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Thursday, September 29, 2011

'Archangel's Blade' Guild Hunter #4 by Nalini Singh

Received from the Publisher

From the BLURB:


The severed head marked by a distinctive tattoo on its cheek should have been a Guild case, but dark instincts honed over hundreds of years of life compel the vampire Dmitri to take control. There is something twisted about this death, something that whispers of centuries long past...but Dmitri's need to discover the truth is nothing to the vicious strength of his response to the hunter assigned to decipher the tattoo.

Savaged in a brutal attack that almost killed her, Honor is nowhere near ready to come face to face with the seductive vampire who is an archangel's right hand and who wears his cruelty as boldly as his lethal sensuality...the same vampire who has been her secret obsession since the day she was old enough to understand the inexplicable, violent emotions he aroused in her.

As desire turns into a dangerous compulsion that might destroy them both, it becomes clear the past will not stay buried. Something is hunting and it will not stop until it brings a blood-soaked nightmare to life once more...

Dmitri is nearly a thousand years old. In that time he has lived a life of sublime love, irrepressible heartache and vicious rage. Now, he is a vampire warrior. Working for the powerful Archangel Raphael, it is Dmitri’s job to keep his fellow vampires in line, and sometimes even the angels . . .

Honor is a guild hunter and broken woman. A few months ago she was captured and tortured by vampires as a part of an ‘invitation only’ game. When the Guild needs her on a new case, Honor has to decide if she wants to start rebuilding her life, or keep to the shadows. It doesn’t help that her contact on the case is the vampire Dmitri, the most cold-blooded and famous of all Raphael’s vampiric minions.

But there is something about Dmitri. A darkness in him that Honor is both drawn to, and saddened by. . .

‘Archangel’s Blade’ is the fourth book in Nalini Singh’s ‘Guild Hunter’ series. The first three books concentrated on the romance between guild hunter, Elena, and her Archangel lover, Raphael. But with ‘Blade’ we read the first departure from the usual characters. ‘Blade’ is the first, but not the last, book that will concentrate on some of the secondary characters from the series.

Dmitri was an intriguing character from the get-go. He had a few run-ins with Elena in the first three books, and definitely read as a dangerous man, not to be messed with. Well, in ‘Blade’ Dmitri loses none of his edge. He is still terrifying with undercurrents of crazy . . . he has a reputation for enjoying pain and pleasure with his (many) women, and amongst his own kind he has an even more lethal reputation for being Raphael’s unrepentant warrior. I was quite happy to read Dmitri’s vicious streak has been kept intact in this book – rather than watered down for purposes of romance.

And, make no mistake, Dmitri is mean. Although in ‘Blade’ he is being drawn and mesmerized by the broken but beautiful Honor, he is still an awful man with a deadly reputation he is scarily proud of. As much as he wants Honor in his bed, and although he likes pain with his pleasure, he doesn’t want her scared with him. So he pushes her. He pushes her to get over her fear and find her anger – by promising to hunt down all the vampires who violated her, and make them suffer . . . slowly.

Honor was a fantastic heroine. She is most certainly damaged. It’s in every aspect of her character – from her skittishness in vamp clubs to her quick draw with a knife when Dmitri gets too close. But we slowly read her rebuilding – a catharsis through violence. However disturbing it may be, reading Honor and Dmitri hunt down her abusers and bond over their torture, it is definitely interesting to track her slow progress back to the strong woman she obviously once was.

As frightening as Dmitri is in this book (and he is frightening – to the point where I thought he was lovely and sexy, but a little too intensely dark and violent for my tastes) – his story is also a slow unraveling of his past. Dmitri has a story about how he became a vampire, and it’s a sad one. He lost everything when his mortality was ripped away and immortality thrust upon him. Throughout the book we read bits and glimpses of Dmitri’s memories of the woman he loved . . .

“Have you never had a woman create such a chink in your armor?” One of Illium’s feathers fell toward the ground but was whipped away and over the water before it could touch the unforgiving concrete. “In all the years I’ve known you, never have you had a lover on whom you placed a true claim.”
“I will watch the roads for you, Dmitri.”
Illium was just over five hundred years old to Dmitri’s near thousand. He didn’t know anything of what had gone on before—Raphael alone knew. “No,” Dmitri said and it was a lie he told with centuries of expertise. “Weakness gets a man killed.”

I adore Nalini Singh’s ‘Guild Hunter’ series. Her twisting and tantalizing of Angel mythology is interesting in itself – but it’s characters like Dmitri and Honor who make the series truly addictive. These characters with deadly pasts who do dastardly deeds for their Archangel overlords. I love it! ‘Archangel’s Blade’ is another darkly seductive installment in this wonderful series, and although the hero was a little too bitter for my liking, I still enjoyed the story of a woman recapturing her bravery at the tip of a blade. Wonderful.

4/5


'Archangel's Blade' will be released in Australia on October 4th 2011

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: 'The Scottish Prisoner' Lord John Grey #3 by Diana Gabaldon


"Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly event, hosted by Jill @Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming release that we're eagerly anticipating.

TITLE: 'The Scottish Prisoner' Lord John Grey #3

AUTHOR: Diana Gabaldon

RELEASE DATE: October 25th 2012

BLURB:

There are only two compensations to Jamie Fraser’s life as a paroled Jacobite prisoner-of-war in the remote Lake District: he’s not cutting sugar cane in the West Indies, and he has access to William, his illegitimate (and very secret) son, otherwise known as the ninth Earl of Ellesmere. His quiet life comes suddenly apart with the appearance of Tobias Quinn, an Irishman and an erstwhile comrade from the Rising.

Some Jacobites were killed; others, like Jamie, imprisoned or transported. Others escaped. And many of them didn’t give up. Quinn still burns with passion for the Stuart Cause, and he has a Plan. A singularly dangerous plan, involving Jamie Fraser and an ancient relic of Irish kingship—the sacred cup of the Druid King.

Jamie has had enough of politics, enough of war—and more than enough of the Stuarts. He’s having none of it.


I am a HUGE Diana Gabaldon fan. I adore all things 'Outlander' but like many fans I have a love/hate relationship with Gabaldon's mega-meticulous novels. On the one hand, I love that when a new 'Outlander' book comes out, we have 500+ pages to get lost in. On the down-side ... it's a 4-5 year wait between books. I am at the point now where 'An Echo in the Bone' feels too long ago and I NEED Jamie and Claire to come back into my life.

Which is why I am thrilled for Gabaldon's third 'Lord John Grey' book, 'The Scottish Prisoner'. Mostly because, as the title suggests, Jamie Fraser will be making a major cameo in this book. And tensions between him and John are likely to rise, as Gabaldon's sneak-peeks have suggested. I know that 'Scottish Prisoner' is way out of the current 'Outlander' series timeline (sitting somewhere in 'Voyager', I think?) but I like that Jamie's relationship with his illegitimate baby son, William, will likely be a focus. I think this will actually be a real cohesion between 'Echo', since in that book William's paternity became a focus...

I would read Diana Gabaldon's shopping list, if she'd let me. So I am beyond thrilled for 'The Scottish Prisoner' - bring on more Jamie, baby!

Monday, September 26, 2011

'Angel Arias' The Night Creatures #2 by Marianne de Pierres

Received from the Publisher

From the BLURB:


Retra - now called Naif - has escaped from Ixion, the island of ever-night. She doesn't know if her friends on the island survived the battle between the Ripers and the rebels. But she does know that she must return home, behind the sealed walls of Grave, to find out why the Ripers have been seen there talking to the councillors. What links the two worlds?

First she must convince Ruzalia to help her. The fierce pirate captain saves those who face terrible fates on Ixion, but that doesn't guarantee their gratitude. Instead, she faces a revolt - and Naif is caught in the middle.

Naif will need all her courage to survive. For Lenoir, who wants to keep her safe, for her friends Suki and Rollo, if they live, for Markes, who has secrets of his own, and for the new friends she will make on this journey.

The fate of worlds depends on it.

Naif has just been saved by the renegade pirate, Ruzalia. Along with her friends, including the lovely boy named Markes, Naif has been transported from the partying capital of Ixion.

But Naif cannot forget who, and what, she left behind on the island of light and dark.

Her brother, Joel. The mysterious Ixion leader, Lenoir. Her friends, Suki and Rollo. And all those who burn bright and burn out on the island that promises eternal fun, at a high price …

‘Angel Arias’ is the second book in Marianne de Pierres’s ‘The Night Creatures’ series.

I loved the first book ‘Burn Bright’, and after salivating over the ‘Angel Arias’ cover-art (by the very talented Jaroslaw Kubicki) I was frantic to crack this second instalment open. And, unsurprisingly but wonderfully, ‘Arias’ is just as good, if not better, than ‘Burn’.

‘Burn Bright’ was all about introducing us to the interesting world of Ixion. A place for fun and revelry, where young people escape their claustrophobic lives to live forever on the island that encourages you to ‘burn bright’. Our protagonist was the young girl Naif (renamed Retra) who escaped from her strict Seal compound life to find her brother on the island … but what she ended up discovering was tried and true friendships, confusing men and creatures who live in the dark, waiting for the revellers …

The boy’s face appeared in the gloom. “Come. Show you the way.”
Neither of them moved.
The boy moved out of the shadow. His head and body were human but his arm and hand were … Night Creature.
He unfolded a tentacle to both of them. ‘Follow quick or hounds eat you.”
A warm, suckered digit wound around Naif’s wrist and pulled her towards the dark.


At the end of ‘Burn Bright’ Naif escaped the island – but had to leave her friends behind. She survived a near-death experience with help from Ixion leader, Lenoir, whose blood connection to Naif now allows him to enter into her mind via telepathy.

In ‘Angel Arias’, Naif is struggling to cope with the knowledge of who she has left behind, and what she has left them to. Knowing what dangers lurk in the dark from those Night Creatures, Naif knows she must do whatever it takes to find out the root cause of Ixion’s madness and save her friends.

‘Arias’ is not set on Ixion – instead we follow Naif and Markes to her old Seal compound home. It is here, in this sad little village, that we get some idea of why the youths would risk warden wrath and possible death to travel to Ixion. At Seal, girls are not permitted to talk. Clockworkers are revered, on-par with holy men for coordinating people’s lives. And hounds are frequently let loose on unruly teenagers. Is it any wonder that young people would risk life and limb on the promise of burning bright?

I did adore Ixion in ‘Burn Bright’, and thought it was a wonderful bit of world building from de Pierres. The party ‘levels’, churches for come-downs and travelling carriages to take people to their revelry of choice. But as much as I loved walking around Ixion, I thought our glimpse into Seal was a much-needed and very telling bit of setting switch-up in this second instalment. It’s giving us more knowledge about Naif’s past, the quality of life for most children and the adults who rule over them.

In ‘Burn Bright’ Naif’s heart was all aflutter for the boy with the beautiful voice, Markes. He was an intriguing person to capture Naif’s attention – but a fairly hollow love interest. Well, he’s fleshed out in ‘Arias’, and we’re given insight into his history with the ‘trothed’ girl he left behind to travel to Ixion. This is a heartbreaking little side-story, but a wonderful way to learn more about Markes. Still, as much as Markes piqued my interest more in ‘Arias’, it’s still Lenoir who holds the most fascination. He’s an Ixion leader facing a coup, and he risked a lot to save Naif’s life and bond her to him. Some of ‘Arias’ is told from Lenoir’s perspective – but it’s tantalizing tidbits that don’t reveal much, but kept me wanting more Lenoir! I can’t wait to read more of him in the third and final book.

Marianne de Pierres’s ‘Night Creatures’ is a wholly unique YA series – it’s paranormal, steampunk sci-fi dystopia and completely remarkable. ‘Angel Arias’ is more epic brilliance from a traditionally sci-fi author who has taken Australian YA by storm! I can’t wait to read the third and final instalment.

5/5

Saturday, September 24, 2011

'Six Impossible Things' by Fiona Wood

From the BLURB:

Fourteen year old nerd-boy Dan Cereill is not quite coping with a reversal of family fortune, moving house, new school hell, a mother with a failing wedding cake business, a just-out gay dad, and an impossible crush on Estelle, the girl next door. His life is a mess, but for now he's narrowed it down to just six impossible things...

Dan Cereill (pronounced ‘surreal’, not ‘cereal’) has undergone a rude awakening. At the same time that his mother inherited a heritage-listed house from her dead great-aunt Adelaide, she discovered that her husband was both gay and bankrupt and they would have to move into said heritage-listed abode because the bank was repossessing everything else.

And so, Dan finds himself living in a piss-smelling, run-down relic, not talking to his ‘out’ dad, about to start on the bottom rung at a new high school.

The only thing getting him through this teenage mid-life crisis is the girl next door, Estelle, a hidden doorway leading into her attic, and a list of six impossible things;

The List:
1. Kiss Estelle. I know. I haven’t met her yet. Technically. But it gets top spot regardless.
2. Get a job. We’re in a complete mess financially. It’s down to me to tide us over money-wise if my mother’s new business crashes.
3. Cheer my mother up. Better chance of business not crashing if she’s half okay.
4. It’s not like I expect to be cool or popular at the new school, but I’m going to try not to be a complete nerd/loser.
5. Should talk to my father when he calls. But how, when the only thing I want to ask is something I can’t bear to hear the answer to: How could you leave us like this?
6. The existential one. Figure out how to be good. I don’t want to end up the sort of person who up and leaves his family out of the blue.


‘Six Impossible Things’ is a stand-alone YA novel from Australian author, Fiona Wood.

I loved this book for its simplicity. On the surface there’s a lot of things happening in Dan’s life – his gay dad, bankrupt family, new school and first real crush. The book could have buckled under the weight of so many issues – but Wood handles them with a deft hand and earnest male perspective.

Dan is our narrator, and it’s lovely to get a male perspective in Aussie YA, for a change. He’s starting year nine when all his familial issues implode – he’s a sensitive soul who has spent the holidays crying under his doona and avoiding his dad’s phone calls. Perhaps to distract himself from the things he can’t change – no money, divorced parents, gay dad – he becomes a teensy bit consumed with his crush on the girl next door, Estelle.

This was a great and realistic way For Wood to explore such catastrophic issues. His mum’s coping mechanisms creep into the story, as does his avoidance of his dad’s olive branches and monetary decline. But for Dan, Estelle is centre stage in his new life.

I loved Dan. He’s a smart and sensitive young man, with a cracking wit that especially shines through when he observes the social structure of his new public school. Like his nick-naming of the transposable bracket girls (omigod).

‘Six Impossible Things’ was a wonderful Australian young adult novel exploring cutting-edge issues through a voice of lovable innocence.

5/5

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

'Finnikin of the Rock' Lumatere Chronicles #1 by Melina Marchetta

From the BLURB:

Finnikin of the Rock and his guardian, Sir Topher, have not been home to their beloved Lumatere for ten years. Not since the dark days when the royal family was murdered and the kingdom put under a terrible curse. But then Finnikin is summoned to meet Evanjalin, a young woman with an incredible claim: the heir to the throne of Lumatere, Prince Balthazar, is alive.

Evanjalin is determined to return home and she is the only one who can lead them to the heir. As they journey together, Finnikin is affected by her arrogance . . . and her hope. He begins to believe he will see his childhood friend, Prince Balthazar, again. And that their cursed people will be able to enter Lumatere and be reunited with those trapped inside. He even believes he will find his imprisoned father.

But Evanjalin is not what she seems. And the truth will test not only Finnikin's faith in her . . . but in himself.

Finnikin grew up with royalty. His childhood companions were the prince and princesses of Lumatere, their noble cousins were his partners in crime. Finnikin’s father was Captain Trevanion, head of the King’s guard and close personal friend of the royal family. Finnikin’s beloved stepmother, Lady Beatriss, was carer to Prince Balthazar and Princess Isaboe. Life in Lumatere was near perfect . . . until the five days of the unspeakable.

In those dark days the impostor king slaughtered the royal family and took Finnikin’s father and stepmother prisoner. Blood was awash in the Lumatere palace, and a blood curse placed on its inhabitants.

Finnikin’s father was deemed traitor and thrown to the dungeons, while Lady Beatriss was accused of treason and sentenced to death – along with her unborn babe.

Finnikin escaped, and for ten years he has travelled with his guardian, Sir Topher. They have trekked the stretch of Skuldenore, looking for a way to free Finnikin’s father and save Lumatere.

Ten years of searching – and now a mute novice girl called Evanjalin claims that she can walk the dreams of Lumatere captives, and prophesizes the return of Balthazar to the throne.

‘Finnikin of the Rock’ is the first book in Melina Marchetta’s fantasy series, the ‘Lumatere Chronicles’. The book was first released in 2008; to much critical acclaim which marked Marchetta’s transition from contemporary young adult literature, to the realm of epic fantasy. In anticipation of the second book in the ‘Lumatere Chronicles’ series, to be released in October and called ‘Froi of the Exiles’, I have re-read ‘Finnikin’ and revisited Skuldenore.

I grew up with Marchetta’s books – I mourned John Barton with Josie, fell in love with the St. Sebastian boys and climbed a tree with Jonah Griggs. Marchetta’s novels mark my teenage transitions and have pride of place on my keeper shelf. Ms Marchetta is one author whom I trust, completely. And so, in 2008 when ‘Finnikin’ first came out I went into the book with arms and imagination wide open. . . and I was rewarded.

True, ‘Finnikin’ was a genre departure for Marchetta, who in the past favoured the dynamics of private schools, the socio-economic microcosm of the suburbs and the landscape of tight-knit family. ‘Finnikin’ is fantasy – set in an imagined land with a ruined kingdom and epic mythology. But, this is still a Marchetta book – and despite the creation of Skuldenore and a trek for a Kingdom’s freedom, ‘Finnikin of the Rock’ is a beautiful book for having a focus on connection.

All those worried readers who didn’t want to venture so far outside of Marchetta’s genre should be reassured – ‘Finnikin’ stays true to what Marchetta is best at. At its heart, the book is about people, and the myriad of storylines woven throughout the saga are firmly tethered to the characters.

Finnikin was a boy who lost his home and his family. Now, he is a man searching for his father and his place in uncertain times. Evanjalin is a girl with a secret, drawn to Finnikin’s fierce loyalty and determination and powered by her own sense of justice. Sir Topher has become surrogate father to his friend’s son, and developed a strong bond with his pupil in the ten years that they have lived wandering. Trevanion lost everything in the days of the unspeakable – the woman he loved, the babe he never had a chance to hold and the son he couldn’t protect.

All of these characters are searching for home – another constant in Marchetta’s books – the sense of belonging and being bigger than the sum of your parts. Josie was reluctant to take her place amidst her large ‘wog’ family, held back by a family curse and secret. Francesca’s family had to rebuild itself in the wake of her mother’s downward spiral, all while being lost at sea in a school that didn’t want her. Taylor needed to understand her past, to carve a place for herself in the present. Likewise, Finnikin and his weary travellers are searching for home, literally – the home that was ripped away from them by an impostor king.

Re-reading ‘Finnikin’, I find myself bringing a new maturity to the novel. Perhaps it is because I am a slightly older reader now, or perhaps it’s a reflection of current affairs – but I couldn’t help connecting the Lumatere people’s exile to that of the ever-present ‘boat people’ debate in Australia, and the case for refugees seeking asylum on our shores.

The Lumatere people were scattered across Skuldenore in the wake of their kingdom’s fall – and as Finnikin and Evanjalin seek their countrymen and women, they see the mistreatment they have suffered for being ‘exiles’ and unwanted. They are persecuted and herded wherever they go, left to be ravaged by plague and fever, turned away from every other kingdom’s doorstep. This is certainly a subtle reflection of our times – in the wake of Australia’s ‘Pacific Solution’, and now the abysmal ‘Malaysia Solution’. Whoever says fantasy is a complete departure from reality need only look as far as Marchetta’s cunning commentary on the Lumatere people’s exile to see connecting threads to the current political climate. . .

He felt her stare but did not turn and look. Did not want those eyes reaching into him.
‘So you are destined to spend the rest of your life scouring this land? Who are you, to deserve such a curse?’ she asked.
One who has an evil lurking inside of me, he wanted to say. An evil that Seranonna of the Forest Dwellers recognised that day in the forest as he played alongside Isaboe.
Her blood will be shed for you to be king.
‘What is it you want, Finnikin?’ Evanjalin persisted.
‘I want to be left alone to do what we’ve always done,’ he said vehemently. I want to go searching for my father, he longed to shout.
‘And what is that? Wandering the empire? Collecting names of the dead? Where would you like me to leave you, Finnikin?’
In the numb peace we lived with before you came into our lives.


I am also re-reading ‘Finnikin’ in the wake of ‘The Piper’s Son’ – Marchetta’s stunning novel about Tom Mackee, a favourite St. Sebastian boy from ‘Saving Francesca’. With Tom still fresh in my mind, I saw a definite influence between Georgia and Sam’s awkward relationship, and Trevanion and Beatriss’s equally complex devotion. Both of these couples are learning to love in the wake of heartache – for Georgie it was a betrayal of the deepest order. For Beatriss and Trevanion, it is ten years of brutality and twisted fate. I loved Trevanion and Beatriss’s story even more the second time around, and I sincerely hope that they have a large re-appearance in ‘Froi of the Exiles’.

Speaking of Froi, I paid much closer attention to Evanjalin’s Sarnak thief this second time around . . .

‘His name is Froi,’ Evanjalin said.
The thief grunted.
‘It’s boy,’ Finnikin argued. ‘It’s just that his lip is split and it sounded like Froi.’
‘Everyone has a name, Finnikin. You can’t just be called boy. His name is Froi.’ The thief from Sarnak opened his mouth to speak, but Evanjalin raised a finger to silence him.


Marchetta offers us few snatches from Froi’s perspective in this first book, but what is there is powerful. Like Froi seeing Evanjalin and Finnikin’s reunion after a near-death experience, and interpreting their clear affection through his jaded eyes. Froi definitely leapt off the page in Finnikin’s book, and hinted that he was protagonist material. He is a beggar child and a thief, from a brutal background who did awful things in ‘Finnikin’ – but at one point also begged to be killed. He will be a formidable and, I think, uncomfortable narrator – and I can’t wait for his book.

‘Finnikin of the Rock’ is an incredible fantasy novel swinging between bloody violence and great romance. It is a book that showcases the best of Melina Marchetta – her preoccupation with home and connection, fitting in and finding our place in the world. But it is also a novel of dark complexity and brutality, exploring current political climates through the exile of a fantasy kingdom and their harsh treatment by those who should offer shelter. I loved revisiting Skuldenore by re-reading ‘Finnikin of the Rock’, and trekking with the Lumatere people back to their rightful home. Now I can’t wait for ‘Froi of the Exiles’, and after that ‘Quintana of Charyn’.

5/5

'Froi of the Exiles' will be released on October 3rd 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

'Beautiful Disaster' by Jamie McGuire

From the BLURB:

The new Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate percentage of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance between her and the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend America, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University’s Walking One-Night Stand.

Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby needs—and wants—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the charming college co-ed. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his charms, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’ apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match.


Abby Abernathy and her best friend, America, have left their troubles behind in Kansas. They’re enjoying their new student stint at Eastern University, and for Abby especially, she loves the anonymity of the college town.

America also loves Eastern, but that could have something to do with her wonderful boyfriend, Shepley. America starts spending more and more time with ‘Shep’, at the apartment he shares with his cousin, Travis ‘Mad Dog’ Maddox.

Abby has heard of Travis. He has a reputation. Not only is he famous for his fists – participating in illegal campus fighting rings, he also has a reputation as a ladies man. He’s a love em’ and leave em’ type, and has been with most of the Eastern female co-eds. And when Abby is introduced to Travis for the first time (after he sprays her cardigan with blood) she is unimpressed by his come-on’s. But Travis won’t give up on the one girl who doesn’t want him…

‘Beautiful Disaster’ is a contemporary romance from self-published author, Jamie McGuire

I admit; the front cover was what first intrigued me. It’s not a great cover – but it certainly makes you look closer and go, ‘huh?’ Then I became curious about the great 4.35 rating on Goodreads, and the many book bloggers who began raving about this little sleeper hit.

‘Beautiful Disaster’ is, in many ways, your typical ‘good girl falls for the bad boy’ storyline. Travis is the campus man-whore, and as Abby is friends with his cousin she is more than aware and cautious of his reputation. Still, despite giving him cold-shoulder and clear ‘not gonna happen’ warnings, Travis can’t stay away. He’s intrigued by Abby, and desperate for her friendship if nothing else. When Abby loses a bet to him, she is coaxed into living at his apartment and becoming reluctant roomie to Shepley and America too. For a little while Abby and Travis make great bedfellows – he treats her with the respect and kindness he doesn’t show to his couch-conquests, and Abby is privileged to see a different side to Travis Maddox, which is a far departure from his ‘Mad Dog’ reputation.

‘Like I would buy a beer for some chick at a bar,’ he said, shaking his head. I help up my beer, and he pulled up one side of his mouth into a half-smile. ‘You’re different.’
I clinked my bottle against his. ‘To being the only girl a guy with no standards doesn’t want to sleep with.’ I said, taking a swig.


But when another guy takes an interest in Abby, Travis’s territoriality breaks out. He can’t deny what he’s wanted from the start, and the two of them enter into a relationship that everyone knows is going to be a beautiful disaster.

I have to admit, I didn’t really know where Jamie McGuire was going with this book – and that was both a good and bad thing. In the beginning I thought this would follow a tried and true ‘good girl befriends the bad boy, falls for a goody-goody prep boy until she realizes she liked the bad stuff all along’ type of plot. But McGuire pulled the rug out from under me when she had Abby and Travis coming to their senses fairly early on in the plot, and embarking on a relationship (the first monogamous one for Travis).

Then I thought the book was going for a sinister bent … when Abby acknowledges her feelings for Travis, he gets very, very scary (at least, to me he did). He becomes über-Alpha and territorial. The kind of guy who keeps his arm draped across his girlfriend’s shoulders in a semi-headlock, just to warn other guys off. The ‘pissing on a hydrant’ of body language. Furthermore, Travis is quick to violence. He has been making easy money off prep boys betting on him in the ring – but when he and Abby start dating he unleashes that violence on any guy who so much as looks at her lustily.

It was disturbing, to say the least. But I also thought it was kind of ingenious – because for the first half of the book, McGuire does endear Travis to us. Girls like a bad boy, and Travis clearly has some residual wounds that he articulates with sex and violence. I, like Abby, was falling for him… up until the moment when they decide to start a relationship, and he goes scary-territorial. I thought surely McGuire was writing a slow creep of abuse, and I was waiting for the moment when Travis stopped accusing other guys of wanting his girlfriend, and started assuming Abby was asking for it.

Except, it doesn’t happen. McGuire pulls out a last minute plot switch-up about Abby’s dark family past and an impromptu trip to Vegas has her seeing Travis is an unflattering light. That’s what drives a wedge between them – not his hella scary hair-trigger anger or suffocating love.

A pained look shadowed his face. ‘You know why I want you? I didn’t know I was lost until you found me. I didn’t know what alone was until the first night I spent without you in my bed. You’re the one thing I’ve got right. You’re what I’ve been waiting for, Pigeon.’


I really, really liked the first half of this book. Abby and Travis were a very different ‘bad boy/good girl’ couple, and McGuire did interesting things with twisting their romantic plot. But things became a little skewed for me when Abby seemed numb to Travis’s claustrophobic affection.

I actually think there is a lot of room for a sequel to this story, and that could possibly explore those issues I found lacking in ‘Beautiful Disaster’. There’s no question that McGuire is a fantastic storyteller and interesting new voice in contemporary romance – but I wish there had been more realistic questioning of this bad boy’s behaviour, instead of glossing it over as ‘forever love’.

3.5/5

Sunday, September 18, 2011

SLiDE - Aussie TV

Dear Darling Readers,

It’s very rare that I blog about anything other than books. The exceptions to the rule are anything that captures my attention and makes me sit up and take notice. So, let me recommend my new obsession. . .

Has anyone else been watching the new Aussie YA TV show, ‘Slide’ (stylised as ‘SLiDE’?)
I honestly don’t have much love for Australian television. These days if it’s not another ‘Underbelly’ series, then it’s a sad attempt at recreating ‘Blue Heelers’ and ‘Water Rats’ (I’m looking at you, ‘Cops LAC’, ‘Rush’ and ‘City Homicide’!).

I had seen lots of posters for ‘Slide’, they were peppered throughout my tram route and I honestly didn’t know what to make of them. The actors in the posters looked really young, and the rainbow colours kind of screamed ‘tween’ to me. Still, I decided to give it a go and have a watch. . . and in doing so, I think I've found Australia’s answer to ‘Skins’.

‘Slide’ is about five unlikely friends living and running amok in Bris-Vegas (i.e: ‘Brisbane’).

There’s Scarlett (Emily Robbins) – the spoilt rich girl whose mum has hand-balled her to her hotelier father after a series of embarrassing escapades. But Brisbane hasn’t calmed the girl, and upon arrival in the city she throws a welcome party for herself and trashes her dad’s suite, but gains some friends amidst the mayhem.

Eva (Adele Perovic) is a graffiti artist who has a problem with authority. She relishes being anything but normal, but has family problems that are about to implode.

Luke (Brenton Thwaites) is the local heart-throb who has been with just about every girl in school and is rumoured to have a parole officer . . .

Tammy (Gracie Gilbert) comes from a wild family – a rocking mother and black jack father. But Tammy is the opposite, she likes lists and organization, and would never go for the obvious ‘cool’ guy – but she can’t help but be drawn to beautiful Luke.

And then there’s Ed (Ben Schumann). He’s a hopeless virgin with a girl-next-door stalker who has lusty urges at inappropriate moments.

Each episode follows the unlikely group through their various embarrassing escapades in the city by the surf. Some of their actions are plain ludicrous – like deciding to blackmail John’s from a prostitute’s phonebook. Others have a softer touch – like an impromptu trip to Luke’s house that introduces the gang to his frightening older brother.

The show is a little bit brilliant. The writing is fantastic with a keen ear for dialogue and there are enough love connections within the group to fuel much impressive angst. The show is also a wonderful Polaroid picture of what it’s like being a young Aussie. Hardly any of the storyline takes place in school – instead it’s all about the weekend, summer holidays and busting your gut at crap-paying part-time jobs. The show slowly lets family-ties creep into the character’s lives, but for the most part it’s a truthful rendition of what it is to be young and self-centred, letting home life hang on the periphery until it gets to a boiling point and can’t be ignored. Big issues like sexuality and promiscuity are explored but never preached.

It’s actually a bit of a cop-out to compare the show to the UK’s ‘Skins’. If anything, ‘Slide’ is what ‘Skins’ used to be – introverted storytelling about the quintessential youth unique to viewers in that country. In recent seasons (in my opinion) ‘Skins’ has become less about telling good, funny yarns and more emo-angst ridden rubbish trying to be high-brow vignette episodes.

I am loving ‘Slide’ and really hoping it gets picked up for a second season . . .

Saturday, September 17, 2011

'Succubus Revealed' Georgina Kincaid #6 by Richelle Mead

From the BLURB:

In Georgina Kincaid, succubus and she-demon, #1 New York Timesbestselling author Richelle Mead has created one of her most enticing characters. But with a shot at love, and maybe even redemption, is the ultimate seductress finally going soft? Like hell she is. . .

Georgina Kincaid has had an eternity to figure out the opposite sex, but sometimes they still surprise her. Take Seth Mortensen. The man has risked his soul to become Georgina's boyfriend. Still, with Lucifer for a boss, Georgina can't just hang up her killer heels and settle down to domestic bliss. In fact, she's being forced to transfer operations. . .to Las Vegas.

The City of Sin is a dream gig for a succubus, but Georgina's allies are suspicious. Why are the powers-that-be so eager to get her away from Seattle—and from Seth? Georgina is one of Hell's most valuable assets, but if there's any way out of the succubus business she plans to take it—no matter how much roadkill she leaves behind. She just hopes the casualties won't include the one man she's risking everything for. . .

Following the events of ‘Succubus Shadows’, our favourite Hellish hand-maiden has finally sorted her love life out. Her boyfriend and crime writer, Seth Mortenson, ended his engagement to another woman and burned a lot of bridges to be with Georgina . . . but theirs won’t be a perfect coupling. They’ll have to ration sex so that Georgina doesn’t completely blacken Seth’s soul, and Georgie still has to regularly go out and sleep with random men. But they’re together, and that’s all that counts.

And Seth’s family need Georgina more than ever, with Seth’s sister-in-law, Andrea, sick with cancer and a menagerie of daughters who need looking after.

Georgina couldn’t be happier – so of course, Hell has to interfere. Just as Georgina and Seth get settled down, a transfer comes through and Georgina is ordered to work in the actual city of sin, Las Vegas.

But why is Hell so ‘hell-bent’ on separating Seth and Georgina? What could be gained from the distance between them?

‘Succubus Revealed’ is the sixth and final instalment in Richelle Mead’s fantastic ‘Georgina Kincaid’ paranormal romance series.

I have been anticipating this book like crazy. Georgina has always been an emotional series to read, and Ms Mead has gone to great pains to build a complicated and damned love life for our girl Georige. Having said that, at the end of ‘Succubus Shadows’ there was a light at the end of the tunnel – Seth (finally!) dumped that nerdy ho-bag Maddie and took his Thetis back. But the book also ended on a gasping cliff-hanger when Seth called Georgina by her ages-old original name, Letha.

I must admit, the cliff-hanger wasn’t quite as cavernous as Mead usually likes . . . and for that reason (and for lack of a better metaphor) I didn’t go into ‘Succubus Revealed’ with a fear of heights. I (and many readers) had pretty much puzzled the mystery of this series a few books back – a mystery concerning reincarnation and Hell’s contradictory contracts. So I went into ‘Revealed’ already knowing what Georgina and Co. spend a good portion of the book trying to figure out. It takes a little of the gasp out of the big reveal, to say the least.

Having said that . . . I think Mead plotted this series beautifully, and there is a very romantic story arc running throughout the books. But because I already knew the cliff-hanger concerning the ‘mystery’ of Georgina and Seth’s pasts, I wanted something else from ‘Revealed’. Namely, I wanted more Seth and Georgina romance.

I still haven’t forgiven Seth’s actions in the third book, ‘Succubus Dreams’. I still have a burning hatred for Maddie. And for these reasons, I wanted ‘Revealed’ to be all about Georgina confronting past hurts and Seth earning his place in Georgina’s heart.

Unfortunately, I don’t feel like we got that in ‘Revealed’. Seth and Georgina don’t have many romantic moments, and it’s hard having to keep thinking back to the first couple of books and remind yourself that they were, once, a rather sweet couple. Frankly, there just hasn’t been much evidence of that lately. I’m still waiting for Seth to do something to out-weigh the past pain he inflicted on Georgina with Maddie.

Instead, ‘Revealed’ is Roman’s book. Roman, the Nephilim (half angel/half demon) who swept Georgina off her feet in book one, but became a murdering menace in subsequent instalments . . . only to swing back to being a viable love-interest for our favourite succubus, and eventually her room-mate. I have always been rooting for Roman, and in this book he does make you pause and wonder why Georgina doesn’t choose him. He does something so romantic and gob-smackingly sweet, I honestly wondered why she was wasting her time with Seth.

Romantic qualms aside, ‘Revealed’ is more of the funny that Mead loves to write in this series. It starts with a vampire fondue party, and culminates in a demon bowling tournament. Priceless.

The shirt was standard bowling style, short-sleeved and button-down. My name was embroidered on the front. Flipping it over, I found THE UNHOLY ROLLERS done in elaborate, flaming letters. I arched an eyebrow.
“Really?” I said. “This is what we’re going with?”


One good thing about ‘Succubus Revealed’ is that it ends wide-open. I don’t think Mead has any plans to continue the series or a spin-off series . . . but there is definite wink-wink possibility for Roman and everybody’s favourite hobo-angel Carter to return. I am totally rooting for a Roman/Carter book series. How freakin awesome would that be!?

Overall though, ‘Succubus Revealed’ wasn’t the send-off I exactly wanted for Georgina. Honestly, after all the emotional turmoil she has gone through for hundreds of years, I wanted a BIG romantic finale, and instead we got wet-rag Seth Mortenson still being his surly self. Meh. Roman and Carter stole the show for me, and a series for them would be a dream come true. But for now, I guess fans are saying goodbye to Mead’s Hellish Seattle and this wonderful series about a succubus with a heart of gold. Au revoir, Thetis!

3/5

Thursday, September 15, 2011

'Demon Possessed' Megan Chase #3 by Stacia Kane

From the BLURB:

Psychologist and psychic Megan Chase has grown remarkably comfortable hanging out with demons. The demon "family" she leads is happy, her solo practice is stabilizing, and she and her steamy demon lover, Greyson Dante, are closer than ever. But when the couple books a week at a luxury hotel to attend a meeting of demon leaders, some unanticipated problems appear.

An FBI agent with an unhealthy interest in less-than-legitimate demon business practices shows up; the demon community is urging Megan to undergo the rite that will make her a real demon; and a slightly shady minister is holding one of his wildly popular "weekend exorcisms" just down the road. And oh, yes, someone with scary magical abilities is attempting to kill her.

Then, just when it seems as if things couldn't possibly get any worse, a secret comes to light that could jeopardize Megan and Greyson's future -- if Megan manages to live that long. With things heating up, it's becoming difficult for her to keep a cool head...

Megan is feeling pressured from all sides. The demon elite want her to shake off the shackles of her humanity and jump onboard the hell bandwagon. Her boyfriend, Greyson Dante, wants her to give into her demonic side for safety reasons. And the FBI are sniffing around her involvement with some shady (admittedly, demon) characters, because it seems the Feds have labelled her as a mob-girlfriend.

And right in the middle of important demon socializing, Greyson drops a bomb that could put an end to his and Megan’s romance.

‘Demon Possessed’ is the third and final book in Stacia Kane’s urban fantasy ‘Megan Chase’ series.

‘Possessed’ opens with Megan and Greyson in a very good, romantic place . . . so you just know it’s not going to last. For the first two books of this series Megan and Greyson have had a pretty laissez faire relationship – minor hurdles and a few trust issues, but for the most part their romance has been easily smoothed over. Honestly, knowing the drama that Kane put Chess and Terrible through, I feel like I've had my heart in my throat throughout ‘Megan Chase’ awaiting a similarly disastrous romantic hurdle. Well, it sprouts up in ‘Demon Possessed’ – and it’s a doozy.

Greyson has been keeping secrets and Megan will be hurt by the truth. But it’s not enough that demon politics interfered with their romance – Kane is at her best when her characters fuck up and make mistakes, case and point – Megan in ‘Possessed’. She weaves a tangled web in this book, and it’s nice that while her and Greyson’s initial romantic conundrum is demon-related, it’s Megan’s decidedly human nature that adds fuel to the fire of their burning relationship.

“You had plenty of other chances,” she snapped. Arguing with a demon was bad; arguing with a lawyer was bad. Arguing with a demon lawyer was infuriating.

But the whole book isn’t about Greyson and Megan’s melodrama. Kane’s central mystery in this third book is decidedly Biblical – a topic that has been mostly avoided in a series about hell demons. Well, Kane still keeps religion out of it (thank-God!) but she very cleverly plays around with some old-testament mythology and makes a wonderful villain out of the psalms.

This final book was a very fulfilling ending. I feel like all that pent-up frustration and avoidance between Megan and Greyson was vented with disastrous (and sexy) consequences. Kane goes out with a Biblical bang and leaves the series on a high note. It’s been fun exploring Kane’s first fantasy foray – and cements her status as an automatic-buy author for me.

5/5

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: 'Death Magic' World of the Lupi #8 by Eileen Wilks


"Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly event, hosted by Jill @Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming release that we're eagerly anticipating.


TITLE: 'Death Magic' World of the Lupi #8

AUTHOR: Eileen Wilks

RELEASE DATE: November 1st 2011

BLURB:

DEATH MAGIC opens with Special Agent Lily Yu in Washington, D.C. with her fiancé--lupi prince Rule Turner—to testify before a Senate subcommittee about her role in the magical collapse of a mountain last month. She is not there to tell them about the strange legacy she carries from that event—or about the arcane bond between her and Rule--or what her boss in Unit Twleve of the FBI’s Magical Crimes Division is really up to. She sure won’t tell them that the lupi are at war with an Old One who wants to remake humanity in her own image.

Lily is managing the conflict between her duty as an officer of the law and the need for secrecy pretty well . . . until the rabidly anti-magic senator who chairs that committee is murdered. The line between right and wrong, always so clear to her, becomes hopelessly blurred as events catapult them all towards disaster, and prophecies of a cataclysmic end to the country she loves and serves--and to the entire race of lupi--seem well on their way to being fulfilled.

I adore Eileen Wilks's 'World of the Lupi' series. It is one of the best and most original urban fantasies out there. I can't believe we've been with Lily and Rule for eight books now ... it feels like it was only yesterday that I was foraging for books to fill the curiosity that 'Mercy Thompson', 'Sookie Stackhouse' and the like had infected me with. I stumbled across 'World of the Lupi' from word of mouth on the Amazon recommends pages, and had my curiosity heightened when many message board devotees pimped the series to me. And I'm so glad I found it.

Wilks's world has werewolves in the limelight, as tabloid fodder and political scandal. She takes the old mythology and puts a contemporary cultural and societal spin on it. Not to mention a steamy, illicit romance with an FBI agent and prince werewolf. *sigh*

I'm really looking forward to 'Death Magic' because book #7 was SPECTACULAR. 'Blood Challenge' was a real departure from the norm in the 'Lupi' series. In this book, a previously secondary character was given the narrative limelight and a new romance introduced. I loved Arjenie and Benedict - they were complete opposites with complicated pasts and plenty of baggage. But they were also terribly romantic, and Benedict became a new book boyfriend favourite.

I don't know how big an appearance Benedict and Arjenie will have in 'Death Magic', since Wilks has a short story planned for them in the Christmas supernatural anthology 'Tied With a Bow'. I do hope they at least make a cameo appearance... but even if they don't, I'd be quite happy for 'Death Magic' to be the Lily and Rule show. Are these two crazy kids gonna get married already!?!

Although, considering the HUGE end of 'Blood Challenge' that thrust Cynna and Cullen into the spotlight ... I have a feeling the 'World of the Lupi' will be expanding once again beyond Lily and Rule. I trust in Eileen Wilks completely, and will be salivating for this eighth instalment in the coming months!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

'Demon Inside' Megan Chase #2 by Stacia Kane

From the BLURB:

Hanging out with demons can be hell....

It's been three months since psychologist Megan Chase made the stunning discovery that the world is filled with demons, and once more the situation is too hot to handle. Ironically, Megan -- the only person in the world without a little personal demon sitting on her shoulder -- has become the leader of a demon "family," but now some unknown arcane power is offing her demons in a particularly unpleasant fashion. And while her demon lover Greyson Dante is still driving her wild with desire, he's also acting strangely evasive.

Then there's the truth about Megan's past -- the truth she's never known. Caught between personal problems and personal demons, Megan is having one hell of a hard time. Will the help of her Cockney guard demons and her witch friend Tera be enough so that Megan can finally resolve the past, survive the present, and face the future?

Megan is experiencing some leadership problems. She has taken over a crew of ‘personal demons’ – the little lizard-like cretins who invisibly sit on people’s shoulders and encourage them to do bad things. But since becoming their ‘queen’ she has met with open hostility – her demons are unhappy with her managerial techniques, and disgruntled by her preoccupation with humanity . . . and Megan’s kinda-boyfriend, Greyson Dante, is just as unhappy with her stubborn human streak.

Meanwhile, Megan has received some disturbing news. Her estranged father has passed away and her cold-hearted mother is ordering Megan’s appearance for the reading of the will. Turns out, daddy dearest has left Megan a nice little surprise from the after life – the deed to the mental hospital where Megan spent her formative years.

In this second installment to Stacia Kane’s ‘Megan Chase’ urban fantasy series, our female heroine learns the truth about her past, and the demon inside her.

I love Stacia Kane, and I’m thoroughly enjoying her ‘Megan Chase’ series. This second book is a wonderful delve into Megan’s character. We really get an all-encompassing examination of her childhood and home life; and it’s disturbingly Freudian. No wonder Megan went on to become a psychiatrist. This is also a nice little riff on ‘personal demons’ – both literal and mental as Megan explores the myriad of ways she has suppressed her own childhood anguish.

While ‘Demon Inside’ is a wonderful Megan exposè, it’s not such a great book for romantic development. Since their fiery coupling in ‘Personal Demons’, this second installment sees Megan and Greyson Dante co-habiting in a strangely undefined romantic liaison. Their romance is hampered by the need to keep up appearances in the ever vigil and circumspect demon world – but Megan is also careful not to put labels or boundaries on their ‘relationship’ because she gets the feeling that Greyson isn’t permanent. She is well aware of his Lothario reputation and thinks that means they are a casual fling – for all Megan knows, she is just one of many ladies on Greyson’s current dance card.

But Megan’s blasé attitude is at odds with her outward affection for Greyson, and vice versa. They do share some very steamy and intimate scenes;

She put her hand on his arm, drawing his gaze. “This is a big deal for you, isn’t it? Not just for the prestige, but for you.”
He stopped smiling when his eyes met hers. The rest of the room seemed to fade away. “It’s what I've worked for all my life.”
Even with her heels on, she had to stand on tiptoe to kiss him. Just a quick press of her lips, nothing inappropriate for the sombre occasion, but enough to send tingles all the way down her spine. It was like kissing a live wire.
“Congratulations.”


And yet, Megan remains determined to keep up the pretence of ‘easy, breezy, casual girlfriend’. Considering she’s a psychiatrist, it seemed like a very obvious oversight for Megan to deliberately avoid talking about her romantic feelings towards Greyson. I mean, I can understand her repressing childhood memories – but being stubbornly tight-lipped about her romance status was too much of an elephant in the room. Mind you, I did appreciate the fact that Megan is just human – demon inside aside, and her psychiatrist title; it was sort of nice of Kane to show that even someone who deals with everyone else’s problems can’t quite grasp her own.

But for that reason ‘Demon Inside’ felt like it had a hole in it. Greyson takes up so much of the book that the lack of romantic context for him and Megan started to feel uncomfortable. Still, I’m enjoying this helter-skelter urban fantasy and am excited to be approaching the finale. Bring it on!

4/5

Friday, September 9, 2011

'Personal Demons' Megan Chase #1 by Stacia Kane

From the BLURB:

Megan promises listeners to her new radio call-in show that she'll "slay their personal demons," and they believe her. So do the personal demons... although she doesn't know it, Megan is the only human without a demon on her shoulder! Megan and her allies - a demon lover who both protects and seduces her with devilish intensity, a witch with poor social skills, and three cockney guard demons - have to deal not only with the personal demons, but a soul-sucker, ghosts of Megan's past, and a reporter who threatens to destroy Megan's career!

Megan Chase is on a roll. She has just made her on-air radio debut as the ‘Demon Slayer’ psychiatrist – answering calls and offering help over the airwaves. Her practice is doing well and while she has no social life to speak of, she’s happy. Her radio show is sure to be a smash-hit, and not just because of Megan’s charming on-air voice – you see, Megan has the added psychiatric benefit of being a telepath. She is able to read other people’s minds, even able to pick up on images and emotions over the telephone. Her radio show is going to be a ratings-bonanza!

So it makes sense that everything should come crashing down around her.

A local reporter called Brian is writing a ‘week in the life of’ article. But Megan’s stardom is quickly doused when an anonymous note points Brian in the direction of Megan’s horrific childhood secret . . .

Then a mysterious (and sexy) man called Greyson Dante starts popping up everywhere. He’s suave and sophisticated, no doubt a lawyer, and he is hell-bent on getting to know Megan and persuading her not to accept any offers or deals that come her way. . .

But Greyson isn’t just interested in Megan for legal purposes. Greyson has much more nefarious purposes . . . like convincing Megan that her catchy ‘Demon Slayer’ radio show has attracted the wrong kinds of attention from the denizens of hell.

“Demons.”
“Excuse me?”
“Demons.” He made another right turn. They were already in her neighbourhood.
Megan thought carefully about how to phrase her next sentence. “You’re telling me you believe you’re a demon.”
“I don’t believe anything,” he said. “And I’m not one of your patients. Don’t speak to me as if I am.”
“You might want to consider getting some psychiatric help, if you think you’re a demon.”
“I don’t think I am, I know I am. And you need to know it too.”
This should be good. “Why?”
“Because a considerable number of us are after you.”

‘Personal Demons’ is the first book in Stacia Kane’s first paranormal series, ‘Megan Chase’.

Sine reading (and falling in love with) Kane’s ‘Downside’ series, it only made sense that I back-track and read her first forays into the supernatural. ‘Personal Demons’ was first published in 2008, and is a trilogy that concluded last year.

The universe of ‘Megan Chase’ is a psychedelic/supernatural one. Megan is a humble psychiatrist, becoming a rising star in the radio world. All well and normal, except that Megan is no ordinary shrink . . . she has the added benefit of being able to read her patient’s minds. Megan is of the belief that her abilities are the strangest thing in the universe . . . until Greyson Dante enters her life and informs her that demons exist, and are none too impressed with her ‘Demon Slayer’ radio gimmick.

I loved Kane’s blend of normal/paranormal. She writes a wonderfully slow-seeping of the weird and wacky . . . it’s only once Megan is informed of demon existence that she starts seeing them everywhere. Little bald reptilian-like creatures that sit perched on people’s shoulders – encouraging them to do bad, nefarious things. It puts a whole new spin on Megan’s psychiatry background, and has her questioning everyone’s motives and free will when ‘personal demons’ are whispering in their ears.

There is a larger plot working throughout the story . . . regarding an all-powerful demonic Hell reject who has taken a special interest in Megan and her abilities. I wasn’t overly impressed with this storyline, mostly because it seemed messy and convenient. On the one hand, there’s an event from Megan’s childhood which is only just impacting her now . . . and it seems to have all (randomly?) come to the fore because some PR person dreamt up the ‘Demon Slayer’ title for her radio show. If these flimsy connections were ever explained, I must have blinked and missed it . . . otherwise it seemed like sloppy connect-the-dots. But that was my only complaint about this otherwise lovely book.

Of course, being a big Chess and Terrible fan, I had high-hopes for a similarly steamy coupling in her original supernatural series. Thankfully, Kane delivers. Greyson Dante is a fire demon sent to protect Megan for (as yet) unknown reasons. He’s gorgeous and tempting, with protruding black scales and a smile to die for. He and Megan steam up the page and banter like crazy. A lot of their tension-filled lust comes from Megan being uneasy about Greyson’s demon-status. Megan (like readers) knows only of the traditional, Biblical demons – the religious villains of Hellish stories. Kane plays around with traditional demon-mythology, bending the rules and making Megan question her black and white ideas of ‘good’ and ‘evil’.

Kane also continues her tradition of complicated love affairs – Greyson and Megan will no doubt be put through the ringer in the next two books, for a variety of fiery reasons. I can’t wait to read the lust, the tension and the sizzling sex scenes!

I read ‘Personal Demons’ with a conscious effort to not expect a series that was as brilliant as ‘Downside’ . . . but honestly, I should have known to have more faith in Stacia Kane. Her original supernatural series is fun and flirty; putting the outlandish in the everyday and writing a hellishly sexy couple in Megan Chase and Greyson Dante. I can’t wait to finish this series and cement Kane as an automatic-buy author for me.

4/5

Thursday, September 8, 2011

'Elemental Reality' by Cesya MaRae Cuono

Received from the Publisher

From the BLURB:


When Callie Pierce was ten, her mother disappeared without a trace. On the eve of her disappearance twelve years later, the earth seemingly comes alive. The elements speak to Callie, and that's only the beginning. Everything she has ever known was a twisted fabrication to protect her. Now the truth is set free. Callie and her sister are more powerful than any Faerie ever born. Now they have to use their powers to save their mother and family from the evil hands of fate that threaten to tear them apart. Welcome to her elemental reality.

Callista ‘Callie’ Pierce hates birthdays. They are the day when she remembers her mother’s vanishing and the growing strangeness within her . . . but her 22nd birthday is shaping up to be better than the one’s before. Her best friends and blissfully happy couple, Ady and Emery, have thrown her a surprise party, complete with a night of dancing where Callie meets the dangerously sexy Cayden, and admires from afar her lovely Australian next-door-neighbour Oliver ‘Oli’.

But these two men in Callie’s life prove to be the harbingers of change. As Callie falls for Oli’s laid-back charm, she starts to notice those changes within herself grow and alter into something strange and other, something Fae. Along with her sister, Lola, Callie will learn more about her mother’s disappearance and where she sits caught in the middle of two worlds.

‘Elemental Reality’ is the debut YA novel from Cesya MaRae Cuono, and the first in a new paranormal romance series.

Not surprisingly, the cover art of ‘Elemental Reality’ was what hooked me. It’s stunningly unique and drool-worthy – eye-catching and hinting at fabulous supernatural shenanigans within. And the cover art does not lie.

‘Elemental Reality’ is a book about Fae or ‘fairies’ (faeries). It’s YA, but leaning towards the older end of the spectrum for 17+ readers with a protagonist whose 22. I loved that the book was oriented towards older-YA readers, a group who are often forgotten when books frequently have protagonists who can’t drink or drive and for whom sex is taboo. I loved this different age-range, because straight away the book is unique. There’s no ‘meeting in biology’ clichés or stealing lust-filled glances in the hallways. Phew! Cuono and Revolution Publishing seem very readership-savvy and understanding that as much as young adult is about ‘reading up’, it’s also a genre that older readers still enjoy coming back to.

The Fae storyline is very well done. It’s not a revolutionary subject (Melissa Marr, Maggie Stiefvater, Aprilynne Pike having charted this fictional territory) but I appreciated that Cuono didn’t get bogged down in Gaelic mythology or strict legendary Gothicism. She really put the fun into the fairy subject as Callie and Lola discover the joy of their powers and take their change in stride.

Something that did grate throughout the book was the poorly written Australian love interest, Oliver ‘Oli’. As an Aussie, I started out mildly amused by Oli’s clichéd speech and Paul Hogan-esque appeal. But it did get to the point where he was so far off the mark it became a little annoying. Take the exchange below, for example.

“Would you like to come in for some tea?” The words tumbled out of my mouth before I could stop them.
“It’s very nice to meet you too,” he said, looking like some Aussie God. “It’s a little too early for a cuppa tea isn’t it?”
“What?” I asked, confused. “It’s never too early for tea.”
“Oh.” He chuckled. “Sorry, I keep forgetting I’m not home anymore. When someone invites you over for tea in Australia it means supper. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to these Yank customs.”

He’s invited inside for some tea thinking that Callie means ‘supper’ – yet he clarifies by calling it a ‘cuppa’ tea? ‘Cuppa’ means ‘cup of’ – so he’s assuming that Callie means “come inside for a cup of supper”. Um, huh? Never mind that I, as an Aussie, would never use the word ‘supper’ (what is this, the 1800s?) I would call it ‘dinner’ – and we call tea tea over here, plus if it was eleven o’clock in the morning why would he think this crazy American girl is offering him a really early-bird dinner instead of the hot leaf-based beverage his countrymen also refer to as ‘tea’? I know, a flippant little exchange – but those trip-ups were so far off the mark that it did give me pause and took me out of the story while I sat there trying to interpret this pigeon-Aussie-English. Not to mention it had me thinking Oli was a complete moron. He also used the word ‘sheila’ (only a backwoods sheep shearer or thoroughbred bogan would use this word . . . not a young Australian male) and called Callie ‘mate’ at every opportunity (Urgh. You never want a guy to call you ‘mate’, it means he doesn’t like you as anything other than a ‘mate’). And he said ‘Ace’ a lot . . . a lot! I think he was written purely for his Aussie appeal (I get it, people love the Aussie accent, and our guys are pretty smoking!) but his characterisation was that of an Aussie parody – written by someone who has never spoken to a living, breathing person from the land down under. Mind you, all of the above could be explained as Oli being Tasmanian . . . enough said.

Okay, so the love interest didn’t really gel for me – but it’s a testament to Cuono’s dramatic storytelling that even when the very important ‘romance’ element of this paranormal romance didn’t work for me, I still came away from this book with a smile on my face.

Cuono writes high drama for her protagonists’ with a joyful supernatural bent. There are twists and turns through the plot, as Callie learns of the price she must pay for being different. I loved that this was a book for older young adult readers, who are often an after-thought in a genre that is only just starting to realize it has a varying readership!

3/5