dru and Graves have just arrived at the Schola Christophe sent them to, and it doesn't take long for Dru to get herself in to trouble. Wulfen and djamphirs don't get along, add in super strength and fast healing with testosterone fueled teenage boys, and fights are a common occurrence. Dru isn't one to back away from a fight, but she doesn't yet have the strength or healing powers all the boys do, making it dangerous territory for her. Something she's used to.

But Dru's real problem is figuring out who to trust. Someone in the Schola clearly wants her dead, or in the hands of the most powerful vampire, Sergej. No one is willing to teach Dru, or explain things like what she is, her mothers ties to Sergej and the Order, to her. The only person Dru knows she can trust, is Graves. But he seems to busy getting in with the other wulfen teens to give her the support and help she needs. As attacks on the Schola get bigger and more dangerous for Dru, she realises she can't just stay there, waiting for the inevitable. But who can she trust to get her out alive?

I loved Strange Angels, and this book wasn't a let down in anyway! The plot is tight with plenty of twists and turns you don't see coming. Like Dru, just when you think you've got something figured out, or someone she can trust, the whole thing is twisted upside down and Dru's chances get slimmer and slimmer. I really felt for Dru as she attempted to find out about her past, what she is, the connections between the Order and her mom, as well as trying to figure out who to trust. She isn't a very open person in the first place and she's not used to relying on anyone but her dad, and he's gone now, so it's all the harder for her. I really liked her character in SA, but I really love her now. I find her very realistic with her flaws and actions.

The guys in the book, Graves and Christophe in particular, are well rounded as well. Christophe is very secretive and he's hiding a lot. He, like all djamphir's, looks down on Graves and the other wulfen as a lower class, but he's putting up with Graves for Dru's sake. I don't actually like Christophe all that much, but his character is well done and I do find him interesting. Graves on the other hand, I completely adore. His loyalty to Dru is intense and fantastic, and I love how he's adjusting to his new life. He could be furious, he could be in denial, but instead, he accepts and adjusts to make the best of the situation. He's not stupid either. He realises how bad things are and the dangers Dru's facing, adding more depth to his character. There's added tension between the two guys as they're both after Dru's heart. I know who I want it to be, but the way it's written, it could go either way!

The tension and despair builds really well through the book and left me hungry for more come the end. This series is one I think will be a favourite for a long time to come! And book three, Jealousy, can't come quick enough for me! 9/10

Stake That by Mari Mancusi

SPOILER WARNING! Possible spoilers for the previous book, Boys That Bite.

"Two sisters - as different as the sun and the rain. For one, getting into the Blood Coven is to die for, but it seems destiny has something else in mind...

Rayne McDonald had it all figured out: Get turned into a vampire, become the mate of the Blood Coven leader, and live the high life for all eternity. Too bad the head vamp took a bite out of her twin sister by mistake. Now, not only is Rayne still not a vampire, but she learns she's a slayer instead - destined to destroy vamps gone bad.

After being recruited by a secret organization, Rayne is given her first mission: infiltrate a seedy bar downtown and expose it's vampire owner, Maverick, for purposely spreading a nasty blood virus. Luckily the Blood Coven sends some help - in the form of the sexy vampire Jareth. Will vampire and slayer be able to settle their differences and work together to bring down the evil Maverick? Or will they find their own hearts at risk?"

This is the second book in the Blood Coven series, which started with Boys That Bite. BTB was narrated by Sunny, this is narrated by her twin, Rayne and told in blog and diary entries. Rayne is a goth who's desperate to be a vampire, but a twist of fate means she's actually a slayer. Rayne isn't happy about the idea of having to slay vampires, wanting to be one and all. But she (eventually) agrees to check things out. At the bar she meets (the Jude Law lookalike) Jareth and things get a even more complicated as attraction and past pain flares.

I'm really enjoying this series. It's light and fun, with a few deeper moments that stop the series from being silly. Yes things seem to work out a bit too easy at times, but it doesn't really matter. The plot isn't very complicated, but it's entertaining and makes for great lighter reading. I like the characters a lot, even if there isn't all that much to them at times. Fun shorter reads and the ending left me really looking forward to reading the next one! 7/10

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Boys That Bite by Mari Mancusi

"Two sisters - as different as the sun and the rain. For one, getting into the Blood Coven is to die for. But for the other, getting out could be lethal...

When Sunny McDonald gets dragged to Club Fang by her twin sister, Rayne, she doesn't expect to find anything besides a bunch of Goth kids playing at being vampires. But when some guy mistakes Sunny for her dark-side-loving sister and bites her on the neck, she finds out that his fangs are real - and deadly. Now, Sunny has less than a week to figure out how to reverse the bite, or else she's going to end up as one of the perpetually undead. And not only will she be a vampire, she'll also be bonded to Magnus - the bloodsucker who bit her - forever. And forever is a really long time..."

The first book in the Blood Coven series, told in first person by Sunny, sees a bad case of mistaken identity. Sunny doesn't believe in vampires, nor does she like looking like a Goth at all, but her identical twin is a Goth and convinces her to keep her company at Club Fang one night. Sunny isn't impresses but when a hot guy comes up to her and asks her if she wants to go outside for a minute, she agrees. Next thing she knows, he's munching on her neck and her sister is furious that it's not her neck. What follows next is a attempt full of errors to find a way to reverse the bite and keep Sunny human.

Okay, so this book is really a bit of fun. It's not all that serious and the characters are pretty superficial with the odd deeper moment. But it is good fun. There are a lot of Buffy references in it, and a fair bit of parody on it too, which (as a big Buffy fan) made me laugh. The references though, will no doubt date the book sooner rather than later, but for now it's good fun. If you're looking for a deeper YA read, this isn't it, but it is funny and you can't help rooting for Sunny on her quest, despite it being pretty ridiculous in places. The ending is cheesy, but sweet, rather like the rest of the book and I'm quite looking forward to getting the rest of the series. 8/10

Three Days To Dead by Kelly Meding

"She's young, deadly, and hunted - with only three days to solve her own murder...

When Evangeline Stone wakes up naked and bruised on a cold slab in the morgue - in a stranger's body, with no memory of who she is and how she got there - her troubles are only just beginning. Before that night she and the other two members of her Triad were star bounty hunters, mercilessly cleansing the city if the murderous creatures living in the shadows, from vampires to shape-shifters to trolls. Then something terrible happened that not only cost all three of them their lives but also convinced the city's other Hunters that Evy was a traitor - and she can't even remember what it was. Now she's a fugitive, piecing together her memory, trying to deal some serious justice - and discovering that she has only three days to solve her own murder before the reincarnation spell wears off. Because in three days Evy will die again - but this time there's no second chance..."

I love the ideas behind the book, but in practise it falls short. Evy says repeatedly that the other two members of her Triad were her family, and yet at the beginning of the book in particular, there is very little from Evy in the way of grief. And there is the potential for a good sub-plot with two personalities in one body, but there isn't nearly enough to make it work. The male leads in the book fall flat too and they're all pretty similar. There just isn't enough to really get your teeth in to personality wise with the characters. And though I wanted Evy to succeed, I wasn't really pushing for her, willing her on like many other protagonists.

There is also far too much going on. There are many, many different species of creature in this book, and it gets a bit tricky trying to keep all the different creatures and their alliances straight. The story jumps from one thing to another with little explanation and trying to keep all of it in order and remember it all isn't easy either. And whilst the world building was pretty good, the overall tone wasn't as dark and gritty as it could have been, leaving a slightly lighter tone than it really needed.

Knowing that there is a time constraint is one thing, but the pressure of it didn't really come across well in this. There were times when you felt Evy had all the time in the world to do whatever it was needed doing. There were a couple decent twists but nothing out of the blue, but the ending was reasonable anyway, even if a few things were left open ended.

However, despite all it's flaws, I liked this book. Yes it's not as good as it could be, but I still think it's a reasonable read and one I'll pass along to friends. Evy has some good moments, and there are points where things are explained enough and the characters show real emotion you can relate to, there's just not enough of it to truly bring the characters to life. Sometimes it doesn't hurt to read a book with a decent storyline and characters you're not going to obsess over ;) 6/10

My Soul To Save by Rachel Vincent

"The last thing Kaylee needs right now is to be skipping school, breaking her dad’s ironclad curfew and putting her boyfriend’s loyalty to the test. But starry-eyed teens are trading their souls for a flickering lifetime of fame and fortune in exchange for eternity in the Netherworld—a consequence they can’t possibly understand. Kaylee can’t let that happen, even if trying to save their souls means putting her own at risk..."

My Soul To Save is the second book in the Soul Screamers series, a young adult series about 16 year old bean sidhe (banshee), Kaylee. The first book saw her discovering what she was and some uncomfortable family secrets. This is set a couple months on from that and Kaylee's life has settled down again, though she's still getting used to having her dad around full time.

Out at a concert with her boyfriend, Nash, they witness teen pop star Eden collapse and die on stage. But something isn't right, because Kaylee doesn't scream. Eden died without her soul. But she's not the only one who's sold her soul for fame and fortune, and the next girl in line to die having sold hers, is someone Nash's brother knows well. He asks for Kaylee's help and despite her fears, she agrees. So naturally, Nash (who's also a bean sidhe) agrees to help as well. Between the three of them, they're determined to get Addison's soul back, but at what cost?

MSTSave starts slower than the previous book, MSTTake did, and it took me a while to really get in to it. The plot is good and well thought out, if not as grabbing as the previous book. Towards the end, the pace really picked up and we got to see the darker side of being a reaper. Could predict the end, but that didn't really take away from the book too much. The characters are lively, fun and engaging and the world built is vivid enough to get a good image of what it's like.

But I almost feel like there is something missing with this series, but I think that's my loving her adult series and it's extra depth, more. This is a well written and enjoyable series, but it is aimed more at teens than adults as well I feel. Which is fine, makes it great lighter reading if that's what you're after and I'll certainly be reading the rest of the series. Rachel's created characters I love here and I'm looking forward to finding out more about them! 6/10

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Best of 2009...

...and looking ahead.

Pretty sure I read more in 2009 than any year before it, and I wanted to do a bit of a review of my favourites from it for the new year. But I was reading and then I was busy with family, and then I was ill! So now it's Jan 2nd and I'm playing catch up. And with everything I've read I could write pages and pages on the best books. So I'm breaking it down to the best of the best instead. Hard work choosing some of these! ;)

Fave new books of 2009
1. Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews. One word: Amazing.
2. Prey by Rachel Vincent. Completely blew me away. Heartbreaking but awesome.
3. Blood Promise by Richelle Mead. Another heartbreaking, but fantastic read.
4. Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols. The past is so hard to let go. Very realistic characters that really got to me!
5. Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs. Some delicate subjects well handled. Plus more Adam, what more can you want? ;)
6. Frostbitten by Kelley Armstrong. Back on form with my favourite werewolf, Elena Michaels.
7. Thorn Queen by Richelle Mead. Unexpected, but brilliant.
8. Dawnbreaker by Jocelynn Drake. Mira and Danaus just get better and better!
9. Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow. Another fantastic YA series that's not just for YA's.
10. Red-headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells. Hairless, talking demon cat as sidekick for vampire/mage half-breed assassin in the middle of a war between the races. Awesome.

Some other (though not close to all of them) highlights, not all new releases: 'Bound To Shadows' by Keri Arthur, 'The Magicians' Guild' by Trudi Canavan, 'Poison Study' by Maria V. Snyder, 'My Soul To Take' by Rachel Vincent, 'Reign or Shine' by Michelle Rowan and 'On The Edge' by Ilona Andrews.

And looking ahead through 2010, there are some books I am very desperate to read, here's a top ten for the books I'm most anticipaiting this year!

1. Spirit Bound by Richelle Mead, 5th Vampire Academy, out 18th May. Fingers crossed for Dimitri!!
2. Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews, 4th Kate Daniels, out 25th May. Curran = *swoon* enough said.
3. Shift/Alpha by Rachel Vincent, 5th/6th Shifters, out 1st March/1st October. After Prey, I can't even guess what will happen!!
4. Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs, 5th Mercy Thompson, out 31st March. Mercy and Adam are amazing, can't wait to see what happens next with them!
5. Pray For Dawn/Wait For Dusk by Jocelynn Drake, 4th/5th Dark Days, out 29th June/27th July. Danaus' POV book for the first time, can't wait!! What does he really think of Mira?
6. Succubus Shadows by Richelle Mead, 5th Succubus, out 30th March. Succubus Heat wasn't my favourite, but first chapter of Shadows hold mountains of promise and is just a tease!
7. Moon Sworn by Keri Arthur, 9th Riley Jenson book, out 25th May. Final Riley book and there are a lot of loose ends to tie up!!
8. Waking The Witch by Kelley Armstrong, 11th Women of the Otherworld, out 3rd August. First book Savannah will narrate. Spunky 21 year old working mostly without supervision...wonder just how much trouble she'll get in to?!
9. The Mage In Black by Jaye Wells, 2nd Sabina Kane, out 30th March. More of the brilliant demon cat Giguhl! And the rest...
10. Jealousy by Lili St. Crow, 3rd Strange Angels, out 29th July. Haven't read the second book yet, but I'm already anxious to read this one too! lol

Okay, I'm getting annoyed just reading this list, want the books now!! *is super impaitent*

A little late but ah well, Happy New Year! Hope 2010 is better than 2009 for everyone :)