Tuesday, May 29, 2012

REVIEW: Darkness Unbound by Keri Arthur

Book: Darkness Unbound

Author: Keri Arthur

Series: Dark Angels (Risa Jones)

Publishing stats: September 27, 2011 by Bantam Dell (USA)

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Cover Blurb: Being half werewolf and half Aedh, Risa Jones can enter the twilight realms between life and death and see the reapers, supernatural beings that collect the souls of the dead. But she soon makes a terrifying discovery: Some sinister force is stealing souls, preventing the dead from ever knowing the afterlife.

Reapers escort souls—not snatch them—but Risa is still unnerved when a reaper shadows her in search of someone Risa has never met: her own father, an Aedh priest, who is rumored to be tampering with the gates of hell for a dark purpose. With the help of her “aunt”—half-werewolf, half-vampire Riley Jenson—and an Aedh named Lucian who may have lost his wings but none of his sex appeal, Risa must pursue whatever shadowy practitioner of blood magic is seizing souls, and somehow stop her father . . . before all hell breaks loose.

First line: I've always seen the Reapers.

What I liked: Well, right off the bat I love that, as a sequel to Keri Arthur's Riley Jensen, Guardian series, you get to see how life's turned out for Riley, Rhoan, Quinn, Liander and their pups, not to mention Dia, twenty years later. What's even better, you're introduced to new and never-before explored elements of Riley's world through a whole new perspective. Heap on top of that a brand new cast of characters - with fun and unexpected connections to past characters - and an engaging, tantalizing new narrator and this book quickly marks itself as something distinct and unique compared to its mother series, despite its shared world and back story.

What I didn’t like: You know what's worse that a stupid hero or heroine? A hero or heroine who says, straight out, what they should be doing, who agrees wholeheartedly with the advice given to them by others, who refers to the disastrous decisions of old and the wisdom learned from them...and then proceeds to ignore it all because, dang it, they simply can't stand the thought of their loved ones being harmed. Don't get me wrong - I can get behind that sentiment - but to then run headlong into danger yourself...it's just another brand of stupidity. Because, yay, you've spared your loved one physical harm on your behalf and instead they just have to cope with your injuries and potential death knowing that it was incited to spare their own. Yup, that's much better. Cue eye-roll here.

Overall: Hands down every bit as good as the original series. I can't wait to see how the story develops from here - especially when Risa has such hunky potential love interests fluttery about. Plus, I want to know Riley's youngest two children are named (The eldest set of twins - Liana and Ronan - are training to be police officers, the middle daughter - Darcy - is the only non-twin) and get more snapshots of her pack's happy home life.

Would I read this author again: Yup, no question. Between the futuristic setting of these series and the depth of Arthur's world-building, these books are pure addiction in pulp paper packaging.

My rating: /5

To purchase the book for yourself, you can find it at Chapters.Indigo.ca, Amazon.ca, Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Top 5 Sundays #4 - Books/Series I'd Rather Didn't Become a Movie/TV Show!

So, these week's Top 5 topic is books and/pr series I'd rather didn't become either a movie or a TV show. Unlike past weeks, what made these choices hard to narrow down was critically thinking about the books in terms of their potential transition onto either the big or small screens. What is it about a book that makes it suited or not for cinematic production? Is it the plot? The characters? The genre? The setting? What I came up with was that it was actually a combination of all that and more. Sometimes, no matter how much you may want to see one of your favourite books brought to life, sometimes they simply won't transition.

So, without further adieu, here are this week's Top 5 picks.

#1 - Mercedes Lackey's Five Hundred Kingdoms series

Alright, so there may be similarities to be had between these books and ABC's Once Upon a Time, but ultimately the build up to the main adventure can take awhile - in the first book, it was 210 pages before the hero was introduced - and, unlike Lord of the Rings, there's just not enough diversity in the build up to hold interest on the big screen. What's more, each book tends to contribute its own vast cast of characters while still striving to incorporate past characters. These are still some great books with a truly unique and engaging approach to fairy tales - it's just better suited to the page than the screen.

#2 - Lilith Saintcrow's Dante Valentine series

Now, I love this series - it was amazing with demons, vampires, fallen angels, necromancers, shamans and a half dozen or more other bits and pieces that all blended together to create one hell of a world. But the way this story flows - the darkness that permeates it in several forms and the ending that leaves more wreckage than happily ever after - just don't lend themselves to the sort of entertainment Hollywood and even HBO are looking for.

#3 - Gena Showalter's Lords of the Underworld series

 The thing about this series - which has a great balance of sarcasm, hilarity, romance, and adventure going for it - is that I just can't see a TV series having the patience to gradually work in each pairing or a movie franchise holding stamina that long. And unlike similar series - like Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark series, for instance, which could possibly pull off an Avengers-like build up - with the setting for each book being based at the same location it would be tricky to separate the stories. It's fantastic as books - just not feasible on film, at least not without some severe remodeling.

#4 - Karen Chance's Cassandra Palmer series

 Okay, this one is simple: I had enough trouble keeping track of all the time jumping - especially in regards to a certain parking lot - when it was printed on the page. I do NOT want to have my mind bent, twist, rinsed and repeated on either the big or small screens, thank you very much.

#5 - Sunny's Mona Lisa series

These are the sort of books that despite appearing short have a TON of stuff happening. And just when you think it's over BAM! something flies at you from who-only-knows-where and you sit there blinking as the whole story seems to go in a completely new and unexpected direction. Each book is like a roller coaster that jumps the track to whole new line midway through and then circles back at the last minute. Not something I can see translating to the world of movies and television.

And there you have it - my Top 5. Of course, between Peter Jackson, HBO and the CW, I expect I'll be proven wrong about at least one of these some time within the next century. I mean, did anyone honestly see Game of Thrones as a TV series? Mind you, I think this is one subject where being proven wrong is half the fun.

On a random side note - has anyone seen a movie about dragons that's actually had a good CGI dragon? I was looking at books like Joanne Bertin's Dragonlords series, G.A. Aiken's Dragon Kin series, Thea Harrison's Elder Races series and Allyson James' Dragon and Stormwalker series and I realized that their translation to the screen really depends on the quality of the dragon. Which led me to realize I couldn't think of a single good CGI dragon. Huh.

Until next week!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

REVIEW: Rachel Vincent's Rogue

Book: Rogue

Author: Rachel Vincent

Series: Shifters

Publishing stats: April 1st 2008 by Mira Books (USA)

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Cover Blurb: Okay, so cats don't always land on their feet.

I know that better than most. Since rejoining the Pride, I've made big decisions and even bigger mistakes: the kind paid for with innocent lives. As the first and only female enforcer, I have plenty to prove to my father, the Pride, and myself. And with murdered toms turning up in our territory, I'm working harder than ever, though I always find the energy for a little after-hours recreation with Marc, my partner both on- and off-duty.

But not all of my mistakes are behind me. We're beginning to suspect that the dead are connected to a rash of missing human women and that they can all be laid at my feet--two or four, take your pick. And one horrible indiscretion may yet cost me more than I can bear...

First line: "Catch and release, my ass!" Grunting, I shoved the stray facedown over the trunk of Marc's car, snatching back my free hand just in time to avoid his teeth as they snapped together.

What I liked: I love the characters, hands down, especially Faythe's brothers. It was delightful to see the calm and collected Michael lose his cool for a change and blame Faythe for all the Pride's recent trouble. To see Ethan swoop in and comfort his little sis with brownies and scotch after everything goes to hell for her. To see Ryan...well, Ryan was an ass. But that's Ryan. Would have liked more Owen - the man has got to personally be holding up the whole bright side initiative. Best part, hands down, has to be the relationship between Faythe and her Daddy.

What I didn’t like: You know, I love Faythe. She's epic. She's awesome. She's kickass. I especially love what a strong, independent character she is and how hard she fights to be acknowledged as a person rather than just a baby factory. That being said, her relationship with Marc makes me want to scream. Werecat culture has had instilled such a strong aversion in Faythe to the typical tabby expectations that even the sight of an engagement ring has her backing away in horror and refusing to so much as carry it on her person to put her lover Marc at ease regarding his place in her life. And while I can understand how Marc would need the reassurance - he is, after all, a stray (turned rather than born) - he also probably should have paid more attention to past experience and known better. Their whole relationship SNAFU in this book pretty much had me banging my head against a wall.

Overall: I have to say, when it came to the bad guy plot, that baby had a lot more twists and turns than I could have predicted. Toss a cast of well fleshed out characters, an intriguing family dynamic into one of the most well layered and captivating worlds put to paper and even the disastrous love plot couldn't turn me away. 

Would I read this author again: Are you kidding? There are four more books in this series - what do you think?

My rating: /5

To purchase the book for yourself, you can find it at Chapters.Indigo.ca, Amazon.ca, Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Top 5 Sundays #3 - Characters I'd Love to Have Dinner With!

Ah, tis Sunday yet again and that means, you guessed it, it's time for Calliope's Domain latest Top 5. Now, looking at the tone set by Larissa's Bookish Life, the character pool is not limited to just the worlds between the pages, which made this extra difficult to narrow down. I know, I know - I've been saying that every week but, heck, it's true! These can be some pretty tough choices, especially when I've only got five spaces to fill!

Without further adieu, I give you Calliope's Domain's Top 5 Characters I'd Love to Have Dinner With!

#1 - Jack Sparrow 

Ok, so this one was no contest. I mean, have you seen the Pirates of the Caribbean movies? He's witty, he's funny, he's unpredictable, he's...he's Captain Jack Sparrow, savvy?

#2 - Charley Davidson

 I made the mistake of reading the first book while drinking Coca-Cola. Needless to say, the coke went straight out my nose by the second paragraph. I adore Charley's perspective, spunk and attitude and would love the chance to pick her brain. Not to mention get the dish on Reyes.

#3 - Prince Charming

Now, let's be clear here - when I say "Prince Charming" (as in Snow's true love in Once Upon a Time - THAT Prince Charming) I mean the hunky hero running about the fairy tale world searching for his perpetually missing Snow White, not his real world counterpart, David. Charming was heroic, brave, noble and all those good prince qualities. David was a moron. It's an important distinction.

#4 - Jane Jameson 

Even if you ignore the fact that we're talking about a vampiric bibliophile with a head full of random trivia, a gorgeous Civil War era boyfriend, and a family that puts the "fun" in "disfunctional," we're still left with a vamp whose a best friend, wedded to a werewolf and one pointed voo-doo cursed by his mama, is, hands down, the most normal character in this book. Why wouldn't you want Jane over for dinner?!

#5 - Betsy Taylor

Betsy...Betsy is kind of like a force of nature who comes blowing through, causing upheaval after upheaval, leaving a wake of destruction, and then leaves you standing there blinking in confusion over whether or not you should strangle her or thank her. And did I mention this is the Queen of the Vamps initiated into the ranks of the undead after an unfortunate run in with an Aztec? The car, not the civilization.

And there you have it - my Top 5. Hopefully this will pop up again next week (yes, I'm still being pessimistic about this...or realistic if you think of my track record thus far). Until then...over and out, mes amours! 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

REVIEW: Kalayna Price's Grave Dance

Book: Grave Dance

Author: Kalayna Price

Series: Alex Craft

Publishing stats: July 5th 2011, Penguin Group (USA)

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Cover Blurb: After a month spent recovering from a vicious fight with a sorcerer, grave witch Alex Craft is ready to get back to solving murders by raising the dead. With her love life in turmoil thanks to the disappearance of Fae Investigation Bureau agent Falin Andrews and a shocking “L” word confession from Death himself, Alex is eager for the distractions of work. But her new case turns out to be a deadly challenge.

The police hire Alex to consult on a particularly strange investigation in the nature preserve south of Nekros City. The strange part: There are no corpses, only fragments of them. A serial killer is potentially on the loose, and Alex has no way to raise a shade without a body, so she’ll have to rely on the magic of others to find leads. But as she begins investigating, a creature born of the darkest magic comes after her. Someone very powerful wants to make sure the only thing she finds is a dead end—her own.

First line: "When I first straddled the chasm between the land of the dead and the world of the living, I accidentally raised the shade of our recently deceased Pekinese."

What I liked: I love the world-building of this series. It's beautifully layered so that each book allows it to unfold just that much more, unveiling hidden depths and surprising twists that just seem natural in hindsight. Which, incidentally, is also how the mystery plays out; it really keeps the intrigue dialed up to ten and the interest just as high. I also love how Alexis' powers work - how they have the effect of stripping the world to show its state of decay, how they have the instantenous consequence of blinding her regular vision, how they reveal, conceal, bend, twist, and warp reality not just in her vision but in reality as well.

What I didn’t like: I am not a fan of love triangles - more often than not they serve only to frustrate me and I end up screaming "JUST PICK SOMEONE!" at the heroine after the first debate-riddled chapter. Unfortunately for this book the love triangle seems a bit of a moot point; Option A is a fae bound to serve the Winter Queen like a good little puppy and Option B is essentially a grim reaper existing in another plane. They basically personify "unattainable." Naturally, as with the first book,  by the last page Alexis was once again all by her lonesy.

Overall: I liked it. Admittedly, its rendition of Fae politics is a might confusing. Oh, and I kind of wish someone would drop a house on the Winter Queen - seems like it would solve a lot of their problems. Also, the Shadow King seems a lot better by comparison, so here's hoping for that in the next sequel.

Would I read this author again: Definitely. Next book - Grave Memory - releases on July 3, 2012.

My rating: /5

To purchase the book for yourself, you can find it at Chapters.Indigo.ca, Amazon.ca, Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Top 5 Sundays #2 - Favourite Book Quotes

So, in my continuing efforts to be more diligent on the blog, I'm happy to present my second Top 5 Sundays post, this time focusing on my favourite book quotes. The hard part here was narrowing it down to just five - I have a special place in my heart for quotes, didn't you know? - but I managed in the end, LOL. Oh, and apparently I was in a declaration-of-love frame of mind. Huh. Hadn't noticed during the hunt but...eh, oh well.

So, without further adieu, I give you Calliope's Domain's Top 5 Favourite Book Quotes.

#1 - from Anne Rice, Tale of the Body Thief

 “So we reach into the raging chaos, and we pluck some small glittering thing and we cling to it, and we tell ourselves it has meaning, and that the world is good, and we are not evil, and we will all go home in the end.” 
 #2 - from Laurell K. Hamilton's A Lick of Frost

“I will love you always. When this red hair is white, I will still love you. When the smooth softness of youth is replaced by the delicate softness of age, I will still want to touch your skin. When your face is full of the lines of every smile you have ever smiled, of every surprise I have seen flash through your eyes, when every tear you have ever cried has left its mark upon your face, I will treasure you all the more, because I was there to see it all. I will share your life with you, Meredith, and I will love you until the last breath leaves your body or mine.” 
 #3 -  from Ilona Andrews' Magic Slays

“If I fought for them and was crippled, they would all say nice things, and then they would replace me and forget I was ever there. You would stay with me. You would take care of me, because you love me. I love you too, Kate. If you ever became hurt, I would not leave you. I’ll be there. Wherever you want‘there’to be.” 
 #4 - from Nalini Singh's Archangel's Consort

“For the first time in forever, he was stunned to silence. Not by her words, but by the tenderness in her hands, the worry in her eyes. He was an archangel. He’d been wounded far, far worse and shrugged it off. But then, there had been no woman with skin kissed by the sunset and eyes of storm gray to tear into him for daring to get himself hurt.” 

#5 -  from Jennifer Estep's Tangled Threads

“What was wrong with giving Gin a key?" he rumbled. "It's not like I could keep her out of the house, even if I wanted to. I thought a key would make things easier, make her feel like she was really welcome here. This is the first time that I've dated an assassin. I don't want to piss her off”

And there you have it - my Top 5. Hopefully this will pop up again next week. Until then...over and out, mes amours! 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

REVIEW: Summoning the Night by Jenn Bennett

After narrowly escaping her fate as a sacrificial scapegoat, Arcadia Bell is back to normal. Or at least as ordinary as life can be for a renegade magician and owner of a tiki bar that caters to Earthbound demons. She’s gearing up for the busiest day of the year—Halloween—when a vengeful kidnapper paralyzes the community.

The influential head of the local Hellfire Club taps Cady to track down the fiendish bogeyman, and now that she’s dating red-hot Lon Butler, the Club’s wayward son, she can hardly say no. Cady and Lon untangle a gruesome thirty-year trail of clues that points to danger for the club members’ children. But locating the person behind the terror will require some metaphysical help from Cady’s loyal bar patrons as well as her potent new Moonchild powers—and she’d better figure it out before the final victim disappears and her own darkest secret becomes her biggest enemy.

 Now, I positively, absolutely ADORED the first book in this series- it was the bee's knees, no question. I felt that in a lot of ways it went where a lot of romances fear to tread - after all, it matched a 25 year old Tiki bar owner, magician and fugitive with a 42 year old demon with a teenage son. Okay, okay, I know other books have hefty age gaps - some of them with a difference of centuries - and other heroes and heroines have had kids - Kelly Gay's Charlie Madigan, Patricia Briggs' Adam Hauptman and Eileen Wilks' Rule Turner, to name but a few. Jupe Butler, however, is not your average UF kid and tends to be a lot more involved that you'd expect (and on random side note: that kid so needs his very own YA series one day).  What's more, the treatment of the aforementioned age gap gets a lot more coverage than in cases where we're talking about something like seventy year old Emma and twelve hundred year old Lachlain. Toss in some demons, some fairly whacked out parents, demonic halos and a psycho named Riley and KABAM! You've got yourself one hell of a book.

And then along came book two...

And blew book one away.

Now, don't get me wrong - it wasn't a perfect book. While the first managed to avoid anyone calling Cady a gold-digger or a mid-life crisis, book two had both. It also had a blackmail scheme that makes me cringe just thinking about it, mostly because it seems more like a bad guy reaching for straws and the good guys letting him for some bizarre reason. Weird. Actually, most of the interaction Cady had with that particular bad guy when Lon was around made no sense. I mean, really? You're an Earthbound demon and you're going to try and blackmail the powerful magician that you know for a fact has some freaking scary abilities in the demon department? And you don't see how that might backfire on you? Seriously? I get that the guy is old and arrogant and rich and blah, blah, blah, but come ON! It reminds of that scene in THE DARK KNIGHT when the accountant tells Fox he's figured out Wayne is Batman and demands to be paid for his silence. "Let me get this straight," Fox tells him. "You think that your client, one of the wealthiest, most powerful men in the world, is secretly a vigilante who spends his nights beating criminals to a pulp with his bare hands; and your plan, is to blackmail this person? Good luck." *snort* Exactly.

Also, while I understood Cady's hesitation in using her Moonchild abilities, her full out refusal to have anything to do with them seems just plain stupid. You would think that it would be something she'd want to at least research and know more about. Plus, considering how danger seems to be stalking her in one form or another, you'd think it would be worth getting to know your own limitations and potential before being forced to mid-battle. When scary, millennia old demons speak to with reverence, regardless of how you acquired those powers, they're definitely something you should at least know the theoretical potential behind them. Especially if you're going to continue dealing with demons.

In spite of those little *cough* points of contention, I really enjoyed the book. In particular, I loved how the relationship between Cady and Lon progressed and deepened and how Ms. Bennett wove in how that relationship expands to develop a family unit rather than just a couple. Jupe was a delightful and refreshing character, as you'd expect once you've met him. Favourite scene, hands down, has to be when he and Cady are discussing the VERY stupid thing he's done to himself. That whole conversation, just the two of them, about who she is...gods, it made me cry!

My rating: /5

To purchase the book for yourself, you can find it at Chapters.Indigo.ca, Amazon.ca, Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Top 5 Sundays #1 - Weirdest Reading Spots!

So, I am totally stealing this little idea from Larissa over at Larrisa's Bookish Life. The theme is my top five weirdest reading spots and, gods know, I've read in some pretty weird places. Sometimes while doing some pretty weird things. Honestly, the trick more often than not is getting the book to remain open without damaging the spine and once you've got it open how to turn the pages thereafter. Incidentally, e-readers have made this SO much easier, although I'm still more about the print. Mass Market if want to be specific.

Anywhos, without further adieu, I give you Calliope's Domain's Top 5 Weirdest Reading Spots.

#5 - Walking

Sure, Belle makes it look easy - especially in the sequence where she just automatically raises her hand to lift the sign and divert the dirty water being dropped from above - but reading while you walk is actually something of an art and like all art forms it's a lot easier to get into the groove with practice, sure, but the actual execution is still tricky. Especially when you're walking strange streets.

#4 - In the Car

 I honestly never could understand it when people said they got sick while reading in the car. Since Kindergarten, I've been reading in moving vehicles of one kind or another. Ever sit in the back of the bus? Kind of bouncy back there especially if you happen to live out in the country like me. How about being in the passenger seat while driving through a thunderstorm with the world's most nervous driver? If you can read through that, you can read through anything.

#3 - On the Stairs

Ultimately, the weirdness of this spot comes down to the stairs. Specifically, how narrow, steep and busy they happen to be. Sure, in a deserted area with adequately sized stairs this is a piece of cake. Narrower stairs, steeper inclines and actual traffic however can makes this a wee bit complicated. Especially when you've just reached the good part and refuse to be budged.

#2 - Playing at Mermaid

Add water to any reading experience and things are gonna get a mite tricky. Now me, lucky girl that I am, not only got to grow up in the country, I got grow up a literal hop, skip and a jump away from a river. Very pretty in the summer. Nice open space which meant plenty of sunshine. The hard part was finding a place where you could sit or lounge or what have you without risking your book to Ariel's grotto.

#1 - In a Willow Tree

So, that river I mentioned? Well, it just happened to have an enormous Hydro dam spanning it not all that far from my house and said Hydro dam had one of those sprawling green spaces surrounding it which happened to have several willow trees dotted about. Now, honestly, I'm not really sure whether it was harder getting up the tree to an adequate branch (and may I say few things are more aggravating than spending fifteen minutes climbing a tree only to get settled and realize the book is back on the ground) or balancing comfortably on said adequate branch once you get there.

And there you have it - my Top 5. Hopefully this will pop up again next week. Until then...over and out, mes amours!