Monday, March 28, 2011

Julie Kenner: Torn

If you have not read the first book in this series Tainted, then this review will have spoilers for the first book. I do have a review of Tainted already on this website, so I would recommend reading that before you read any further on this review. Okay now that you have been warned about possible spoilers.....

Julie Kenner bring us the next installment of the Blood Lily chronicles, where Lily is forced to work for the dark side in order to save the one thing that helps her hold onto the human world and her sanity, her sister Rose.

Lily knows that she has screwed up big time. She has not prevented the hell gate from being locked, actually she is the reason why the gate was not locked. She was working for the wrong side, the dark side who had convinced her that they were light. This does not mean that she has given up, but things just got a lot more complicated, especially now that Clarance has assigned Lily a side kick Kiera, who Lily doesn't know if she can trust. Then there is Deacon, who is a Demon who is supposedly working for the light side, but after being betrayed once Lily isn't sure she can trust him, even though she has an attraction to him. And then in the background the man who haunts Lily and Rose, Johnson, who is responsible for all the sorrow, hurt and death in both their lives. Lily is going to need all her whits about her in order to keep going, all she can do is trust her instinct and hope this time she has chosen the right side.

Not going to lie, it has been a bit since I read the first book in the series Tainted. It is just one of those things that you always mean to get around to but never quite do.This is why I appreciated that Kenner did a little bit of a recap of what happened in the first books, just to refresh my memory, nothing long just a page or two (I mean I have read quite a few books since I read the first book, I believe it was over a year ago now).

I really have to admire Lily for always putting her sister first before anything, and really just wanting to protect her, I mean Lily died to protect Rose. There is no greater sacrifice than that. But the question Lily really has to face is the age old philosophy question "Kill one to save Ten" or in this case kill one to save the world and this really becomes the main premise of the book, and what the storyline is focused around and what decision Lily will make.

I liked the introduction of a partner for Lily, Kiera who is another kickass warrior who has the special ability to smell whether an individual is human or demon, and she has no problems taking them out when the time comes. But you feel for Lily because she is always wondering if Kiera is really on her side, and can actually help and trust her. Kiera is very similar to Lily and does speak about how she is Tainted as well before she was brought over to fight for the "light" but the main difference there was that she was "allowed" to keep her own body. But you always have to wonder if Kiera is just another manipulating maneuver from the Dark.

The only thing I wish there was a bit more of is the use and development of all the powers that Lily has acquired from killing Demons. I mean in this book there was very little use of her powers, other than what her blood is able to do. There was very little talk about the blood lust that she had acquired. I guess what I am trying to say I wish there was a little bit more action, there are a few fighting scenes but they never seemed to be with Lily using her powers. I began wonder if Kenner is unsure of how Lily should use all the powers and power that she has acquired, and possible bit off more than she thought when she introduced the concept. I still really like to concept as it is something different I just think that is needs to be developed a bit more.

This book and series would be enjoyed by the individuals who like paranormal books but also those who like paranormal romance. I think that Kenner has done a good job with appealing to individuals who enjoy both of these genres. Yes, there is some romance, sex and  tension between Lily and Deacon, that I will admit that I enjoyed, as it was not constant.

I think that this series has developed along really well into the second book, and the stony line is getting better as the books seem to go on. I do wonder what the next book will hold, and I hope I do not wait as long to read the next book as I did to read this one.


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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Noah Boyd: The Bricklayer

Noah Boyd is a former FBI Agent who in his debut novel introduces the reader of what could happen if a criminal organization decided to Blackmail the FBI.

The FBI are used to all sort of cases, they are the objective observer on many cases, famous or not around the United States; however, what would happen if the FBI was the target and had to solve their very own Blackmail case from a criminal organization that is promising and performing murder if payments are not made. It turns out not very well. After murders of an FBI agent, and some very high ranking and public officials who have publicly chastised the FBI, the FBI are not only looking bad to the public, but they are forced to take a different approach. Steve Vail is a former FBI agent who was fired for having "issues" with authority figures but Vail was known for getting the job done no matter what it took. His approach to things is just what the FBI needs, but can Vail be trusted, he is not the biggest fan of the FBI and being within the FBI would be the perfect place to exact his own revenge on them.

As an FBI Agent, Boyd worked on some very famous cases including the Highland Park Strangler and the Green River Killer. This makes me appreciate his work in The Bricklayer, because he could have done  something he is more familiar with by creating a serial killer thriller novel as he appears to have experience in this concept. Instead he goes for an mystery action adventure thriller. The book definitely starts out with Bang, with some murders, challenges, ransom notes and a bank robbery. I don't think that a reader could ask for a better opening, I know I was hooked from the beginning.

Vail is a strong character who really does flaunt any type of authority to get the job done. If he can go around management, which he achieves very nicely on multiple occasions, he will. He also is not beyond manipulating management as well in order to get them out of his way so he can pursue the evidence or facts that he wants too. All in all, it seems like he is playing a constant game with the management team, which makes him less than popular with a few people. The interaction and partnership between Vail and Kate was also done well. Kate is the assistant deputy director who is Vail partner in this case, and like everyone else, he does seem to at point manipulate and use Kate, however, you can also tell that he cares for her as well. Kate is a woman who has worked her way through the ranks of the FBI, she is strong woman, but you still get the sense that she feels (and possible others feel as well) that she has something to prove just because she is a woman in the FBI.

I enjoyed the missions/challenges that Vail and sometimes Kate were forced to go through (it came to me while I was reading the book that the mission idea was similar to those in the Saw movies, but not gory, and if you fail someone else will die, but you could also die in the process). All of these challenges were really suspenseful and I could not wait to see what idea that Boyd had cooked up. The challenges were complex and you did not know what was going to happen next and whether the Agent assigned or Vail would be able to solve the "puzzle" related to the challenge. Each mission really came down to survival.

I really liked that the motivation for everything in this book was the very basic human "sins" (if you will) greed and revenge. Its amazing what an individual will do for money and revenge, killing someone is really not a problem for them (unfortunately this is not restrained to the fictional world). Although this may be a some what basic premise for the book, it works really well in the storyline that Boyd has created. Greed seems to be something that all humans feel now and again, which adds a realistic aspect to the book. I mean when there is millions of dollars at stake the primal human side can come out of  people.

I found it interesting, and I'm unsure if this was Boyd's intent, but he made the FBI look very bureaucratic, (which I'm sure it is) but he showed the side of the FBI where following all the procedures and taking the time to fill out paperwork is not the way to solve cases. Almost like he was pointing out to the FBI itself today, as this is what is wrong with the system. It seemed to me that he was very for the lone ranger approach, which makes me wonder what kind of agent he was in real life and how he helped solve the famous cases he was involved in. As I said I am not sure if this was his intent, but once you read the book you will understand what I mean.

I think this book could be considered mystery thriller, with a side of action adventure. I think that individuals who do not normally read action adventure novels that this would be a good place to start, as it does not have those impossible scenario, where you don't know how the individuals got out like many books within the action adventure genre are famous for. This one uses the main character's brain power in order to figure out how to get out of each situation. That said, I believe there is enough action to satisfy an individual who has been reading these books for year.

I really enjoyed this book, it starts off with a bang and keeps going to the very end. The characters are well built and the story line was full of twists and turns and you are never really sure you have everything figured out till the end. You actually keep waiting for the Vail to make a mistake (and he does make a few), talk about suspense.


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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Lyn Benedict: Sins & Shadows

In her debut novel (back from 2009 but still a debut) Lyn Benedict introduces the reader to what can happen to the world when a God needs a favour from a human.

Sylvie Lightner (aka Shadows) is not an your ordinary PI, she specializes in cases involving the unbelievable and is known for doing whatever it takes to get the job done. But she is quitting, closing up shop. After witnessing the murder of one of her employees and having a satanic cult put a curse on her for disrupting their summoning ceremony, she wants to all her friends and family to get as far away from her as possible, even if she has to hurt them to do. Sylvie should have realized that it would not be so easy for her to close up shop, especially when a man comes into her business claiming to be the God of Justice and needing her to do a favour for him. You really cant say No to a God right? Justice wants Sylvie to find his lover, who he cannot find, and he is not above using her friends, family and world in order to get his way. Sylvie enters the worlds of Gods, one that is completely different from the world of magic she usually deals with. With her Fury sidekicks (though sidekick might be too optimistic of a word) and a secret government agency that seems to be very interested in everything Sylvie is doing; Sylvie is drawn farther and farther in to a labyrinth of darkness and danger, Sylvie must find her quarry before Hell is actually released onto Earth.

This book is an okay debut for a series into the paranormal genre (with a slight hint of romance), in all honestly what makes this only an Okay book and not a great debut, is I had a hard time getting into the book (took me about half way so about 150 pages). It was about this time that I felt that Benedict really hit her stride as a writer and storyteller. It appeared to me that there was just more "love" written into the latter half of the book especially in her storytelling, things finally started to happen. The beginning was slow,but once it gets going the story really takes off. I had this book written off by the time the first half of the book was over, but Benedict really turns, there are some actions scenes, some romance, mysteries begin to become unraveled and all of it was done in a darker (but not that dark) style that I like.

Sylvie is your (and i hate to say it but...) typical kickass heroine, who has this darkness inside her that is always fighting to get out, and it is this rage (I would say similar to the rage that is displayed by Anita Blake in the earlier Laurell K Hamilton series), that keeps her going and allows her to do things that a human would not regularly be able to do. Her sense of right and wrong is very black and white at times, and it seems to stem from ensuring her own survival. Lets say there is a bit of a body count in this book. She does have a softer side, but the dark/survival side is what trumps everything, so there are very few glimpses to this emotional side of Sylvie, which makes her (in some sense) a hard character to like. Not to say I did not like Sylvie as a character, she was just frustrating at times.

I liked the use of Greek Gods and God in this book. They were something different, by using the combination of different Gods from different eras and religions. The war between the Gods and the mayhem it created on Earth, was really interesting as well. And that there are more Gods up there than someone may have originally thought (as some of you may have noted there is no Greek God of Justice). It was interesting too the aspect of maybe a God wanting to live with the Humans, for the freedom that it gave (even though they are Gods) but also how living with Gods on Earth disrupts the regular balance of thing on Earth. Also the Gods can be just creepy/cruel in their sense of justice and the ease in which they would use people for their own gains. I think that the God aspect as a whole, was written and described very well by Benedict.

 THANK YOU, Benedict for not having the predictable happy ending, and lets just say that not everyone comes out unscathed at the end, and Benedict did not seem to have any problem creating more hurt and mayhem within the book. I greatly appreciated that she did not take the cookie cutter way out and made things darker than I actually thought she would have So Thank you again.

As I stated above, this book is an okay beginning to a new series, and I am interested in reading the next book, however, if you are a reader that needs to be engaged right off in a book, then I do not think this book is for you. As I stated, I had a hard time getting into this book, story, writing everything, till the second half of the book. I feel that Benedict redeemed herself in the second half of the book, which is why I am hoping that has continued into her other books. I think Lyn Benedict will be a great addition to the paranormal genre, just as long as her writing and storyline keeps improving with each book.


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Friday, March 18, 2011

The Blog Hop (#2)

Book Blogger Hop
This Weeks Blog Hop is Hosted by Crazy For Books
Question This Week,
"Do you Read More Thank One Book At a Time?"

Answer: Yes!!!! I tend to read 1 ebook and 1 paperback book at a time. I do this because I have found that it is much easier to read an ereader while I am working out. It is so much easier to keep your page and turn pages. I recommend this to anyone I know who like to read and work out. Trust Me it makes the time go faster as well, you dont even notices that you are finished until the machine is beeping at you to get off. I also have found that if I am going for a run outside (once all the snow is gone...any time now please Mother Nature) that i like to listen to audio books instead of music. I find it helps keep my mind engages more and off just the pounding of the payment.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Philippa Ballantine: Geist

Philippa Ballantine introduces the reader to the Order of the Deacons, sworn to protect the Empire from the Dead and Hell.

The Order of the Deacons are the protectors of the Empire and guardians of the people to prevent them from being possessed or haunted by Geists. The Deacons are divided into two different types Actives and Sensitive, the Actives have the powers to fight the Geist and the Sensitives that give the Actives the ability to see the Geists. Without this partnership, the Order would fail Sorcha is the most powerful Active within the order, but her control over her power is questionable. Merrick is a young active who has been forced into a partnership with Sorcha, which is one neither is too keen on. Sorcha seems to have a problem keeping her Sensitive partners in one piece. They have been dispatched to an isolated city where, there have been strange Geist happenings, ones that defy all the rules of the Order. And over the ocean seas appears Raed, the Pretender to the throne, the true ruler of the Empire, but the inability to take control because of the Geist living inside him. Their three lives are intertwined whether they want it or not and becomes apparent that someone does not want Sorcha, Merrick or Raed to reach their destination or destiny alive.

This book is a pretty good start to a new series. I would classify this as part of the fantasy genre, not the paranormal one, as the powers that the Deacons have and the description of the Geists makes me think more fantasy that paranormal. However, I do think that it will appeal to people who like both of these genres, as the aspects from each genre have been somewhat interconnected into the storyline, it just has a more fantasy feel.

Ballanitine has created a rich world, that is part historic part fantasy. She has expertly weaved these two different aspects into one, that would have the reader believing that this world actually did exist. She is fairly descriptive ion places, especially around the Feel of places, a sense that is often missed by writers, but one that is key to the Deacon's world.

I enjoyed the interaction between Sorcha and Merrick, as they do have some funny interactions, which are enhanced by the bond that they share. Sorcha is a strong female protagonist, who has that kick-ass attitude that is common within the paranormal genre, however, because of the bond that she shares with Merrick the reader is able to get more emotions from Sorcha as well as more depth to her personality. Raed and the ancient Geist (called the Rossin) living inside of him, just waiting to take control, is an interesting aspect within the book. I enjoyed the interaction between Raed and the Rossin, it is something similar to Faith Hunter's Beast in her skinwalker series, however, the Rossin is much much darker, and is more concerned with death and destruction.

I am not 100 percent sure what it is about this book that only made it only okay to me. I think at times I got a touch lost in what a Geist was and how they were created and destroyed. I think that there was lack of explanation about this in the beginning of the book, which lead me to be confused for the first bit. Just so everyone knows, I equated the Geist as an evil spirit that was able to possess or haunt people, but if they were powerful enough they were able to take their own form to attack people (hopefully this understanding will possible help you enjoy the book more). There were also a few slow parts but  there were battles and fights, but they just seemed to be Wham Bam, done. I think this is the part where the story and writing lacked was within the fighting scenes, which are very key to this story (and to me when I am reading a book). They seemed to be somewhat disjointed at times, and even slow and battles should never feel slow. However, I did like that the ending of the book was not quite as cookie cutter as you would expect.

I think this is a pretty good start to a new series, not the best I have read this year, but still interesting. I know that there is going to be a second book in the series, and I am interested to see what happens next, but it is not a priority like some of the other debuts. If you are looking for a paranormal book that is more on the fantasy side, then this book is for you. Also if you are looking for something different from what has become the norm in the paranormal genre you should take a look at this book as well. There is also a little bit of romance and I think there is just enough romance within the book that it would appeal to those who like paranormal romance (however, you have to be aware that the romance is secondary within the book).


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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sam Barone: Dawn Of Empire

Sam Barone takes the reader to the beginning Bronze Age where the Barbarians rules and those who try to stand against them don't die a swift death, but one Man, Woman and Town are willing to try what no one has tried before, staying to fight.

The people of Orak cherish their peaceful village but it has had a violent past. They has been raided time and time again by the Barbarians. Though these people are not fighter, they have the unique ability of coaxing food from the ground. The Barbarians believe this way of living dishonors their own culture and spend their lives raiding and destroying, those who they call the "dirt eaters". It has been 10 years since the village of Orak was last raided and it has prospered into a large village. The Barbarians hear of this village and make ready to plunder and kill once again. But there is a different attitude in Orak, the Want to save the village, but the people have no experience in fighting. Their only hope is an outcast Barbarian Eskkar, who wants to help achieve the impossible, stop the Barbarian hoard from destroying the people and peace of Orak.

I have been wanting to read this book for sometime now, and I finally picked up off my TBR sheft, it some how got pushed to the back. This book took me a bit of a process in order to get. I have discovered that it is no longer in print in North America, even though it was originally published in 2006, so you may have trouble finding it at your regular book store. I recommend that you search for this book at a used book store (though I was not able to find it there I had to order if off of ), but it was worth the work and wait to get this book.

This book takes place at the beginning of the bronze age, and I will admit that I have limited knowledge of this time in history, so i'm unsure of how accurate some of the information that Barone used within the story. For the most part the book seemed plausible about what could occur in those time, except for the way that Eskkar treated Trella. I'm pretty sure that the master and slave dynamics would not have been close to what their relationship was, but for the sake of the story it really works.

Barone has created a rich world that I believe would hold true to what that time was like, people always worry if they will survive each year due to weather, lack of food, and the inevitable raid by the Barbarians. I enjoyed how Barone portrayed the Barbarians. He did not portray them as stupid or unwise, but as warriors who are strong and yes egotistical but a warrior and clan who has never lost a battle before would always gain a little bit (or a lot) of ego. The are portrayed tactical individuals who were able to solve problems and had been surviving years through a migration pattern. I also liked that there were a few chapters that were told from the Barbarians point of view to show part of what their culture was like and the way in which the view and think of things.

I enjoyed Trella and Eskkar as the main characters in the story, they are well matched for each other and you can really tell who is the brains and who is the brawn in this novel, though Eskkar does develop into a somewhat complex character as he tries to be both the thinker and a fighter (like any good general should be). Trella's manipulation skills are like those that I have never read before, from not only manipulating Eskkar, but the town Nobles and inhabitants. Trella was the true master planner of everything that occurs. Though some of her ways were subtle, there is no doubt that she was a force to be reckoned with.

There are several battles and action scenes within the book, which helped make up some of the mundane points, like when Eskkar was learning about farming. The battle scenes were well done and I was not left scratching my head, wondering how each event happened. They were also fairly realistic, in my opinion, as each time a battle was fought there was not always as big of a gain to favour the protagonist as you would expect. There is also a lot of questioning who is truly loyal to Eskkar and who is just waiting to stab him in the back. This added to a bit of suspense in the novel as you did not know who would be next to betray Eskkar or Trella.
The one thing I would have wished that Barone would have done, was takes some more risk with his main few characters, or described the toll that the battles took on the people of Oark. I think there was a lack of a human aspect on this part, The Barbarians are at the gate, I think that the villagers will start running away or try to escape even though they have been forbidden to.

All and all a really good read. I have not read too many prehistoric novel really only Jean Auel's books (which I think that everyone should read and I am very excited for the newest book to come out, 10 years is a long time to wait), but I found this book really entertaining and a nice change from everything that I have been reading lately. I look forward to reading the another book by Barone.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

J. L. Bourne: Day By Day Armageddon (Beyond Exile)

This is a second book in a series. If you would like to know about the first book (click) Day by Day Armageddon, I have already read and reviewed this book. While it is not completely necessary to read the first book, it gives a great background to the second book and how our main character has ended up where he has.

The rebel human enemy has passed, though the explosion has increased the number of dead who are hovering around Hotel 23, more have returned to the main door, and the one dead is still instantly hammering with a rock there. Hotel 23 appears to be safe for now, they have enough food and water supply to last their small group. They have received more reports about the radiated undead to be faster and smaller making them more deadly, but all that matters now is saving and helping as many people as they can. Our main character is able to gather more survivors and even helps some trapped military personal, but at what cost? Hotel 23 is becoming less and less of a secret. As the Military circle closers, and even threatening to take Hotel 23 by force, our protagonist has to decide whether they can win the fight, or if he must face the life he walked away from at the beginning of all this. He is considered a deserter by the military, but joining them might be the only way to safe the people he has come to care for. That is if the military will even accept him and don't shoot him first...

This book pick up right where the first one left off, which was great because I was very interested in seeing what happened next and where Bourne would take the story line, now that they had found what seemed like a pretty permanent hiding spot. Additionally, by starting off where the first book left off, I was not left wondering what had happened when time had passed and what great adventures I might have missed out on.

I like this book a lot better when our main character is not so involved in the military, I understand why he had to choose the path that he did, but I find i enjoy the story more when it is our main character fighting for his own or a select few survival. The military has access to too many weapons, personal and all around goodies to make the survival story less interesting.

Bounre does a good job in showing the psychological change that had been happening to the main character, he comments on when he approaches a door in order to get into the house, that he is unable to remember right off the bat whether he should turn the knob right or left. Something that was so common in a normal life is now foreigner and I think that would be very true in order to survive this type of situation, priorities change and what you get used to as your day to day definitely change. Bourne, also does a good job of showing how our protagonist is affected by all the responsibility he has and how one decision he makes can turn everyone he cares for into the undead and also how he felt after he was forced to kill people who were still alive. I also agree with the amount of people that Bourne has left alive, in which the majority being individuals with some form of military background. This is very realistic that these individuals would have the survival and gun training in order to survive a disaster, just look how well our main character has used his training, and has adapted to this ever changing situation. I doubt you and I would last so well (though I secretly like to think that I would be among the living, lol).

This book introduces mystery aspect as there appears to be a secret military group that are intending on help our main character as long has he complies with their orders. Some of the technology that is shared by this secret groups is definitely out of this world, and by the end of the book I was kind of getting a spacey/sci fi feeling to the technology and some other details, but this may have just popped into my head because of the mention of a military group in Nevada (Area 51 anyone?). I hope that the books to not go too sci fi or spacey, as I find I often get lost in this genre.

All in all, I will say this book not as great as the first (I only really say this because of the increased military aspect of the book, other than that I really enjoyed it and could not put it down), and is definitely worth reading to see how the story progress and what will happen next. This book is also in journal format, which I liked as it did not stray away from the first book. I think readers who like zombies and  action adventure survival type books will enjoy this series (and even if you don't like zombies this is still a good action adventure read).


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