Review: Red-Headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells

Review: Red-Headed Stepchild by Jaye WellsRed-Headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells
Series: Sabina Kane #1
Published by Orbit
Pages: 304
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: The Mage in Black, Green-Eyed Demon, Silver-Tongued Devil

In a world where being of mixed blood is a major liability, Sabina doesn't really fit in. And being an assassin - the only profession fit for an outcast - doesn't help matters. But she's never brought her work home. Until now.
Her latest mission is uncomfortably complex and threatens the fragile peace between vampire and mage races. As Sabina scrambles to figure out which side she's on, she uncovers a tangled political web, some nasty facts about her family, and some unexpected new talents. Any of these things could be worryingly life changing, but together they could be fatal...

Sabina Kane: She's down, but she's not out.

Thoughts: I LOVED this book! This is my first five star read this year, and to come from an author I knew nothing about, well, it is a pleasant surprise!

Where to start? Well, RHSC is really pure, action-packed, no-frills urban fantasy. But it is just plain funny! Even though this was a tough book, it was also really hysterical. Jaye Wells has a great sense of humour and here is one scene that I just have to share:

“Why haven’t you exploded yet?” The demon was closer now, only a few feet away. I opened one eye to look at the arrow. Blood bloomed from the site of impact, just over my left breast.

“I—I don’t know.” Holding myself up became difficult as the seconds passed.

“Hmm. I wonder if I should stake you just to be sure.”

“I’d really prefer it if you didn’t,” I said. “I’m sure I’ll ignite any second.”

The book only gets funnier from there. Jaye Wells manages to fit in humour in the most unlikely of places – a lot of it coming from her astounding secondary characters. I was head-over-heels with the demon!cat Giguhl and the mysterious!hot!mage Adam.

The universe is a super complicated one and even though we are tossed straight into the action, it is still an easy verse to get a handle on. She somehow manages to incorporate humour, world-building, appropriate sexual tension, and politics into her faeries, mages, vampires and demons.  Wells says she is inspired by Kim Harrison, and while I can see that in her work, I have to say that I much prefer her work over what I have read from Harrison so far.

As for Sabina, well… it took a while for me to warm up to her. She is cold as ice at the beginning of the book, and I wondered if I could like a character who seemed – at least to start with – to be utterly devoid of a concience! But it meant that watching her open up – even a little bit – to new people with different ideas became very satisfying. Although I am still not in love with Sabina,  I understand her. I see masses of potential in her and can’t wait for the next book!

Review: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Review: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas AdamsThe Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Series: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy #1
Genres: Science Fiction
Source: Purchased myself
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It’s an ordinary Thursday lunchtime for Arthur Dent until his house gets demolished. The Earth follows shortly afterwards to make way for a new hyperspace bypass and his best friend has just announced that he’s an alien. At this moment, they’re hurtling through space with nothing but their towels and an innocuous-looking book inscribed with the big, friendly words: DON’T PANIC.

The weekend has only just begun…

Thoughts: I had been meaning to read this book for a couple of years, but never got around to getting a copy.  So when a friend finally just gave me a copy for Christmas, I knew I had no reason to wait.

There are so many things about this book that make it a classic.  Besides the humour – which there is plenty of – the social commentary is extraordinarily insightful.  As with the case with a lot of science fiction, the universe provides a new venue for us to examine ourselves.  Adams did the same thing as most sci-fi writers – he just did it with a hell of a lot more wit.

There are so many quotes in this book that deserve a mention – and half of them you probably know without reading the book.  So I thought I would share instead a quote from the letter Adams wrote to his US editor.  It does an excellent job at demonstrating the quality of his humour, his ability to see straight through things to the truth, and also sets up the very British-ness of the book:

There are some changes in the script that simply don’t make sense.  Arthur Dent is English, the setting is England, and has been in every single manifestation of HHGG ever. […] So why suddenly “Newark” instead of “Rickmansworth”? And “Bloomingdales” instead of “Marks and Spencer”?  The fact that Rickmansworth is not within the continent United States doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist!  American audiences do not need to feel disturbed by the notion that places do exist outside the US or that people might suddenly refer to them in works of fiction.  […]  If you feel that referring to “Marks and Spencer” might seriously freak out Americans because they haven’t heard of it […] we could either put warning stickers on the cover (“The text of this book contains references to places and institutions outside the continental United States and may cause offence to people who haven’t heard of them”) or you could, I suppose, put “Harrods”, which most people will have heard of.  Or we could even take the appalling risk of just recklessly mentioning things that people won’t have heard of and see if they survive the experience.  They probably will – when people are born they haven’t heard of anything or anywhere, but seem to get through the first few years of their lives without ill-effects.

Bottom Line? HHGG is absolutely hysterical.  And like the best humour, it has a very truthful ring to it.  Also, reading it will let you in on all sorts of jokes that you have been missing all these years!

DON’T PANIC about the boring cover! The new re-release is meant to be a DIY book cover.  It is really kinda awesome, as it has a bunch of HHGG stickers to decorate the book with – and whatever you have left over you can paste where you like.  Very very cool.  (Check out the video!)

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – Don’t Panic DIY Covers from Crush Design on Vimeo.

Review: Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison

Review: Dead Witch Walking by Kim HarrisonDead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison
Series: The Hollows #1
Published by Harper Voyager
Pages: 432
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Evermore

The underground population of witches, vampires, werewolves—creatures of dreams and nightmares—has lived beside humans for centuries, hiding their powers. But after a genetically engineered virus wipes out a large part of humanity, many of the "Inderlanders" reveal themselves, changing everything.

Rachel Morgan, witch and bounty hunter with the Inderland Runner Services, is one of the best at apprehending supernatural lawbreakers throughout Cincinnati, but when it comes to following the rules, she falls desperately short. Determined to buck the system, she quits and takes off on the run with an I.S. contract on her head and is reluctantly forced to team up with Ivy, Inderland's best runner . . . and a living vampire. But this witch is way out of her league, and to clear her name, Rachel must evade shape-changing assassins, outwit a powerful businessman/crime lord, and survive a vicious underground fight-to-the-death . . . not to mention her own roommate.

Thoughts: Dead Witch Walking is ludicrously well written – excellent pace, characterization, universe building, etc. etc. Harrison is a gifted writer and created one hell of a character in Rachel Morgan. She had plot twist after plot twist – constantly revealing something new and exciting about this amazing universe.

So why haven’t I given this book a five star rating? Well, mostly because it took me so damn long to finish it. I honestly blame this book for my book blogging slump, as it took me almost 2 months to finish! That is never a good sign.

What it all boils down to are the characters. And these characters I just could not care less about. I have read some reviews that claimed Rachel was the most annoying narrator they had ever read. This is an exaggeration. Anyone who has read the Werecats series by Rachel Vincent knows that Faythe knocks all competition out of the water. However, it is unlikely that you will grow to care about Rachel in this book. I sure as hell didn’t despite my very best intentions. Had the book finished with her death, I likely would have shrugged and moved on.

Bottom line? Read it for the universe – the Hollows is an amazing place. Also, the series apparently gets a lot better by the third book. Oh, and get the UK cover! The US ones are just disturbing.

Review: Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Review: Poison Study by Maria V. SnyderPoison Study by Maria V. Snyder
Series: Study #1
Published by MIRA
Pages: 400
Genres: Fantasy YA, High Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Magic Study, Shadow Study

Murder, mayhem and magic…

Locked in a coffin-like darkness, there is nothing to distract me from my memories of killing Reyad. He deserved to die—but according to the law, so do I. Here in Ixia, the punishment for murder is death. And now I wait for the hangman's noose.But the same law that condemns me may also save me. Ixia's food taster—chosen to ensure that the Commander's food is not poisoned—has died. And by law, the next prisoner who is scheduled to be executed—me—must be offered the position.

Thoughts: This book was out-of-this-world amazing!

This was the first pure fantasy book I have read in a LONG while, and it was a great reintroduction to the genre. Heavily plot driven – featuring a lot of death, betrayal, and random attempts of murder – focussing on a heroine who could kick ass without having an ego. Brilliant secondary characters who, luckily, got a fare share of page-time from the author. Also, the love interest? Fierce. There was some serious tension, what with the whole will-he-won’t-he!kill her thing they had going on.

Overall, amazing start to the trilogy. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a good plot and a great heroine!

Review: Touch the Dark by Karen Chance

Review: Touch the Dark by Karen ChanceTouch the Dark by Karen Chance
Series: Cassandra Palmer #1
Published by Ace/Roc
Pages: 307
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Cassandra Palmer can see the future and communicate with spirits;talents that make her attractive to the dead and the undead. The ghosts of the dead aren't usually dangerous; they just like to talk; a lot. The undead are another matter.

Like any sensible girl, Cassie tries to avoid vampires. But when the bloodsucking Mafioso she escaped three years ago finds Cassie again with vengeance on his mind, she's forced to turn to the vampire Senate for protection. The undead senators won't help her for nothing, and Cassie finds herself working with one of their most powerful members, a dangerously seductive master vampire—and the price he demands may be more than Cassie is willing to pay.

Rec for people who love: old-school sexy vampires, and heroines you would actually enjoy spending time with.

First Line:  I knew I was in trouble as soon as I saw the obituary.

Thoughts: Once I got into Touch the Dark, I really enjoyed it. It has plenty of action, hot vampires and a solid plot. But it did take me a while. After an impressive showdown to start the book, we go through a lot of character introductions that, er, drag. It might not have been quite as noticeable if it hadn’t been for the fact that Chance is introducing us to people I felt I already knew. Being introduced to Cleopatra and Jack the Ripper would likely be a bit more interesting if they weren’t, you know, Cleopatra and Jack the Ripper.

Of course, Chance did make them into more than just caricatures. In fact, making Dracula’s brother one of the main characters actually ended up setting the book apart from the vamp lit that we are currently being inundated with. Unlike some authors who seem determined to turn vampires into aliens/demi-gods/sparkley dildos, Chance is not afraid to incorporate the vamp stereotype.

Moreover, Chance has a really identifiable heroine in Cassie Palmer. I honestly haven’t a single thing to complain about with her – and seeing how hard it is to write a leading-lady that reviewers don’t want to shoot, it’s a rather impressive feat. Cassie has had some seriously horrible stuff happen to her in her short life, but she is not so fixated on getting revenge/answers that she throws away all her sense of self-preservation. In fact, she is probably the least “too stupid to live” heroine I have read in a long time.

Overall, I really did enjoy Touch the Dark. It was another keep-you-up novel with lots of action and a well-crafted plot. The slight romantic element actually got rather explicit without turning Cassie into a slut, or even dominating the plot – keeping the book very firmly out of the Paranormal Romance Genre. I am definitely getting the next three books in the series.

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