Review: Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs

Review: Cry Wolf by Patricia BriggsCry Wolf by Patricia Briggs
Series: Alpha & Omega #1
Published by Orbit
Pages: 320
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Hunting Ground

Anna never knew werewolves existed until the night she survived a violent attack…and became one herself. After three years at the bottom of the pack, she'd learned to keep her head down and never, ever trust dominant males. But Anna is that rarest kind of werewolf: an Omega. And one of the most powerful werewolves in the country will recognize her value as a pack member—and as his mate.

Thoughts: In case you haven’t heard, Patricia Briggs is a brilliant author. I tend to forget her whenever I list my favourite authors, but I really really shouldn’t. Every one of her books is a joy to read, and Cry Wolf is no exception. If you’ve never read her work… get to it!

So, Cry Wolf. First off, you should know that Anna and Charles’ story begins with another tale: Alpha and Omega. It’s a novella published in the On the Prowl anthology (I gave it a glowing review here), and it is well worth reading before you start Cry Wolf. That said, you can jump straight into the novel without reading the prequel – that’s actually what I started off doing before I remembered Alpha and Omega. But I found that reading about Anna’s back story and how she met Charles really did enhance Cry Wolf, so… it’s up to you.

There was a lot of sadness in Cry Wolf. Maybe I am a sucker for sad stories, but my heart leapt for so many of the characters in this book: Bran and Sam, in particular. Bran – the alpha of alphas – was one of my favourite characters in the Mercy Series. Getting to see things from his POV was a real thrill. And finding out his origin story? The most beautifully depressing thing I have ever read. And Sam… oh, Sam. I loved seeing him through the eyes of all new characters – he’s still as charismatic as ever, but boy is that boy ever filled with angst.There was a beautiful romantic tension between Anna and Charles – who are busy coming to terms with their new-but-intense relationship. It’s a rather unique relationship; their wolves are in love, but their human counterparts are struggling to accept the bond. Instant-bonds are one of my favourite tropes, but they can very quickly turn ridiculous. Cry Wolf manages to deal with the theme seriously – it’s brilliant.

Writing this review has made me want to reread Cry Wolf. Seriously, there is a reason everyone and their mother loves Patricia Briggs. Go forth and read!

Bottom line? Cry Wolf is a stunning novel. It has atmosphere, heartbreak, monsters, and a lovely romance. In short, it has everything I could possibly want from a novel.

Review: Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris

Review: Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine HarrisDead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris
Series: Sookie Stackhouse #5
Published by Ace/Roc, Gollancz
Pages: 295
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Dead Until Dark

Sookie's got just a month, before the next full moon, to find out who wants her brother dead - and to stop the fiend! Sookie Stackhouse enjoys her life, mostly. She's a great cocktail waitress in a fun bar; she has a love life, albeit a bit complicated, and most people have come to terms with her telepathy. The problem is, Sookie wants a quiet life - but things just seem to happen to her and her friends. Now her brother Jason's eyes are starting to change: he's about to turn into a were-panther for the first time.

She can deal with that, but her normal sisterly concern turns to cold fear when a sniper sets his deadly sights on the local changeling population. She afraid not just because Jason's at risk, but because his new were-brethren suspect Jason may be the shooter. Sookie has until the next full moon to find out who's behind the attacks - unless the killer decides to find her first.

Thoughts: I am an ex-True Blood fan. While I am grateful for the series as it got me to pick up the Sookie Stackhouse series, I don’t watch it any more. It is brash and crass and just a bit too crazy – qualities that are fantastic in the short term, but painful after 4 long years.

But the Sookie books are nothing like True Blood – a fact that always comes to me as a shocking realisation whenever I pick up a new Sookie book. Dead as a Doornail is just like its predecessors: sweet, comforting and very Southern. If these books were food, they’d be a series of Red Velvet cupcakes… providing serious southern comfort while looking like blood.

Yup. Sookie Stackhouse novels = literary equivalent of Red Velvet.

So, of course, Dead as a Doornail was a pleasure to read. I curled up with it and was happy reading about both Sookie’s car troubles and her weird paranormal problems. It was a sweet, escapist read – and I will certainly be reading more books in the series. But did it keep me on my toes? Nope. Did it have me dying to read the next page? Nope. Did I feel any of the emotional ups-and-downs of reading a good book? Not once.

Why is that? Well, Dead as a Doornail is a bog-standard mystery with vampires and werewolves thrown in. Problem was that this particular mystery had no bite to it. By the time of the big reveal, my sole reaction was “huh”. Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Alongside the mystery was Sookie’s ludicrous love life. She has FIVE men chasing after her in Dead as a Doornail – three of whom she kisses in this short book. Oh, and as if those five weren’t enough, Love Interest #6 makes his debut at the end of the novel. Seriously? I mean, if I were taking these books seriously (thank God I’m not) I would be quite pissed off by this flip-flopping.

Bottom line? This is an enjoyable series, but Dead as a Doornail is far from brilliant. If you don’t take the plot too seriously, you’ll probably enjoy it.

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini TaylorDaughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Published by Hodder & Stoughton, Little Brown Books for Young Readers on September 29th 2011
Pages: 448
Genres: Paranormal YA, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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There once was a young artist called Karou who drew tales of monsters and demons that delighted and enthralled those around her. But she has a secret, a secret that ties her to a dusty subterranean chamber, where her beloved guardian brokers dark deals in a place that is not here. A place that is Elsewhere. Living with one foot in each world, Karou has never really known which one is her true home.

Now the doors to Elsewhere closing . . .

Thoughts: I was expecting great things from Laini Taylor, and I got them. I got them in spades. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is probably the most unique paranormal Young Adult novel I’ve ever read. Absolutely everything took me by surprise: the characters, the universe and – amazingly – even the romance.

US cover

Daughter of Smoke and Bone starts off in Prague, narrated by multi-lingual, blue-haired, and tattooed Karou. In between trips to gothic cafes and studying at an art school, she tries to keep up a secret life in a magical world. And before you start imagining Diagon Alley, let me clarify. Karou’s other world is filled with body parts and bizarre creatures, it is rough around the edges and dark in the centre… dark but not evil, per-say.

While there are plenty of more detailed reviews out there, you really should not know more than that. Because past the introduction? Everything goes haywire. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a book about angels and demons, but it is also not about angels and demons. It is about forbidden love, but it is about so much more than forbidden love. It is a book that takes every stereotype you’ve ever loathed and turns them into something magical and utterly unique. I was stunned by how Laini Taylor could make me accept things that – only ten pages before – I would have thought utterly implausible or unjustifiable. It turns out, all I needed was a stellar author guiding me!

The only thing that keeps me from giving this a full five stars – and there really is only one thing, this novel is almost perfection in writing – is the central romantic relationship. While I loved both characters individually, I wasn’t completely sold on them together. I think I just need some more time to become enamoured with the two of them together… something the next novel should accomplish!

One final note: Brimstone. Brimstone, Brimstone, Brimstone. He was the one and only character that made me tear up in this book, and just thinking about him gives me a lump in my throat. Apparently I have a thing for tender-hearted father figures who show little-to-no emotion – and if you do too, you’ll love him just as much as I did. ♥

Bottom line? Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a book about wishes and monsters, hope and betrayal, love lost and love found, teeth and smoke. Read it.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is out today in the UK. Go get a copy!

Review: Heat Stroke by Rachel Caine

Review: Heat Stroke by Rachel CaineHeat Stroke by Rachel Caine
Series: Weather Warden #2
Published by Ace/Roc, Allison & Busby
Pages: 335
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Ill Wind

Review is spoiler-free - the summary is not!

Accused of murder, Weather Warden Joanne Baldwin was chased across the country—and killed—by a team charged with hunting down rogue Wardens. Five days later, Joanne had a lovely funeral and was posthumously cleared of all charges. Her human life was over, but she had been reborn in Djinnhood. Now, until she masters her enhanced powers, Joanne must try to avoid being "claimed" by a human. But when a hazard that only a Djinn could sense infiltrates Earth's atmosphere, Joanne must somehow convince someone to do something about it—or the forecast will be deadly. So who said being all-powerful was going to be easy?

Thoughts: When I started Heat Stroke, it had been over a year since I read Ill Wind, the first book in Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden series. And while I had geniunely enjoyed Ill Wind, and I could remember as much, I couldn’t remember anything that had happened in it. I vaguely recalled the ending, I remembered the main character had a thing for fast cars, and… that was it.

So, needless to say, this book started off a bit rough. There were a lot of characters dealing with the emotional fall-out of the last book – and that really meant nothing at all to me. But soon enough, Caine ramped up the action and I no longer had to worry about what I didn’t remember. There were are new problems to worry about!

Heat Stroke reminded me of what I adored about the first 6 books of the Morganville Vampire Series: the out-of-nowhere twists and turns. Rachel Caine is not an author to stick with the status quo. She’ll set you up in one direction and then – BAM – she’ll move you into another. Heat Stroke was filled with twists and turns – all of them utterly realistic.

UK Cover

And now that I write that, I realise that that is exactly it. I’ve read 10+ Caine books and now I’ve finally worked out why she is such a joy to read! It’s not just that she puts in great twists into her books, it’s that the twists feel completely natural. A lot of excellent fantasy novelists put in mind-blowing twists into their books (Rachel Vincent and Richelle Mead, I’m looking at the two of you), but they always feel like twists. Your reaction to them will always be “Wow, I can’t believe that author did that!”. But with Caine, you don’t even feel it. She creates characters and universes so complete within themselves that they can drive the show all on their own. It’s fantastic.

I can officially say that Heat Stroke took me from just being a Rachel Caine fan to being a Weather Warden fan. Apparently, Rachel Caine can write a main character in love with more than one leading man without turning the novel into a migraine inducing disaster. She can writes 3D villains who you can both pity and wish dead. She’s also one of the few authors I’ve read who “abuses” her male characters just as much as her female ones. In short, she’s fab – there is a reason she has so many fans!

Bottom line? Read the Weather Warden series! It is extremely enjoyable, highly realistic, kick-ass urban fantasy filled with fast cars and physics.

Review: Pride by Rachel Vincent

Review: Pride by Rachel VincentPride by Rachel Vincent
Series: Shifters #3
Published by MIRA
Pages: 432
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Stray, Rogue

I'm on trial for my life. Falsely accused of infecting my human ex-boyfriend—and killing him to cover up the crime. Infecting a human is one of three capital offenses recognized by the Pride—along with murder and disclosure of our existence to a human.

I'm two for three. A goner.

Now we've discovered a rogue stray terrorizing the mountainside, hunting a wild teenage tabbycat. It's up to us to find and stop him before a human discovers us. With my lover Marc's help, I think I can protect the vulnerable girl from both the ambitious rogue and the scheming of the territorial council.

If I survive my own trial…

Thoughts: I am SO friggin’ glad I stuck with this series! Because Faythe? The character who I have consistently used as the poster girl for “everything I hate in a narrator”?  The character whose name I’d use as a synonym for “OMG she needs to die”?

Well, I kinda like her now.

People have been telling me for years (literally – I realised I started this series back in 2009) that Faythe gets better and grows up with every book. And they’re right – she does grow up. She’s not yet at the point where I actually would spend more than a half-a-minute with her, but she’s getting there. Because all the things I hated about her – her rudeness, her temper, her impulsiveness, her insistence that it is her-way-or-the-highway – they are becoming the things I love about her. Why? Because Kaci – the tabbycat in the summary – needs these qualities in Faythe in order to keep her protected.  Turns out Faythe can be totally awesome while she’s protecting someone…

Moving on.  The plot is as tight as always. Even though there is a tonne of werecat-political intrigue, there is also a whole bunch of action. All the bloods-and-guts scenes that I felt were missing from Rogue are back in full force. Not to mention Vincent gives us not-one-but-two excellent villains to hate. It’s fantastic…

And then there’s the wonderful-as-always Marc. He’s such a cat in some ways – violent and temperamental – but he’s also so bloody noble that I just want to squeeze him to death.  Love this guy! Ooh, I also adored Elias Keller, the were-bear introduced within the first few chapters. I was intrigued to find out the verse had more were-species, and that Keller turned out be a welcome voice of reason among the pride of kitties made me even happier.

Bottom line?  Pride made me a believer in this series. If you gave up on Faythe during Stray, well, you should stick it out. She may be frustrating, but the series is well worth the effort.

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