Posts Tagged ‘fantastic’
Should I lower my standards if a book is labeled paranormal romance? If the story builds on urban fantasy grit, murder mystery storyline, and romance dynamics, I expect an intelligent crossover not a dumbed-down hodgepodge composed of silly dialogue from caricatures.
If this were a movie casting I’ll bawl out the person with the bright idea of pulling a grandfather from a family sitcom to stand in as elite tactical team commander. I’d also ask for a consultant on mystery solving procedures so characters don’t stumble around pretending to be looking for clues.
I think I’d also make sure the cast of werewolves has a good supply of cold medication. Imagine, a werewolf who can’t smell the enemy just a few meters away! How embarrassing.
For me, the only saving grace of this book is the idea for the setting–a post apocalyptic future where werewolves and vampires are genetically engineered soldiers, now unwanted remnants of the last war. The government strictly controls the movement of humans across borders; unregistered individuals are treated as criminals and hunted by military units, of which the lead character, Gina Santiago, is a dutiful member… until she realizes a secret about herself.
Ah, well. Goodbye, dead world. Gladly, I shut the lid on your coffin.
Love, love Kate and Curran, but rather confused at how easily defeated the antagonist was–almost as if the being had a death wish. I know there was this extremely violent confrontation but the antagonist did not live up to the legend, just a powerful brat too impatient to strategize. I can’t puzzle it out further for fear of giving spoilers.
Mad as a hatter after all these thousands of years. I’m sure s/he used to be more fearsome.
The latest in Illona Andrews is still awesome, though. The setting beguiles me with a thousand thousand stories untold, from an Atlanta going through magic pangs, where creatures from myths and legends are finally able to breathe and wreak havoc. The characters are well-fleshed out, with Kate as the softie but whose mercenary-turned-government detective lifestyle forces her to mouth off and stand tough for survival’s sake and Curran as the beast lord-shapeshifter who has chosen Kate to be his mate despite her reluctance–and habit of attracting trouble.
In this world, vampires are ugly, emaciated creatures controlled by human necromancers. Shapeshifters are either crazy, cannibalistic loners or disciplined members of a paramilitary pack. And the enemies are the monsters humans once worshipped now reasserting control.
That Kate is probably one of these monsters adds the killer edge to an already sharply plotted series. And, that here and there, the rather tense situations as if paused for a split second by some irreverence from Kate’s inner musings cracks me up.
In this volume, Kate and Curran finally trust one another to open up their secrets. Further intimacy ensues. *Insert big smile here* Sigh, I want book 5. Now..
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.
As far as many of my reader friends are concerned Neil Gaiman is god. But when I read Ghost Ocean I wondered why I would need him when I have S M Peters. On Amazon.com there are only eight reviews and Shelfari.com two. Sweet. I belong to a cult.
In St Ives, the stuff of myths and legends has been imprisoned for years. A magical field surrounds the town keeping all supernatural creatures bound. Hunters keep watch, ready to spring into action once a monster escapes. City folk live in uneasy ignorance of the monsters in their cellars .
Ghost Ocean , title, has nothing to do with the story. Who came up with it?
Te Evangeline works for one of these monster hunters, Babu, a sort of godfather that took her under his wing after her dad’s death five years ago. Her dad was a binder, the final offense against the creatures. First they must be tracked, then their power suppressed, and, finally, seduced by the binder’s power into submission.
In one scene, maybe my favorite, Te goes with the team looking for a bird creature who eats pieces of people. Through a park peopled by teenagers in ragged Victorian costumes she experiences for the first time her dad’s terrible responsibility. Face to face with the bird creature she discovers that to bind the creature she must love it and put it in a cage forever.
As the vision of a shaman chanting and stomping on a desert floor surrounds the ragtag team composed of a cowardly vampire, a genius mathematician with a toy raygun, and an albino tarot card-wielding witch, Te fails her first assignment.
One by one, the monsters are escaping, freed by the Kitsune, a shapechanger who grants wishes. His goal is to break open the seal around St Ives, even if it means freeing the Goat with a Thousand Young, a creature from the Void that can swallow the Earth whole if it grows big enough.
Te must find her role in all of this, use her loneliness as a key to unlocking the truth of her identity.
If creativity is scarce in the world then why is the author full of it? He created this cross between Lovecraft, the Seven Samurais, Hellboy, and American Gods yet the invention is like nothing else on earth. His invention makes much of the staleness in humanity’s imagination, as the stuff of dreams are imprisoned alongside that of our nightmares. Though I don’t buy into the idea that science negates imagination the premise makes for a compelling argument for letting these monsters go.
But if Te does what havoc will they cause on humanity?
Well-fleshed out characters, atmospheric writing, and memorable monsters, I really like this book, dark and depressing though it is. Here’s hoping for the impossible, a sequel, for in Ghost Ocean the impossible lives side by side with us.
Why I read it
It’s a sequel, thus I have a sacred duty to continue on with the story, or risk eternal damnation in serial reader hell.
If Johnny doesn’t become more interesting, Menessos will be king. Then Johnny will just have to wait for Menessos’s Mordred.
What’s the story
Persephone Alcmedi is a witch, a columnist, and a do-gooder. That’s why even if her grandmother annoys the hell out of her, she lets her live with her; even if big animals are troublesome, she shelters a Great Dane puppy; even if witches and werewolves aren’t supposed to mingle she kennels werewolves when the moon is full; and even if she doesn’t care at all to be High Priestess she competes for the honor just so a bitch of a witch won’t win.
During the trials, witches turned up dead. One of the aspirants may be a murderer, with a score to settle with the coven.
To complicate things further, Seph is also the Lustrata, chosen to bring justice and light to the supernatural beings on Earth. Stained by a vampire, she must also hide her weird connection with master-vampire wizard Menessos from the judges. Jealous werewolf boyfriend, Johnny, isn’t making her full plate easier to handle. With Seph’s fascination with all things Arthurian, I can’t help but imagine the love triangle-tragedy this relationship could so easily fall into.
What I liked about it
- It feeds my hunger for urban fantasy.
- Seph and Johnny are likeable.
- Menessos is not, but he likes Seph so now I’m curious about whether they will be an item.
- Well-researched (so it seems to me) magical lore
- The witches’ competition, called Eximium. I don’t know why, I really liked this part—maybe something to do with the presence of sharp retorts meant to deflate super egos that I can add to my own arsenal.
What I didn’t like about it
- The fairies—snotty, snobbish, swat-them-like-flies creatures
- The Lustrata, its role in Seph’s destiny and its place in the plot—rather forced. Suddenly, she’s the Lustrata and the people around her are convinced she is. Just because a werewolf is in love with her, and a vampire marked her?
In the first chapter, the man who has all the secrets and mysterious plans is murdered…. and all because he took things for granted.
Jayne Heller is a 22 year old college dropout who inherits her murdered uncle’s vast estates, and unfinished business. A ruthless cabal of wizards known as the Invisible College harnesses demon spirits for power and world domination. A realist, Jayne found it difficult to believe in the cabal’s existence. Unfortunately, it doesn’t share her reluctance, and is quite convinced she is a threat to their goals.
Collecting an assortment of allies—cursed chef, ex priest, Buddhist mystic, and attractive scientist, she sets out to continue her uncle’s legacy, and to survive the attacks against her. Unlike most urban fantasy heroines, she has to operate in a totally clueless-about-the-monsters-within-us society, meaning she has to work around or break some rules not just to survive but also succeed. An unexpected ability to dodge magical spells and kick ass makes the job easier, but piles up more unanswered questions.
Throughout the book, there were references as to how smart, resourceful, but secretive her uncle Eric was. Irritated, I would think, “but he was offed so easily in the first chapter!” He doesn’t exactly inspire much confidence from me, and yet Jayne’s present and future survival depends on the empire of properties, information, and secrets the uncle collected over the years.
But, there is hope, mine, that nothing is what it seems. The death of Randolph Coin, demon leader of the bad guys, bothered me. He was in despair, over dying or over the death of something he also is fighting for. This book may not be as exciting to read as others in the genre (the romance elements sucked, it dragged sometimes, the heroine is courageous but a cry baby…) but it has complexities that will certainly bring me back to the sequel, Darker Angels.
Now, if only her group of unlikely companions had more personality beyond the labels we conveniently set them apart with, this book would rise above the crush of urban fantasies in bookstore shelves.
Sure, but I’ll take two only please. The other two aren’t very cute.
Featuring four all-new tales of devilish dogs by four urban fantasy bestselling authors, Must Love Hellhounds was a welcome snack in between meals—while I recuperate from intense reading experiences, taking the edge off my appetite for favorite authors while I wait for the next titles.
Charlaine Harris is always delightful to read, though her tongue-in-cheek fantasy, The Britlingens Go to Hell, does not really inspire me to pursue further the adventures of paranormal bodyguards, Clovache and Batanya, through whatever world their assignments take them. I view this more as a writing exercise, a grabber so fans will buy this anthology. Expecting Sookie and her entourage of vampire hotties, they will be disappointed.
Angel’s Judgment by Nalini Singh introduces me to the Guild Hunter universe. If first impression counts, then I would advise these archangels, vampires, and guild hunters to get their acts together and act more like what they’re supposed to be and not spoiled brats on a game of tag so they could rack up more star points with me. As it is, this romance between two minor characters of the series fail to impress me.
Magic Mourns by Illona Andrews develops the relationship further between Andrea of the Order of Knights of Merciful Aid and shapeshifter warrior Raphael. I loved the Kate Daniels series, and I love the tense relationship between Kate and pack lord Curran. But this story had me reviewing the series not because of the major characters but for nuances and details of Raphael’s tenacious pursuit of Andrea I may have missed. A very fun read.
Meljean Brook’s Blind Spot intrigued me. A blind man who can see through the eyes of others joins a vampire’s bodyguard/assistant to rescue the vampire’s niece. The writing was deft and left enough hints of that world’s mythology to make me want to buy the series the short story spun off on.
If anyone had something in common to say about me, it would be, “I have a huge appetite, for food and books!” But rich fare can be overwhelming, so anthologies like this, giving us just a taste, are a welcome break. Like munching on cookies or sipping an apéritif.
The romance is secondary to the story, I know, but I’m convinced Ben Traina would make an awesome star of a spinoff gritty detective series where something fishy is always paranormal.
Reading this fast and furious, I was blown away by the dark and edgy storyline, the strong characters, the sharp lines between good guys and bad guys. The characters’ emotions were violent and powerful and the writing was compelling, engaging me with its flair for the dramatic. Then I took a moment to breathe, sat down for a more detailed read, and discovered the gaps in the plot, the weak links, and the soft spots.
The Sign of the Zodiac Series follows the adventures of Joanna Archer, a freelance photographer and reclusive heiress who finds out she belongs to a supernatural group of beings calling themselves the Zodiac. Set in glitzy Las Vegas, an age-old battle between the Light and the Shadow sucks in innocents and villains alike. Brutally raped as a teenager, Joanna survived to prowl the streets after sunset, seeking for answers, and revenge. On her 25th birthday, she got her wish, transforming into the Archer, at the cost of a dear one’s life.
Yes, this is superhero stuff, complete with trading cards, lurid comics-style scenarios, and geeky fanboys in a corner comic shop where Joanna goes to research on the mythology of her race. A little corny, but the twists got me cornered into continuing. Apparently, Joanna learns, she is more than a Zodiac Sign; she is the Kairos, of Light and Shadow both. Both sides want her, dead, alive, fighting with them, away from them… Sorry, it gets a bit tricky determining which way the wind blows.
This aspect is important, because Like Jean-Babtiste Grenouille of Perfume (The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind), these creatures track by scent. Their superhero senses could smell light and shadow, innocence and cruelty, everything in between as naturally as breathing—a talent that makes them sharp. Supposedly. So why these flaws?
- Joanna’s age that she was raped keeps shifting from 15 to 16 then back again.
- If the Shadow and Light can’t read each other’s comics, why don’t they ask/torture mortals who easily can for the story?
- Joanna’s glyph should glow when true enemies are around, not only at cinematic moments with her “true father.”
- The Tulpa, head of the Shadow Zodiac, sent a minion to rape and kill Joanna. Even if her scent was camouflaged afterward, they could have done basic research to figure out whose family she belongs to and that she survived.
- Was it such stretch for the Tulpa to consider his affair with a Light Agent may have born fruit and that he was the father of the Kairos?
- If a child of the previous Archer was so hated by the Tulpa, why didn’t he target Joanna’s sister Olivia, too?
I noted several more, but noting them all down would take up too much blog space. But what the heck, this is comics stuff. We love these glaring discrepancies so we will have the pleasure of pointing them out, filling them up with our own imaginative conjectures. In my book and In Scent of Shadows, the visuals and olfactory-rich narrative made it well worth the read.
When those children showed Harper how to get in sideways, the special effects were Eerie, Indiana in the park. Loved it.
Harper Blaine is a Greywalker. After being dead for two minutes, she found that she can travel the grey realms between the living and the dead. Clumsy in the first book, always falling and bumping into the things that go bump in the night, she is now more proficient with her newly found skill, complementing her own remarkable set of investigative skills.
With Greywalker, I was intrigued, and I hoped the series will get better. Glad to say it did. Much. And that mist I mentioned between me and Harper? Forget it. Something shifted, or it drew me in so subtly that I was within this Grey Zone, where our intrepid heroine goes to talk to ghosts and other paranormal entities for answers in solving her cases, without me realizing it was happening.
Gone was the disconnection. The writing is edgier, offering plausible-sounding, sometimes overly technical, explanations to paranormal phenomena. Featuring characters with more depth, that are so interesting that I was riveted watching them interact and give away subtle clues about the poltergeist messing up a university experiment, the sequel has definitely stepped up. Harper has to figure out if the poltergeist is the real deal—a ghost or product of the research group’s combined energy… or just someone’s idea of a very deadly trick.
Harper herself has also become more human to me; her ferret, Chaos, has quite an interesting personality herself. The old associates are still around: the mysterious IT expert Quin, university professors and paranormal enthusiasts, Ben and Mara, and some new faces.
The vampires of the first book are still in the background, lurking, I feel, for some objective Harper can’t imagine what. One of them is her mentor—of sorts, offering her vital information about the creatures of the Grey and how to stop them. There are threads, I fear, that would spun out only at the opportune time; meanwhile, vampires and Greywalking private investigator can be allies—of sorts.
As intriguing as the fantasy elements are, it is the real life events—the 1970s Phillips experiment to create a poltergeist with the power of thought, the Women’s Auxilliary Army Corps in WWI, and the Wah Mee massacre in Seattle’s Chinatown—framing the story that delivered the coup for me. When what should be imaginary fall out of the cracks in reality, it’s fascinating. But if what was completely real cement the cracks in fantasy for a convincing show, it’s breathtaking.