Archive for the ‘mushy weird’ Category
Private Demon ties up neatly with If Angels Burn, the more-than, not-quite paranormal romance I discovered in the used book-bins of Booksale. I discovered this title first actually and couldn’t get into the book right away, probably because it was the second in a series. Continuity is very strong in this series, no matter who the central couple is currently. I recommend that this series be read in order to truly appreciate the excellent world-building, plot twists, and multidimensional characters. Dr. Alex and Michael along with other characters introduced in the first book are important to the overall plot, Alex specially as she may hold the cure to the Darkyn’s curse. Characters take turns enjoying the spotlight, but continue to develop their relationships in succeeding volumes. John Keller, a troubled priest and Alex’s brother, enjoys quite a lot of attention. I don’t understand why the author is building him up to this degree but maybe the reason will be revealed in future volumes.
Jaus could have used the services of Hitch.
Even if a reader finds the current focus not very likable it still pays to complete the series to follow the story of favorite characters. I was rather disappointed myself with how the romance in this volume turned out. I preferred Jaus over Thierry, and this isn’t a spoiler because blurb on the back cover makes it clear who gets whom. Before I go on further into the romance, here is a bit of a backgrounder on the Darkyn-Brethren mythos.
The Darkyn believes they were cursed 600 years ago. They died but they rose from their graves hungering for blood. Several tumultuous centuries followed where they sought to control their urges. Maybe their enemy, the Brethren, a secret organization of vampire-hating humans had just cause for their vendetta in the beginning. Now, they use their powerful Church, business, and government connections to abduct and torture Darkyn.
Thierry Durand and his family were the latest victims. In the previous volume he believed his wife tortured to death, driving him mad. In this volume, he seeks justice for a rape victim. His investigation leads him to the Brethren, and to the dying Jema Shaw. Jema works for a museum and part time as a forensic science expert for the coroner’s office. Her juvenile diabetes is taking its toll on her body and she may not live to see her 30th birthday. In love with her is Valentin Jaus, head vampire of Chicago. He has watched over her since she was a baby, since he found her lost and crying in his backyard. One of the Darkyn’s most powerful lord, he is strangely powerless when it comes to Jema.
Thierry also falls in love with Jema, as he enters her dreams to find out what she knows about the Brethren. By sharing dreams with one another the two somehow heal one another of past hurts and become very close psychically. To Jema, Thierry is a dream lover but after several dreams she suspects he is more than that.
Each of the Darkyn has a special ability, by the way. Michael can make one forget; Alex when she turned can sense the thoughts of killers; and Thierry can enter dreams.
I’ve already said I really liked this series overall. But I’ve got pet peeves, some of which I mentioned in my review of If Angels Burn. Here is another: for such powerful creatures the Darkyn are too easily abducted and infiltrated. Nevermind betrayals, it still should not be this easy. Surely, they would not have been able to establish strong power bases in many cities in Europe and America if smarts were not part of their package? Yet, again and again the Brethren outsmart them, people who don’t strike me as that smart to begin with.
To end on a positive note, I hear that Lucas and a cop are starring in the third volume. How interesting. Lucas is the Darkyn’s cold-blooded assassin. I wonder how hard he will fall when he falls in love. Dark Need, please don’t be hard to get.
Good thing these vampires keep to themselves. Out on the streets, the way they smell so flowery all the time, they will be mistaken for metrosexuals.
Labels are convenient but they can mislead. If Angels Burn is paranormal romance, it is also a supernatural thriller. If you see it beside other titles with similar covers of gorgeous men with dark passionate eyes you might dismiss it as another vampire romance with more smut than plot. It helps to be familiar with authors so you know you’re getting a good story. It helps if you’re lucky to chance upon it in a used-bookstore and have quick browsing skill that lets you sample sufficiently the flavor of a book before buying.
I was lucky. And I trusted my instinct well enough to risk buying an unfamiliar author. Because I did, I found another series to look forward to. On first impression, the story looked too dark and edgy, with an unsympathetic female character. She wasn’t a heroine I would want normally for a romance: fiercely intelligent, independent but tough to get to know and hardly any ounce of girl.
So how did I end up liking this series? The sum of its parts had a synergistic effect, I realized halfway into the book. How did it begin, anyway? Dr. Alexandra Keller, Chicago’s most brilliant reconstructive surgeon, was abducted and persuaded to operate on Michael Cyprien, New Orlean’s most reclusive millionaire. His face and body were disfigured beyond medical repair. But his body’s ability to recuperate from his wounds bordered on the miraculous. Alex operated but when Michael awakened disoriented from the operation he attacked Alex and almost drained her of blood.
Michael is a Darkyn, an immortal whose kind is under attack by an organization of vampire-hating humans. Alex survived, changed. The story followed her attempts to understand scientifically what is happening to her body. In between Michael’s attempts to persuade–seduce, force, trick–her into accepting his protection the intrigues between the two factions played out, netting Alex’s priest-brother, other Darkyn and troubled humans.
They’re all deeply disturbed, actually. The Darkyn for having died and rising to discover they are monsters. The humans for experiencing some trauma, ending up misguided. There is tension after tension, from the volatile chemistry between Alex and Michael to the politics in human and vampire factions, and their struggle to survive.
I found this book very intelligent, with attention to details that most romances usually ignore. I had fun reading the scenes in the operating room, where Alex tried to stay two steps ahead of the Darkyn’s healing prowess so she can fix them. Of course this book is not perfect. I find the Darkyn’s disconnection with modern times a stretch; their Middle Age characters rather affected; and a jardin of vampires smelling like flowers ridiculous.
This Darkyn world is well fleshed out, nevertheless. If Viehl continues to write in this vein, I expect to follow this series through till the last book.
No need to make fantasy romance a guilty secret. I’m very pleased overall with writing, plotting, world building, and characterization. With the last I feel the two main love interests were put in the shade by all the other characters I found more interesting with stronger personalities. Solie and Heyou were likable enough but they were nice kids and I don’t go reading my books for nice kids lucky enough to become the hero and heroines of a book. I enjoyed their love story but I really liked this book for the possibilities brimming in the other characters. Damaged Rill and his love for the still-child Lizzie is as intriguing as the world of sylphs and the humans whose attention they crave. I can’t wait for the sequel The Shattered Sylph where Rill goes after grown-up Lizzie kidnapped by slavers.
To enslave a battle sylph, a woman must be sacrificed. But Solie refused to be sacrificed.
Maybe this should be a guilty secret after all. When I started this book blog, I wanted my reviews (impressions rather) to be genderless. But I guess it’s impossible to hold back the squees upon encountering very good romances, which happens rarely. I usually find romances that appeal to me set within other genres, like urban fantasy (Kate Daniel series by Illona Andrews) and Sword of Maiden’s Tears by Rosemary Edghill. From the genre itself only two series stood out, Drakon series by Shana Abe with lyrical writing and solemn characters; and Darkyn by Lynn Viehl, dark, edgy and which also reads like a paranormal thriller.
In the world of the battle sylphs, women’s fantasies to be worshipped and protected are fulfilled to the max. Sylphs are powerful energy creatures that can take on any shape. There are different kinds–air, earth, fire, water, food, healing, and battle sylphs. What they have in common is an overriding need for attention. They are very simple creatures actually. The older they are, like centuries old, the more complex their needs and wants are. In their formless world, they vie for the attention of a queen. Given how numerous they are they may live and die without making an intimate connection with anybody else.
So when human magicians open a gate to their world, they are easily lured. Sylphs become slaves of humans who make them work or do battle for them. Battle sylphs are the most powerful, to be lured only by women. In the male-dominated human world, women may not become masters, killed the moment a battle sylph is caught. This so traumatizes the sylphs that they become insane, projecting powerful hate forevermore to the males they are forced to serve.
Fortunately, Solie kept her wits about her and named the creature that came through the gate that it was able to protect her and assume human form. Thus another fantasy romance is born that I bet will almost be as popular as Christine Feehan’s Dark Vampire series. May I request though for older or more complex central characters in subsequent stories. Solie and too many of the sylphs in this debut are childlike and I doubt young adults are the intended audience of the series.
A Good Year happens if the climate was consistent throughout, warm, offering the ripening grapes little surprises. If I understood Kathy’s explanations correctly, this plus good soil, careful supervision, and tender loving care were almost always sufficient for a good harvest. And the wine will flow.
During the Flips Flipping Pages book discussion last September 18, the wine did flow: red wine, light and exuberant; white wine, well balanced, crisp with the flavors of citrus and spicy ginger. Uncomplicated wine enjoyed with a variety of foods, from cold cuts to Gege’s divine cheesy churvas.
The reason for meeting was Peter Mayle’s bestselling novel, A Good Year. Published in 2004, it was adapted into a movie starring Russell Crowe in 2006.
The story follows Max Skinner, a London stockbroker, who loses his job before finding out that he inherited a vineyard in France from his late uncle Henry. In Provence he falls in love with wine, the people, and the simple life. Through the book readers get a glimpse of the highly competitive wine business.
The movie deviated on a few but very emphatic points in the story. It stressed romance and comedy, chose to combine feisty and alluring into one love interest instead of sticking to the lesbian lawyer and flirty café owner of the book, and completely did away with the fumbling Hardy Boy attempts of Max and company.
The uncle-nephew relationship was also prioritized, presented through flashbacks and wistful reminiscences. Said many of the Flippers during the discussion, they preferred movie over book–a rare event among booklovers. The book had exuberance but the movie had direction.
With Gege (IslandHopper) moderating, the book discussion transformed into another amazing eat, talk, eat, swap, and learn gathering. Sheila (aka Shy) had arranged to hold it at the Cyrano Wine Shop on Palanca St of Legaspi Village, Makati. Cyrano owner, Alex Sawit, presided over the bar, demonstrating at one point the Cyrano cut, kung fu technique of opening a wine bottle (Flippers, don’t try this at home).
Gege and Sheila (with Jeeve’s help) had invited Miss Katherine Yao Santos to give some pointers on wine appreciation. Kathy is the marketing director for Happy Living Philippines, importer of the Beringer wine from Napa Valley in California. She grew up loving wine, she said. As a child she learned how to tell good wine from bad, how to properly store wine, and how wine was produced. To enter the wine business, one must be passionate about wine or else the business will not prosper.
In the book, Max’s friend Charlie demonstrated the ritual of wine tasting. To truly appreciate wine, I feared one has to have en extensive vocabulary of flowery words. Kathy’s lesson in wine appreciation killed that fear–and initiated my palate to the wonders of wine!
White Zinfandel, very friendly, eased the Flippers into the first sip. Said Kathy, the blush wine is good for those just learning to appreciate wine. It has a bit of sweetness, an attractive clarity, and nice with different food. “Bagay sa tapsilog,” she agreed.
Hold the wine glass at the stem (to avoid warming the wine with our hand), check the clarity (reject wine if there are particles), swirl (to make the wine come alive), breathe in the bouquet (dip the nose into the glass), and sip (don’t swallow right away, let the wine coat all your taste buds, savor the lingering taste).
“You want wine to still be there, so you get the combination of wine with food,” said Kathy. Wine primes the tongue for food. For Filipino food with lots of sauce, lighter wine is better. Color coding can even be applied: white wine for white sauce; red for red sauce. Heavier wine is good for heavier food like steak.
Kathy discussed other important points about wine, summarized below:
Glass and stemware are very important. Shape and thickness of glass affect wine appreciation. Use thin glass for wine.
Alex helped explain the mechanics of using the right glass for wine. With tapering glass, the wine hits the sweet center of the tongue first. For fruity wine, wider glass is better so the sweetness is diffused.
If not stored properly, wine will oxidize. If exposed to heat, wine starts cooking. Best use a wine chiller or store where temperature is stable.
Bottle-opening involves the right gadget and technique. In proper society, we’re not supposed to pop the cork, Kathy said (so Hollywood is not proper society?).
Choose quality wine. Price is a good indication. Wine priced at below 400 pesos are usually mass produced. Wine is expensive because of the extreme care given to the growing of grapes, making sure all the right conditions are met. Note the well manicured vineyards that produce good wine, said Kathy.
When ordering wine at restaurants, inspect the cork. “If you see wine stains on side of cork, the wine was leaking and not properly stored. Reject wine as the flavor might have been compromised.”
In wine tasting, spitting after tasting is the norm. This is done so the wine doesn’t get to you explained Kathy. Focus is important. To evaluate quality, tasting is enough.
Alex shed light on the heavy vs light bottle debate. Apparently, many people think that heavy bottles are better for wine. “Lighter is environment friendly. But consumer perception for red wine is for heavy bottles.” Heavy or light probably does not make a difference to the quality of wine.
Given all the elements of wine–taste, texture, clarity, fragrance, body, etc. appreciating wine can be a tricky business. But Kathy reassured the Flippers: Never let anyone dictate your wine. We enjoy wine differently.
No shame then if you enjoy Strawberry wine or some other very fruity wine. As long as you can appreciate it.
Said Gege, “I usually drink wine for the buzz.” So Kathy’s wine appreciation talk was an eye-opener.
Time was short after the wine appreciation session: another red and a white, the Beringer California Zinfandel and Chenin Blanc, were also appreciated. The Flippers had been so engrossed that they almost forgot to discuss the book! Gege routed everyone and asked several to describe Peter Mayle’s A Good Year in wine terms.
Welski wrote a very good recap of this part of the discussion. The book swap followed. Wine flowed some more. The grapes, cheesy churvas, pizza, cold cuts, pasta, and chips disappeared from the plates. Flippers brought home laminated coasters and glass-shaped bookmarks Gege made. The message, [name of Flipper] is having a good year, was repeated all over the place.
Of course the Flippers are having a good year. But maybe the Flippers needed the positive reinforcement. Unlike with wine, hot and cold, wet and dry, rocky and sandy help make the Flippers. What is a year without surprises? Boring? Clueless? Flat?
Unlike wine, Flippers mature well with all sorts of challenges. The book discussion proves it.
I am impressed enough by the premise of the book. A group of mortals infused with the spirits of celestial beings, guarding against unruly spirits and ghosts. A Byronic figure waiting for his goddess to return as the seventh member of that group. And a girl white as snow with strange visions. The story takes off from the Persephone myth, then twists it.
If she didn’t think herself handicapped by strange looks, I bet she’d be a flirt.
Which I’m not sure I liked, fond as I am of the story of Hades’s cruel passion for the girl forbidden to him. But I can live with that. The Gothic imagery and chase scenes across the slums of London are captivating, and all the grandiose gestures make for cinematic appeal.
My problem with this book is Miss Percy Parker who is supposedly timid but just comes across as vulgar with her exaggerated protestations of her “deformity.” She sounds like a whipped cur most of the time, irritatingly needy.
I can’t relate to her and, except for Alexi and Rebecca, the others of the Guard who have little to no personality to speak of. Do they have a purpose aside from making the number?
Beautiful, strangely not quite.
Who is that unseen narrator? So melodramatic.
Is there a burden more terrifying than the knowledge that one day the man you love will destroy your family? Lia, daughter of Rue and Kit of The Smoke Thief, has dreamt of the future for years. In her dreams, Zane, urchin thief who served her mother, has become a ruthless, master thief. Wielding Draumr, a diamond with the power to enslave the drakons, creatures of legend who can shift from human to smoke to dragon at will, he will turn Lia’s world upside down, and she will let him.
But before that future comes, Lia sets out to find Draumr first. As Lia does not seem to possess the power to turn, she was not as well guarded as her siblings by her people, and managed to sneak away. This is still a no mean feat as Drakon society embraces its women in a velvet-covered vice. Worried about the potential harm of the diamond, her parents had commissioned Zane to return the diamond to the dragon clan.
Lia intercepts Zane, convincing him to take her with him. To Zane, Lia was a quiet child. But now he sees a woman who has grown into her beauty. Through their quest, he also witnesses her grow into her power. To his despair, he realizes he wants her, but cannot have her, but with Draumr, would he be able to claim her? Could he become more powerful than the drakons?
Buried within the Carpathian Mountains, a diamond continues to dream, and call.
I don’t know if I like this better than Smoke Thief. The passion is more complex, as Zane is no drakon who cannot help but love the alpha who is his match. Lia loves her family and will risk all for them, but is drawn to Zane’s darkness. I am oftentimes disturbed by Zane, who is oftentimes not gentle with Lia.
Tenderness and brutality. Love is weird. But in a world where dragons still fly, Shana Abe has somehow made it magic. I’m still very much into dragons.
How I got it…
I hunted. A bookstore had my prey. I netted it, with cash and bookstore discount card. I will not rest until I have all Shana Abe titles with me. My obsessiveness with collecting entire series sometimes crosses over to authors.
Why I read it…
I enjoy beautifully written historical romances that is high on romance and passion but low in smut.
The politics of marriage back then was incredibly complicated. Thank goodness for the Vikings, warfreaks, forcing them out of their comfort zones, and two from warring clans to come together.
What’s the story?
His enemy had grown up to be a goddess. The last time English Lord, Arion, saw Lauren Macrae was when she was a thin brat he saved from his uncle’s dungeons. His people and her clan are enemies, fighting over a small but fertile island, the Isle of Shot for generations. She returns the favor by rescuing him from invading Northmen, but the hostility and distrust are still there. Acting as the clan’s chief, with her father dead and her cousin gravely injured, she reluctantly accepts Arion’s offer of a truce, and an alliance against a common enemy. Maybe the fact that the effect they had on each other was like a blow to the stomach made the alliance very attractive, therefore extremely frightening.
What I liked about it…
- Forbidden love. She is promised to another clan lord. And he is the enemy. To give in to their feelings is a betrayal of the highest kind, unforgivable in the eyes of their society.
- He pursues her nevertheless. He thought up of the alliance, and is willing to risk war for her.
- Courage and defiance. She embraced the duties of war for the love she bore her father, for her people’s sake, and for her own sense of right. Is it right to turn her back on her people? Her courage fascinates him. His strength makes her weak.
- But it gave her the wisdom eventually to see beyond clan loyalties and family obligations.
What I didn’t like about it…
- The cover, which is like any other historical romance. How can an ordinary browser realize that this book stands out from the rest?
- It’s not as good as the other Shana Abe titles. Or I just didn’t like it as much because there were no magical elements involved, but the emotionally written narrative carried me along just as well as the other books.
With romance books, there is a part in the binding that immediately opens to a favored page. Usually it opens to a steamy scene. With my copy of The Truelove Bride, I see that it easily opens to several parts: when the bride defies the laird her abductor, demanding to be let go; when the laird almost slips into madness when political enemies threatens to take her away; when he finally breaks through her fears, earning her trust for the first time.
I guess I found more than one part of it captivating.
After discovering Shana Abe with The Smoke Thief, I wasted no time in hunting down the rest of her titles. So far, I am still missing A Rose in Winter, The Promise of Rain, A Kiss at Midnight, and Time Weaver.
The Truelove Bride is essentially a historical romance, not the paranormal fantasy-romance of the Drakon series. It takes off from a legend though:
A hundred years ago the laird’s beloved bride rejected an evil faerie’s advances; the faerie killed her. Anguished, the laird calls on the devil to destroy the creature. But the devil demanded a high price for services rendered. He will take the fruits of the clan’s lands and loins as payment, effectively cursing the land and its people. The land will become barren, the children will be taken away, and the animals will not prosper. The curse will only be broken by a warrior woman with the mark of the laird’s bride. But she will hate them.
And Avalon does. Most of her life, she was forced to become that legend by the old laird. How can she believe in Marcus, the laird’s son, who she believes sees her only as that legend also. Her visions, her hated chimera, more than adds to the touch of magic that has destroyed so many lives.
Or maybe that magic sought to save them, only they were too stubborn to let it? But I’m not stubborn. I got this book hoping to be spellbound. And I was.
Only if they can turn into smoke, breathe enchantment into every word and action, turn what could have been another paranormal romance fiction into a magical reading experience.
In this genre, with thousands of titles peopled by alpha males and females oozing sex and kick-ass attitude, I grasp at this story, relieved that authors still believe in sensuality, a dance played out not only physically but also, I would like to believe, at the level of the heart and soul, and elegant, if a little aloof, characters.
Mesmerized by how mesmerized Kit and Rue are with each other, even when they don’t touch, especially when they don’t touch.
For centuries, beings who can shapeshift into dragons and turn into smoke have lived in northern England’s misty hills. To safeguard their secret from humans, they have developed a strict code of conduct that severely punishes runners, those who would wish to live free among humans. At 17, Rue discovers she has the ability to ‘turn,’ believed a lost ability among the tribe’s women. This places her, automatically, in the role of their lord’s mate. Rue loves Christoff, but doesn’t want him like that. So she runs away, and becomes a thief. Years later, Christoff goes to London to hunt the mysterious Smoke Thief, dangling the tribe’s most valuable jewel as bait.
To the dragons, jewels are not just shiny baubles; the stones somehow call to them. Not even Rue can resist.
The fairy tale-like quality of the writing, and lack of humor, may be a turn-off for readers who like funny and witty. But I love it, it makes me ache for more.
So, no, dragons are not my next vampires. I think they were soaring the skies even before vampires cleaned up and became hot.