Changing Colours of Dawn…

This was taken at dawn a local wetlands which acts as a bird sanctuary for thousands of birds.  As the sun came up the colour started to shift and layer themselves over one another which made it perfect for one of my favourite quotes from the amazing Megan Hart.

(The image above is high enough quality to work with most computers as a background.   Simply click on the image to bring it up in it’s correct dimension then right mouse click to save. Copyright infringement is NOT intended.  The photograph is my own but all rights in relation to the quote belong to the author.  The desktop image is for personal use only and has been created by a fan of the work of fiction in celebration of the work.  The image cannot be sold, edited or used in for any other purpose other than the purpose described above.  If you are the author of the quote and do not approve of how the quote is being used please email me and I will take it down immediately.)

Review: Magic to the Bone by Devon Monk

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Over at the RRRC group on Goodreads the 4th Reading Tournament has just begun.  Run by the amazing D.G. this tournament is a version of snakes and ladders were players roll a dice, move to a square and have to select a book from the particular shelf in goodreads.  First one to square 144 wins…

Why Read:

A different take on magic, a (realistically) strong heroine, hints of a larger and intriguing plot line, fantastic use of the amnesia plot device

Quote that best sums up the lead (female) character:

It was strange to have my entire life, or at least the important bits I didn’t want to forget, recorded by hand and backed up electronically. It made sense to do it for the jobs I Hounded, but sometimes when going through the book I ran across a detail, like ‘‘always take the right trail in the park’’ or ‘‘parrots don’t work’’ that were obviously personal experiences I no longer retained.

Sometimes I felt like a ghost in my own life.

Review:

There’s so much urban fiction out there that it really takes something special to stand out from the crowd.  For me Magic to the Bone is one of those books.  I didn’t think so at first, but as the book went on and the plotline(s) developed I grew more and more interested in the world Devon Monk has created.  There’s solid world building, detailed enough to give a good background to the book and yet retaining areas of mystery (an essential quality in a first-in-series book).  And there’s a strong heroine who isn’t perfect and doesn’t know what’s going on most of the time but is determined to just get through life the best way she knows how.

The strong characterisation extends to the secondary characters as well.  There’s a hero (of course) and one who has an obviously interesting back story that we have yet to hear about but that we didn’t get hit over the head with all the time and a refreshingly normal non-magical best friend.  The heroine’s difficult relationship with her father is a complicated mix of dis-trust and hope that is refreshingly real in a world of where magic not only exists but is in fact big business.

However it is the use of the amnesia plot that makes this book special.  In the Allie Beckstrom world the use of magic takes a physical toll.  The toll of using magic and be painful and long-lasting.  There’s bruising, illness, migraines, insomnia and, in Allie’s case, amnesia.  The amnesia plot device is rarely used to great effect.  Most authors use it to drive relationship re-building or fish-out-of-water plots.  Devon Monk however has used it so effectively that it makes me wonder if she knows someone with Alzheimer’s.  It doesn’t make Allie weaker as a heroine in fact it’s one of the character attributes that makes her so strong.   Not remember parts of your past should be scary and for many, it has the effect of shutting them down emotionally and physically. The fact however is that Allie doesn’t have that choice and so tackles it with grit and determination.

Audiobook Review:

I wasn’t a huge fan of the narration of this book, some areas came across as stilted and awkward.  The book’s pacing however really suited the audiobook format so hopefully the narration will get better as the series progresses.

Check Out:

Devon Monk’s Website

Hearts and Tears Reading Tournament

Rolled a 3 to square three (Paranormal Romance)

Winters’ Morning…

(The image above is high enough quality to work with most computers as a background.   Simply click on the image to bring it up in it’s correct dimension then right mouse click to save. Copyright infringement is NOT intended.  The photograph is my own but all rights in relation to the quote belong to the author.  The desktop image is for personal use only and has been created by a fan of the work of fiction in celebration of the work.  The image cannot be sold, edited or used in for any other purpose other than the purpose described above.  If you are the author of the quote and do not approve of how the quote is being used please email me and I will take it down immediately.)

Review: Oceans of Fire by Christine Feehan

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It’s funny going back to read a book you haven’t read in a long time.  Oceans of Fire was the first book in the Drake Sisters series I read and it’s one of the few books I haven’t gone back to do a re-read of.  That’s saying something considering I tend to treat books like old memories picking them up every now and then to relive a scene or a chapter that speaks to me in that moment.  And for a lot of reason that hasn’t happened with this portion of the Drake Sisters story.

Why Read:

Ilya and Jolie’s first meeting, finding out more about the Drake sisters, Jackson, the dynamics of a small seaside village, Jonas being treated part of the family instead of a school bully, Ilya and Jolie’s first meeting.

Quote that best sums up the lead (male) character:

The real question is, can you love the real me? Not the perfect person you want me to be, not that image you had of me, but who I really am.

Review:

I’ve never hidden the fact that of all the Drake sisters Abbie is my least favourite; a fact that has made doing this re-read and review interesting. Possibly it was because I did this re-read in audiobook format but this time around she was less annoying than I remembered.  Abbie still comes across as spoiled and very much views the world as me, me, me, I, I, I but it tones down to an almost bearable level.  I can’t say she shows a lot of character development throughout the book as she has quite a few tstl moments and what she does for a living I have no idea (despite popular belief having a PhD in marine biology doesn’t mean you get to live back at home and swim with dolphins whenever you get the urge you still have to do something people will pay you for).

Aleksandr is an interesting character.  Trained at a very young age to become an operative it is his work with interpol that brings him to Sea Haven.  He is strong, charismatic (aren’t most heroes) and seemingly is still in love with Abbie despite having her return all his letters without having read them.  It seems that whilst Abbie was in Russia (doing what I’m still not sure) she met Aleksandr, had a full on affair and ended up somehow helping him to interrogate a suspect in a serial killer case (because obviously the Russian police allow their detectives to bring their girlfriends to help out).  After it all goes wrong (huge surprise that) Abbie is taken into custody herself, slapped around a few times and can never ever forgive Aleksandr for the whole thing.  Okay when I say never ever it happens quite quickly in book time.  The skill in Ms Feehan’s writing means that he actually comes across as loving instead of bordering on stalkerish when he refuses to give up on Abbie and their relationship.  In some respects I feel cheated that Abbie didn’t have to work a bit to win back Aleksandr’s trust – she cut him off without any idea of what had happened to him or what he had to do in order to ensure her safety.  Oh sure she suspects what he had to do but instead of facing it she decides not to think about it.

Their reunion is set within the background of mystery and intrigue of international crime investigations.  Actually, I really wasn’t that interested in the whole Russian mafia using Sea Haven as a port for smuggling arts / jewels storyline.  It reads as unbelievable and, well – it kind of interferes with the interesting part of the storyline which is of course… the begining of Ilya and Jolie’s relationship.  I had forgotten that it began so soon.  The chemistry between them jumps off the page even at this stage.  There are glimpses of Jackson and his background, not to mention that Jonas is treated much better in this storyline than the first two novella’s.  There is however one huge glaring fault with the storyline – how come none of Abbie’s sisters know about her getting her heart broken?  For such a big, loving family they really don’t take much notice about what is going on with each other.

If this is your first Christine Feehan book and you didn’t really enjoy it, then I would definately say – don’t give up on her just yet.  You may end up not enjoying her style of writing but I really recommend you give her another go.  There aren’t many authors in this world who can write an autistic heroine in a believable and sensitive manner as she has done (it’s in a spinoff book from this series).  Oceans of Fire reads very much like a first book of a series and the characters and flow of the story suffer for it.  It may however just be that I really don’t like Abbie.  But then I don’t like Raven either (the first heroine in the Carpathian series) so maybe it’s something to do with how Ms Feehan sets up her series at the very beginning.  You do however need to read this if you want to read the series.  If only because you want to see how Ilya and Jolie start…

Audiobook Review:

As an audiobook the story reads well and is handled skillfully by the narrator (much, much better than the first two).  She does a good job with the accents and manages to make each voice distinct and realistic.  It is however, yet another book that I have had to jump hoops to get in audio format – despite the fact that the later books in the series are easily available through audible.

Check Out:

http://www.christinefeehan.com/

Review: Angels’ Blood by Nalini Singh

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It may sound strange but I’m always wary when I pick up a new series written by an author who has written a series I love. Will I enjoy this series as much? What if the writer was a one-trick pony and isn’t able to transfer their skills to another series? Or worse – what if this series is a poor copy of the other series I love so much? Fortunately my fears were totally ungrounded when it came to starting Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series. I wrote this review ages ago and forgot that I had saved it before I published my review of Archangel’s Blade. Hopefully this review will let you see why it’s worth giving this series a chance.

Why Read:

Different take on vampires, emotion vs power themes, hot angels, great world-building.

Quote that best sums up the lead (male) character:

He leaned a fraction closer. “My lovers have always been warrior women. Strength intrigues me.”

She refused to let him play with her like this, even if her body disagreed. Vehemently. “Do knives intrigue you, too? Because touch me and I will cut you up. I don’t care if you throw me off the nearest balcony.

Review:

Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series creates a world where vampires aren’t necessarily the biggest bad-asses on the block. Angels, with their beautiful wings and immortal lives control the world including the vampires they make in return for the vampires servitude. It’s when a vampire decides that he or she doesn’t have to fulfill the contract they signed that the angel hires a guild hunter to bring them back. And that’s where our heroine steps in. Elena is hunter-born. One of the rare people born with the ability to scent and track vampires. And she’s just been hired by the biggest bad-ass of them all – Raphel, the archangel of New York.

As usual Nalini Singh’s world building is brilliantly done. There’s almost a gritty realism to the world which helped counteract the fact that both angels and vampires are beautiful beyond compare. You are given most of the basic world building information in the first chapter which leaves it feeling a bit like an information dump as you follow Elena on a vampire hunt, however that does leave you free for the rest of the book to concentrate on how the plot is developing and infilling the world building with detail and texture. One of the things I enjoy most about Ms Singh’s writing is that you rarely feel like you are just being given information to make the story make sense, instead she intertwines the information you need to know into plot or character development sequences. She also isn’t afraid to have characters go to uncomfortable places in their emotions if that is what existing in this world would actually cause a person to be/feel.

You know the type of hero that is cold and taunting but you know that that is just really a mask that he shows the world? Well, that is NOT Raphel. Make no mistakes, Raphel is cold and calculating to his very core. He’s lived for a long time and exists in a world where weakness is used against you instantly. In the “quiet”, a time when an archangel has expelled a great deal of power, he is brutal. It’s not covered up or excused – he is brutal and without mercy and any sane woman would run far far away no matter how pretty he is. That’s not to say he is without emotion or doesn’t care. He’s surrounded by such loyalty in his seven most trusted advisors and those relationships have lasted too a long period of time for him to simply be the cold hearted creature that you first meet. However in meeting Elena he is at first intrigued by not only her but by his response to her. He considers her a diversion, a toy. As their relationship develops you can almost feel him weighing the possibilities and the consequences of becoming involved.

First impressions of Elena are refreshingly normal. She in her late twenties, works hard at her job, has created a sanctuary in her home that she treasures and is quietly worried about the fact that all of her friends are moving forward in their lives whilst she’s still in the same space. However she’s not normal at all. Being hunter-born she’s stronger than normal humans and can scent and trace vampires. Events in her past have given her a mindset about vampires that is gradually changed through her interactions within the story, an amazing feat considering that she was experienced horrific events as a child. Refusing to be anyones victim she has become a strong, emotionally generous woman who is also deeply vulnerable, with quite a few insecurities and abandonment issues. Unlike Raphel she doesn’t weigh up anything, instead it’s like she allows fate to deal her what it wants and then she just tries to make the best of things.

From before they even meet Raphel and Elena’s relationship is set firmly in Elena’s feelings of fear and insecurity. These are not two people who are equal in status, nor are they even contemporaries really. They live firmly planted in their own worlds and it is only because Raphel needs Elena’s hunter abilities that they even meet. Elena’s fear of Raphel is tempered with her need not to give in to a stronger person’s will, a lesson learnt early through her fathers complete rejection of her hunter abilities and, subsequently, her. It is this determination to stand toe to toe with a being of such immense power that makes this relationship so interesting. The heat and connection is there from the start, and their chemistry when they finally make it to bed is off the charts. However it is Raphel’s actions in the later part of the book, particularly given his nature, that make this relationship so remarkable. If the price of love is the possibility of having to give up the very essessence of who you are, then the the decision to pursue that love, to not distance yourself from that person, is so much greater that that of someone who can love but remain in their comfort zone.

The world created in Angels’ Blood offers a rich array of secondary characters, although I can’t say that I found any of them compelling enough to want their stories told (yet). In part this is because Raphel and Elena are such big characters and their story is so obviously only at a midway point that they don’t really leave room for wanting to hear other stories. But the other reason is that Nalini Singh has used beautiful restraint in the introduction and use of prominent secondary characters. Those that were introduced had solid reasons for being there and, as a result, enhanced the texture of the story. Aside from the wealth of characters in the Guild Hunters, Raphel’s “Seven” offer the possibility of seven characters with back stories and futures that could be told but we really only meet four in this book. As short a glimpse as we are given it is clear they are rich, obviously well developed characters that revealed just enough about themselves to intrigue. I also enjoyed what appeared to be a light hearted nod to J.D. Robb in the creation of Raphel’s butler (okay I might be reaching for straws there but I enjoyed it all the same).

All in all I’d say that my experience with the Guild Hunter series is off to a promising start. I certainly finished the book wanting to know more about Elena and Raphel’s story and the world they live in. By exploring what happens to a person’s emotions when you live for such a long time and how that relates directly to power, Nalini Singh has taken this series away from “girl falls in love with a handsome angel” territory into something thought provoking and, at times ghastly. I’ll certainly be reading the next in the series as soon as I can get my hands on it.

Reading experience

I read Angel’s Blood in both paper and audio format. I enjoyed both but in all honesty, felt that the interwoven storyline about Elena’s past reads a lot creapier in audio than in paper format. The narrator did an excellent job of portraying both Elena and Raphel’s emotions which were so intrigal to the plot, and the story had a flow to it that suited being told as an audiobook.

At the time of writing this, Angel’s Blood is easily available in Australia. I read the paper copy via my local library and was able to get the audiobook through an Audible download. I’m slowly going paper free on my fiction books, so no doubt I’ll be giving in to the need to own a copy of the written text and will be buying an ebook copy soon.

Check Out:

http://www.nalinisingh.com/

Head to the beach…

I have got the worst case of “need to go to the beach” at the moment.  Unfortunately work commitments mean it’ll be awhile yet.  I’m working on several reviews at the moment and struggling to get through 50 Shades for a book club I’m in.  All I can say is don’t try the audiobook version…

(The image above is high enough quality to work with most computers as a background.   Simply click on the image to bring it up in it’s correct dimension then right mouse click to save. Copyright infringement is NOT intended.  The photograph is my own but all rights in relation to the quote belong to the author.  The desktop image is for personal use only and has been created by a fan of the work of fiction in celebration of the work.  The image cannot be sold, edited or used in for any other purpose other than the purpose described above.  If you are the author of the quote and do not approve of how the quote is being used please email me and I will take it down immediately.)

Quick Read Review: Louisiana Heat by Dominique Adair

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Louisiana Heat had the potential to be a great story but was too short.  One of the most frustrating things for me as a reader is when you can see the potential of a great story but the writer, whether through their own decision or not, isn’t able to give the story a longer page time.

A story of mistaken identity (deliberately on the part of the hero), the short length meant that the chemistry between the couple wasn’t given enough build up which was a shame because the chemistry when they were together was fantastic.  The author dealt with the heroine’s reluctance to admit to enjoying being submissive well and with care.  That and the fantastic ambience created in the bayou setting was worth a read so if you’re looking for a quick read give it a go.  It’s not one I’ll be doing a re-read of but I’m definitely going to give some of Dominique Adair’s longer works a go.

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