Friday, April 29, 2016

Written in Red, a Novel of The Others

Just last year, a friend turned me onto this great urban fantasy series, written by Anne Bishop of The Black Jewels fame, that was unlike any I'd read before. So far, there are four books in the series: Written in Red, Murder of Crows, Vision in Silver, and Marked in Flesh.

From the author's website:
As a cassandra sangue, or blood prophet, Meg Corbyn can see the future when her skin is cut—a gift that feels more like a curse. Meg’s Controller keeps her enslaved so he can have full access to her visions. But when she escapes, the only safe place Meg can hide is at the Lakeside Courtyard—a business district operated by the Others.
Shape-shifter Simon Wolfgard is reluctant to hire the stranger who inquires about the Human Liaison job. First, he senses she’s keeping a secret, and second, she doesn’t smell like human prey. Yet a stronger instinct propels him to give Meg the job. And when he learns the truth about Meg and that she’s wanted by the government, he’ll have to decide if she’s worth the fight between humans and the Others that will surely follow.
I love the world of The Others! I love the world, the characters, the entire premise. 

I love it so much I want to live there ~ in the Courtyard, though, not in Lakeside proper where the humans live, thank you very much. In fact, I identify much more with the terre indigene residents of The Courtyard (no matter how fearsome and strange) than with the human characters, though I do like a few of the humans who try to work with Simon and the other shifters at The Courtyard to keep peace between the two groups. 

Having said that, I should set out a few warnings for those who are more sensitive than me. The books include some uncomfortable scenes that entail torture, a few scenes that imply rape (though there are no graphic scenes of rape), and numerous violent scenes involving killing and maiming by and of both humans and The Others. Since I like dark fantasy, none of it bothered me except to make me cheer when the bad guys got their comeuppance. 

As far as the cutting goes, self-mutilation is a difficult issue, but Bishop handles it pretty well, giving those who practice it a degree of dignity and the act of cutting a purpose and an allure that is pure fantasy ~ because it's definitely not alluring in real life. 

I've read one review that accused Meg of being a Mary Sue, but I didn't see it that way at all, though I admit that, a few times in the first book, I wanted to slap her for seeming like she is TSTL (too stupid to live). As the story unfolded and I began to realize what was going on and why she behaved that way, Meg became a much more likable character. (A character can't be a Mary Sue if the back story warrants the behavior, at least that's how I see it.) I also read a couple of reviewers who were bothered by the way Simon and the other wolves treat Meg like a play toy, but I didn't have any trouble with that either. It wasn't at all the same as a human male treating a woman like a plaything.

One more caveat: I've read all four books in print and the also as audiobooks. The audio versions are okay, but I had a little difficulty with some of the voices. For instance, Simon always sounds annoyed, and Meg always sounds like an idiot. I just finished the last one, and I have to say I prefer reading them in print. 

All in all, The Others series is up there with the Mercy Thompson and the Matthew Swift urban fantasy series, both of which I also love. 

Highly recommended.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Compromising Charis - An Erotic Romance

Okay, to start, as I mentioned in my last post, I don't normally read romance anymore (though I used to read a lot of it), and these days usually skim over the sexy bits whenever they show up in a novel I'm reading.  However, when I saw Compromising Charis on the NetGalley website, I decided to get a taste of what's on offer out there. For one thing, I was thinking of writing an erotic romance for NaNoWriMo and thought I should read one before trying my hand at writing one.  For another, I was curious. I had no idea what to expect, and to say I was a bit apprehensive is putting it mildly.
I needn't have worried. Compromising Charis by Sahara Kelly, published by Red Sage, was a surprisingly amusing novelette about a young aristocratic woman who decides to get herself ruined in order to avoid having to marry a man she's never met.  She's sure she doesn't want to marry him because she is sure he is a "chuckleheaded lackwit" to want to marry her, since she'd been ruined once already and is, in the eyes of most of society, unmarriageable. Charis decides to run away to the gypsies (I didn't say the story was free of melodramatic improbabilities). On the way to the gypsy encampment, she meets a very good-looking, obviously aristocratic young man who is driving down the road in a curricle.

Sinjun Randall offers to drive her to her destination. Ever a rebel, Charis accepts his offer, then, in sudden inspiration, asks if he'd be so kind as to ruin her some more. (Did I mention he was really handsome? And charming.) He, of course, being a red-blooded male, immediately agrees. (Did I mention that Charis is really beautiful?) Off they go to a secluded country manor belonging to a friend of his and, after giving the servant a holiday until the next morning, have their way with each other for the rest of the day and night.

I expected the sex scenes to be pretty much nonstop and, if not boring as hell, then totally cringeworthy, and that I'd have to skim over them to get to the expected HEA. I was wrong. Yes, they were pretty much nonstop, but they were far from awful. In fact, though there was the requisite breathlessness and moaning as well as some frank descriptions of the sexual act, in between these passages were also some delightful conversation (!) and moments of actual humor, and much of the action was more sensual than mechanical.

And the ending?  Expected, of course, but fun and satisfying. 

So, not only did I learn a lot about how to go about writing an erotic novel (for instance, there were a total of only FOUR characters in the entire story, and two were on for a mere two or three pages, never to return), I spent a couple of hours of reading enjoyment (I almost said "pleasure," but I didn't want to give the wrong impression. I was reading strictly for educational purposes, you will recall, not to be aroused, no matter how arousing some of the parts turned out to be. ;)

Bottom line: Compromising Charis is an appealing erotic romance, filled with humor, great characters, and a sweet and sexy love story, and I will definitely be reading more from Ms. Kelly and whatever else is on offer from Red Sage.

Being an eGalley, there were a few typos, and the formatting, as is usual with galleys, sucked. I shouldn't think those annoyances will be issues in the actual eBook.

DISCLAIMER: I received the eGalley free from NetGalley; however, that didn't influence me in the least, and all of the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Friday, November 26, 2010

When Harry Met Molly by Kieran Kramer - A Review

When Harry Met Sally is a light romance, a fun and fluffy romp through Regency England.  I really enjoyed it, although I haven't been "into" romances for a year or so. 

Harry is the younger son of a duke, sent from home in disgrace and forced to join the army at the age of 18 after Molly, the second daughter of an earl whose estate neighbors the duke's, tattles on him for kissing her older sister who happens to be the fiance of Harry's older brother. Molly, who was 13 at the time, is also sent away in disgrace to a school in the north of England for her bad behavior. Harry and Molly meet again when she is around 20 and on the verge of spinsterhood, which is the reason she is at an inn on the way to Gretna Green with a vacuous but oh-so-handsome friend of her father's. Harry, named one of the Impossible Bachelors by the Prince Regent, is at the same inn with his mistress, an equally vacuous but oh-so-beautiful woman, on the way to his hunting box for a week's debauchery. Molly's reluctant suitor and Harry's petulant mistress elope together, leaving Molly stranded alone far from home and Harry in a lot of trouble. The Impossible Bachelors have been ordered by Prinny to engage in a competition, and if Harry doesn't show up at the hunting box with the Most Delectible Mistress in tow, he will be forced to marry a woman chosen by the other Impossible Bachelors.

You can see where this is going.

There was a problem or two, mostly with believability, and many of the scenes at the hunting box with the bachelors and the mistresses were plain silly, but overall it was funny, touching (it even brought tears to my eyes in one place), and multi-dimensional. Even the villain had a redeeming quality. At first I disliked Molly ~ she started out acting like a real twit ~ and Harry wasn't all that appealing either. But during the course of the adventure, as layers of guilt and wrong-headedness were peeled from them, they became completely loveable, and by the end I liked both a lot and was rooting for them.

The ending? Well, it was one of the improbable scenes I mentioned above, and a bit too facile in my opinion, but, once I managed to turn the "suspension of my disbelief" up a notch, it didn't detract from my enjoyment of how things worked out.

There was, as you can imagine, quite a bit of sex, but I found I wasn't skimming those scenes as I usually do; they actually had substance to them, as well as humor. And some of the scenes with Molly and the mistresses were as amusing as they were touching.

Recommended for fans of Regency romances.

DISCLAIMER: I got the paperback copy free from Pump Up Your Book in exchange for a review.  Neither my opinion nor my review were influenced thereby.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Winners' Circle

And the names of the lucky winners of the autographed copies of the Aristide Ravel historical mysteries, courtesy of the author Susanne Alleyn, are:

1. Book Bird Dog
2. pennyt
3. Aik
4. Kari Wainwright
5. k-sunshine1977

Congratulations! I've contacted all the winners by email and have all their mailing addresses and I plan to get the books out in the mail by Monday morning 11/22. Thanks to all who entered!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Palace of Justice - A Review

I absolutely loved Palace of Justice, the latest in the Aristide Ravel historical mystery series by Susanne Alleyn. The action takes place in Paris during The Terror, a few years after the events in Cavalier of the Apocalypse, the novel in which Ravel reluctantly begins his career as a police agent. Though I loved loved loved Cavalier, and very much enjoyed Game of Patience and Treasury of Regrets, Palace of Justice is my hands-down favorite! Clearly, Ms. Alleyn's really hit her stride with this one!

Someone is leaving headless corpses from one end of Paris to the other, macabre reminders of the bloody work being done by Madame La Guillotine, and there seems to be no rhyme or reason for the killer's choice of victims, which range across the entire social spectrum. Ravel is brought into the case when the headless corpse of an unknown woman is found in an alley in Commissaire Brasseur's patch. When Ravel discovers that their victim is actually the fifth such corpse and that the Revolutionary Council is involved, things start to get dicey for the morose detective. Is it a true madman responsible, or could it be a royalist fanatic out to discredit the fledgling Republic by whatever means possible, even if it means murder?

The mystery is clever and twisty and seems to me to be a police procedural / judicial drama, coupled with a study of what fanaticism and madness does to a society as a whole and to individuals in particular, as much as a whodunnit. As usual, though, it is Ravel's story and the fascinating historical period details that sucked me in and kept me up late at night reading "just one more page...or two."  While immersed in the novel, I was there with Ravel in the gritty heart of Paris during The Terror, with all of its paranoia, hysteria, poverty, fear and bloody death. Even as he races about trying to solve the murders, resulting in some nail-biting moments for me, Ravel is personally touched by tragedy when Mathieu, his best friend from childhood, is brought up on charges of treason in front of the Revolutionary Tribunal, resulting in some of the most heartbreaking scenes in any novel I've ever read. I cried, which isn't something that usually happens when I read a mystery.

Palace of Justice is, quite simply, sublime, and I highly recommend it (and the entire series) to those who love good historical mysteries. For a taste of what Palace has to offer, you can read the first two chapters on Ms. Alleyn's website: She is also having a giveaway of two copies of Palace ~ the link to the contest is in the right-hand column of this blog. So, do yourself a favor: check out the excerpt and then enter the giveaway. You'll be so glad you did!

In bookstores November 23, 2010 (just in time for the long Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S.)!