Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Forbidden

Forbidden (The Arotas Trilogy #1)

by Amy Miles


1 out of 5

Synopsis
Roseline Enescue didn't ask to become an Immortal, to have all of the guests at her wedding slaughtered, or be forced into marriage with a man whose lust for blood would one day ignite the vampire legend. Willing to risk everything for a chance at a normal life, Roseline escapes to America. Terrified her husband Vladimir will find her, Roseline enrolls as a senior in Chicago's elite Rosewood Prep school. Mingling with humans is the last place he would look for her. But her transition into the human world isn't easy. Mortal men flock after her while cutthroat girls plot her demise. Yet Roseline remains relatively unfazed by the petty hysteria until she falters into the arms of Gabriel Marston, reluctant MVP quarterback, unwilling ladies man, and sensitive artist in hiding. Troubled by the bond that pulls her towards the mortal boy, Roseline tries to ignore him, but Gabriel is persistent. As their lives entwine, Roseline begins to realize that Gabriel is much more than he appears. His ability to toss a football the entire length of the field and grind concrete into dust pales in comparison to the glowing blue cross tattoo that mysteriously appears on his forearms. Despite the forbidden bond between them, Roseline can't help wondering what Gabriel is: He's not human. He's not Immortal. So just what is he?

Review
Roseline has endured over 300 years of her own personal hell, when she finally decides to break away from her violent vampire husband, or die trying.

I've done it again, haven't I... I've been seduced by a pretty cover, thousands of high ratings and a synopsis that promises more than- actually, scratch that.  There is no story beyond the synopsis; that's a more honest way of putting it.

The book starts off well, a young, well-to-do girl is bartered in marriage by her socially ambitious parents.  But her betrothed is none other than Vladimir Enescue, a vampire who slaughters the wedding party and turns Roseline to be his beautiful and long-suffering bride. (I think there was some mention of him being Vlad the Impaler, but you really don't have to worry about it, he's just the big bad in the background for most of the book)
Cut to 300+ years later and Roseline is finally escaping from her abusive husband.  She escapes the Romanian castle with a little help from her best friend Fane, then gets on a train and a plane and is soon "living" a new life in America.
It goes downhill from there.

Ok, I'll start with the plot.  Why?  Just plain why?
Why on earth does a 300 year old vampire go to high school?
Come on, in Twilight it's because the younger the family start out the longer they can stay in one place, pretending to be human.  In Vampire Academy, they are actually that young.  In Vampire Diaries, it's to stalk a girl.
Reasons.  Some better than others.
Roseline has absolutely no reason to go to high school.  Sure, she was 17 when she was turned, but she could probably pass for a stunning 21, be an adult and have no one question it.  Perhaps she could have gone because it was a major human experience that she missed - but she spends her entire time at school trying to be invisible, keeping her head down and stressing from any attention.

Even ignoring the inanity above, I did not get on with Roseline.  She is not likeable.  She's a whiney, selfish little madam.  She is moaning because all the guys are drawn to her vampiric super-hotness, and it's just so plain tiring.  Except for when she's internally miffed that she's not getting attention, when she is clearly vampire super-hot.
She spends so much time being beautiful-but-shallow; I find it very hard to believe she's spent three centuries being a down-trodden victim of domestic abuse.
Nor does the way she interacts with the boys concur with the way she has flashbacks to being a seductress.  Seductress?  Really?
Plus, is she really a vampire?  Does she really have a desire for blood?  Because the only time it seems to crop up is after the car crash.  (Don't get excited, the car crash has little to do with the plot or any actual action; it is just a machination for Gabriel to realise that Rose isn't human)

The supporting cast limp along.
Sadie "the best friend" deserves a mention.  She's like, totally alternative and troubled and dies her hair and everything.  She stereotypically hates the cool kids.  Except she sort of is one of them, is spoilt (and judgemental) enough to think that Roseline is weird for only having one car, plus the whole alternative look is merely a fashion statement, not a lifestyle.

Nicholae, the foreign exchange student from Roseline's home town, has a stilted role.  He's just wedged in there as an exchange student, who's a little quiet and not pretty.  That seems enough of a reason for Roseline and Sadie to treat him like shit.
Oh, but it turns out that he's actually a vampire hunter that had followed Roseline to make sure she didn't hurt any humans... oh for crying out loud - how come he could find her, when the big bad Vladimir with the deadly long reach couldn't?  How come Nicholae, a young and untested hunter, was sent alone against Vladimir's wife?
Deep breath.
(...and how come Nicholae was actually really hot in the end, and was only making himself look unappealing at the high school.  Answers on a postcard, please.)

Gabriel, the love interest, is a little better than the others.  But just.
He's a poor little star quarterback, going out with the most popular girl at school.
But really, he just wants to paint; and his choice of girlfriend is decided by his step-father.  Because, hey, that's what step-fathers are for - pimping out their teenage sons to their bosses' daughters.
But it turns out that Gabriel is more than he seems, he is more than human.  Oh wait, it says that in the synopsis.  Don't worry, you don't have to read the book to find out.

Just one more thought - four high school kids decided that they would follow their brand new friend to Romania, so they just got on a plane.  Because that's how families and parents work.

Dull.  Turned into a skim read.  Won't be continuing the series.
But it is free to download from Amazon, so go see for yourselves.

Goodreads link
Amazon.co.uk

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Series Review: Emperor's Edge


The Emperor's Edge

by Lindsay Buroker


After my last review, where I prattled on about my disappointment of The Staff and The Sword series, I happened to be chatting to a fellow book geek and realised something terrible.
I have had a book blog for over a year and I have not mentioned The Emperor's Edge.

I cannot begin to explain what a sin this is.
I have mentioned the series, the author and the characters in many of the interviews I have given; promoting them as clear favourites.

So let me correct this oversight by giving my first series review.  I won't go into detail of each book, but allow me to give a quick introduction to the first in the series:

The Emperor's Edge #1
*Free to download from Amazon*

Synopsis
Imperial law enforcer Amaranthe Lokdon is good at her job: she can deter thieves and pacify thugs, if not with a blade, then by toppling an eight-foot pile of coffee canisters onto their heads. But when ravaged bodies show up on the waterfront, an arson covers up human sacrifices, and a powerful business coalition plots to kill the emperor, she feels a tad overwhelmed. 

Worse, Sicarius, the empire's most notorious assassin, is in town. He's tied in with the chaos somehow, but Amaranthe would be a fool to cross his path. Unfortunately, her superiors order her to hunt him down. Either they have an unprecedented belief in her skills... or someone wants her dead. 

Review
There is nothing I don't like about these books.
Amaranthe is an original heroine, there's nothing particularly special about her, all she hopes is to become the first female Sergeant in the empire.  But events conspire to bring her to the attention of the young Emperor Sespian and the questionable Commander of the Armies Hollowcrest, who throws her into the path of infamous assassin Sicarius.
Amaranthe can take care of herself when it comes to a fight, but she has a real skill for talking her way out of (and back into) trouble.  She is a very "wholesome" character, who doesn't always know when to shut up.

She brings together a very unlikely band of heroes, a scholar; a charming fop; a mute foreigner and a teenage wizard with an attitude problem.  Not to mention an assassin.
The assembled cast are a brilliant squabbling family.  Each book focusses on a different character, their history and the ambitions that drive them to repeatedly risk their lives for the empire.  The team is full of mistrust and of clashing personalities; but they work well together when it counts.

Then there is Sicarius.  I love Sicarius, he is simply one of my favourite characters across any series.
He has been honed into the most dangerous living weapon, with as much personality as his daggers.  He is driven only by logic and survival, and will kill anyone he considers a threat.
He has his own reasons for joining Amaranthe's team, and swings from being it's biggest asset to its biggest problem.
It is constantly entertaining to see the interaction between him and Amaranthe; and to see over the whole series as he becomes a little more human.

The first four books are individual adventures, but all build into the overall arc of the series.  The final three books see them becoming a real rebel force and taking on Forge.
Buroker has provided a series that is impressively creative, the story is always moving forward and developing, while maintaining its charm and humour.  This is how you write series, people!

If you hadn't already guessed, this series is rated a 5 out of 5.

My recommendation now, is to go to Amazon and download the first book for free - you won't regret it!

Goodreads link
Amazon.co.uk

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Hero's Lot & A Draw of Kings

The Hero's Lot & A Draw of Kings (The Staff and the Sword #2 & 3)

By Patrick W. Carr


5 out of 5

Synopsis
Riveting Sequel from Christian Fantasy's Most Talented New Voice 
When Sarin Valon, the corrupt secondus of the conclave, flees Erinon and the kingdom, Errol Stone believes his troubles have at last ended. But other forces bent on the destruction of the kingdom remain and conspire to accuse Errol and his friends of a conspiracy to usurp the throne. 
In a bid to keep the three of them from the axe, Archbenefice Canon sends Martin and Luis to Errol's home village, Callowford, to discover what makes him so important to the kingdom. But Errol is also accused of consorting with spirits. Convicted, his punishment is a journey to the enemy kingdom of Merakh, where he must find Sarin Valon, and kill him. To enforce their sentence, Errol is placed under a compulsion, and he is driven to accomplish his task or die resisting.



4 out of 5

Synopsis
Their journey to Merakh should have made Errol and his companions heroes of the realm. Instead, much is changed on their return. In the wake of the king’s death, Duke Weir is ruling the country–and his intentions are to marry Adora to bring an heir.
With Errol and the others imprisoned and the identity of the rightful heir to the throne still hidden in secrecy, Illustra is on the verge of civil war–and at growing risk from the armies of Merakh and Morgol.
A dangerous mission to free Errol succeeds, but the dangers facing the kingdom are mounting with every passing moment. The barrier has fallen, ferals are swarming toward the land, and their enemies draw near. Will the revelation of Illustra’s next true king come in time or will all be lost?


Review
Before I start - it says "Christian Fiction", and promotes it as such.  Ignore that bollocks, this is a cracking series regardless of genre.  Plus, it is not something I would even class as Christian Fiction.  Yes, the church plays a major part, but religion drives this story only as much as it does in LOTR, Narnia, or any other great series.

So, here's a first - a double review!
I have to confess that I enjoyed the first book Cast of Stones so much I decided to keep the rest of the series as a treat when I finished writing The Shadow Falls.  Five months and a lot of stress later, my own book was published, and I immediately went and bought The Hero's Lot... which was read within a week and I straight away got the third part.

The Hero's Lot picks up where the Cast of Stones left off.  Despite the many obstacles, Errol and the other Callowford men are at the capital.  They must prepare against war that threatens the borders, as well as fighting the internal politics and betrayals in church and court.
Errol forms a band of unlikely heroes to venture into Merakh to hunt down the escaped Sarin Valon.

This book was worth the wait.
We learn more of the threats to both Erinon and Errol.  The Merakhi have sold their souls for the chance to overrun the Kingdom, their enemy for generations.  There had been hints of them in the first book, the ferals and those possessed by Mallus.
It was great to see Errol assemble some of the influential characters that made the first book so good.  Ru and Rokha are great additions, it wouldn't be the same without them.
We see more of Princess Adora, who wants to prove that she is more than a damsel in distress and a pretty face.  The interactions between her and Rokha were some of my favourite parts of the book.
Then there are the revelations concerning Errol and Liam; and Errol's father (well that one ruined my theory - shocking!).

A Draw of Kings had a lot to live up to.  The Kingdom is on the brink of being overrun by enemies from all sides; the long-standing authority of the church is in question; and their heroes are again sent into danger.
I'm really struggling to work out what to say, so as not to spoil anything!

I am disappointed.
I followed a friend's advice to mull over this review and not be too rash in my judgement.  I am still disappointed, but I've decided that the book is worth 4 stars.
It is good.  If I had to judge this book on its own merit, I would rate it highly.
There is excitement and danger.  Love and sacrifice.  It is suitably epic.

But as part of the series, it failed to inspire me the way the first book did.
It feels like it's missing a lot of Errol's naive charm and humour.  Fair enough, he's a Captain of the watch now, and the whole of the Kingdom is looking up to him as a hero.  He knows he might have to make the ultimate sacrifice, but is more concerned with the men that would willingly die for him.
It seems like Carr realises this and tries to make up for it with the introduction of Owen, whose sole purpose is to allow redemption for Martin and Cruk's previous mistakes in ignoring Errol's struggles in Callowford.

Aside from that, I felt that the whole book was all dark, no light.  Yes, there was danger.  Followed by danger and insurmountable odds.  Switching to another character's dire, inescapable position.  Concluding with more danger.  Oh, and did I mention that it was desperate and not winnable?
It got a bit tiring and I was glad to get to the end.  Which isn't how I wanted to feel after being completely swept away by The Cast of Stones.

If I am honest, I would recommend the first two parts of the trilogy, because they are amazing.  The third book is simply necessary to finish the story.

Goodreads links:
The Hero's Lot
A Draw of Kings

Amazon.co.uk:
The Hero's Lot
A Draw of Kings

Friday, 5 September 2014

Exciting times...

Drumroll please...

Big news first - the final part of the Witch-Hunter trilogy has been released.

The Shadow Falls
available in paperback and kindle

Synopsis:
Hunter Astley has always known that he is different: being a witch-hunter that can use magic has sealed his fate. He must destroy the Shadow Witch once and for all, with the help of some unlikely allies.
We delve even deeper into the world of the Malleus Maleficarum; into myth, rumour and history that refuses to stay in the past.

Which is absolutely bloody brilliant news!
To celebrate the release, the first part of the Witch-Hunter series is free to download from Amazon for the whole weekend - Friday 5th to Sunday 7th.
The Shadow Rises

I am torn - a large part of me is currently bouncing around with excitement and telling anyone who will listen that book number 3 is real and ready to complete Hunter's story.
But I'm also a little scared.  It has been a lifelong ambition to be a published writer, and now that has been accomplished.  Oh, don't get me wrong, that isn't it.  There are going to be plenty of other books coming from me in future.
It is a little depressing that Hunter's story is finished.  I've had him, Sophie and James; the MMC and the witches, all jumbled up in my head for nearly ten years.  It's like saying goodbye to old friends.
...ok, I admit there is going to be a prequel to the trilogy released next year.  What can I say, I couldn't resist; plus a lot of reviewers have asked for more insight into the MMC and how Hunter got into it all.  I couldn't ask for a better excuse to indulge the Witch-Hunter world once more before putting it away...




I'd like to take this opportunity to make a few "thank yous", without sounding too indulgent.
First of all, my books look stunning.  Now aside from sketching horses when I was younger, I have next to no artistic talent.  Luckily, I got put in touch with someone who has more than made up for it.
As I have said before, Beth Syler has made my books look addictive.  I would highly recommend checking out some of her other work.
I'd like to say thank you to my friends, who have not only supported me when it came to buying books; they helped to spread the word; and they even managed not to get too upset when I disappeared for weeks at a time to write.
Coming out as a writer was one of the hardest things that I have ever had to do. (Yes, I have read that.  Yes, I did mean to write it.)  I don't care about negative opinions from strangers, but opening myself to being judged by people I knew, that terrified me.
I am truly flattered and honoured that instead of laughing at my ambitions, without exception, everybody has been so encouraging.  You have no idea how much your support has meant to me, and means to me going forward.
Ok, emotional bit over.

Finally, I'd like to thank my readers.  Thank you for joining my mad world; thank you for all your comments.
So we get onto your chance to win the entire series in paperback.
All you need is to live in the UK or the US, and be a member on Goodreads.

The giveaway is open until the end of September:



Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Shadow Falls by K.S. Marsden

The Shadow Falls

by K.S. Marsden

Giveaway ends September 30, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win