Search This Blog

Friday, April 29, 2011

'Big Bad Beast' Pride series #6 by Shelly Laurenston

From the BLURB:

When it comes to following her instincts, former Marine Dee-Ann Smith never holds back. And this deadly member of a shifter protection group will do anything to prove one of her own kind is having hybrids captured for dogfights. Trouble is, her too-cute rich-boy boss Ric Van Holtz insists on helping out. And his crazy-like-a-fox smarts and charming persistence are making it real hard for Dee to keep her heart safe...

Ric can't believe his luck. He's wanted this fiercely-independent she-wolf from day one, but he never expected teamwork as explosive as this. And now is his last chance to show Dee what she needs isn't some in-your-face Alpha male-but a wily, resourceful wolf who'll always have her back in a fight…and between the sheets.

Dee-Ann Smith is a double-dose of bad-ass. Not only is she one of the infamous Smith wolves, she’s also an ex-marine turned special supernatural forces officer. Dee-Ann specializes in kicking butt and taking names. So it’s a little unusual that Ric Van Holtz (of the snooty Val Holtz wolves, and doubly-snooty restaurant chain) would take such a fascination to her.

Truth be told, Ric fell in love with Dee-Ann a long time ago, over a Hershey bar . . . and he fully intends to make her his mate. He knows she’s tough, independent and quick with a Bowie knife ... and he loves her every which way! But before Ric can concentrate on bringing Dee-Anne around to his way of thinking, there are a few problems with slaughtered hybrids that need his attention.

Someone is killing-off hybrids, whether for amusement, sport or just plain genocide . . . it’s wrong, and it has to end. So Ric puts his best girl on the job, Dee-Ann.

‘Big Bad Beast’ is the sixth book in Shelly Laurenston’s ridiculously addictive paranormal ‘Pride’ series.

I have been jonesing for this book for MONTHS! I ravished Laurenston’s ‘Magnus Pack’ and ‘Pride’ series over the course of a few weeks . . . and I was seriously starting to miss my regular dosage of funny-sexy-shifter-romance. So I definitely went into ‘Big Bad Beast’ with high expectations . . . and came away with a smile on my face and a rabid-need for the seventh instalment in this series.

We met Dee-Ann and Ric at the beginning of the ‘Pride’ series. Dee-Ann is cousin to the numerous Smith wolves who pop up throughout the series (namely Bobby-Ray and Sissy Mae), while Ric is best friends with the grizzly Loch MacRyie. These are two established characters whose romance has been brewing for a few books now . . . ever since Ric laid eyes on the ornery she-wolf and decided he loved her. There’s always the chance that an established romance can fizzle when the couple finally get around to their time in the spotlight. But this is Shelly Laurenston we’re talking about; I don’t think this author is physically capable of writing a sub-par romance.

What makes Dee-Ann and Ric work is that they’re opposites-attracting. Dee-Ann is an Alpha through-and-through. She has scars and a dark side; she’s one tough chickie and doesn’t apologize for it. Ric, on the other hand, is a cultured food connoisseur and chef-extraordinaire. Ric is Beta to Dee-Ann’s Alpha . . . and it just works. It’s not that Ric is a ‘sissy’ or in any way unmanly, it’s that he respects and loves Dee-Ann’s strength and revels in it. Plus, Laurenston takes plenty of opportunity to poke fun at the switch-up between this doting male and his tough-as-nails female;
“Oh, come on. Can I at least sit here and watch you strut into the bathroom bare-ass naked?”
“No, you may not.” He threw his legs over the side of the bed. “However, you may look over your shoulder longingly while I, in a very manly way, walk purposely into the bathroom bare-ass naked. Because I'm not here for your entertainment, Ms. Smith.”
“It’s Miss. Nice Southern girls use Miss.”
“Then I guess that makes you a Ms.”
The ‘Pride’ series is a guaranteed chuckle-fest. There were plenty of bellyaching laughs throughout ‘Bid Bad Beast’ . . . a stand-off between Dee-Ann, Ric and a mother rat was amongst my favourites. And fans of the ‘Magnus Pack’ series should be on the lookout for an hilarious cameo appearance by Angela, who is as bitchy-brilliant as ever!
What I love about Laurenston’s funny is that it comes so effortlessly. This is a paranormal series with shifters, hybrids and were-politics. Not to mention healthy doses of hellsa-sexy erotica . . . so throwing comedy on top of all that could get messy and forced. But Laurenston is incredible at effortless repartee and easy wit. So it’s totally natural when characters start improvising and running with a joke;
Ric crumbled the cigarette in his hands until it was nothing but bits of paper and tobacco. “If we think about starting up again, we’ll call each other.”
“And chat about it like girlfriends?”
“Only after we talk about what Prada is coming out with in their latest fall shoe line.” When she only stared at him, Ric quickly added, “I'm kidding. I'm kidding. I don’t wear Prada. They make my ankles look fat.”
I love Shelly Laurenston’s ‘Pride’ series, hard-core. With ‘Big Bad Beast’ we’re now six books deep, but realistically I can see this series continuing well into the double-digits. We’re introduced to a few new characters in ‘Big Bad’, among them a down-on-his-luck Van Holtz cousin called Stein and Dee-Ann’s horny best friend, Rory Lee Reed, who has a penchant for human one-night-stands. We also get to know a few peripheral characters a little better, like the hybrid girl Hannah. I would also love it if Laurenston gave us a book about the puppy-love teenagers, Johnny and Kristan (who don’t really make an appearance in this instalment, but who I am rooting for nonetheless!). I would love books for any and all of these characters . . . and since ‘Big Bad Beast’ just whet my appetite for more of Shelly Laurenston’s sexy paranormal chuckle-fest, I have my fingers crossed that there is more in store for the ‘Pride’!


Thursday, April 28, 2011

TV obsession: 'Happy Endings' on ABC

Hello Darling Readers,

So, it’s not very often that I blog about anything other than books . . . because, hey! – book blog! But I feel like I have to pimp my new TV obsession (partly because the show is genuinely gush-worthy, but I'm also afraid it’s going to get canceled). So henceforth prepare for a total and utter TV gush-fest . . .

The show is all about what happens when a couple don’t get their happily ever after. Rather, their relationship crashes and burns in a fiery inferno of heartache and mutual disgust. Alex (Elisha Cuthbert) ditches her fiancé, Dave (Zachary Knighton) at the altar in a bout of truly heinous cold-feet bitchiness. Alex rubs further salt in the wound by going on the honeymoon by herself . . . while Dave goes on a one-night-stand slut crusade.

What follows is how Alex and Dave’s friendship group cope in the fallout of the breakup. Wanting to keep the group intact, Alex and Dave decide to put their hatred aside and just be friends. But while Alex is determined to ‘find herself’ by being by herself, Dave seems hell-bent on sleeping with anything in a skirt.

Happy Endings’ on ABC is amazing! I mean, where the heck did this show come from? It’s created by a guy called David Caspe who has no previous credits to his name. The only real ‘star’ of the show is Elisha Cuthbert (and where has she been since 24?). The writers are also relatively unknown. One of the writers is Josh Bycel, who did stints on ‘Psych’, ‘Scrubs’ and ‘American Dad!’, and another writer called Prentice Penny who worked on a bunch of shows I have never heard of before.

Despite a relative no-name cast and writers, this show kicks some serious butt. Dare I say, it’s a real contender as the new ‘Friends’? It’s full of contemporary wit and jokes that are so-wrong-they’re-right.

My favourite characters are Max and Penny – played by Adam Pally and Casey Wilson. Adam is a chubby gay guy and Penny is a gay man trapped in a 30-year-old woman’s body. DRAMAAAA!

I hardcore love this show. I love it like a fat kid loves cake, yeah!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

'Willing Victim' by Cara McKenna

From the BLURB:

For the past couple years Laurel's been coasting, hiding in the backseat while her life drifts off course. Then one summer afternoon a tall, built bruiser named Flynn strides in and steers her straight into an infatuation she never saw coming.

Flynn introduces Laurel to things she's never imagined-to the violent but exciting realm of the underground boxing circuit, to rough sex and even rougher role-playing, and to an attraction she craves even as it intimidates her. As Flynn invites her deeper into his world and his life, Laurel has to make a choice-let fear keep her holed up where it's safe, or take a chance and fight for the man who makes her feel more alive than she'd dreamed possible.

Laurel doesn’t know what to expect when she asks out the big, muscle man she bumps into on the street one day. It’s certainly not a warning that he’s not her type of guy. Or an invitation to an underground event that’s reminiscent of ‘Fight Club’. And Laurel certainly didn’t expect the level of the big man’s kink. Because Flynn likes to dominate – not just tie me up, tie me down either – Flynn likes to simulate rape and aggression on his willing bed mates.

Laurel is at once horrified, intrigued and turned on. She’s also got a burning desire to get to the heart of Flynn’s kink, and maybe make the big man fall in love with her.

I read ‘Willing Victim’ because I adored Cara McKenna’s stand-alone novel, ‘The Reluctant Nude’ (written under her pseudonym, Meg Maguire).

I went into ‘Willing Victim’ a little hesitant. Because at the beginning of the novel there is a warning that had me a wee bit spooked; Reader Advisory: Although all sex acts are 100-percent consensual, Willing Victim contains role-playing scenarios that may upset some readers who are sensitive about rape, even in a simulated capacity.’

I went into this novel suitably prepared to be disgusted and have my feminism insulted. But surprisingly (or not so surprisingly, since ‘The Reluctant Nude’ was spectacular) this novel looks at extreme-BDSM and general fetish in a very earnest and revealing way, with utter sensitivity and intelligence.

I will say that the simulated rape isn’t as in-your-face as I expected. It’s mostly to do with the fact that Flynn is aware of how strange (and potentially criminal) the whole situation could be. So he’s very explicit and open with his lovers, about what’s allowed and where to draw the line. He asks Laurel, repeatedly, to say she wants this and there is a safe-word involved. Having read EXTREME kink in the form of Kitty Thomas’s ‘Comfort Food’ – I have to say that ‘Willing Victim’ is at the tamer end of the spectrum. That’s not to say the sex scenes are boring or lacking in any way – they are incredibly sensual, and brutishly hot. I think it’s more the fact that the book is about simulated rape and simulated violence, whereas ‘Comfort Food’ was the real-deal and all the more disturbing for it (while still equally brilliant).

I think the simulation was also somewhat less grotesque for Flynn and Laurel’s genuine heat and connection. These two were great – I loved that outside of the bedroom they played with one another, laughed and joked and were quite at ease. But when the clothes came off, the heat turned up. These two genuinely clicked and that attraction came across and made the whole ‘fake-rape’ thing just another aspect of their bedroom antics. I think Laurel summed up her and Flynn’s relationship best;
You are some fucked-up kind of magical, she thought.
McKenna also stayed true to her intelligent sensuality, which I encountered in ‘The Reluctant Nude’. McKenna (/Mguire) doesn’t just write sex or kink for the sake of shock. There’s actually back-story and explanation. It makes her erotica intelligent and all the more fulfilling. I was particularly impressed when Flynn articulated what Laurel (and I) was secretly thinking;
“You think I'm some sort of sex maniac, don’t you?” he asked, defensiveness sharpening his voice.
“You think I don’t know how to date? You think the kind of sex I like is like some condition? Like a fucking dialysis machine I have to drag around behind me, making everything into a big fucking hassle?”
If I have any complaints about the book, it’s that it was too short. I feel like there could have been a real story about how Flynn and Laurel decided to ‘go steady’ – it would have been interesting to read how Flynn coped with being a boyfriend. But if my only complaint is that the book was too short, that’s pretty impressive.

Cara McKenna writes sensual and serious erotica for the thinking woman. Her characters are intelligent, complex and compelling. Her kinky situations never favour shock over story and it makes her erotica all the more fascinating and sexy.


Monday, April 25, 2011

'Bossypants' by Tina Fey

Received from the Publisher

From the BLURB:

Tina Fey is one of the world's greatest comic writers and performers. Bossypants is her first book.

Once in a generation a woman comes along who changes everything. Tina Fey is not that woman, but she met that woman once and acted weird around her.

Before 30 Rock, Mean Girls and 'Sarah Palin', Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV. She has seen both these dreams come true.

At last, Tina Fey's story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon -- from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.

Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we've all suspected: you're no one until someone calls you bossy.

I have a little confession to make . . . I have a crush on Tina Fey. I mean a serious jonesing girl-crush of epically wonderful proportions. Let’s put this into perspective, shall we? There was a good three months when I responded positively to any question by saying “I want to go to there.” I own the 30 Rock four-season boxed set but have told friends that I don’t own it on the off-chance that they ask to borrow it from me. And I actually understand Liz Lemon’s aversion to open-toed footwear.

So when I was offered the chance to review Tina Fey’s autobiography, ‘Bossypants’, I hyperventilated and squealed simultaneously in a pitch that only neighbourhood dogs could hear. To say I was excited is an understatement, akin to saying that Justin Bieber is kind of popular with the younger ladies.

‘Bossypants’ tells Fey’s life-story. From her normal upbringing to ‘old’ parents in Pennsylvania, joining a revelatory drama club in high school, working terrible hours at an Illinois YMCA to joining a Chicago improv troupe and finding her niche in life.

Fey’s early life is peppered with hilarious anecdotes of virginal naiveté (a state in which she remained for 24 impressive years) which include many awkward encounters with thin-lipped closeted gay boys. Fey is self-deprecating and sublimely sweet in her recounting of a painfully illicit-free childhood. And it’s in these memories that you can read the character of Liz Lemon fermenting.

Fey also offers great insight into her creative timeline. Beginning with a high school drama club, advancing to improvisation classes and a travelling troupe of improv performers . . . and finally culminating in a nerve-racking interview with NBC’s Lorne Michaels for a writing gig on the infamous America sketch-comedy show, ‘Saturday Night Live’ (SNL).

Now, as an Australian, I have to admit that SNL doesn’t hold the same cultural impact as it clearly does for Americans. I understand that the show has churned-out some of America’s most beloved comedic actors – Dan Akroyd, John Belushi, Bill Murray and Will Ferrell to name a very few. I know this from pop-culture references and general knowledge. I have seen a few episodes of SNL (mostly current stuff thanks to YouTube, the majority of which is not terribly hilarious most of the time. I personally don’t get the appeal of Jimmy Fallon. At all). I know of SNL as an American TV powerhouse. But I couldn’t honestly tell you that SNL has had any impact on me whatsoever beyond being able to say that it was Tina Fey's starting point.

That being said . . . I do watch and love 30 Rock. I did watch (and hate) ‘Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip’. I am fascinated by the general writing process of TV and Film. So I loved reading Tina Fey’s behind-the-door shenanigans of what went on at the real 30 Rockefeller Plaza on the real show of Saturday Night Live. I loved her talking about the 90’s boy’s club atmosphere that was quickly turned on its head by herself and Amy Poehler. Fey doesn’t write about shattering glass ceiling internal politics. She does talk about a general shift in women taking power and no longer taking male bullshit. It’s not anything Fey can pin-point, but it is something she articulates very well and with her usual verve;
That’s the kind of trouble you get when diverse groups of people actually cross paths with one another. That’s why many of the worst things in the world happen in and around Starbucks bathrooms.
I was surprised to find that I was very familiar with Tina Fey’s (arguably) most infamous ‘sketch’ as Senator Sarah Palin. I remember watching this on Australian news channels when it was reported how the 2008 US Presidential campaign was progressing. I remember YouTubing the infamous sketches and having them forwarded to me in countless e-mails. I thought it was pretty hilarious at the time, but it’s interesting to realize how much that impersonation impacted and expressed politics of the time. It’s even more grotesquely fascinating to read what happened when Tina Fey met Sarah Palin.

And of course Tina Fey has plenty to say about the origins and progression of 30 Rock. She is very, very humble – affording most of the show’s award-winning popularity to Alec Baldwin. This is common for Fey. She also breezed over her time as the first head female writer of SNL. She is almost comically humble and aw-shucks in how she reached her success. It’s refreshing, even if it’s also blatantly untrue. But, like the geeky-gorgeous character of Liz Lemon, Fey’s irreverent self-deprecation is uproarious;
There is one embarrassing secret I must reveal, something I've never admitted to anyone. Though we are grateful for the affection 30 rock has received from critics and hipsters, we were actually trying to make a hit show. We weren’t trying to make a low-rated critical darling that snarled in the face of conventionality. We were trying to make Home Improvement and we did it wrong. You know those scientists who were developing a blood-pressure medicine and they accidentally invented Viagra? We were trying to make Viagra and we ended up with blood-pressure medicine.
I was in pain reading this book. Side-splitting has a whole new meaning when you’re immersed in Fey’s kooky-cute world of thin-lipped crushes and moonlit mountain walks for the sake of some PG13 over-the-jean action. And don’t even get me started on her ‘Poseidon Adventure’ honeymoon from hell. If you love 30 Rock and quote Liz Lemon on a regular basis, then ‘Bossypants’ is pretty much required reading.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

'Red Glove' Curse Workers #2 by Holly Black

From the BLURB:

Curses and cons. Magic and the mob.

In Cassel Sharpe's world, they go together. Cassel always thought he was an ordinary guy, until he realized his memories were being manipulated by his brothers. Now he knows the truth—he’s the most powerful curse worker around. A touch of his hand can transform anything—or anyone—into something else.

That was how Lila, the girl he loved, became a white cat. Cassel was tricked into thinking he killed her, when actually he tried to save her. Now that she's human again, he should be overjoyed. Trouble is, Lila's been cursed to love him, a little gift from his emotion worker mom. And if Lila's love is as phony as Cassel's made-up memories, then he can't believe anything she says or does.

When Cassel's oldest brother is murdered, the Feds recruit Cassel to help make sense of the only clue—crime-scene images of a woman in red gloves. But the mob is after Cassel too—they know how valuable he could be to them. Cassel is going to have to stay one step ahead of both sides just to survive. But where can he turn when he can't trust anyone—least of all, himself?

Love is a curse and the con is the only answer in a game too dangerous to lose.

For a long time Cassel Sharpe was the black sheep of his family. Cassel’s brothers, parents and grand-parents were all magic workers – ‘gifted’ with the touch of luck, emotion memory and death. Each member of his family worked for the prestigious mob family, the Zacharovs. All except Cassel. As a child he was permitted to play with Zacharov’s daughter, Lila, but it was a well known fact that Cassel would amount to nothing in the eyes of his family. He was a magical dead-end, thoroughly normal, unremarkable and . . . human.

And then Lila was murdered, and everything changed.

For a long time Cassel thought he was the murderer. He thought his family were protecting him from Zacharov’s wrath . . . he didn’t realize that his family had been working him. Stealing his memories, warping his past and his emotions. But the biggest secret of all that his family kept from him was that he was a worker. The most gifted worker of all, no less. Because Cassel works transformation. He can change any object into his liking. He can alter someone’s physical appearance; turn a girl into a cat and a man into a chair. He is the perfect assassin, and his family used him as such.

Now the truth is out. Lila lives, and Cassel knows he cannot trust his brothers, Barron and Phillip. And transformation is Cassel’s coveted magic.

For a long time Cassel thought he would amount to nothing. Now he is just starting to understand how valuable he has always been. And now he has a choice to make – will he use his powers for good, or follow in his family’s footsteps?

‘Red Glove’ is the second book in Holly Black’s twistingly brilliant ‘Curseworkers’ series.

I loved the first book ‘White Cat’ – it became an instant favourite and was proudly passed around to friends and family. I had extremely high expectations going into ‘Red Glove’, and I am happy to say that Black met each and every one of them. . .

When ‘Red Glove’ begins, Cassel is living in the fall-out of his revelations. He knows that his family betrayed him for years, his brother’s worst of all. His mother worked a love curse on Lila and now the only girl he has ever cared about has false emotions for him. His friends at the prestigious Wallingford academy, Sam and Daneca, know what he is but not what he can do . . . but the biggest discovery that Cassel is trying to contend with, is accepting his own villainy.

His brother, Barron, kept Cassel blissfully ignorant of his transformation assassinations. In ‘Red Glove’ Cassel is coming to terms with the fact that for years he has been involved in mob activities. And just because he can’t remember what he has done, does not mean his hands are any less bloodied. Cassel’s conscience suffers a crippling blow in the beginning of ‘Red Glove’, when someone close to him is murdered . . . and Cassel must admit that he all but signed the death warrant.

When Cassel is approached by the FBI to act as narc against the Zacharov family, he is somewhat tempted by the idea of a morally clean slate;
“You could have a life outside of all this,” Agent Jones says. “You could be on the right side of the law. You don’t have to protect these people, Cassel.”
I am these people, I think, but his words make me fantasize for a moment about what it would be like to be a good guy, with a badge and a stainless reputation.
Holly Black is weaving one twisted tale in her ‘Curseworkers’ series. Even Tony Soprano’s head would be spinning for all the double-dealings, double-talk and betraying. I absolutely love the sunken morals of this series. It’s fascinating to read the inner-workings of mob relations and the myriad of ways that Cassel uses the bad guys against themselves. Because Cassel doesn’t want to be bad. Sure, he does bad things – like act as his school’s bookie, break girl’s hearts and con the occasional sap. But for the most part Cassel is desperate to keep his head down and his hands clean. But as that classic quote goes; “Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in.”

Cassel is lost. This series is all about reading him find his way. Cassel doesn’t have a lot of guidance on the path to redemption – his family are his biggest betrayers, the girl he loves is destined for mob royalty and even the Feds are using him for their own gains. But through all this murk, Cassel is guided by a self-imposed moral compass that will lead him true. He’s a fantastic character and a great disrepute to the old nature vs nurture debate. I love Cassel, for all his faults he is a core good guy and I can’t wait to read the ways in which he will find his way to right.

I adore Cassel, and maybe that’s why I despise the character of Lila so much. I didn’t like her in ‘White Cat’, but I half expected Cassel to realize she’s not a very nice girl and get over her. But in ‘Red Glove’ it seems Cassel is stuck in his romantic ways. He cannot see Lila for what she really is; a not very nice girl who will only drag Cassel away from his path to righteousness. She is his Lady Macbeth, and I cringe to think where she will lead him. I can’t really tell at this point where Holly Black wants to take readers with regards to Lila. Are we meant to hate her? Are we supposed to begrudgingly like her, the same as Cassel? I can’t tell, all I know is there is a car crash waiting to happen between Lila and Cassel . . .

One of the things I love most about the ‘Curseworkers’ series is how immersive it is. Holly Black has written a fantastic society and impending civil rights movement between workers and humans. In this world, workers are on the cusp of being ghettoized, named, shamed and tagged. The Government, and one zealous senator in particular, are keen to force citizens to sit physical testing which will determine if they can work magic or not. Presumably once people are ‘tagged’ as workers (not dissimilar to having to wear a Star of David on your lapel) society could go into a freefall – implementing something close to apartheid to separate the humans from the workers. Now, Black hasn’t made all these politics the main focus of Cassel’s story. The politics are always playing out in the background, and the most they impact him and his friends is via school clubs and debate teams. But I love the intricate political backdrop that makes this world all the more substantial. I love the symbolism of wearing gloves and the power behind taking them off, it’s not dissimilar to refusing to give up your seat on a bus;
Then a girl walking just ahead of us takes off her gloves. She holds up her hands. They look pale and wrinkled from being inside leather in this heat.
I blink. In my life I haven’t seen many bare female hands. It’s hard not to stare.
“Bare hands, pure heart!” the girl yells.
Beside her I see a few other people pulling off gloves with wicked smiles. One throws a pair into the sky.
My fingers itch for release. I imagine what it would be like to feel the breeze against my palms.
‘Curseworkers’ is a fantastic addition to the YA paranormal genre. Holly Black is drawing on classic mobster tales, from ‘The Godfather’ to ‘The Sopranos’. But she’s also writing a moral conundrum of Shakespearian proportions. Cassel Sharpe is in blood stepped in so far that should he wade no more returning were as tedious as going . . . and I can’t wait to read which way he goes.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

'The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide'

Received from the Publisher

From the BLURB:

At long last, the pieces come together. . .in this definitive guide to the international bestselling Twilight Saga.

This must-have edition is the definitive encyclopedic reference to the Twilight Saga and provides readers with everything they need to further explore the unforgettable world Stephenie Meyer created in TWILIGHT, NEW MOON, ECLIPSE, and BREAKING DAWN.

Featuring almost 100 colour pages, The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide includes exclusive new material, character profiles, genealogical charts, maps, extensive cross-references and much more, this comprehensive companion guide is essential for every Twilight Saga fan.

This is it. Finite. Finale. Fin. No more need ever be told about Stephenie Meyer’s epic ‘Twilight Saga’ because this guide literally has it all. The origins of the ‘Twilight’ saga, intricate back story about each and every character. Heck, there is even a car’s guide that includes pictures and descriptions of every vehicle from Bella’s rusted pick-up to Alice’s canary Porsche.
Admittedly, there is little mention of the movie adaptations. But that is another illustrated guide altogether . . .

There is no lengthy ‘intro’ from Stephenie Meyer, per say. There is, however, an in-depth conversation between Meyer and an author friend of hers called Shannon Hale. It is during this conversation that Meyer touches on everything from the dream origins of Bella’s story, to the literary influences that shaped the ‘Twilight’ saga (one of the more interesting being Jane Eyre).

The interview took place on August 29th 2008, and it’s interesting timing. Because on August 28th 2008 Stephenie Meyer posted a notice on her website that signalled the crushing defeat of Twihards everywhere. Meyer wrote that she would not be releasing the book ‘Midnight Sun’, which would have told Edward’s side of the ‘Twilight’ story. Meyers’s decision came after a substantial rough draft of ‘Midnight Sun’ was leaked on the internet and spread like wildfire. Meyers was, understandably, disheartened at her private (unfinished) work being illegally distributed, and she was also disappointed in her fans who read the leaked manuscript.

So it’s interesting that in this conversation with Shannon Hale, neither author mention the leak. Hale doesn’t even ask the most coveted question of all; “Will there ever be more ‘Twilight’ books?” Maybe the collapse of ‘Midnight Sun’ was still too raw and painful. Perhaps Meyers didn’t want to say anything that she would regret later, undoubtedly about her lax publishers and greedy fans, both of whom are responsible for denying themselves ‘Midnight Sun’. Still, it would have been interesting to get her thoughts on the matter. Especially since she hasn’t really spoken about the abandoned book since posting that notice on her website back in 2008. I would have liked to get her perspective on the double-edged sword of fandom – on the one hand her fans are, to a fault, fanatically loyal. But that fanaticism was also responsible for the violation of Meyer’s work.

I did find the conversation to be the most interesting aspect of the guide. While I would have liked Hale to ask about the ‘Midnight Sun’ manuscript breach, I was glad she at least touched on the perceived disappointment of ‘Breaking Dawn’. Basically, Hale (very carefully) asks Meyer how she felt about fan reaction to ‘Breaking Dawn’, the final chapter in the Twilight Saga. Keeping in mind there was a general fan consensus that the book, well, sucked. Bella had a vampire birthing that was reminiscent of ‘Aliens’ – in all the stomach-ripping gore. Not to mention the fact that fan favourite, Jacob Black, basically became engaged to a baby. It was awkward all round.

I always suspected that Meyer wrote the book, keeping too much in mind that it would be adapted to film. As though she was writing big in anticipation of how it would come across on screen (there have been rumours, however, that scriptwriters have had to do a drastic over-haul of the ‘Breaking Dawn’ novel to make it watchable). Meyer does confront that negativity, and explain her thinking behind ‘Breaking Dawn’ in a rather intelligent way;
There are only twenty people who are going to get it. [Laughs] I think it’s a weird expectation that if a story is told really well, everybody, therefore, will have to appreciate it. People bring so many of their own expectations to the table that a story can’t really please everyone.
I am, by no means, the biggest ‘Twilight’ fan. I've had up’s and down’s with the series – when I first read the books I was fanatical. As I read more of the paranormal/urban fantasy genre I started to read the cracks. Now I'm at the point of enjoying them for what they are – an interesting story, fairly well told, which has the biggest honour of introducing an entire generation of children to the enjoyment of reading. For what it is, this guide is pretty impressive and definitely a must-read for Twihards everywhere.


Friday, April 22, 2011

'Morganville Vampires' international GIVEAWAY!

Hello Darling Readers,

First of all – HAPPY EASTER! Stay safe, eat lots and praise the bunny!

Now that Easter is here, I am more excited than usual for the month of May. Because with May, comes Rachel Caine. That’s right – Rachel Caine, the fabulous author of one of my all-time favourite YA series is coming down under for a book tour! Hallelujah!

This is a duel-celebration. Happy Good Friday – and Rachel Caine’s tour of Australia. This is beyond perfect for me – since Easter eggs and ‘Morganville Vampires’ books are among some of my favourite things.

I am celebrating this auspicious occasion with a book giveaway-extravaganza. Thanks to the lovely people at Penguin Books Australia, I am giving away SIX ‘Morganville Vampires’ books. That’s right, six big ones! Books four to nine! So if you need to catch-up on the goings-on of Morganville before you fall into ‘Bite Club’ this prize is the perfect opportunity! Plus, these are the fancy and pretty Australian covers – looky how shiny they are!

To enter:

Become a follower of my blog (if you aren't already)

Answer the question;
if you were a vampire, which grand city would you like to live and cause mayhem in?

♥ Include a way to contact you (e-mail addy is fine)

♥ One post per entrant

♥ This is an INTERNATIONAL giveaway!

♥ Contest closes May 2nd.
I will announce the lucky winner on May 3rd

Happy Easter!

'Bite Club' Morganville Vampires #10 by Rachel Caine

Received from the Publisher

From the BLURB:

Morganville is a quiet college town where humans and vampires live in relative peace. But lately a great deal of blood is being spilt . . .

Having survived a number of adventures with her new night-dwelling friends, college student Claire Danvers has come to realise that for the most part, the undead just want to get on with their lives.

But someone else wants them to get ready to rumble.

There's a new extreme sport being broadcast over the Internet: bare-knuckle fights pitting captured vampires against one another – or, worse, against humans. Claire soon discovers that what started as an online brawl will soon threaten everyone in Morganville. And if they want to survive, they'll have to do a lot more than fight . . .

Welcome to Morganville, Texas. You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave!

The little vampire town of Morganville has been through a lot in recent months. Between an old vampire called Bishop pulling a coup, a super computer trying to destroy the town and general vampire mayhem, its residents are just trying to get back on their feet and back to (relatively) normal.

Town fonder, Amelie, has promised locals that Morganville will change. Humans will no longer be treated as walking-snacks, vampires will not have free reign and open communication between vamps and humans will be encouraged. So when a vampire called Vassily opens a gym, promising vampire self-defence classes for humans, things really do seem to be changing for the better in Morganville.

But for Claire Danvers, all these small-town revolutions are amounting to a lot of trouble. Her boyfriend, Shane, has joined the gym and seems to be more violent and anti-vampire than ever. Shane is even turning on his best friend, Michael, and accusing him of a master-race conspiracy. Not to mention there’s a mysterious, haggard vampire running around town, right around the same time that one of Claire’s classmates is found bloodily murdered in his dorm room.

Morganville was supposed to be changing, for the better . . . but all signs are pointing to much of the same.

‘Bite Club’ is the tenth book in Rachel Caine’s revered YA paranormal series, ‘Morganville Vampires’. And once again, Rachel Caine delivers a heart-palpitating novel of utter paranormal brilliance.

This book is a game-changer in the ‘Morganville’ series. There’s a lot happening in this instalment, both big changes to the town structure of Morganville and transformations amidst the awesome-foursome of Claire, Shane, Eve and Michael.

The book begins with a murder. One of Claire’s lab-partners from Texas Prairie University is found brutally stabbed in his dorm. Claire knows for a fact that this student had done something to incur the wrath of the vampires, and can only assume that he paid for the indiscretion with his life. Thus begins Caine’s investigation into the changing face of Morganville. Following the events of previous books, in which the town was under threat from Bishop and Ada, it looked as though Amelie and all the local vamps were keen for a positive change. In ‘Bite Club’ we read just how much (and how little) Morganville lore has changed. . .

Amelie is, for the first time in a long time, observing how well the experiment of Morganville has turned out. This town was always a test – a way to see how well vampires and humans could co-exist. To say there have been problems along the way is a massive understatement. In ‘Bite Club’ Amelie is seriously considering what to do with the information thus gathered . . . has anyone, vampire or human, learnt anything about co-habitation? Is Morganville worth the effort? These are all big concepts for ‘Morganville’– the entire series is hung on the concept of experimentation between human and monster. Everything hinges on Amelie’s decision about the town . . . and things are exacerbated by a string of brutal coincidences that can lead to only one frightening conclusion;
Amelie bent towards him very slowly and said, “My hateful father never had a better student than me, Myrnin. And I will kill him, but I’ll do it in my own time. Don’t tell me what to do, or I might find it necessary to remind you that I am the Founder of Morganville. Not you.”
“I never forget,” Myrnin said in a choked whisper. “Certainly not with your nails in my throat. They’re quite an excellent mnemonic device.”
‘Bite Club’ is also a revolutionary instalment in the series for what Caine explores in the friendship and relationship dynamics of Claire, Shane, Eve and Michael. For the first time in the ‘Morganville’ series, Caine offers dual-perspectives – switching between Claire’s POV and Shane’s. I was initially a little unsure about this switch-up, but as the story progresses and disturbing events unfold, I realized that we needed Shane’s words. We absolutely had to understand his transformation from the inside out. Because in ‘Bite Club’ Shane shares uncomfortable truths, he takes a good look at himself and doesn’t like what he sees;
Claire looked up at me, worry and anger on her face, and for the first time, I saw myself reflected in her eyes. I saw what I was doing.
I knew that look. That face. I'd seen it throughout my childhood, when Dad came stumbling home from the bar. I'd seen it heavy-duty industrial strength after Alyssa died, twenty-four/seven.
Oh, God. God.
It was like some curtain got snapped back, flooding my insides with light, and I didn’t like what I was seeing in myself, not at all. Fighting was one thing. But this... this was something else. This was me becoming what I never wanted to be.
Shane has always been violent. For the most part, his brutality is just beneath the surface, only ever revealed when an innocent or someone he loves is provoked and needs defending. But in ‘Bite Club’ Shane is transformed – he’s constantly angry and violent, and his temper is just a wrong-word away from being unleashed. This is the most fascinating character exploration Caine has ever undertaken. Be warned, Shane’s change is disturbing and heartbreaking. Claire bears the brunt of his flipped-personality, and it’s incredibly hard to read their idyllic relationship come crumbling down. But Shane needed this exploration. Fans needed to know the reasons for his anger, and we needed to read his awareness of those origins. Yes, this character-arc is difficult to read, but it’s also incredibly fulfilling.

I can’t give anything away, but Eve and Michael have their own transformation. This is HUGE and will incite squeals . . . seriously; I can’t wait to see how this plays out in future books. Amazing!

This is the tenth book in Caine’s ‘Morganville’ series – and she certainly delivers a revolutionary novel for this decade-instalment. Expect big changes – both to the town and beloved characters. Claire and Shane experience an emotional upheaval. Michael and Eve have big plans ahead. And the fate of Morganville resits entirely on Amelie’s shoulders . . . ‘Bite Club’ is a game-changing instalment, and I can’t wait to see what Caine has planned.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

'The Devil's Waltz' by Anne Stuart

From the BLURB:

When you dance with the devil, you hold hands with temptation...

Christian Montcalm was a practical man, if a destitute scoundrel, but his plan to bed and wed the delectable Miss Hetty Chipple would take care of that sticky wicket. However, there was a most intriguing obstacle to his success.

Annelise Kempton desired nothing more than to come between this despicable rogue and the fortune (and virtue) of her young charge. Certainly, Annelise understood the desperation that comes from hard times, but Montcalm would fail--she would personally see to it. All that stands in her way is a man whose rakish charm could tempt a saint to sin, or consign a confirmed spinster to sleepless nights of give the devil his due.

Christian Montcalm is a playboy viscount who needs a quick out with a wealthy debutante. Christian is swimming in debt and his card games aren’t playing so well anymore. Luckily for him, Josiah Chipple is a man of new money with an eager young bride. Hetty Chipple is beautiful, if a little tedious and rough around the edges. Her father is desperate for a title, and Christian is desperate for money. It seems the perfect match . . . until Miss Annelise Kempton arrives.

Annelise is a ton lady who has fallen on hard times. Her title means she cannot work as a governess, but her dire circumstances mean she needs to offer her valuable services to the wealthy ton in order to get by. And so Annelise, a thirty-year-old over-the-hill spinster, finds herself working for Chipple and trying to marry his young daughter to a respectable title. Hence, Annelise will do anything in her power to keep the rakish Christian Montcalm from getting his claws into Hetty’s fortune . . . but while Annelise is busy saving Hetty’s impressionable young heart, will she let hers succumb to Christian’s double-talking charms?

I read my first Anne Stuart novel last year and was utterly blown away. I have now started exploring her back list, beginning with the 2006 novel ‘The Devil’s Waltz’.

Anne Stuart is infamous for writing unforgiving rakes. That’s her trademark in the historical romance genre. Where other authors may write ‘rake-lite’, and have their scoundrel men instantly reformed with the love of a good woman, Stuart commits to writing truly rakish villains. Christian Montcalm is just such a blackguard – he is only interested in Hetty Chipple for her money, though her beauty is a nice boon. He openly admits his devilish plans to Annelise, and is thoroughly delighted by her indignant fluster. And so Christian decides to marry and ruin Hetty (not necessarily in that order) and then pursue her pseudo-governess whom he has nicknamed ‘dragon’.

Christian is wonderfully scandalous. He is infamous among the ladies of the ton – known for breaking hearts and jumping beds. He is the rakiest of rakes, and completely brilliant. He’s so frustratingly villainous while also effortlessly fascinating. Christian had a tragic childhood, linked to the Terror in France. His background is mentioned, but never as an excuse. Christian is just plain selfish – out for instant gratification at whatever cost.

Even when his head is turned by Annelise, he is motivated by purely selfish reasons. He is intrigued by this plain-looking, straight-backed spinster and her inability to be flattered by him. Annelise never backs down and Christian is inflamed by her fight. He decides that once he’s married to the young Miss Chipple, he will happily pursue Miss Kempton in order to scratch his itch where she is concerned.

Annelise was a wonderful contrast to Christian. Whereas he has always gotten his own way with good looks and charm, Annelise was put ‘on the shelf’ at a young age for being physically unremarkable, overly tall and far too combative. Annelise has resigned herself to spinsterhood – thrust upon her by her drunken father’s recklessness – and now all she wants out of life is a little cottage and plenty of cats. Christian is a decadence she must deny herself. Nobody of his beauty or easy charm would ever be interested in her . . . but she can dream.

But just as Annelise is blind-sided by Christian’s flirtations, he is likewise shocked to find his infatuation with the dragon growing day by day. They have an explosive and burning attraction, made all the hotter by her disdain and his reluctance;
He tugged at his loosely tied cravat, sending it sailing. He ripped at his own buttons, opening his shirt and reaching for his breeches, when he stopped. “One last warning, love. This is no fairy-tale business, no pretty dream. It’s real. It’s dark and messy and for you, painful. In the beginning, at least. You’ll end up hating me.”
“Don’t worry about it, Christian,” she said. “I already hate you.”
I love, love, love Anne Stuart. She is queen of the rakes – writing unforgiving, sensuous and evil scoundrels who are also impossibly charming. Christian Montcalm is just such a scoundrel – and when he finds himself falling for the sweetly spinster, Annelise Kempton, he is both astounded and reluctant. ‘The Devil’s Waltz’ is a fantastic historical romance from the brilliant Anne Stuart. I will indeed be reading more of her back-list and meeting more of her awfully delicious rakes.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

'Mona Lisa Eclipsing' Monère: Children of the Moon #7 by Sunny

From the BLURB:

From the time she was an orphan, Mona Lisa knew she was different. As a Mixed-Blood daughter of the Monère, she rules her domain in the Louisiana Bayou. But she’s about to become the hunted as her mind begins playing tricks, and no one is who they seem.

Roberto Carderas, a dangerous drug lord of mixed Monère heritage, arrives in Cozumel to eliminate a rival. But the jaguar-shifter has encountered a much more valuable prize on the island: Mona Lisa, the first female Monère he’s ever met—and one especially vulnerable in that she has lost her memory. Now, with all knowledge of her real life as stripped away as her defenses, Mona Lisa can be manipulated into believing…anything.

Convinced that Roberto is her kind and sensual protector, Mona Lisa thwarts all attempts at her rescue—including those made by her desperate lover Dante. As Roberto’s devious scheme gets underway, Dante can only hope that the touch of his warm flesh will reignite total recall in the body and mind of the woman he loves. But escape for both of them could be as forever elusive as Mona Lisa’s past.

When we last saw Mona Lisa she had just violently miscarried and banished her lover, Dante, from her Louisiana territory. She had escaped the clutches of an evil Monère queen, but suffered serious injury at the hands of her demon-lover, Halycon, in the process of her escape.

When ‘Eclipsing’ begins, Lisa’s life is in turmoil. Dante is banished and Halycon is in self-imposed exile. With two of her lovers missing or silent, Lisa is distraught and with a divided heart. So when rumour spreads that Dante’s saber-toothed tiger shifter has been spotted in Mexico, Lisa is on the first plane to find her lost lover and bring him home.

But a rumble in the jungle sees Lisa badly injured and amnesiac. She has lost the last six months of her life . . . the crucial months in which she learnt of her Monère queen status, took on warrior lovers and mated the demon king of hell.

Will this memory loss be the end of everything Mona Lisa has built, or will it be the clean slate she needs to move on and accept the changes in her life?

‘Mona Lisa Eclipsing’ is the seventh book in Sunny’s sublime paranormal erortica series, ‘Monère: Children of the Moon’.

We haven’t had a ‘Monère’ book since 2009. In fact, Sunny was silent for a long time on the status of her series. Fans assumed the worst – that the adventures of Mona Lisa and her Monère men would be put on permanent hiatus. And then, just like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, Sunny comes out with ‘Mona Lisa Eclipsing’ . . . a stunningly fresh and revolutionary instalment in a much-missed series.

This book does have the feel of rebirth to it, like Sunny is opening a new chapter in Mona Lisa’s life. ‘Mona Lisa Darkening’ left off on a somewhat small cliff-hanger, with Dante being banished and Mona Lisa miscarrying. I appreciated the fact that Sunny addresses this precipice in ‘Eclipsing’, but doesn’t harp on it. Mona Lisa and Dante have a lot to work through after the damning events of ‘Darkening’ . . . but Sunny pulls a literal Tabula Rasa, by wiping Mona Lisa’s memory.

Mona Lisa’s memory loss serves a dual-purpose. On the one hand, Sunny is able to revisit old plots and characters to refresh the memory of fans who have been waiting for a new instalment since 2009. On the other hand, the memory loss allows Sunny to acknowledge loose-ends and old wounds, and then move on. As much as Mona Lisa has to relearn her life since becoming Monère, she also has to accept the pains of the past as her memory slowly seeps back . . . that means that Dontaine’s paranoia at being thrown aside is addressed, Halycon can admit his shame at having hurt Mona Lisa and Dante’s banishment can be smoothed over. I loved the memory loss storyline; I thought it was invigorating and all-encompassing.

In the second-half of the book, the plot veers into a totally different direction. I don’t want to give anything away, save to say this new direction all but guarantees there will be more Monère books. This storyline opens up the entire Monère world to infinite possibility.

I did like this second storyline . . . but I found it quite jarring when coupled with the memory-loss plot. I felt like these were two very big storylines, crushed together in a somewhat uncomfortable mishmash. The memory-loss plot could have taken up one whole book; likewise this second plot could have been the eighth instalment in this series. The combination of both fairly major storylines in one book made for somewhat hasty storytelling, oddly combined. But this is my only complaint in an otherwise unblemished book.

Of course this is a Monère book, renowned for being a simmering sensual experience. Sunny is back and better than ever in ‘Darkening’.
If we had kissed before I did not remember it. And it was so much more than the surge of pleasure I'd gotten from kissing Roberto. Like digging into ground looking for a trickle of water and finding a gushing well instead. Dante kissed me as if he would pour his soul into me and pass it into my keeping – a plentitude of giving, not a taking. A benediction of words and sweet sentiment and hotly sprinkled passion over my mouth, my chin, down my neck, touching off zinging sensations, an abundance of it, wherever those firm and tender lips roamed, pulling forth my own gasps and whispers of his name, spurring him more heatedly on.
I loved the fact that Dante was a big focus in this Monère instalment. We met him for the first time in ‘Darkening’, so I'm glad we followed-up with his character in this next book. I have my fingers-crossed that in future books, Sunny backtracks to explore more of the relationship between Mona Lisa and Halycon, Amber, Dontaine and Gryphon. I love those guys and some of them haven’t had much page-time in a while (Amber!).

Sunny is back and better than ever. Mona Lisa has been absent for too long, and having her reappear in ‘Eclipsing’ only highlights how sorely lacking the paranormal scene has been without the luminescent and lush Monère series.


Monday, April 18, 2011

'Blood of the Maple' by Dana Marie Bell

Received from NetGalley

From the BLURB:

A seduction-gone-wrong leaves vampire Parker Hollis with a new vegetarian lifestyle and on the run from a vengeful witch. Moving to small-town Maggie’s Grove, Parker meets a redheaded dryad with green, leafy blood that draws him in a way he hasn’t experienced in decades. His new neighbor smells divine, and it isn’t long before craving gives in to need.

In a unique community of supernaturals, tree-loving outcast Amara Schwedler has never quite fit in. She’s scarred by a traumatic incident and feared by the local townsfolk. She’s convinced Parker will look elsewhere for a mate once he discovers she’s not one of the O-positive set, and can’t believe it when Parker finds her irresistible.

When the witch who’s been plaguing Parker’s life discovers the newfound attraction between Parker and Amara, she takes out her anger on the town. Can the supernaturals of Maggie’s Grove accept Amara and band together in time to withstand the assaults of the enraged witch?

Parker Hollis has made plenty of mistakes in his undead life . . . the worst of which was getting caught with his fangs down. Parker cheated on his one-night-stand, which is never a good idea when the woman happens to be a neurotic, jealous and utterly bonkers witch called Terri. Terri cursed vampiric Parker to become vegetarian – not only was Parker put-off by all blood (except Terri’s) but he could only eat green, leafy juices. Literally, a vampire who can only eat green.

It has been a few years since Parker’s god-awful curse, and since then he has controlled his hunger with the help of his best friend and witch, Greg. Apart from an unfortunate incident with a cactus, Parker has his hunger under control and even become a botanist.

But when Greg dies Parker needs a change of scenery, and so he heads to Maggie’s Grove. It’s a beautiful little town with friendly neighbours and white picket fences. The town is so accommodating, in fact, that the Mayor supplies Parker with his very own Renfield . . . because Maggie’s Grove is no ordinary town. It’s a safe-haven for supernaturals, a place where Parker and the recently ghostly Greg can feel right at home.

And Parker’s neighbour is a nice little perk. Parker finds himself living next door to a mysterious and gorgeous dryad, called Amara Schwedler. She has cascading red hair, smells like a green dream and Parker is thrilled to have found his vampire wife and single sotiei in Amara.

Now it’s just a matter of keeping crazy Terri away from his wife and convincing the townsfolk that Amara isn’t the one behind a recent slew of greenery-related deaths.

‘Blood of the Maple’ is a new stand-alone paranormal erotica novel from Dana Marie Bell.

I really enjoyed the start of this book. Bell has written an utterly invigorating spin on the old vampire love story. Vegetarian vampires have been explored before (with the help of synthetic blood, True Blood) – but Bell has made Parker literally green. Only able to drink green, leafy fluids – it’s a hilarious concept, made all the funnier by the promiscuous circumstances that landed Parker with the curse.

Amara is an equally refreshing and interesting paranormal character. Dryads are a pretty under-explored mythological character. Bell has written quite a back-story for Amara, starting with her ‘birth’ into the world via a maple tree. From that moment on Amara is ostracized by the other dryads, for choosing humanity, while also sneered at by Maggie’s Grove locals for her strange dryad ways.

Both Parker and Amara are unusual and titillating paranormal characters.
She swallowed hard. “I should warn you. I'm slightly more than a dryad.”
He nodded. “And I'm a freak among monsters.”
And obviously there is a real connection between these two – what with Parker only being able to drink green, and Amara being the embodiment of greenery. My problem with the coupling was that it came too quickly and too easily. Parker lays eyes on Amara and only a few chapters later he’s declaring her his single sotiei (after the story about how his promiscuity landed him with a vegetarian curse). True, the psychotic Terri poses a threat to their romance, but for the most part their coupling is smooth sailing. I would have liked a little more friction to keep things heated and simmering.

Regardless of the overly-easy romance, Parker and Amara have some great exchanges that had me chuckling plenty;
“I want you to know something first.”
“When I told you I'm not a normal dryad, I meant it.”
“You’re a Republican?” he gasped.
She rolled her eyes and bopped him on the head.
“No. I'm rarer than a dryad Republican.”
Even if I wasn’t overly thrilled by the main romance, I loved the secondary story of Greg and Brian. Greg is Parker’s best friend and witch, recently dead and turned haunting ghost. Brian is Parker’s Maggie’s Grove provided Renfield, a sort of all-purpose servant. Even though Greg is dead and a ghostly apparition, he and Brian embark on a screwy/sweet M/M romance. It’s just lucky that Brian is a physical medium – able to feel ghosts as well as see and hear them. These two were so adorable; I loved them even more than Parker/Amara!

‘Blood of the Maple’ is an interesting new paranormal erotic novel from Dana Marie Bell. The main romance between a dryad and a vegetarian vamp was a little rushed and convenient. But Bell saves the steamy by including a fantastic spinning romance between a ghost and a physical medium. I didn’t love this novel, but I liked it enough to pick through Bell’s back-list.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

'Falling Under' by Gwen HAYES

Received from the Publisher

From the BLURB:


Theia Alderson has always led a sheltered life, but when a devastatingly handsome boy appears at her school, she feels every urge she's ever denied burning through her at his slightest glance.

Theia does not understand why she dreamed of Haden Black before they met, by as the Haden of both the day and the night beckons her forward, Theia knows she cannot resist him – even when she discovers what he truly is; and even if the cost of that knowledge is her soul.


Theia Alderson’s life is forever changed when she dreams of the burning man falling from the sky. She dreams in him a deep sadness and sweet longing . . . and then Theia wakes up. She awakens to find her life unchanged and the burning man a disturbing memory. Theia still lives with her suffocating father and is still one member of a misfit trio of friends, including Donny and Amelie.

The only way Theia’s life has changed is with the appearance of a new boy at school. Haden Black is seduction incarnate – tall, dark, handsome and impossibly familiar. With Haden’s appearance come more strange dreams: skeleton soirées, river tears and always Haden. Haden in top-hat and coat tails, and as the burning man. But the Haden in Theia’s dreams is very different from waking reality, and Theia just wishes she knew if one was aware of the other or if it is all in her imagination . . .

‘Falling Under’ is the first book in a new young adult paranormal romance series by Gwen Hayes.

Reading the first few chapters of ‘Falling Under’ I found myself trying to ‘guess the monster’. I thought I had the formula all figured out – innocent young girl falls for a mysterious boy who is revealed to be a ____ . But after a few chapters it becomes achingly obvious that Hayes is above all the usual paranormal traps. There is not a werewolf, vampire or angel in sight, and Hayes is not above writing tongue-in-cheek references to all those authors who stuck to the formulaic;
Haden sighed and his eyelids lowered, his gaze resting on my lips. “I'm serious, Theia. You’ll never be safe with me.”
“If you are about to tell me you are a vampire that glitters in the sunshine, I will –”
So far, 2011 is shaping up to be the year of superior young adult novels. Amy Plum, MJ Hearle and Kelley Armstrong are among a cachet of YA authors who are writing twistingly grand novels for the younger set. Gwen Hayes is the latest YA author to elevate the paranormal genre for youthful audiences. She has written a twisted modern fairytale that draws on Greek mythology and epic tragedy of Shakespearian proportions.

The book begins with a bang as Theia witnesses a burning man plummet from the sky. From that first chapter onwards you can’t help but be hooked. And from there it’s a slow burn as Hayes introduces us to the delicate and sheltered Theia. She bears the brunt of her father’s paranoia; since her mother died young, her father has tried his hardest to keep Theia close, while inadvertently distancing her from his love. Theia is written as a modern-day princess – stuck in a tower of her father’s worries. For someone who is so naive and innocent, Theia is a surprisingly interesting character. She is very perceptive and it’s interesting to read her adult awakening with twisted dreams.

Making her all the more fascinating are her best friends – Donny and Amelie ‘Ame’. These are three infectious characters – and their strong bonded friendship is so easy and fun to read. These young women are the sorts of friends you’d love to have around you. They are thoroughly original – nicknaming their school’s popular people ‘sneetches’ (after the star-bellied Dr. Seuss characters). Donny is boy-crazy and Ame is destiny-mad and together they compliment Theia and push her to break the rules. I loved this trio – even more so when a sneetch boy called Gabe takes a shining to Donny and a cross-dressing psychic called Varnie enters the scene. Hayes writes scene-stealing moments for her secondary characters, without every detracting from the real heart of the story – Theia and Haden.

I don’t want to give away Haden’s monster-side, because it’s a fun guessing-game and Hayes has written a wonderful unfolding for his reveal. Save to say, the hint is in his name. Hayes draws on Greek mythology to create a frightening and unique back-story for Haden and his world.

The love story is frightening, to say the least. Haden is an intense and alluring character – he openly admits to being obsessed with Theia and inhumanly jealous where she is concerned. I love that there is a trend in YA books now, that authors don’t just brush aside the hero’s infatuation with a heroine – rather they address, and often condemn it;
He nodded his assent, looking hopeful.
“Will you answer me one question?”
“I suppose it will depend entirely upon what you ask.”
Tell me again he was seventeen because he certainly didn’t speak like it. “Why won’t you touch me? You avoid it like I'd burned you.”
“Will you believe me if I say it’s for your safety?”
My expression must have said no.
Haden leaned towards my hair, his breath warming my ear and setting off a trail of warm, tumbling sensation throughout my whole body. He whispered, “I can’t touch you because I want to touch you more than anything in the world.”
I swallowed around my heart, which had edged its way into my throat.
“If I give in to that,” he continued, “all will be lost.”
‘Falling Under’ is such a fantastically frightening YA paranormal romance. Hayes has written a twisted fairytale that draws on the darker side of passion and breathes new life into old mythology. Hayes’s writing is a lyrical dream and her characters are multifaceted-fascinating. I can’t wait to read where this series goes – a new book is slated for 2012 release, and I am immeasurably excited!


Saturday, April 16, 2011

'Unseen' Outcast Season #3 by Rachel CAINE

From the BLURB:

After Cassiel and Warden Luis Rocha rescue an adept child from a maniacal Djinn, they realize two things: the girl is already manifesting an incredible amount of power, and her kidnapping was not an isolated incident.

This Djinn-aided by her devoted followers-is capturing children all over the world, and indoctrinating them so she can use their strength for herself. With no other options, Cassiel infiltrates the Djinn's organization-because if Cassiel cannot stop the Djinn's apocalyptic designs, all of humanity may be destroyed.

It has been months since Cassiel ‘Cass’ was ripped from the Dijn world to have humanity thrust upon her. Since then Cass has witnessed the slaying murder of her Weather Warden, Manny, and his wife, Angela. She has seen their little girl, Isabel, be kidnapped and used as a ticking time-bomb weapon of mass destruction. Cass has fallen in love with Manny’s Warden brother, Luis. And Cass has been shamed by the fact that a fallen Dijn sister called Pearl was behind Isabel’s kidnapping, and the kidnapping of hundreds of other talented Weather Warden children . . . because Pearl is building an army. An army of future Weather Wardens who can control earth, fire, wind and water. And she will use them to execute the most awful take over imaginable, unless Cass can stand in her way.

‘Unseen’ is the third book in Rachel Caine’s spin-off Weather Warden series.

Caine’s Weather Warden series came to an end last year with the final book ‘Total Eclipse’. I was both sad and elated to read the last instalment to Jo Baldwin’s harrowing adventures . . . but I have to admit, the sting is lessened somewhat by Caine’s continuing ‘Outcast Season’, and the journey of former Dijn, Cassiel.

I love, love, loved ‘Unseen’ because it’s a book of big concepts and dramatic changes. The first of these revolutions is in Cass’s relationship with Luis Rocha . . . for two books now; Luis has been uneasy and somewhat horrified by his attraction to Cassiel. He would be fighting his lust one moment, and throwing barbed comments the next. But in ‘Unseen’ Luis has his wanting under control. He and Cass have been through too much – Manny’s slaying and Isabel’s kidnapping – and he has come to trust her completely. They share some intimate and transformative moments, and their sweetness rivals that of even Jo Baldwin and Dijn David.

But there is also a backlash to these character revolutions. Cass is slowly starting to understand and embrace her humanity, the good and the bad. This book is really about Cass coming to terms with the limits and dismal aspects of being human. She realizes that when you open yourself up to love, you also welcome heartache. She finds that caring leads the way to losing what you care about. And being mostly human means she is dispensable in this grand battle.

For all of their sweet moments, Cass and Luis also experience an incredible turn-about in their relationship. One that will leave you gob-smacked and pained on Cass’s behalf.
“Cass . . .” He sighed. “Damn, girl, I never know which way to jump with you. When it’s all action and danger, we’re synced like a sound track; when it’s just you and me, I never know what you’re thinking, or what you’re feeling, if you’re feeling anything. I look at you and you just . . .”
“Just what?”
He shrugged, frowning. “You just reflect,” he said. “Like steel.”
That surprised me, and it hurt a little. “I am not steel.” I said. “I am human. Blood and bone and muscle, heart and feeling and vulnerability. Don’t I show that?”
“Not even a little. Not here.” He sounded almost apologetic about it.
I also loved ‘Unseen’ because Caine brings back a favourite secondary character we first met in ‘Unknown’. Rashid is a mysterious Dijn who is fascinated with Cass and currently under command of an unknown master. He is as beautiful as a Greek God, and has a penchant for wearing his birthday suit around Cass, because he loves flustering her. I am so smitten with Rashid! I was thrilled to read his return in ‘Unseen’. He’s like dark chocolate – wickedly good and bitter. I can’t figure him out, but I love reading his interactions with Cass. I would love it if, when the ‘Outcast Season’ comes to an end, Rachel Caine could do a spin-off of a spin-off and write Rashid’s story!

‘Unseen’ also marks the beginning of the end. This book reveals a lot about Pearl and her grand plan . . . and it’s spine-tinglingly awful. Caine is definitely setting up Pearl’s long-game, and preparing Cass and Luis for an epic battle. I don’t want to give anything away, but Pearl’s devilish plan is chillingly villainous.

‘Unseen’ is yet another brilliantly thrilling instalment in Caine’s ‘Outcast Season’ spin-off series. Jo Baldwin and ‘Weather Warden’ may be done and dusted, but Caine’s still got a lot to offer in Cassiel and Luis. This is a transformative book for all characters – Cass comes to terms with the downfalls of humanity, and Pearl reveals her villainous grand-plans. It is epically glorious, and exactly what fans have come to expect from Rachel Caine’s brilliant paranormal pen.


| More