Posts Tagged ‘ review ’

Review: Not Your Typical, Scantily-Clad Virgin Sacrifice

Not Your Typical, Scantily-Clad Virgin Sacrifice is a hilariously-named collection of short stories by H. Jonas Rhynedahll.  I picked up an .epub version from an author giveaway after the title attracted my interest.  It contains the following short stories:

  • Not your typical, scantily-clad virgin sacrifice
  • Virtue
  • Causality
  • Personal Space
  • Fred Was a Mutant
  • Science

The stories vary in length and style, from fantasy (Not your typical, scantily-clad virgin sacrifice; Virtue) to science fiction (Causality; Personal Space) and something in between (Fred Was a Mutant; Science).

Hblabanechalatooc repeated the sacred words and rang the sacred bell, which responded with a muted clank.
“Where’s the Sacred Golden Bell of the Moon Goddess, Morton?”
Morton looked apologetic. “Well, sir, the insurance company sent us a memo saying they thought that bringing the Sacred Instruments out of their cases was too risky, so we had to substitute this year.”

The author’s style strongly reminds me of Terry Pratchett in both style and themes, particularly Not your typical, scantily-clad virgin sacrifice, Virtue, and SciencePersonal Space managed to pull off a less in-your-face trying-hard-to-be-funny style without completely sacrificing a sense of humour, and is my favourite piece from the anthology.

While some of the stories, namely Causality and Science, weren’t quite my personal cup of tea, overall I enjoyed this collection.  Not Your Typical, Scantily-Clad Virgin Sacrifice is currently retailing on for the Kindle at $0.99, and is well worth the price.  Recommended.

Review: Unveiled

Courtney Milan‘s Unveiled is the first in a new series about the Turner brothers.  Unveiled is due to be released in January 2011; its sequel, Unclaimed, starring Ash’s youngest brother Mark, is due out in Fall 2011.  I enjoyed Unveiled, and will definitely be keeping an eye out for the next one.Unveiled cover

Mr. Ash Turner is the  perfect stereotype of a self-made man, rising from an impoverished background to the pinnacle of wealth; he went to sea when he was a teenager, made his fortune overseas in India, and paid for his two youngest brothers to have the finest education money could buy.  And now he has his eyes set on a title – specifically the Duke of Parford’s.  Ash has waited decades for a chance to seek revenge on Parford, whose uncaring arrogance years before led to the dead of Ash’s younger sister, Hope.

The old duke is dying, and with both of his sons proved illegitimate, the Parford estate and the title must fall to the nearest male kin – Ash Turner and his brothers.  Satisfying though it was to embarrass Parford and his family in front of London Society and secure an even more advantageous future for his own family, Ash soon finds vengeance to be not nearly as satisfying as he had thought.  Perhaps he can find consolation in the arms of no-nonsense Margaret Lowell, Parford’s very attractive nurse…

I won’t just steal your title and your lands. I will run any bank that holds your funds into the ground. I will bribe your servants to slip nettles into your bed. I will hire trumpets to stand outside your home, every evening, where they will sound notes at irregular intervals. You will never have a solid night’s sleep again.

Unfortunately for his plans, Miss Margaret Lowell is better known as Lady Anna Margaret Dalrymple, Parford’s only daughter, and she has no interest in offering anything other than hatred.  Ash has ruined her family, her inheritance, and her reputation to settle a decades-old quarrel with her father, the Duke of Parford, proving the duke a bigamist and Margaret and her two older brothers illegitimate.  Whilst Richard and Edmund, Margaret’s brothers, attempt to gain support for a Bill of Parliament to grant them legitimacy, Margaret has been left at Parford Manor to pose as a nurse and care for her ailing father.  And to spy on Ash, when he arrives to survey his stolen inheritance…

This was a very interesting story.  The plot – disinheritance because of bigamy and attempted reinstatement by Act of Parliament – is not one that I’ve ever come across before, and I do love new concepts and settings.  The early Victorian era was a nice change from the generic Georgian Regency period that seems to be the historical romance setting of choice.

Ash was an interesting character, very determined to get his own way and have things go the way he planned.  Including having Margaret in his bed, even after he discovered who she was.  Might I just add that he has the best name I have ever seen on a Romance hero.

Margaret felt rather passive at times, and a little overwhelmed by her domineering father and her affection for her brothers versus her growing attraction to Ash.  I very much enjoyed the way she eventually shook off their hold – including Ash’s – and took her future into her own hands.

Both Ash’s brothers and Margaret’s brothers came across as ungrateful, rather spoiled brats.  I’m not sure if that was intentional, or my own prejudice against bratty younger siblings.

Overall, I enjoyed Unveiled a great deal, and will be looking forward to the sequel.  If you enjoy a determined hero, a unique plot and a refreshingly different setting, do make sure to pick this one up.  Recommended.

Review: Hidden Fires

Hidden Fires by Katharine Eliska Kimbriel is a science-fiction tale set in a future where mankind has populated many other solar systems, and inter-system travel taking years or decades is positively common-place thanks to scientific advances.  Hidden Fires is the third book in a series, following Fire Sanctuary and Fires of Nuala, and was re-released as an ebookk in December 2010.Hidden Fires cover

Garth Kristinsson’s parents died long ago, somehow caught in the backlash of a scam gone awry, and he has spent all his time since attempting to to track down the mysterious Silver, his father’s former partner and the one person still living who might be able to give him the answers he seeks.  After over a century of searching and travelling in the technological wonder of Cold Sleep (a form of hibernation that seems to prevent the body from aging during extended space journeys), Garth’s quest takes him to the strange planet of Nuala, a harsh world that is poisonous to those not native or acclimatised to its deadly radiation.

Once he arrives Garth soon locates Silver, who has spent the past decade living on Nuala as Darame Daviddottir, wife of the co-ruler of the Nualan tribe of Atare, far away from the outside galaxy and her former life.  While Darame seems pleased to meet the son of her childhood friend Lisbet, she is ignorant of Lisbet and Kristin’s deaths, and her warm welcome throws Garth off his guard.  Before he can decide whether to pursue his initial plans to make Silver pay, Garth finds himself drawn into the machinons of the young nobles of Atare’s rival clan Dielaan.  A plan intended to make a (relatively) harmless political statement goes badly awry, and Garth soon finds himself fleeing the civilised city of Amura to escape his former co-conspirators.

I’ll admit I wasn’t entirely sure what to think about this book when I started it.  I wasn’t terribly gripped by the opening, and put off reading past the first chapter for a while; the opening line, while obviously intended to grip the reader’s interest, seemed rather ponderous and melodramatic, which combined with the immediate stream-of-consciousness monologue to rather put me off.

I was wrong.

While the first few chapters felt a little slow to me, once the action actually began and we met the mysterious Silver, it quickly changed into an interesting and complex tale of adventure and political intrigue.

I wasn’t fond of Garth to begin with, but he did grow on me as the story progressed, and I liked Lucy and Darame from the start.  Even the ‘villain’ of the piece was more than just a flat cardboard figure, though he fit the ‘selfish megalomaniac’ stereotype a little too neatly for my taste.  Both major and secondary characters seemed to be well-written, and the author resisted the urge to have the token child character talk in ‘baby-talk’, which was very much appreciated.

This is the third book in the world of Nuala, and it definitely shows.  The world’s culture and history is rich in detail and fairly complicated, and a lot of the concepts are explained only briefly; while the world itself is obviously well fleshed-out behind the scenes, it seemed to presume that the reader was already familiar with Nuala through the previous two books and the events they contained, and I felt lost at times without that frame of reference.

Having managed to get past my initial negative impression of Hidden Fires I found that I very much enjoyed this story, and will be adding one of its prequels, Fires of Nuala, to my wish list.  Recommended.

Review: Lust

Lust by Charlotte Featherstone is the first book in The Sins and the Virtues, a brand-new series of books that follow the stories of seven Fey princes, each cursed with one of the Seven Deadly Sins.  Lust is due to be released by Harlequin’s Spice line in January 2011.Lust cover

Centuries ago, the Queen of the Seelie Fey, Aine, was kidnapped by Duir, King of the dark Unseelie Fey.  Whilst in captivity she bore him twin sons, Crom and Niall.  Aine eventually managed to escape, taking Crom with her, but before doing so she laid a curse on Niall and on the other male children of Duir’s line.  Each Dark Fey prince was cursed with the personification of one of the Seven Deadly Sins, their nature shaped by that sin and forced to act upon its desires.  Thanks to Aine’s curse the Unseelie court is dying, and Niall, now king, was helpless to stop it until he discovered the key to unravelling his mother’s curse.  For each Fey prince cursed with a Sin has a counterpart, a mortal woman who embodies one of the Seven Virtues.  If they can find these women, earn their love, and bring them willingly to the Dark Court, perhaps the Seelie Queen’s spell will be broken…

Our first story, Lust, is the tale of Thane, one of Niall’s younger half-brothers.  Thane possesses the Sin of lust, and along with it an insatiable appetite for the pleasures of the flesh.  He and his siblings quickly track down the first three of the human Virtues they need to break the curse, and Thane is unable to take his eyes from Chastity Lennox, the third of the Duke of Lennox’s four beautiful daughters.

Chastity, as her name implies, is one of the embodiments of a Virtue, and Thane’s mortal counterpart.  She has spent all of her life cold and restrained, unmoved by the handsome faces and elegant compliments that make other female hearts flutter – until a chance encounter at a masked ball rocks Chastity’s world, and she finds herself responding to a man, however reluctantly, for the very first time.  A man who she quickly begins to suspect is not a man at all, but a Dark Fey seeking her soul…

Lust is part of the Harlequin Spice line, and very much deserving of the classification.  Lust is a very sexy read, with smouldering chemistry and red-hot sex scenes.  The combination of historical setting and fantasy elements is difficult to find, and certainly makes this book stand out from the crowd.  I spent several enjoyable hours whiling away the time with Lust, and will certainly keep my eye out for the rest of the books in the series to be released.

If you dislike fantasy elements or explicit sex scenes, then this book is not for you; it is very much an erotic romance., with heavy emphasis on the erotic.  However, if  you like your heroes mythological and your sex scenes smokin’ hot, then Lust comes highly recommended.

Review: Stone Kissed

Stone Kissed by Keri Stevens is a sweet modern paranormal romance that’s due to be released at the end of this month.Stone Kissed cover

Most everyone is the small two of Stewardsville knows that the town founder’s descendants are… an odd bunch, to say the least. The latest of those is Delia Forrest, who talks to statues – which might not be so odd, if it weren’t that the statues talk back.  Delia is forced to give up her apartment and business to return home when a terrible house fire wreaks havoc on her ancestral home and puts her estranged father in the hospital with serious injuries.

Grant Wolverton, an old acquaintance and rival of her father, also finds his way back into Delia’s life; he wants to buy Steward House, and with the cost of her father’s medical bills increasing by the hour it’s an offer Delia can’t refuse.  The obvious attraction between them is unsettling to both – can they work together to restore Steward House without giving in to their feelings?  Is Delia be able to keep her magical secret hidden from Grant?  And will the chatty statues in Delia’s new apartment ever shut up?

In addition to our Stoic Hero an Intrepid Heroine, we have Delia’s cousin, Cecily Johnson, who for some reason is a succubus.  I’m not sure quite why that is, and it’s never explained.  For all that she’s the ‘villain’ of the piece, I can’t help but feel sorry for Cecily, and my interpretation is that it’s Cecily’s supernatural nature that makes her the way she is, rather than any real desire to Be Evil or anything.

I would like to read further stories set in this universe, and perhaps learn something about the way magic works and what other supernatural types might be out there.  Recommended.

Review: Like Clockwork

Like Clockwork by Bonnie Dee is a light, enjoyable Steampunk Romance set in an alternate late Victorian-era London with an unusual heroine and likeable hero.Like Clockwork cover

Victoria Waters is a Society debutante turned inventor, part of the team that created the clockwork automatons that have replaced much of Britain’s working-class in various industries.  Originally intending for her creation to only replace those working in dangerous jobs or hazardous conditions, Victoria has been growing more and more disturbed as the cheap and efficient automatons have become a greater part of everyday life – particularly now that reports are coming to light of the automatons breaking down or malfunctioning and causing harm to humans.  She is on her way to air these problems, in fact, when she is kidnapped by an agent of the Brotherhood, a group opposed to the use of automatons and concerned about their impact on society.

Dash, the agent in question, is a former thief turned bookseller’s apprentice turned bartender, currently unemployed thanks to Victoria’s clockwork automatons.  He is surprised to find Victoria sympathetic to their cause, and a bond quickly grows between them, despite their differences of class and profession.

This one was difficult to sum up because, to be honest, not very much happens.  I love both the setting and idea behind Like Clockwork, but I dearly wish it had been longer, to give more time for both the characters and the plot to develop.  As it was, the few plot elements felt rushed and isolated from the relationship developing between Victoria and Dash, and the relationship itself lacked a lot of depth.  There is an explicit sex scene tacked onto the end in an epilogue – unfortunately, the sex felt obligatory rather than a natural progression of the story, and the short epilogue contained more plot, sadly glossed-over, than the main story did.

As it stands, this is a sweet short story that has the potential to be developed into something much greater, but it’s just not there yet.

Review: Mistress by Midnight

Nicola Cornick’s Mistress by Midnight is the brand-new third installment in the rather ponderously-named ‘Scandalous Women of the Ton’ series. I have not read the two earlier books, but after finishing this one I think I might at least pick up the first, which is the story of Merryn’s oldest sister Joanna, who I liked immensely;Mistress by Midnight cover the second book is about Garrick’s half-brother Ethan, who appeared only briefly in Mistress and who I have little interest in reading about.

Lady Merryn Fenner is a rather oddly-named¹ Society bluestocking, the unmarried and eccentric youngest child of the late Earl of Fenner.  When not attending scientific lectures or propping up the wallpaper at tonnish events, Merryn secretly assists working-class investigator Tom Bradshaw, gaining entry through her title and connections to houses and paperwork that Bradshaw would otherwise be unable to access.  Her ongoing pet project has been to investigate the death of her brother, Stephen, who was allegedly killed in a duel some twelve years prior; Merryn doesn’t believe the official story and intends to uncover the truth and seek the ruin (and possible execution) of his killer.

Garrick Northesk, the nineteenth Duke of Farne, and whose surname never appears besides the second paragraph of the book, has spent the last decade haunted by the betrayal and subsequent murder of his best friend, forced to keep the true events of that day a secret.  He returns to London after his father’s funeral to find his home – and bedchamber – occupied by a certain bluestocking, who had taken advantage of the absences of Garrick and his father to rifle through the old duke’s study for incriminating paperwork.

Garrick’s curiosity is piqued when the lady flees, and he becomes downright intrigued when he discovers that she is the youngest sister of the man he killed so long ago.  Will he act on his attraction, or will Merryn find what she seeks and earn Garrick the hangman’s noose…?

When a disaster traps Merryn and Garrick together, white-hot desire stirs between the two sworn enemies. Merryn’s reputation is utterly compromised and she is forced to do the one thing she cannot bear; accept the scandalous marriage proposal of the man she has vowed to ruin.

I was a little annoyed to discover that the ‘disaster’ mentioned as the plot-hook on the back cover didn’t happen until just over half-way through the book.  The disaster in question was the London Beer Flood of 1814, which the author mentions in the foreward.  Normally I try to avoid giving plot spoilers beyond the first few chapters, but in this case I don’t think it counts, as the information is revealed before the actual story even starts.

During the beer flood, our intrepid heroine and her reluctant counterpart are trapped together in a collapsed.  This in itself is not so bothersome as part of the ‘token drama’ in a typical regency romance, but I do object to the appearance and disappearance of the ‘flood waters’, if you will, and several other inconsistencies besides.  When Merryn first wakes she comments on the smell, but later on, still trapped in the enclosed space with a large quantity of beer, both parties comment on how the other smells – Merryn like “the faint scent of flowers mixed with dust and beer”, and Garrick like “lime cologne”.  There is a reference to the ‘soaking material of [Garrick’s] pantaloons” but Merryn seems to be perfectly dry, despite being dunked at least briefly in the beer before they were trapped together.  Even if she’d been dry to begin with,, her skirts should be soaking up liquid like a sponge.  And no one’s boots are uncomfortable or squishing.

While not major issues, these definitely threw me out of the story and made it less ‘realistic’.  My parents used to own a pub, I’ve been around a lot of beer, and there’s just no way they could not be smelly and sticky and unable to notice anything but the strong, rather sour smell of beer in any quantity.

Well, maybe if it were Miller Light or something like that, but I guarantee you’re not going to find that in nineteenth-century London.

From the description, I was expecting the compromising and marriage proposal to take place much earlier in the story, and for the conflict between them to arise during their marriage.  This was not the case.  I won’t say that I feel precisely cheated, since I did enjoy the book, but I do wish that publishers would be less creatively artistic with the blurbs and actually describe the story.

I also have a fondness for ‘mistresses’ in historical romance, and after the promising title I was quite disappointed that Merryn does not become Garrick’s actual mistress at any point during the story.  That’s a spoiler, too, I suppose, though not a terribly important one.

Merryn and Garrick were both quite single-minded – Merryn was determined to ruin Garrick despite her attraction to him, and Garrick was determined to act on his attraction to Merryn.  There was definite chemistry between the two of them, and the sex scenes were well-written.

I particularly enjoyed Merryn’s sisters, Joanna and Tess, and seeing her relationship with them and how it evolved over time.  Garrick didn’t really have anyone except for Merryn to interact with, though he mentioned his brother in passing and briefly spent time with someone who I think is a friend of the brother.  It would have been nice to see more of Garrick’s interaction with Society in general, and with people besides Merryn and his butler.

While I had my issues with the scene itself, the incorporation of the London Beer Flood into the story was novel, and I do like the idea.  The rest of the drama in the book was rather more of the typical romance novel fare, with some unnecessary additions from Mr. Bradshaw to round things out.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read, and if you are willing and able to overlook the continuity issues I have mentioned I would recommend it.

¹While Merryn is a name, it was historically a male name.  Much like Leslie, Beverley, Robin, Ashley…

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