Archive for December, 2012

Jayne (pronounced zha-NAY) Heller has just dropped out of college and is wondering what to do with her life.  Her uncle Eric is murdered and she is shocked to find she’s his sole heir.  She’s even more shocked to find out he’s worth billions.  Then she finds out he’s been fighting supernatural beings for years and was about to assassinate the leader of a cabal of wizards, the Invisible College, that harness demon spirits for their own ends of power and domination.

Even after a hit squad tries to kill her, Jayne is sceptical magic and evil demons exist.  Then she encounters a possessed dog and becomes a believer.  She decides to honour her uncle’s memory by continuing his fight against the Invisible College and their leader, Randolph Coin.  Jayne has a team at her back made up of friends of Eric’s – Aubrey, a scientific researcher of parasites who has a relationship with Jayne; Miridin, a horrific looking man under a 200 year old curse by Randall Coin; Chogyi Jake, a Buddhist with zen-ish ways and mystical abilities; and Ex, a former Jesuit priest who may have a thing for Jayne (I haven’t figured it out yet).

This book was interesting and had a new take on the supernatural theme.  There was a lot of action, some mystery, and a great cast of supporting characters.  M.L.N. Hanover uses a lot of foul language though. It fits the characters well, but you may not want tweens to read it.  I really enjoyed Unclean Spirits and would recommend it to others who like urban fantasy.  I’m looking forward to reading Darker Angels: Black Sun’s Daughter book 2.  M.L.N. Hanover is a pseudonym for Daniel Abraham – a Hugo nominated author.

Orbit

Supplied by Hatchette

Reviewed by Jan

 

A remote farm in post-WWI Germany receives abandoned children. It is run by Doktor von Westarp, a man exploring new science. Three Gypsy children are brought in one autumn day, but only two survive the first day.  Meanwhile, in London, a convalescent war veteran spots some children pillaging his garden. One shows spirit when he confronts them. Enter heroes and villains. Fast forward to the Spanish Civil War, and the Nazis are road testing their latest experimental weapon: precursors of Nazi Supermen. But one of the Nazi advisors is having doubts. Our heroes and villains re-appear.

Tregillis has set up an interesting alternate history: Nazi Supermen. To balance the equation, the British have witches. The main protagonists are a motley bunch. Ray Marsh is an action hero, but he seems a little out of place. He is assisted by one of his few friends, Will Beauclerk, and both work for John Stephenson, the war veteran from scene two. Klaus and Gretel are the orphans from scene one, modified by von Westarp to pass through matter and be precognitive respectively, though Gretel’s precognition is not always on. Technology is required to harness their talents, indeed to even manifest them.

Tregillis has written a good story and the inside of the book assures me that it is the first of a trilogy. Being an alternate history, Tregillis has felt free to play with certain aspects and actions of the early part of WWII. Some of this was a little jarring. But he was writing for dramatic effect, not truth. But all stories hang on the actions of the main characters, and some of Tregillis’s characters just didn’t seem to be right. I found it interesting that Marsh was invariably Marsh, never Ray, but Beauclerk was always Will and never Beauclerk. An important psychological difference and I felt greater connection to Will than Marsh. On the other side, Klaus and Gretel obviously have a surname, but I’m damned if I learnt it. Of all the characters, Gretel is the most interesting perhaps because she is the most enigmatic. Certainly the scenes she was in were always the most interesting.

The book ends with the cliff-hanger for book two, The Coldest War. I’m not giving anything away by saying the Red Army has captured Berlin. It promises to be an intriguing book, provided the politics isn’t clumsy.

Bitter Seeds is a good read but not necessarily to everyone’s taste. If you like Alistair MacLean and diesel punk, this may be the book for you.

Orbit

Supplied by Hachette

Reviewed by Steve

Small Shen – Kylie Chan

Posted: December 25, 2012 in paranormal, Review
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A Celestial of the Qing Empire, Gold is a child of the Jade Building Block of the World, with the true form of a stone.  He is also a mischievous troublemaker, playing jokes on others and not thinking about the consequences.  After tricking a price and princess he’s sent to serve the Tiger Lord, unable to take on human form as a punishment.  Released after 100 years service, he ends up in Hong Kong.

Jade is the Dragon princess tricked by Gold; she agrees to his release provided he not come near her unless invited. 100 years later she needs his help and asks for a favour, one that has unintended consequences.  For interfering in human matters they are sentenced by the Jade Emperor to serve in human form.  They work well together and eventually end up serving the Dark Lord.

Xuan Wu is the First Celestial General, second only to the Jade Emperor.  Known as the Dark Lord, he is immensely powerful with two True Forms – a turtle and a snake.  He is married to Michelle, a human singer.  Gold and Jade have a new task; protect Michelle from the demons that would use her to control the Dark Lord.

There’s an interesting story for the plot, with a strong cast of characters and a new twist on demonology.  I liked Michelle at first but my opinion quickly changed.  I found her to be silly, hysterical, and mean when she viewed her husband’s True Form as monstrous and gets him to promise never to change, which quickly drains his energy.  It was also stupid, as draining his energy means he can’t protect her as well as if he had his full strength.  He should have been able to change, just not around her, and why marry the poor guy if she couldn’t accept all of him – though a snake, yuck!

Jumping from the present to background from the past, the story is told partly in cartoon strips and partly in written words.  The Shen have a deep background and are part of a series, though this is a standalone story.  I didn’t like it at first then got pulled into the story.  Worth a try if you have never tried graphic novels and are looking for something different.

HarperCollins

Supplied by HarperCollins

Reviewed by Jan

This book can be split into two parts.   First is for BDB fans.  The other is advice and tips on writing that can be applied generally.

First, a short story about Z and Bella.  Squee!!!

Then questionaries the brothers have filled out and interviews with each.  JR Ward then gives an overview of each book – how she crafted it, people, places, character motivation.  Deleted scenes are included, with an explaination of why they were taken out.  JR Ward also shares her favourite bits from each book as well as all the Brothers interviewing her.

JR Ward’s site has forums – http://jrwardbdb.com/forum/index.php.  Some message board threads from the Brothers are posted here and pretty hilarious.  Some little scenes of life from the Brotherhood are also made available on the board and are in the book.

In the Writer’s section she lists her 8 writing rules – #8: listen to your rice krispies! – and gives advice to those who want to get published.  She gives advice about query letters – what to include, what to leave out – and reproduces the exact proposal she sent out for the first BDB book, Dark Lover.

This is a must read for fans.  It also has very wise advice on writing.

Piatkus

Supplied by Hatchette

Reviewed by Jan

lover at last bdb11When a vampire dies by any ‘natural’ means or are pure they move unto the Fade, but bad people end up in Dhunhd (hell).  If they commit suicide, it’s either wither away in the ‘in between’ or move into hell.   No’one was raped by a sympath, before being found and sheltered by Darius and Thor.  She gave birth to Xhex, and then committed suicide with Thor’s dagger.  She has spent the last few hundred years in the service of the Scribe Virgin, working as a servant to try to forgive her sins.  She was a bit too passive for me, letting Thor treat her horribly and being a martyr.  I was pleased he got to know Xhex though.

Thor is still devastated over the loss of his shellan, Wellsie and unborn son, murdered by a lesser.  He’s fighting lessers every night and has a death wish.  Then he learns Wellsie and the baby are trapped in the In-Between by his refusal to let them go.  They can’t get to the Fade and are disappearing, doomed not to have peace.  He has to move on and has help from No’one and Lassiter, a fallen angel.  Thor was a bit of a whiner – oh poor me, I’m broken – and needed a good kick over how he treated No’one (and the memory of Wellsie).

The Band of Bastards has a plot against the Blind King, with the intent of claiming the throne for Xcor. They have a series of secret meetings with members of the glymera, to gain support for dethroning Wrath.  Xcor is a great character, I started off not liking him, then hoping someone see below his exterior and he gets his HEA.

There are multiple storylines, and reading the previous books first is recommended, to grasp the back-story.  These are not a teenager’s vampires. The Brotherhood is rough, violent, raw, and very, very sexy.  Definitely adult only.  Finally!  Thor’s story!  The original brothers all have their HEAs now; it’s time for the secondary characters to get theirs.  Qhuinn & Blay are the next story!  But what of Layla?  She now has feelings for someone but is ……. – read the book.  In 2013 all will be clear.

Piatkus

Supplied by Hatchette

Reviewed by Jan

lover Unleashed: BDB9 review

lover unleashed bdb8Payne and Wrath were sparring at the end of the last book, Lover Mine, and she broke her back.  The Scribe Virgin allows Wrath to take Payne from the “Other Side” to the Brotherhood mansion.  Being blind, Wrath doesn’t realise she’s the twin of Vishous.  It’s only when Doc Jane examines Payne and looks into a face with the same features as her hellren, does V know he has a twin.  Payne has been cloistered on the “Other Side” for centuries, held immobile as punishment.

Payne’s back needs a surgeon with more skill than Doc Jane has, so she suggests Manny Manello.  He’s a human surgeon who had a thing for Doc Jane before she died and became a ghost, and V’s shellan.  He and Payne feel an instant connection, though they face immense objections from V, her brother, and Wrath, the king.

V and Doc Jane are a major sub-plot, with any unresolved issues coming out.  The main one being V’s need for BDSM.  Butch helps with sorting their issues out.  I had never seen the point of Doc Jane before but this book has made me really like her.  There’s a Qhuinn/Blay/Saxton sub-plot too.  Qhuinn decides to stop living his destructive man-whore life and removes his piercings, while Blay is badly hurt fighting lessers.  I always thought Qhuinn would end up with Blay but now, with Layla becoming a close friend, I’m not so sure.

The answer to who killed the Bloodletter (the twin’s cruel father) is given in the book’s opening.  The Band of Bastards is also introduced, a band of warriors who destroy lessers, and anyone else who gets in their way.  Their leader is Xcor, a son of the Bloodletter who is determined to avenge his father’s death by killing Payne.  The brothers have come over from the Old World with the intent of killing all lesser, overthrowing the king, and Xcor claiming the throne.

There are also a series of brutal deaths that have nothing to do with lesser.  Instead they’re the work of a human serial killer.  The book doesn’t have too many different storylines, though you need read the previous books in the series to quickly grasp the various story arcs.  These are not a teenager’s vampires. The Brotherhood is rough, violent, raw, and very, very sexy.  Definitely adult only.

Piatkus

Supplied by Hatchette

Reviewed by Jan

Lover Mine: BDB8 review

lover mine bdb8The 8th book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, this is John Matthew’s story. The plot started at the end of book 7, with Xhex’s kidnapping, and follows his efforts to find and rescue her, then kick the crap out of the evil lesser who took her. Of course Xhex is too cool to hang around waiting for JM, so she rescues herself before hunting down the bad guy and dispensing some violence!

There were several subplots going on beside the main story. Blay and Qhinn and Saxton – Qhinn’s lawyer cousin who appeared in book 7, Darius, Tohrment and how they are connected to Xhex, the regular meetings Payne and Wrath have on the Far Side, that are to practise fighting techniques.

One subplot I couldn’t see the point of was the paranormal investigators, Holly and Gregg. They were investigating a haunting at a Southern mansion unconnected to the brotherhood and I couldn’t see why. I skimmed most of their bits as I found Holly a bit of a twit and Gregg a selfish prick, but then the ending revealed why it was in the book.

I’m really looking forward to the next book in the series, which is apparently Payne’s story. This is a R18 series and I’d recommend you read the first 7 before this one as there are recurring characters and dramas that are continued in the story, without any back story. Very tightly written, fast paced with lots of action, and the good guys triumph! I highly recommend this for older readers.

Piatkus

Supplied by Hatchette

Reviewed by Jan

Lover Avenged: BDB7 review

lover avenged bdb7The Black Dagger Brotherhood returns! Rehvenge has his story told and we learn more about his background and how a sympath half breed was born into an aristocratic vampire family. He meets a vampire nurse, Ehlena, and has to struggle to hide is drug dealing, dirty deeds, and sympath side from her, while submitting to the blackmail of the sympath Princess, his half sister.

Xhex is given a bigger subplot, exploring her character and motivations more, and John Matthew appears often throughout the book. Tohrment snaps out of his grief daze while the Blind King learns to accept his kingship and physical limitations. The evil Lash continues to plot and make chilling alliances with other evildoers. The usual cast of suspects lurk in the background and pop up every so often.

J. R. Ward has a new viewpoint on the vampire rules and creates an exciting, new world. None of them sparkle either. This book was a lot longer than previous ones in the series, probably because there were a lot more back stories in it. I would recommend reading the rest of the series before this one, to get background, and as I could see new readers becoming confused and giving up. This has the usual BDB action, rescues, evil plotting relationships, and the Brotherhood. Sigh.

One thing I couldn’t quite understand was the logistics of how Ehlena copes with Rhev’s spine. I couldn’t visualise it.

Piatkus

Supplied by Hatchette

Reviewed by Jan

Lover Enshrined: BDB6 review

lover enshrined bdb6Phury, a warrior of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, is also the Primale – expected to have a harem of 40 Chosen Ones and repopulate the warriors.  He doesn’t want this destiny, as he’s struggling with his feelings for Bella, his brother’s mate, and Cormia, his first in the harem. He also has a serious drug addiction and a self destructive part of his mind whispering negative thoughts to him.  He’s hiding at the Brotherhood compound and is not only killing lessers, but torturing them first.

Cormia has been chosen to be the First Mate, not something she wants.  She has come to live at the compound to get to know Phury.  She comes from ‘The Other Side’ – where all dress alike, there is no colour, no emotions and they are submissive and quiet.  She gets a huge culture shock at the compound but eventually settles in.

Their story was disappointing.  Cormia came across as a gentle, soothing friend to Phury, rather than one of the strong, passionate mates of the previous books.  Phury was also disappointing.  The wizard in his mind thing was annoying and I couldn’t work out why he’d suddenly gone from smoking non addictive red smoke to spiralling down to be a hard core drug addict.  There was no resolution with Bella either. I was waiting for him to have a a-ha moment when he realized that he never really loved Bella, I wanted him to explain this to Cormia and allow her to feel secure. Instead she was left wondering if he still wanted Bella.  Also, what happened to the rest of the Brotherhood?   Why did they let Phury go downhill without attempting to save him?

The subplots in the book were awesome though.  The Omega has a long-term plan to destroy the Brotherhood that is unfolding nicely.  The Brotherhood trainees John Matthew, Qhuinn and Blaylock have a serious drama with another trainee, Lash. Their stories have major advancements with lots of surprises. Rhevenge’s and Xhex’s characters also play a big part, setting the scene for the next book.

For anyone new to the series – don’t start here! You’ll miss out on a lot of the back story. These books are NOT meant to be read stand alone. Besides the previous books have some awesome action.

Piatkus

Supplied by Hatchette

Reviewed by Jan

Lover Unbound: BDB5 review

lovVishous, a smart IT geek and scary vampire warrior is a member of the Brotherhood.  He has the gift of prophecy and a glowing hand that can torch dead lesser so they disappear from existence.  The son of the Bloodletter, V grew up in harsh warrior training camps where he endured extreme cruelty.  He now enjoys BDSM, where he is the one being punished.  He also has feelings for Butch, his formerly human roommate who is now mated (Book 4).  After a fight with Lessers, V ends up in a human hospital, where he falls instantly and unexpectedly in love with a human surgeon, Dr. Jane Whitcomb. Needing medical care but unwilling to be exposed as a vampire, he kidnaps Jane and brings her to the Brotherhood compound to care for him.

Jane is a brilliant surgeon, dedicated to helping people live.  She grew up in a very repressed household where emotion was frowned on.  She now loves expressing herself and being the best in her field.  After meeting V, she’s impressed by how hot he is, and he loves her brain.

V is destined to become the Primale, a warrior with multiple vampire wives who’s meant to ensure the survival of the species. After meeting Jane he doesn’t want the role so Phury steps in, as he’s in love with someone unattainable, his brother’s mate Bella.  The Scribe Virgin, who turns out to be V’s mother, agrees we get to see a lot of Phury, his potential primary mate, and a lot of background is set up for the next book.

A lesser shoots Jane and she dies in V’s arms.  He tries to resurrect her but is stopped by the Scribe Virgin.  She is horrified by V’s grief and trades her only joy in life (her birds) so Jane can come back.  Jane is now a ghost and V is the only one who can touch her – to everyone else she is translucent.  V then gives his mother a bird to thank her for what she did.

I never got why Jane was fine with being kidnapped by a group of vampires. If I was kidnapped by vampires, I would be freaking out, not joking and flirting with my captor, no matter how hot he was. And V has just kidnapped her, he is her patient, he is a vampire, she is supposed to be very professional, yet she gives him a HJ without even knowing his whole first name? The whole relationship between them was not believable at all, it was too rushed.

Secondary characters do play a bigger role, there’s a lot of detail about John Matthew and his friends, who finally go through transition and Zsadist continues to develop.  The ending left me feeling unsatisfied but I couldn’t wait for Phury’s book. We meet his possible mate and what we find out about her and the culture she arrives from is not to be missed. Lover Unbound is a must for Brotherhood fans but not the book to start the series with.  Definitely R 18.

Piatkus

Supplied by Hatchette

Reviewed by Jan

Lover Awakened: BDB3 review