Saturday, 24 September 2011

Darker Still: Reviewed

by Leanna Renee Hieber

The Picture of Dorian Gray meets Pride and Prejudice, with a dash of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.New York City, 1882. Seventeen-year-old Natalie Stewart's latest obsession is a painting of the handsome British Lord Denbury. Something in his striking blue eyes calls to her. As his incredibly life-like gaze seems to follow her, Natalie gets the uneasy feeling that details of the painting keep changing...
Jonathan Denbury's soul is trapped in the gilded painting by dark magic while his possessed body commits unspeakable crimes in the city slums. He must lure Natalie into the painting, for only together can they reverse the curse and free his damaged soul.
From the back cover:

“I was obsessed. It was as if he called to me, demanding I reach out and touch the brushstrokes of color swirled onto the canvas. It was the most exquisite portrait I’d ever seen. Everything about Lord Denbury was unbelievable-- utterly breathtaking and eerily lifelike. There was a reason for that. Because despite what everyone said, Denbury never had committed suicide. He was alive. Trapped within his golden frame. I’ve crossed over into his world within the painting and I’ve seen what dreams haunt him. They haunt me too. He and I are inextricably linked- bound together to watch the darkness seeping through the gas-lit cobblestone streets of Manhattan. And unless I can free him soon, things will only get darker still..."

How could I resist? Pride and Prejudice and Dorian Grey are two of my favourite classic tales (The Literary Cannon has its uses! hehehee) However when I was given this ARC I was not the first member of my family to read it! Minxy Mummy said that looks good and snaffled it out from under my nose and took it home! I had to go and steal it back from her. I did allow her to read it though, because I am nice like that, and she thought it was ' really good' which is Mum language for I loved it. Which is good, because I finished it this morning and I agree, I loved it!

It is great and a unique idea, a young girl to save a man trapped in a painting and love blossoms, add to that  supernatural beliefs of different nations, demons and spirits and I am sold! The characters are well crafted and believable, Natalie is sincere and innocent and we watch her grow as a person as the novel develops, she becomes a heroine in the true sense of the word, battling evil whist shaking in her boots but refusing to give in. Danbury is gallant and a gentleman, but with a passionate edge that shows you he would be an interesting man to know. In some sense he is a man led by his passions, but one who had learned that to follow blindly will lead to disaster. Now he has a passion for Natalie, and his freedom.

The supporting characters are equally intriguing, particularly Mrs Northe and her niece Maggie. I am wondering how they will develop in future novels, some lovely teasers were dropped into this book, I want to know more about Mr Bentrop, why was he in Egypt, why did he want the painting so much? I could be way off the mark, but I do want to know more. I do love it when a story is resolved but leaves the reader wondering and further questions. To me that is the sign of a great read.

I don't read and recommend much YA, but I do recommend this, why? Firstly is is great and well written with believable characters which give an insight into to the supernatural superstitions of Victoriana, secondly because the appeal is generational, from 12 to 92. Lets put it this way Minxy Mummy is in her 60s and she loved it. I loved it. I hope everybody loves it.

Ok, ramble time usually means I need to finish this off, so here goes, Darker Still is a great read by a talented author and I hope it becomes a modern classic! There, I said it. I hope all who read the book, enjoy it as much as I did. I give it 5 frillies out of 5!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

One Grave at a Time: Reviewed

own purchase
by Jeaniene Frost

The grave is one wrong step away.

Having narrowly averted an (under)world war, Cat Crawfield wants nothing more than a little downtime with her vampire husband, Bones. Unfortunately, her gift from New Orleans' voodoo queen just keeps on giving--leading to a personal favor that sends them into battle once again, this time against a villainous spirit.

Centuries ago, Heinrich Kramer was a witch hunter. Now, every All Hallows Eve, he takes physical form to torture innocent women before burning them alive. This year, however, a determined Cat and Bones must risk all to send him back to the other side of eternity--forever. But how do you kill a killer who's already long dead?
I do love me a Cat and Bones books, and this is a great Cat and Bones book, plot driven rather thn relationship driven this one takes on a wild ride through their lives, giving snippets of things to come and a fantastic battle against ghosts. We meet old friends, make new friends, have the blindfold whipped off our face when we are tricked and smile when Cat and Bones make time for each other.

For me this is one of the best in the series (and again, if you have not read any of the others you could read this as a stand alone) Cat and Bones are asked to help Elizabeth, a ghost friend of Fabian, rid the world of Heinrich Kramer. Kramer tried her for a wicth and killer her and even though he is dead, he is still doing it, Elizabeth has tried for years to stop him, but can not. Cat and Bones agree to help, but this is only one story in the book, the other involves Don and a new character Madigan. Madigan is well known to Don, but there are secrets about their past together which Don seems unwilling to share. With Don haunting Madigan at the compaound we hear snippets of what is probably a plot to come and it is an intriguing plot!

Cat and Bones are a sexy as ever, passion and turmoil seems to swirl around them but they make it look good! The plot is tight and intriguing, we have new side characters, Tyler (a medium) in particular who is creative and extremely funny, especially when discussing sexy vampires. But for me it is Ian who steals the show in some sense as he does get the best lines, it also allows us to try and get to know him better. I do love how Bones, Spade and Ian interact with each other, a friendship and loyalty which transends personalities, very much like family.

I realise I am rambling now, but I truly do not want to spoil someones joy of watching the story unfold and figuring out the secrets, or laughing out loud and one of the many oneliners.

A great read! Engaging and exciting. I give it 4.5 frillies out of 5.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Archangel's Blade: Reviewed

own purchase
By Nalini Singh

The severed head marked by a distinctive tattoo on its cheek should have been a Guild case, but dark instincts honed over hundreds of years of life compel the vampire Dmitri to take control. There is something twisted about this death, something that whispers of centuries long past...but Dmitri's need to discover the truth is nothing to the vicious strength of his response to the hunter assigned to decipher the tattoo.

Savaged in a brutal attack that almost killed her, Honor is nowhere near ready to come face to face with the seductive vampire who is an archangel's right hand, and who wears his cruelty as boldly as his lethal sensuality...the same vampire who has been her secret obsession since the day she was old enough to understand the inexplicable, violent emotions he aroused in her.

As desire turns into a dangerous compulsion that might destroy them both, it becomes clear the past will not stay buried. Something is hunting...and it will not stop until it brings a blood-soaked nightmare to life once more...

Part of the Guild Hunter series but if you have never read any before this novel is easily read as a stand alone, and trust me it is worth reading! Dmitri, Dmitri, Dmitri.... I want a Dmitri! Actually if I had we would fight a lot because I can be downright awkward but I believe the making up would be worth it! As you can tell I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I have enjoyed the whole series and liked Dmitri from the beginning, it was his sarcasm and protective nature which drew me and the sexy and dangerous exterior just made him a multifaceted character I wanted to know more about. In Archangel's Blade Dmitri is laid bare for all to see and his is a wonderful tale of loss, violence, hardship, passion, protection and a love that defies the rules.

Honor is a great character and a reflection of Dmitri, if that makes sense. Dmitri appears to be strong but as the novel goes on we realise the secret he hides and how emotionally fractured he can be, Honor appears to be fractured but inside we find she had a core of iron which has held strong through all the hardship and abuse she has endured. They fit, perfectly, and whilst Dmitri is instantly attracted Honor wants nothing to do with him, or any vampire. One of my favourite scenes is when he tells her to look at a painting to see what his type of women is, when she looks it up and sees the woman, she may as well be looking in the mirror. It is a fantastic scene.

A great multi layers story from Singh, on one level you have the action plot of who is murdering the vampires, beneath that you have the mystery plot of who kidnapped Honor, under that you have the plot of who is honor, and layered between all of them, linking and surrounding all the themes is the growing relationship between Honor and Dmitri. Meeting up again Holly Chang who was kidnapped in the first novel allowed us to see what was going on and how she may develop for future novels, meeting Honor also allowed us to meet more of the hunters, Ashwini in particular and I am keen to see how they both develop as characters. Of course Raphael and Elena both feature in the book, as do Bluebell and Venom so no fear about missing your favourite characters.

This is a fast paced book which grabs and holds your attention until the end, for me, definitely a keeper. Yes you do kinda figure out the connection between Dmitri and Honor, but I believe we are supposed to and the knowledge only makes us understand the power of true love.

A great read I give 5 frilly knickers to. 

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Review: Dearly Departed

ARC from AAD

by Lia Habel

Love can never die.

Love conquers all, so they say. But can Cupid’s arrow pierce the hearts of the living and the dead—or rather, the undead? Can a proper young Victorian lady find true love in the arms of a dashing zombie?

The year is 2195. The place is New Victoria—a high-tech nation modeled on the manners, mores, and fashions of an antique era. A teenager in high society, Nora Dearly is far more interested in military history and her country’s political unrest than in tea parties and debutante balls. But after her beloved parents die, Nora is left at the mercy of her domineering aunt, a social-climbing spendthrift who has squandered the family fortune, and now plans to marry her niece off for money. For Nora, no fate could be more horrible—until she’s nearly kidnapped by an army of walking corpses.

But fate is just getting started with Nora. Catapulted from her world of drawing-room civility, she’s suddenly gunning down ravenous zombies alongside mysterious black-clad commandos and confronting “The Laz,” a fatal virus that raises the dead—and hell along with them. Hardly ideal circumstances. Then Nora meets Bram Griswold, a young soldier who is brave, handsome, noble . . . and dead. But as is the case with the rest of his special undead unit, luck and modern science have enabled Bram to hold on to his mind, his manners, and his body parts. And when his bond of trust with Nora turns to tenderness, there’s no turning back. Eventually, they know, the disease will win, separating the star-crossed lovers forever. But until then, beating or not, their hearts will have what they desire.

In Dearly, Departed, steampunk meets romance meets walking-dead thriller, spawning a madly imaginative novel of rip-roaring adventure, spine-tingling suspense, and macabre comedy that forever redefines the concept of undying love.

Yes you heard right, Zombies, now before I go any further I would like to state that I have a 'thing' about Zombies, and I don't mean in an aren't they great way. This is the fault of my uncle who showed me, my brother and cousin Dawn of the Dead- I was about 10! Never been the same about Zombies since, they loved them, me.... terrified!  It took until I was in my 20s for me to watch Day of the Dead, but I have been getting over it and did read Pride, Prejudice and Zombies. So if me, a zombie worrier liked it, it must be good, mustn't it? Well I DID like it and it is a very good book. It has enough charm to warm and cheer the most avid adult reader and enough angst to thrill the YA reader and perhaps make them forget all about sparkly vampires, at least for a while.

If you are a Zombie lover there are the traditional thriller flesh eating decaying walking dead zombies, but there are also the Zombies who are suffering from 'The Laz' or Lazarus syndrome, when they 'died' they reanimated quickly and came back as themselves, personality and morality intact. This dichotomy creates an interesting development in the story arc, you have your traditional battle between different factions (The Punks and New Victorians, the good and bad Zombies, the humans and all zombies) but it also allows the story to twist and turn in intricate ways. And it is a story with a twist, one that makes you think, concentrate and question.

It is a complicated tale, but it is written in a way which allows you to see the full picture. Each chapter is written in the first person, but each chapter is written in a different voice: the chapter headers telling you who is narrating the chapter. Now don't run away screaming, this is a really interesting way of giving the omniscient narrative point of view and it works well, creating sympathy for the characters and a pacy novel.

The characters are endearing, Nora and Bram in particular, but the supporting characters measure up too, they are amusing, forthright and brave. I don't want to say too much because I would hate to spoil the book for anyone. Nora (Dearly- hence the title) is intelligent, brave and ladylike, something which is shown in great contrast when she comes in contact with the zombies, but she also holds a secret, a secret that she doesn't know. Bram is tall, athletic, sensitive and alpha, and for a zombie, sexy. They are drawn to each other from the beginning but as the relationship develops they are faced with the obvious problem of where it can go, are I really enjoyed where Habel took the story. The steampunk backdrop is perfect for the content of the novel, a mix of new technology, steam and Victoriana. One of my favourite scenes shows you just what damage you can do with a parasol!

The ending suggests that there will be future books and I am really interested where this tale will go. An interesting and enjoyable read I give 4.5 frillies to. Definitely one to watch out for.

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