Review: The Scent of Shadows by Vicki Pettersson

Review: The Scent of Shadows by Vicki PetterssonThe Scent of Shadows by Vicki Pettersson
Series: Sign of the Zodiac #1
Published by Harper Collins on 2009-10-13
Pages: 464
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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When she was sixteen, Joanna Archer was brutally assaulted and left to die in the Nevada desert.By rights, she should be dead.Now a photographer by day, she prowls a different Las Vegas after sunset—a grim, secret Sin City where Light battles Shadow—seeking answers to whom or what she really is . . . and revenge for the horrors she was forced to endure.But the nightmare is just beginning—for the demons are hunting Joanna, and the powerful shadows want her for their own . . .

Rec for people who love: tortured heroines, completely unique universes, and a fair bit of blood and guts in their books!

Thoughts: I first saw this book at a second hand store over a year ago, and left it there because I couldn’t quite make out where it fell in the genre. No vampires, no witches, no werewolves. What exactly were these Shadow things supposed to be, anyhow? So I put it back, despite Kelley Armstrong’s quote claiming it would keep me up past my bed time.

A year later, same second-hand store, and they still hadn’t sold it. Marked down to 50p, I figured I could afford to give it a shot. And let’s just say, I wish I had picked it up when I first found it.

Pettersson throws us straight into the action – leaving us to work out the universe as Joanna does. It is a complicated one too, as we have zero frame of reference to go on. Put simply, this series is about a war between two superhero factions: the forces of Light and Shadow. Their battles are depicted in comic form after the fact, then sold to humans as fiction.

Had I understood this before starting, I likely wouldn’t have continued. While I appreciate the whole superhero thing, it just wouldn’t have enticed me enough to read it. But boy, would I have been wrong. Vicki Pettersson is a brutal writer. The blood, the sex, the cruelty just seeps out of the novel, unabashed and unashamed – much like Vegas itself. The setting is more than ideal for the horror of the novel, in fact, it might not have worked set anywhere else.

Joanna is a tortured heroine – for a change – and is damaged beyond belief. It makes her both tough and endearing, an odd combination to say the least. Considering the horror Pettersson subjects her to, you will be as surprised as I am that she does not spend the entire book in tears.

The action is brilliantly described, the writing nearly flawless, and the universe-building is gratifyingly natural. Joanna’s troupe is made up of very complex, unique characters – each with a story of their own. It’s a refined book, if one can say such a thing about horror, and a definite must – especially for those of you hoping to try something a bit new.

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Review: Full Moon Rising by Keri Arthur

Review: Full Moon Rising by Keri ArthurFull Moon Rising by Keri Arthur
Series: Riley Jenson #1
Published by Piatkus
Pages: 320
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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A rare hybrid of vampire and werewolf, Riley Jenson and her twin brother, Rhoan, work for Melbourne's Directorate of Other Races, an organization created to police the supernatural races-and protect humans from their depredations. While Rhoan is an exalted guardian, a.k.a. assassin, Riley is merely an office worker-until her brother goes missing on one of his missions. The timing couldn't be worse. More werewolf than vampire, Riley is vulnerable to the moon heat, the weeklong period before the full moon, when her need to mate becomes all-consuming.…

Luckily Riley has two willing partners to satisfy her every need. But she will have to control her urges if she's going to find her brother…

Rec for people who love: Universe building as an excuse for idiotic sex.

Thoughts: Riley Jenson gets a fairly decent introduction, where she saves a bunch of humans from vampires despite the fact that she is utterly terrified. Physically strong, but emotionally normal. Identifiable. Believable.

And then the entire book goes to hell.

Instead of focusing on the fact that her twin is missing for the first half of the novel, Riley puts on a brave face and gets on with the day-to-day. Huh? Why isn’t she curled up in a ball sobbing? Why isn’t she taking off the heads of people getting in her way to find him? Why isn’t this taking up her every waking moment?

Because she is horny – that’s why.

The moon is calling to her, so she must have sex right now, and I mean rightnowmusthaveGRR. In Arthurs’s world, all werewolves spend a week a month having non-stop sex with anyone until they meet their one-true-love. Uh-huh. Sure. How very practical.

But whatever. So she is sleeping around while searching for “the most important person in her life” – I can get over that. My issue is with the, er, three (?) times Riley was forced to have sex because she was drugged/kidnapped/on a mission. Apparently, this is only slightly unacceptable in Riley’s deluded mind. Why? Because with the insane plot device that is the “moon heat” she would have been unable to say no anyways. So really, it isn’t too big a deal.

And when it’s all over, is she overcome by her desire for revenge? Nope. When she is betrayed, physically and emotionally, by people she trusted for years – does she feel the need to visit a shrink and let all her emotions pour out? Of course not – that would be completely against her lack-of-character.

Honestly. Despite 300-odd pages in her POV, I don’t know Riley. One minute she is all touchy-feely “oh gosh, I hate to kill”; the next she is eagerly dressing up as a prostitute while psychically forcing two guys to rape each other (and no I don’t care if they deserved it). What was going on in that fictional brain of hers, who knows. Although I imagine if I had, this review would have been significantly more explicit.

*sighs*

That being said, the writing itself was decent enough, and what Arthur lacked in character consistency she made up for in the snappy dialogue. Nevertheless, you couldn’t pay me to read the next book in the series.

Bottom line? No. No. NO.

Review: Stray by Rachel Vincent

Review: Stray by Rachel VincentStray by Rachel Vincent
Series: Shifters #1
Published by MIRA
Pages: 624
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Rogue, Pride

The difference between the movies and reality? In real life, I was the monster.

Faythe Sanders looks like an ordinary student, but she’s hiding a dark secret: she is a werecat, a powerful supernatural predator. Yet headstrong, independent Faythe resents her power, heading to college to escape her family and her overprotective ex, Marc.

That is until a stray – a dangerous werecat without a pride or territory – catches her scent. With two werecat girls already missing, Faythe is summoned home for her own protection.

But Faythe will do whatever it takes to find her kidnapped kin. She has claws – and she’s not afraid to use them.

Rec for people who love: Cats, kick-ass females, and cats (loving cats is kinda key for this book).

First Line: The moment the door opened I knew an ass–kicking was inevitable.

Thoughts: Let me start out by saying that I did enjoy this book. Quite a bit by the end. But I am still pretty conflicted about the main character, Faythe. The book opened with her being as a rebellious werecat, pretty flighty and, erm, completely irrational. The only thing that made me feel better was the fact that she realized how juvenile she often sounded – but was just unable to hold herself back.

Also, her relationship with Marc, the overprotective ex in the summary, was bizarre. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Marc. He is exactly the type of traumatized-but-noble hero that I fall in love with. But she just kept flip flopping between being furious with him (for no particular reason) and being completely understanding. It drove me slightly mad.

Her behavior towards her family – her father in particular – was also irrational. Especially considering how much danger she knew she was in. While I understood that she felt like she was trapped by her family – and she was, literally at times – she also understood their motivation. To me, if you understand the motivation and even agree with it, shouldn’t you approve?

Well, I continued reading the book despite this rather intense dislike. I felt they really couldn’t do anything to make me dislike her any more, so the only way forward was up.

Let’s just say I was right. Without giving away too much of the plot, Faythe grows up quite a bit by the end of the 600 page novel. It’s a natural development that keeps her tough-as-nails personality intact – which even I appreciated. By the end of the book, I actually liked Faythe – so if you dislike her while reading, I would recommend you stick it out.

On a different note, this was a pretty violent book. Death, rape, kidnapping, torture – the whole shebang. I expected it to be since, hello, werecats? But I know that some people will be pretty disturbed by a lot of the themes. Some of which – women in cages, raped and brutalized – will probably resonate more with female readers. Vincent does an amazing job describing violence without loosing the reader – to either the fear or to the plain old “but I thought he had a broken arm” confusion. I could really visualize what Faythe goes through from the sound of breaking bones, to the smell of blood. Let’s just say the excruciating pain seeped naturally out of the pages. But unlike some horror authors, the trauma was bearable and won’t turn your stomach.

At least, hopefully it won’t.

I will be getting to the next books in her series. Although I might wait a month or so. There is only so much werecat I can take.

I really am more of a dog person.

Review: Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Review: Dead Until Dark by Charlaine HarrisDead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
Series: Sookie Stackhouse #1
Published by Ace/Roc, Gollancz
Pages: 292
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Dead as a Doornail

Sookie Stackhouse is a cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana, but she keeps to herself and doesn't date much because of her "disability" to read minds. When she meets Bill, Sookie can't hear a word he's thinking. He's the type of guy she's waited for all of her life, but he has a disability, too--he's a vampire with a bad reputation. When one of Sookie's coworkers is killed, she fears she's next.

 I’d been waiting for the vampire for years when he walked into the bar.

Thoughts:  I really enjoyed this book. What got me out to the bookstore was seeing the True Blood pilot. I would highly recommend watching it when the season airs and as it totally added to the experience. I bought it mostly out of love for Bill – who reminds me of Edward from the Twilight series despite being nothing like him at all.

Anyhow, this book was so much fun. It was such an amazing look on the whole vampire/human romance because they are all “out of the coffin”. Usually it’s all one big secret, but in this case everyone and their mother knows what Sookie is up to with Bill.

Another thing that I really appreciated was Sookie being just that little bit special and it not being such a good thing. Charlaine Harris deals very well with the fact that a young girl hearing voices in her head is not exactly healthy. Reminds me of the J.K. Rowling quote, Hearing voices no one else can hear isn’t a good sign, even in the wizarding world.

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