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: 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: 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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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.

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