Thursday, April 17, 2014

Demon from the Dark (Immortals After Dark #10) by Kresley Cole

Note: This review and the book reviewed contain adult themes. Please, do not read either unless you are above the age of 18.

SUMMARY (from Goodreads): A DANGEROUS DEMON SHE CAN'T RESIST...
Malkom Slaine: tormented by his sordid past and racked by vampiric hungers, he's pushed to the brink by the green-eyed beauty under his guard.

A MADDENING WITCH HE ACHES TO CLAIM…
Carrow Graie: hiding her own sorrows, she lives only for the next party or prank. Until she meets a tortured warrior worth saving.

TRAPPED TOGETHER IN A SAVAGE PRISON…
In order for Malkom and Carrow to survive, he must unleash both the demon and vampire inside him. When Malkom becomes the nightmare his own people feared, will he lose the woman he craves body and soul?

MY OPINION:

Of all the books in IAD series, I had the least expectations of Demon from the Dark. Carrow had only shortly appeared beforehand – or had even just been mentioned as Mariketa’s friend – so I didn’t feel the need to learn her story, and Malkom hadn’t even been mentioned before, so I didn’t expect anything from him, either.

Therefore, I expected Demon from the Dark to be sort of a filler book. I should have known better. I was sucked into the Malkom’s and Carrow’s story right in the beginning and I couldn’t put the book down; I finished it in two days. I haven’t read a book so fast in more than a year and a half, so that says something.

As usually, Kresley Cole spins a captivating story with intricate background and history for both  characters, while including mentions of details from the previous instalment's, which makes this series so amazing: all the mythology and events are consistent throughout it and the new data always makes perfect sense in relation to the old information.

Malkom’s a and Carrow’s lives are, on one hand, diametrically opposite, yet similar and relatable on the other, which makes them a perfect fit once you look beyond the surface. I loved how they manage to understand each other despite their differences. While they have their share of misunderstandings, there isn’t any huge drama; they resolve them quickly and in a plausible way.

Speaking of opposites, the settings themselves represent a huge contrast: Malkom’s home dimension, Oblivion, a desolate desert plane; and Earth, in particularly an island in the middle of ocean with plenty of water, food and greenery.

We don’t often get to see child characters in paranormal romances, so I loved that Ruby, Carrow’s young protégée, plays an important role in this story not just as a background motivator, but as an actually present character, who helps the adults find their focus. I loved her interactions with the adults, especially with Malkom, and their reactions to each other, since they hugely contrast each other: a vulnerable (still) mortal child vs. a fearful vampire demon. Ruby, with her views and quirks of a child is absolutely delightful.

On top of everything, a bunch of other, already familiar characters appear (which always makes me happy): some only glimpsed at (no, I’m not saying who), and others, such as Lanthe, with a prominent role throughout the book.

Perhaps the only quibble I have about Demon from the Dark was that it ended too fast. I would love to see how Malkom adapts to living in the modern world, but I guess we will get a glimpse or two of Malkom and Carrow in the following books. 
 
4,5 stars

RECOMMENDATION: Demon from the Dark is not only an amazing story on its own, but a crucial part of the series both for tying up some loose ends from the previous stories and setting a starting point for the following ones, and is as such certainly not to be missed.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Pleasure of a Dark Prince (Immortals After Dark #9) by Kresley Cole

Note: This review and the book reviewed contain adult themes. Please, do not read either unless you are above the age of 18.

SUMMARY (from Goodreads): A Dangerous Beauty
Lucia the Huntress: as mysterious as she is exquisite, she harbours secrets that threaten to destroy her – and those she loves.

An Uncontrolled Need
Garreth MacRieve, Prince of the Lykae: the brutal Highland warrior who burns to finally claim this maddeningly sensual creature as his own.

That lead to a pleasure so wicked...
From the shadows, Garreth has long watched over Lucia. Now, the only way to keep the proud huntress safe from harm is to convince her to accept him as her guardian. To do this, Garreth will ruthlessly exploit Lucia's greatest weakness – her wanton desire for him.

MY OPINION:

Finally! I’ve been waiting for Garreth’s and Lucia’s story since the first book. And it didn’t disappoint. The only problem I now have is how to review it without spoiling it and half of the series with it. So, I am going to be terribly vague.

In contrast to some other stories in the series, Garreth’s and Lucia’s love story is more on the slow-burn side and in more tender in a way, yet still just as intense and heated. This makes it refreshing and unique, and that’s what I love about this series: even though the novels follow the same basic concept and their stories intertwine, they never feel old or too repetitive; Kresley Cole is really a magician of combining the familiar and the new.

Pleasure of a Dark Prince spans the timeline from almost the very beginning of the series and past the point of the previous instalment (Untouchable). I loved the little reminders of the past events and glimpses into the lives of other beloved couples (especially Lachlain and Emma; and now I want to reread their book), always just enough to refresh one’s memory and see how the protagonists from the previous novels fare in their future.

Garreth’s and Lucia’s adventures are as crazy and unpredictable as you can expect from Kresley Cole and the ending just as wittily resolved and satisfying.

The only downsides were that I had to not read some parts too attentively, because mega caimans and, even worse, anacondas are a major squick for me (I scream and squeal and feel sick when I see and earthworm, okay?). Additionally, the villain of the book is extra gruesome, too.

Lucia’s benefactress and saviour, goddess Skathi, is somewhat shady, and I resented her that a lot of Lucia’s pain, fear and shame and self-flagellation was her fault – although she may have meant well (and maybe actually did Lucia good with her attitude, I’m still not sure.)

Nevertheless, Pleasure of a Dark Prince is overall another amazing instalment of Immortals After Dark series and if you read the series to this point, don’t stop now.

4 stars

RECOMMENDATION: Not much to say, if you loved the previous Immortals After Dark books, you will love this one too. And if are a fan of paranormal romance and you haven’t tied this series yet, you definitely should.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Spring Bloggiesta 2014 Wrap-Up

Bloggiesta1S141-150x1505

(About Bloggiesta)

I wasn’t sure whether to join in at all, since I’m sick again, but then, my blog does need some maintenance:

  • write that one review I’ve been trying to for the last two days, DONE!
  • backup blog and template, DONE!
  • change the background (& theme details) to something more spring-like DONE!
  • see the challenges if there is something I should/could do, if not now, then in the future DONE! (G+, About Me, FTC)
  • do some maintenance and updating on something else, which I like to keep private and separate but it sort of belongs to the blogging area. DONE! (I made some icons, changed theme, updated archive, but still need to update/revamp the master list. I know you don’t know what I’m talking about, but I feel good about how much I’ve done.)

Extra things I’ve done:

  • removed my tumblr button – I felt like there is no point in having my tumblr linked here, since I rarely post anything bookish there.
  • Updated my blog footer, copyright etc.
  • Updated my G+ profile, joined G+ boggiesta community
  • Changed my Booklikes theme
  • caught the 2nd half of the Friday twitter chat, although I was mostly lurking, but I learned a few things.
  • Updated all my pages (except Cat Diary, which didn’t need an update)

Things to do/remember for the future:

  • Put the FTC disclaimer on the top of my ‘for review books’ reviews (I have so far been putting it at the bottom, same font as the post with the world ‘Disclaimer’ bolded.)
  • Take a creative photo of myself on a good day and put it on my About Me page

All in all, I can say this was a successful bloggiesta for me. How about for you?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Spring Bloggiesta 2014 Sign-Up and To-Do List

Bloggiesta1S141-150x150

What the title says. Want to learn more about Bloggiesta and join in?

I wasn’t sure whether to join in at all, since I’m sick again, but then, my blog does need some maintenance:

  • write that one review I’ve been trying to for the last two days,
  • backup blog and template,
  • change the background (& theme details) to something more spring-like
  • see the challenges if there is something I should/could do, if not now, then in the future
  • do some maintenance and updating on something else, which I like to keep private and separate but it sort of belongs to the blogging area.

Things I would like to do, but I know I won’t because they are either not that urgent and/or I know I won't be able to do it because of the current state of my health:

  • twitter chats (probably won’t muster the strength for any of those, although, who knows, maybe I will)
  • create one or more drop-down menus (not really necessary at this point since my current blog layout has enough space in pages tabs)
  • crosspost old reviews to Goodreads and Booklikes (my reviews from the last two years or so are all crossposted; most of the older ones, however, are not and it’s unlikely ever to happen, but maybe some day.)

There you go, my goals and not-goals. What are yours?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Obstacles by Chris Reardon

SUMMARY (from Goodreads): A child will die. You're afraid to live. Would you go to all lengths to save him? Darkness knows no bounds, as Alcott, an African American doctor sees all too well. The man is petrified by death. His fragile existence rests at the mercy of the universe. This fact is far too much for him to handle. From unyielding nightmares to elevator terrors, he's lost in paranoia.

Assigned to look after an ill child, Alcott's horrors only heighten. Gari is a nine-year-old boy with a fatal disease. He will surely pass on within the year. Alcott bonds with him more and more each day. Part of him knows this grim fate just isn't right.

Alcott befriends a hospital patient. This lunatic forces him to lug home an ancient text on bringing back the dead. Despite the man's obvious dementia, Alcott attempts the scheme. Charging up a cliff, he recites the chant over ocean gusts.

A god woman glides in from the horizon. She instructs Alcott on the trials to save Gari's life. These fearsome Obstacles require true strength. From battling sharks to wielding a flail, he must prove fortitude against genuine danger. Alcott decides his fate at this moment.
Death's claws shall not grasp Gari's soul.

MY OPINION:

Obstacles is Chris Reardon’s first novel, so I was willing to give it some leeway. However, there is only so much leeway I can give.

What I liked:

  • the premise of undertaking a Herculean-like quest in order to change fate and save someone from dying,
  • the lesson conveyed towards the end of the book, stressing the importance believing in oneself in order to succeed.

However, these were unfortunately overshadowed by what I didn’t like:

  • poorly developed characters:

    We don’t learn much about any of the characters. To start with, we never even learn what Gari’s illness is, or how Gari and Antuna can afford a live-in doctor, and what exactly Alcott does to help Gari.

    And is Alcott a first or a last name? We learn nothing about Alcott, besides the fact that he is a 30-something doctor (what kind of doctor?), though he acts and speaks like a teenager.

    Since I didn’t really get to know any of the characters, I didn’t care what happens to them and whether they succeed or fail.
  • in contrast with the lack of information about the characters, there is too much unnecessary repetition of easily-grasped data and concepts (I don’t need to be told the same thing five times, I’m not that stupid.)
  • the so-called obstacles, the tasks Alcott faces, are clichéd (sharks, labyrinth…) and there are just too many mythical elements from across cultures and genres (including humanoid aliens from Neptune) crammed together, all superficial and often rather silly.
  • poor vocabulary choices: it seems as if the author was trying too hard with the language, wanting to sound sophisticated, but it has the opposite effect – it sounds overdone, especially because of a modern setting and the first person POV narrative. Nobody thinks “we need to ‘dash’ out” and “i was ‘fatigued’“, do they?
  • the above said is in direct contrast with numerous grammatical errors, bad punctuation (so many ellipses), awkward or nonsensical phrasing (e.g. “I spark out” in the meaning “I say”), and colloquial language.
  • the scene structure is often illogical; for example, a person stands by the window and then goes to the window (without going away first), or a character faints again when that character hasn’t fainted yet in that scene.
  • And I could go on.

Overall, Obstacles suffers from insufficient revision and editing on all levels from content editing to proofreading. The teacher and the linguist in me were just itching the entire time to take a red pen and start jotting down corrections and suggestions for improvement. However, my time is too valuable to do that for free. Unfortunately, the editor, who is credited in the book and probably was paid, did a poor job.

Thus, Obstacles is basically a first draft with an interesting concept and possibly a potential of becoming a good, if not a great, book, but would need a few more rounds of revising and editing.

RECOMMENDATION: Clearly, I cannot recommend Obstacles, but if you have some time to spare and a will to try it, go ahead and form your own opinion.

1,5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Obstacles in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold

SUMMARY (from Goodreads): In Alfred Gibson the fierce energy and brilliance of the most famous of the Victorian novelists is recreated, in a heart-warming story of first love – of a cocky young writer smitten by a pretty girl in a blue dress.

Alfred Gibson's funeral has taken place at Westminster Abbey, and his wife of twenty years, Dorothea, has not been invited. Her younger daughter Kitty comforts her, until an invitation for a private audience with Queen Victoria arrives, and she begins to examine her own life more closely. Uncovering the true deviousness and hypnotic power of her celebrity author husband, she'll now need to face her grown-up children – and worse – her redoubtable younger sister, Sissy and the charming actress, Miss Ricketts.

MY OPINION:

I’m not a Dickens fan as it is – I find him too depressing in a frustrating way, not in a relatable, making-me-sympathise-and-cry way – but Girl in a Blue Dress was recommended by a friend who also lent it to me, so I gave it a shot.

It didn’t make me like Dickens any more, but there were things I liked about it, as well as those I didn’t.

What I liked:

  • sort of Victorian-novel-like writing style,
  • the presentation of living situations of the middle and the upper-middle classes in the Victorian era,
  • Dorothea shaking off her bonds and embracing life again at the end,
  • Dorothea becoming more confident and aware of an unequal situation of women in the society and even advocating women’s rights, even though only in the familiar circle, but stating her opinion at last was a big step for her.

What I didn’t like:

  • Alfred and the way he treated Dorothea and other women or, actually, all people
  • Alfred being such a horrible self-centred man, always managing to spin the story the way it made him look good and everyone else at fault for whatever happened
  • Dorothea being so passive and submissive, actually spineless, and worshipping Alfred despite the way he treated her
  • and Dorothea blaming solely Miss Ricketts for stealing her man (whereas Miss Ricketts was actually Alfred’s victim herself, which at the end Dorothea recognised)

A little spoiler, perhaps, though not really:

So, among other things Alfred blamed Dorothea for was for how she was pregnant all the time and how they had too many children and that was finally his last excuse to distance himself from her. It filled me with such rage. Like it was all Dorothea’s fault (props to her that she did try to tell him he is just as responsible for that; of curse he didn’t listen to her).

The fact is that Dorothea was mostly ignorant, as it was usual for girls at that time, about how to prevent pregnancy (with whatever means and methods existing at the time), but she did try to inquire about a solution. She even learned about a few possible ways of contraception but couldn’t acquire them on her own, which really represents the powerlessness of women at the time.

However, what angered me greatly, was the sanctimonious attitude of Alfred’s, who, as a worldly man he was, surely had more knowledge about it and ways to ensure them taking precautions, but he chose to not pay any attention to the matter and just simply ascribe it to Dorothea as one more of her shortcomings.

(End of the little spoiler.)

All in all, Girl in a Blue Dress is not an outstanding book, but it has some enjoyable elements and some thought-provoking themes.

RECOMMENDATION: Victorian literature and Dickens lovers would probably like Girl in a Blue Dress.

3 stars

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Trials of Cate McCall (2013)

the trials of cate mccallDIRECTOR: Karen Moncrieff; CAST: Kate Beckinsale, Oliver Cromwell, David Lyons, Mark Pellegrino, Nick Nolte, Kathy Baker, Anna Anissimova…

SUMMARY (from IMDB): In order to be reinstated to the bar and recover custody of her daughter, a hotshot lawyer, now in recovery and on probation, must take on the appeal of a woman wrongfully convicted of murder.

MY OPINION:

What prompted me to watch this film was the cast and a compelling story, and I was not disappointed by either of the two.

The Trials of Cate McCall is one of these films which are hard to review; for saying anything concrete about it could spoil the enjoyment of a future viewer as its best elements are those which come as a surprise.

Even though the themes of The Trials of Cate McCall have been explored in films numerous times, the film is still unique in its own way. Plot-wise, both Cate’s professional and personal struggles are absolutely intriguing and take some unexpected turns. The characters are well-developed and multi-dimensional, not only the main ones, but also the supporting ones.

I have already mentioned the amazing cast, who do justice to their names with good performances. Each and everyone deserves praise, but I would like to point out only one by name: Anna Anissimova deserves major props for her Lacey.

Overall, The Trials of Cate McCall was definitely worth my time – it it is only just under an hour and a half long – and left a lasting positive impression on me.

4 stars

RECOMMENDATION: If you like crime/drama The Trials of Cate McCall is certainly a film to be taken into consideration the next time you wonder what to watch.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Game of Thrones, Seasons 1–3

GoT title cardCREATOR: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss; CAST: Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Maisie Williams…

SUMMARY (from IMDB): Seven noble families fight for control of the mythical land of Westeros.

MY OPINION:

Obviously, A Song of Ice and Fire by G. R. R. Martin has been on my TBR list for ages. However, even though I have heard a lot of praise for it, I have been reluctant to start it, because those books look scarily thick.

Nevertheless, I started watching the TV-series based on it on a whim, and sped through it in about three weeks, because it is so good.

As I learned from a friend who read the books and watched the show, Game of Thrones is to a great extent faithful to the book series as far as the basics are concerned, but it omits details, which is understandable.
It has a lot of great characters, played by excellent actors: the good, the evil, and those in between; and you will both love and hate them. And let me reiterate the warning my friend gave me: do not get attached to any character to strongly because nobody is safe.

The plot is full of action, suspense, intrigues and drama both on personal and general scales, with many unexpected surprises along the way and twists one never sees coming.

The scenery and settings are absolutely stunning, worth watching all on their own. And I enjoyed the music on the show quite a bit.

Game of Thrones is not for people with weak stomachs, since there is quite some graphic violence present. This show is on HBO for a reason, so be warned. The same goes for sexually explicit scenes.

Overall, I fell in love with this show, and I can’t wait for season 4, starting in April. And one of these days I will certainly venture to my library and borrow the first book of A Song of Ice on Fire, since I want to learn the details the show may have left out and get perhaps a clearer, deeper look into this amazing world.

5 stars
RECOMMENDATION: If you are a fantasy and history (since the world of ASoIaF resembles a medieval world) fan, this show is a must-see (provided you are a mature adult and can handle violence, of course), as is the book series a must-read (the advice I have to follow some day soon). 


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