Friday, September 30, 2011

Mihir's Thoughts: Double Cross by Carolyn Crane

After Mind Games, the exciting debut by Carolyn Crane, I was very excited to see where the next book would take Justine and the rest of the Disillusionists in wake of the events of the first book. After reading both books, I feel the author does give out some clue in the title with regards to the plot of the book.

Double Cross opens up with Justine taking up her role as a disillusionist real seriously. She is scheduled to disillusion her newest target, a person who makes cannibals out of sleeping normal people, as she goes about her activities. Due to an accident, she oversteps her boundaries and is placed in a situation wherein she has to accelerate her usual modus operandi. She however has been having a few doubts about her work, whether she really should be doing anything about the imprisoned people, her ability to rid herself of her fear is coming at someone else’s cost. Around the same time, a parallel plot thread which opens up is the fact that there is a group of people who have been named as Dorks that are hunting and killing High-Caps, i.e. people with high mental powers like Otto and Packard who have abilities to alter people’s thoughts, wishes, and lives. Thus these dual plot threads are introduced to the reader, and then further more events occur to add to the thickening plot.

All these and much more mayhem occurs in Midcity this time around. There are a lot more revelations about the power of disillusionists, Otto and Packard, their feelings for Justine, et cetera. This book largely dwells on the past feud between Otto and Packard. There’s also the love triangle which gets established between them and Justine which is very reminiscent of the LOST triangle between Jack, Kate, and Sawyer due to similar character personas. Justine is once again the only narrator and in this book, she has been cured of her phobias, however, she ruminates on the “justice” which the disillusionists have been dispensing. The debate over whether her and the rest of the crew’s actions are justified and should they even be doing what they are doing forms a large part of her crisis. Also thrown into the mix is her confusion about the feelings she feels towards the two Alpha males in her life. There’s also the manhunt for the Dorks as they are getting rid of people who are near and dear to Packard, and Packard mostly wants to be done with them. Largely the book has various things going on whilst it rushes towards its fantastic conclusion.

The book’s plot whilst engaging, had a couple of noticeable issues, namely the romance factor is upped this time around. There are no more than three characters who fall in love and then drag the plan into a different direction thanks to their feelings. There's also Justine's quibbling over the morality of her work which strengthens the plot, but can be a bit irritating to read over and over. There’s also the plot threads which, though multiple in number, have been finely coalesced in the end. In the review for the first book, I had remarked that the fine balance between plot exposition and pace was slightly off-key and since it was the debut book it wouldn't be much of a problem. The problem is still present in this book, however not to the same degree; it has improved. The book also has a very powerful ending which helps overcome all shortcomings of the book and makes the reader anxiously await the third and last book in the trilogy.

In the end, Double Cross manages to one up Mind Games in terms of its plot, characterization, and plot reveals. It also manages to overcome the middle book syndrome by having a strong plot with a clear cut resolution, and while it does have its faults, the book will grab your attention and have you reading it with anticipation in regards to its twists. Heartily recommended for fans of the series and for people who want to read a decent urban fantasy series. I think the author will have to be in top form as expectations will be sky high for the third book which will also be the end of The Disillusionists Trilogy. Hold on to your reading chair folks, I expect Carolyn Crane to churn out another winner and end the trilogy in an emphatic fashion.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bastard Exclusive: At the Gates by Tim Marquitz - Chapter One

I hate to repeat myself, but once again it should be to no surprise by now that I'm a big fan of Tim Marquitz's Demon Squad urban fantasy series. I've been awarded the opportunity to present to you guys the first chapter of the next book in the series, At the Gates, which will hopefully be published by December or so if things go as planned (which they rarely do).

At the Gates is a more serious novel than its predecessors, though still delivering in the humor we have come to expect. It also should be apparent the progress made writing wise. For those interested, you can enter to win a free e-copy Resurrection just by participating on Falling into Books giveaway, you have until Friday September 30,  2011. I should point out that At the Gates is still in the final editing stages, so what you're about to read is not necessarily the final version.

For more information, please visit the authors' site.

Spoiler Warning!

If you're not up-to-date in the series, the following passage will spoil some events in the series up to this point. You've been warned. And of course, enjoy:

Chapter One

It had only been two weeks since I’d helped to raise the Anti-Christ, so when my cousin Scarlett showed up, beaten to within an inch of her life, telling me Heaven had fallen, I can’t say I was happy to see her.

The words out in a breathless rush, she fell into my arms, a ragdoll of crusty blood and blackened scabs. Chunks of her golden hair were missing, ripped out from the roots. Streaks of reddened ooze stained her scalp and sporadic burns covered her skull, the flesh bubbled and peeling. The acrid scent of seared meat invaded my nose, settling thick on my tongue. My stomach roiled.

Her eyes lolled back in their sockets as she tried to focus through lids encircled by sunken black rings. She clutched to me with piercing fingers, one of her hands obviously disfigured. Her desperation lent her strength, despite it all.

As I bent to scoop her legs up, I saw a close trio of deep gouges that ran the length of her neck and came to a jagged stop at her chest. The tar-like seep of a supernatural wound filled their depths. I could see bone.

Though horrific, her injuries didn’t stop there.

Everywhere I looked there was evidence of a losing battle. Bruises tattooed her skin in swaths. Burns and ragged cuts covered her like gory paint upon a canvas. Her clothes were shredded and muted yellows and bluish-blacks peeked out from beneath the torn leather.

The hilt of her sword, Everto Trucido—loosely translated as Demon Slayer—was crusted in dry, flaky blood, so much so the design was lost in the thickness of it. The lower half of its sheath was cracked and there was a piece missing, the stained point visible through the hole.

Though Scarlett and I had our moments when it came to getting along, often butting heads over the stupidest of things while I snidely wished her bad luck, it sickened me to no end to see her like that. I felt my face flush as I carried her to the couch. A boiling knot of fury welled up in my guts to replace the sickness. Since Lucifer moved on, whatever our differences, she was the only family I had left…

…and no one fucks with my family.

In a crimson haze, I left her on the couch and hurried to retrieve a vial of my departed uncle’s blood. Just a couple of drops would heal Scarlett in minutes, but before I got two feet from the couch, a wave of cold insistence peppered my senses, raising the hackles on my neck. My eyes went to the open door.

Out in the street stood three figures, little more than darker shadows against the backdrop of night. Whoever they were, they must have followed Scarlett. If they were the ones who’d hurt her, things were about to get interesting. For them.

No time to batten down the hatches and get my cousin into the mystical bomb shelter of the basement, I decided it best to go out to meet our uninvited guests. Exhausted as I was from trying to whip my newfound magic into shape, my anger provided me with a nice pick-me-up, energizing me with adrenaline and fury. Who needs caffeine when you’ve got rage?

“Call for backup, CB,” I shouted over my shoulder to Chatterbox, my zombie-head roommate, as I ran outside, snatching my pistol off the end table on my way out.

“Rogggggggggggerrrrrrrrrrr, Doddddddddddgggggggerrrrrrrrrrrr.”

I’d taught him a few basic codes so he could relay emergency messages to DRAC, and even set up the speed dial on the phone to make it easy for him, seeing how he only had his tongue to work with. Given my track record, I’d probably need all the help I could get. If nothing else, I’d need a cleanup crew.

The only downside to letting him use the phone was the rancid trail of spit he’d leave across the number pad. It was a good thing I didn’t make many calls.

Once outside, the door slammed shut of its own volition and I felt the protective wards go up, sealing the house off. They were good in a pinch, but they wouldn’t hold up against a determined assault; they were more of a speed bump. Though in the mood I was in, they wouldn’t have to do much.

“Who’s first?”

The trio spread out a little, making it harder to hit them all at once. They knew what they were doing. That fact sobered me a little, and I was glad I’d thought to get a call into DRAC. My anger dropped off a few degrees as I looked them over, my senses drifting out to take their measure.

The one in the center was a woman—or something vaguely resembling one. Easily six foot and a handful of change, she was built like a professional wrestler; powerful. Her broad shoulders and huge arms were barely contained by the skin-tight workout shirt she wore. The muscles of her stomach were defined in granite underneath. Her sandy blond hair was cropped short, helping to emphasize the more masculine traits of her face; the squared jaw and slightly protruding set of her forehead. Her linebacker thighs were encased in Spandex and the narrowness of her waist would have made Charles Atlas proud. If it hadn’t been for the pair of double-D’s strapped tight to her chest, I would have thought she was a man had we passed on the street.

Her gray eyes met mine, her stare icy. On each of her hands she wore what looked like modified brass knuckles with three sharp, jagged spikes protruding from them. They looked like a perfect match for the wounds on Scarlett’s chest. That got my blood to boiling again.

Though she didn’t appear afraid, she did seem hesitant. She set her feet without advancing. I’d apparently screwed up whatever they had in mind. I’m good at that.

The guy to her right was the polar opposite. Rail thin and pale as milk, he stood five feet tall, if he was lucky. His face was narrow, with sharp cheekbones and a hooked nose. Weasel eyes stared out at me from under a mane of long black hair. I could have opened a can on his face.

He wore a Nine Inch Nails T-shirt, which hung off him like a bed sheet, and a pair of way too tight black jeans that only emphasized his genetic failings. He carried twin, twelve-inch daggers to compensate.

The last of the motley crew was a public service announcement for the wrongs of a fast food diet. Tipping the scale somewhere close to six hundred pounds, he was a behemoth with stubby limbs. His massive head was shaved bald and I could see the rolls of his neck peeking out from behind his ears. Round, and far from what anyone with eyes would call attractive, his face bore a close resemblance to a Bassett hound. Mottled jowls hung loose from his jaw and sagged into his wattle. Even his eyelids looked fat. I’d bet money blinking was an aerobic exercise for the guy.

His clenched fists were empty, but seeing how they were the size of canned hams, he probably didn’t need a weapon. He didn’t look like the kind of guy you wanted to cut in front of at the buffet. You’d probably lose a finger or two.

After a few moments of tense silence, the woman spoke, her voice a profound basso. “Our feud is not with you. Give us the angel.”

“Sorry, sweet cheeks. You want her, you’re gonna have to try a little harder than that.”

While I would normally be more cautious when facing down an unknown enemy, my senses weren’t registering these guys as world-beaters. They had some power between them, no doubt about that, but after all I’d been through in the last few months, it felt like I was swimming in the kiddy pool.

That told me one thing. There was no way these three were responsible for taking down Scarlett. They could finish her off, weak as she was, but it hadn’t been them that laid the real beating on her. They’d picked at the scraps though, and that was enough for me.

Big boy looked to the woman, apparently waiting for her to decide their next move. The gesture told me who to hit first when things went south. Chivalry be damned.

“Let’s just kill him, Venai,” the pale one demanded, his words like razors.

Though he spoke brave, he too stayed in place, waiting for orders.

“Be quiet, Zellick.” Venai squared her stance to reinforce her command, the other two seeming more than happy to follow her lead. “This is your last warning, demon. Turn over the angel or face the consequences. We will not be denied.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. So I did. A lot.

The little guy must have had esteem issues because he leapt at me without waiting for the go ahead. Bared teeth and silver blades led the charge, his hair whipping out behind him. Combat reflexes taking over, I circled from his path and got out of his way, keeping him between me and his buddies.

It seemed as though he was moving a few notches below normal speed, which was weird. Used to being the slow one, it felt good to have the advantage for once.
He landed with a huff, his posture turning defensive the instant his feet hit the ground. His face was screwed up in a mish-mash of fear and worry, realizing I hadn’t even raised my gun. He moved away to cower behind the woman. It was clear who had more testosterone out of the three, not to mention the bigger dick.

I waggled my finger at him. “Try that again, Twigs, and I’ll blow the Emo out of you.”

The lines of her face etched deep, starring the corners of her eyes, I knew Venai had made up her mind. She hunched and lumbered forward. Swinging my .45 up to meet her, I spotted big boy raising his arms in the air. My brain clicked on just as he swung his ham hock fists. They crashed into the ground with a boom that rang my ears like church bells, the sidewalk jumping beneath me.

Jell-O under my feet, my legs buckled and I fell on my ass. Venai waited just long enough for the ground to stop moving, then came at me fast. My body shook like I’d been caught up in turbulence, and she got to me before I could put my gun to use.

Her spiked fist crashed into my left side and I screamed as she dug in. The sound drowned out the snapping of my ribs. A lightning bolt of pain followed as she yanked her fist away, the jagged spikes ripping clear of my flesh. Blood and black ooze was flung away in a messy arc that seemed to stain my vision. My eyes teared up, blurring the look of Venai’s satisfaction as she pulled her hand back, ready to hit me again.

Out of instinct, my finger hit the trigger and I heard my gun’s report off to my side. Though I hadn’t aimed the shot—my conscious mind not even registering I was still holding the gun—the bullet hit her in the shin. She shrieked, her voice octaves above her normal basso growl, and stumbled backward into Zellick who’d come up behind her. The two went down in a heap, pale boy on the bottom. He was probably used to it.

“Jorn!” he called out, breathless from beneath Venai’s solid bulk.

Presuming he meant big boy, I looked up to see the mountain of Manwich shambling toward me. Not feeling too confident a bullet would suffice to bring him down, I extended my left hand, whimpering the whole time as my ribs screamed at the movement. Though I had a hard time concentrating, my side feeling as though it had been gored by a bull and then rolled in salt, I gratefully felt my magic well up.

Still new to having power, I’d practiced for the last two weeks, struggling to gain some measure of control over how much energy I released and what form it took. It hadn’t been much of a success.

The mystical bomb shelter of my basement had taken a beating as I’d worked on different combinations of force. Seared black walls and a few scorched pieces of furniture were a testament to the competence of my incompetence.

Out here, with big boy closing, I didn’t have to be precise. Without having to second guess my ability or worry about burning my house down, I smiled and let loose. A burst of fire erupted from my palm and sprayed out like a flame thrower, heading straight toward Jorn.

His eyes flew open wide and he covered his head with his arms just before the flame engulfed him. An ear-piercing shriek cut through the night as he tumbled back. Fiery tongues of red and orange licked at every inch of his massive frame.

His burning body lighting the night, I closed my hand to cut off the gout and smelled burning flesh. Black smoke wafted from between my fingers. Jorn fell to his back with a thunderous boom and tried to roll, but his size prevented it. His monstrous torso held him in place, and his screams continued.

I hauled myself to my feet with a groan. A wave of light-headedness washed over me, spurred on by the pain from my side and the manifestation of my magic. Through tunneled eyes, I saw Venai had gotten up as well. She dragged her wounded leg behind her as she raced as fast as she could to assist her burning companion. Zellick was nowhere to be seen, though I knew where he was the second I heard a boot scrape the porch behind me.

My speed advantage taken away by surprise and injury, I had just started to react when he buried his dagger in my back. The blade cleaved through the flesh and muscle and slid between the ribs on my previously unwounded side. The tip settled inside my lung.

Though I’m sure I intended to scream, what came out was closer to a barked gurgle. Blood spewed from my punctured lung and ran up my throat. It gushed from my mouth, deep black and ugly. I could taste the bitter sickness as my body reacted to the magical blade. Its pungent nastiness filled my lungs with blood and gooey pus instead of air. Given enough time, I would drown in my own fluids.

Spurred on by that pleasant thought, I dove forward. The momentum of my panicked retreat spun me away from Zellick and the gloating smile carved across his thin lips. I didn’t get far, the ground rushing up to meet me. The fall drove the blade in even deeper. Another cry burst from my mouth, this time in crimson, not words. I managed to roll onto my stomach to relieve the pressure.

Pale boy out of sight behind me, my gun uncomfortably grinding into my gut underneath, I expected the next thing I felt would be the last thing I ever felt; him finishing the job. It would serve me right. I’d been too confident.

“Zellick!” Venai’s voice shook the air. “Help me!”

The knife wielder growled above me, but rushed to her side without hesitation, leaving me to bleed out.

My sight still fubar’d, I watched as a blurry Venai slid her arms under Jorn’s bulk, ignoring the flames that gnawed at them, and heaved. She lifted him several inches, then a foot, the veins on her monstrous biceps bulging.

The wound in her leg was a seeping mess, blood pooling at her feet, making it hard for her to gain leverage. Her back strained Herculean under the tight shirt, the fabric stretched to its limit. She faltered just as Zellick reached her, his own pale arms joining hers, using the momentum of his run to counter gravity. It was just enough.

Jorn tumbled over with a ground rumbling thud, the flames smothered in a whoosh of air and blubbery mass. His scream drifted off and was replaced by a low, wrenching moan that seeped from his mouth. Venai fell to her knees at his side, burying her face in the flab near his ear.

Zellick, on the other hand, turned his attention back to me. A wicked gleam in his eyes, he waved his remaining dagger in the air and stalked forward.

“You are so going to pay for this.”

Marilyn Manson would be so proud.

Unable to catch my breath, more blood than air filling my lungs, I forced my hand beneath me and dug for my gun. Doing everything I could to ignore the agony that chewed at my every nerve, I at last felt the cold solidness of my pistol grip and latched on. Shredding my knuckles on the concrete, I hauled the gun out and pointed it in the general direction of Zellick.

He squeaked as I pulled the trigger. Unable to hold the heavy pistol steady, my arm strafed right. The first two shots went wide, though their whistling threat stopped him in his tracks. The third, all credit to luck, caught him in the shoulder. He cried out and skittered back, fear and agony painted across his face in equal measure. He ran to his companions’ sides, clutching at his wound, his eyes on me the entire time.

Before I could realign my arm and get off another shot, Venai drew a glowing symbol in the air and opened a portal between us. She dragged its shimmering blue shape over them like a blanket, its mystical depths swallowing them whole. They disappeared in a flash. By the time my eyes adjusted, the night was empty, though several of my neighbor’s lights were on. Worse still, I thought I could see movement behind one of the windows across the street.

I sighed. There was nothing I could do about it now. Michael Li and his cleanup crew would have to take care of it…if they ever showed up. DRAC had yet to recover from Asmoday’s treachery, not to mention the latest Anti-Christ fiasco. They were stretched so thin as to be see-through.

I got up and made my way to the house, blood and oozing blackness running down my chin as though I were a horror movie extra. The door was a blur. It was as though I was peering at it through binoculars, my vision little more than hazy pinpricks. Every step was a trial.

Who’d have thought walking thirty feet could be so hard?

The door popped open by itself and I stumbled inside. I heard it close behind me as I stumbled down the hall to my bedroom. A trail of red stained the carpet, blood squishing beneath my feet at every step. No energy to go around the bed, I tossed my gun away and plopped down on the mattress with a barely repressed scream, and slid across to the other side. With one arm, I reached down over the edge of the bed and knocked the small nightstand out of the way. Catching the corner of the carpet, I pulled it back and stuffed it under the frame and tapped up the corner tile beneath it.

From within the cubby hole, I pulled out one of the last few vials I had of my uncle’s blood, and slid off the bed the way I came. Using the spring of the soiled mattress to help me to my feet, my teeth grinding to shards as the dagger wiggled in my lung, I stumbled toward the living room.

Stopper off, I swallowed two tiny sips and dropped two more into Scarlett’s unconscious, open mouth as I passed. With a dripping sigh, I sealed the vial to keep it from spilling and crumpled to the floor, a pool of warm blood forming under my head. All that was left to do was wait…

…and suffer.

It didn’t take long, though it sure felt like it had. After just a moment, a sensuous flush of energy trickled down my body, heating my cold skin. Goose bumps tickled as the overwhelming pain started to become manageable under the orgasmic rush of Lucifer’s claret. My eyes closed of their own accord and I lay there trembling as though I were spooning Keira Knightley.

More a stiff pressure than pain, I felt the dagger slip from my back, hearing it thud to the ground beside me, pushed out by the healing process. Then with a last cough to rid my mouth of blood, I sat up and leaned against my armchair to look over at Scarlett.

Still out, her injures far worse than mine, she shuddered and twitched. Low moans echoed deep in her throat as the blood performed its miracle. Her leathered knees squeezed together and her hands, the disfigured one already on the mend, clutched at her ample chest in a way that was impossible to ignore. Trust me, I did my best.

Well…not really my best.

Chatterbox whistled low and winked at me. He was enjoying the show.

A moment later, Scarlett sat up with a start, her frantic eyes searching the room. Her now healed hand was on the hilt of her sword, white knuckles shining through the grime and blood. She saw me and exhaled hard, realizing where she was. She slipped back into the cushions of the couch, swiveling the sheath to lay the sword across her lap.

“How long?”

“It’s a good six or seven inches, depending on how I hold the ruler.”

If looks could kill.

I raised my hands in surrender. “You’ve been here about ten minutes, maybe less.”

She hopped to her feet in a flurry of movement. “Then there’s still time.”
“Time for what?”

“To save Heaven.”

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bastard Giveaway: Falling into Books Blog Hop

Falling Into Books Blog Hop

Welcome to my second Bastard Giveaway which is currently part of the Falling into Books Blog Hop, and I think I have a very good one for you guys. It'll have at least something for everyone, and will be dividing the giveaway between US and non-US mailing addresses (as not all prizes will be available for outside of the US). Entries will be accepted from Monday September 26 until 11:59pm ET on Friday September 30, 2011.

Participants have to be 18 years of age or older to participate. Void where prohibited by law. Giveaway rules are subject to change. 

In the meantime, here's what will be offered:

Signed copy for Spider's Revenge by Jennifer Estep. Book comes out on September 27, and it's one of my most anticipated urban fantasy books this year. Latest in the Elemental Assassin series, and it promises to be the best one of the series so far.

Here's a small promo I did for the series a couple of weeks ago, for those that are not familiar with the book or series.

My personal copy of My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland. Quite a big fan of the author, first with her Kara Gillian series, and now with her White Trash Zombie series. Quite the fun book, highly recommended to pretty much everyone who reads urban fantasy.

Here's my review of the book I did last month, it even has proof of the copy I have for the giveaway.

Everyone who participates on this giveaway will get an e-copy of Resurrection by Tim Marquitz. It's the second book of the Demon Squad series. It stands amongst my top 5 favorite urban fantasy series, and climbing. In addition to this, winners will be able to get an e-book of any of Tim Marquitz's works of the winners' choosing. Info on books on his site.

Here's a review I did for Resurrection recently. Also, for those interested there's free ebook available for his dark epic fantasy book Dawn of War on Smashworld.

E-copy of Afterlife by Naomi Clark. Just read it over the weekend and enjoyed it quite a bit, so hopefully more people will give this book a chance, and if not this book, then the author as I think she has plenty to offer. Here's my review.

In addition to Afterlife, winners will be able to pick an additional e-book by Naomi Clark of their choice. I recommend Demonized novella, a loose sequel to Afterlife, but it's not for everyone. A very twisted and graphic psycho thriller, and it can get quite sick at times. Awesome. More info on her site.

For US mailing addresses:
  • Once again I mention that all participants will receive an e-copy of Resurrection by Tim Marquitz.
  • First winner will have his or her choice between My Life as a White Trash Zombie and Spider's Revenge.
  • Second winner will get the remaining book between My Life as a White Trash Zombie and Spider's Revenge.
  • Eight more winners will be chosen.
  • All ten winners will get an e-book of choice by Tim Marquitz.
  • All ten winners will get Afterlife and an e-book of choice by Naomi Clark.

For non-US mailing addresses:
  • Once again I mention that all participants will receive an e-copy of Resurrection by Tim Marquitz.
  • Ten winners will be chosen.
  • All ten winners will get an e-book of choice by Tim Marquitz
  • All ten winners will get Afterlife and an e-book of choice by Naomi Clark.

How to participate:
  • Participants have to be 18 years of age or older to participate.
  • To enter the giveaway, just place a comment in this post.
  • On your entry, state if you're a US or non-US mailing address.
  • One entry per person, or face disqualification.
  • Make sure to provide an email address to which I can contact you.
  • Entries accepted until 11:59pm ET Friday September 30, 2011
  • Winners will be chosen by random sorting entries, and then using a random number generator.
  • Will have to confirm email to be considered a winner within a week after September 30,  2011.

Additional entries may be had by doing the following:

If you do the steps above, and only by doing those steps, you'd end up with the possibility of 3 total entries:
+1 Comment Entry
+1 Google Friend Connect (Mention your GFC username)
+1 Twitter Follower (Mention your twitter username)

Even though you don't get an additional entry, consider subscribing to my Facebook Bastard Books page.

And please remember to visit other destinations in the Falling into Books Blog Hop for more cool giveaways & Melissa (My World... in words and pages) also has a good giveaway going on, so please visit her.

Void where prohibited by law. Giveaway rules are subject to change. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Bastard Reaction: Afterlife by Naomi Clark

Welcome to Shoregrave, murder capital of the country. Afterlife brings us to a city where believing in ghosts is second nature, and if you ever claim to have seen one people won't think you're crazy. This is Naomi Clark's first published novel, and first in the Shoregrave series. Since it came out in 2009, I've had my eye on it mainly because I really like the cover. Something about the purple with black works for me, and dig the ghost effects. I pretty much forgot about the book's existence, until recently, but glad I remedied that.

Yasmin Stoker is a wraith who is a ghost tour guide, which is a booming industry in Shoregrave. When night comes, she usually hunts for vampires, here known as Revenants. It's during one of these hunts that we begin our Afterlife journey as she steals and eats the soul of the vampire; a soul she needs to survive on. Not soon after, she witnesses an evil entity killing an innocent person, and she's powerless to put a stop to it. An entity that may just be an indication of weakening in the protective barriers. To complicate matters, Yasmin gets entangled in a case of murdered and missing children, all the while being commanded by a deranged protector of the city to distract the PI doing the investigation into this for fear he might discover the supernatural community.

Afterlife is darker than your usual urban fantasy, quite gritty at times with a noir ambiance. It has a little bit of everything, some mystery, some action, and even some romance. Main problem with the story is that bad guys, and the mystery along it, became a bit too predictable, probably because of heavy foreshadowing. Another issue I encountered was that after the cool initial scene, it takes a bit to get into rhythm particularly as I felt that there was a bit too much info dumping.

Yasmin was a fairly interesting character for me, particularly on how I responded to her. She's not the usual snarky badass character which one can often find in the genre, characters I usually gravitate to. She was more of a combination of a character with a bit of backbone, as we see her when she's hunting, but at the same time quite a submissive character mainly due to being surrounded by powerful entities, like her boss in who protects the community from supernatural threats. Not only that, he's quite abusive and violent. Yasmin is also a combination of smart and dumb. She's not oblivious to the world, but the abuse has taken it's toll on her to the point that she becomes irrationally loyal, often dismissing what's in front of her. It's also fun when she knows she's botching things up, yet can't help herself. In a way, Yasmin reminds me a bit of Kitty Norville from Carrie Vaughn's series. In all, I thought a tricky character to write, but also a character with room for development, particularly as she becomes more assertive, if she manages to.

The book I also thought displayed a myriad of likable characters, including a half succubi, one of the more powerful demon races, who has not had sex for a long time because by doing so she would kill her partner. So it's kinda fun to see as she struggles against her nature and her sexual frustrations. And lastly we have Ethan Banning, our PI. I thought him to be quite an awesome character; a nosy man's man hardboiled detective. Once he arrives I think the book really takes off. He's rough and rude, and I liked it. He's also featured in other stories in this world, which is much welcomed. Banning also brings with him a bit of comic relief, which the book needed I thought to help with the narrative energy.

The biggest strength in the Shoregrave series so far has been it's world building. It features many of the familiar supernatural beings, but the darkness the book mixes with the different planes of existence we could have the opportunity of exploring, makes this an exciting world full of possibilities. Evil beings are evil, no bullshitting around, they are powerful, they flaunt it. There are a few twisted graphic and violent scenes here too. I also enjoyed the depiction of the different familiar supernatural beings on display. The story is all about soul manipulation and soul consumption, from how beings are formed to how they nourish themselves. There's a grey area in this, where does one draw the line. What makes a monster a monster, and it's a constant preoccupation with Yasmin, since she at times behaves like one.

Afterlife is a novel that I think most urban fantasy fans should give a try, enjoyment will mostly depend on how you find Yasmin as a narrator and how much stock you put in mysteries remaining mysteries to the very end. I'm a "it's more about the journey" kind of guy. If Afterlife doesn't seem appealing to you, but you like some really twisted psycho thrillers, then check the novella Demonized featuring Ethan Banning, and maybe just so that you can get introduced to this character it might be worth giving Afterlife a shot anyways. In all, I think Naomi Clark is someone whose stories I want to read, she certainly has talent and I look forward to reading future works from her and see how she has improved. Naomi certainly has some cool twisted ideas, and doesn't seem afraid to push the boundaries when a call for it comes along. There are some hanging plot lines, other worlds, and a possible war yet to be explored, so looking forward to what comes next in Shoregrave.

Where to buy:

Please visit Naomi Clark's site and blog for more information.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bastard Reaction: Silent Blade & Silver Shark by Ilona Andrews

I'm not a reader of short stories, I don't read romances, and haven't read much sci-fi, so when the opportunity presented itself to read not one, but two short sci-fi romance stories then I jumped at the opportunity to do so, obviously. Ilona Andrews is one of my favorite urban fantasy authors, top 3 easily, and actually my favorite author duo. There's no competition what so ever, bar none, they're at the top. So yeah, I took a chance to read something outside my comfort level since they are worth an hour or so of my time at the very least.

Both Silent Blade and Silver Shark are set in the same world, in a series that's called World of Kinsmen. Far in the future humanity has colonized planets, and through technological advances they have enhanced their genetic make-up to gain "superpowers". These people are called kinsmen. Seeing value in exclusivity, they started controlling their numbers and sabotaged research into the technology so that their descendants and themselves would be the only ones to benefit from these technologies. So now we live in a world which kinsmen control, and they behave as the mafia would including family loyalty as the most important of laws, which if broken penalty is often death.

Much like the era of kings and queens, families use prearranged marriages as tools of creating alliances and consolidate power. Such is the case in Silent Blade by which our main character, Meli, has had her life ruined because of one of these arrangements ended in catastrophe for her family and herself. Years later she excised herself from the family to live in the shadows and became their assassin as to create deniability of involvement of her actions. Using her unique and rare talent as a kinsmen, she has just performed her final act as an assassin when a request is made by her family to kill the very person who ruined her life. What ensues is a romantic plot, mixed trickery, spy games, and hidden identities. The book opens up with a very cool action sequence, but after that it's pretty much dominated by the romance aspects which I have little to comment on. While sci-fi, the science focus is minimal, it's more character driven which is the way I like it. One thing that shows though is Ilona Andrews' talent to create likable sympathetic characters which has been true in everything I've read from them so far. In all, an enjoyable read, but certainly not my type of reading material. Had it not been a romance, this would surely be a story I would have liked very much. That said, the romance here was to my liking, as much as I'm capable of enjoying it. Story is written in 3rd person from two points of view, published in 2009.

Silver Shark takes us to a different planet, one which is controlled by two warring kinsmen families. It's a never ending war that has been going on for about a century, and society is a militaristic one in which displays of emotions are frowned upon. Very violent too. It reminded me of the movie Equilibrium in some aspects. Main character, Claire, is a powerful kinsmen psycher, and due to some circumstances she's deported from the planet and transported to the same planet of Silent Blade, only taking place some years later. Once there she has to hide her identity as a kinsmen and she's forced to take a job or face deportation back to her home planet in which she'll certainly be executed. As fate would have it, she ends up taking a job in a psycher security corporation, a place full of psychers like herself in which she'll find hiding her identity an almost impossible task. Here we meet the romantic interest. In contrast to Silver Shark, while the story has a romance focus too, it's more balanced with a corporate intrigue plot and there's a decent amount of action and a bit more sci-fi oriented. The story and the world is more polished, and once again an enjoyable read with likable characters. If I have one complaint it would be that I really wanted to see the final action sequence, though I understand the omission of it. But it would had been a good prize to earn after going through the romance portions for me. I would certainly read Silent Blade before this since there are some cameos, but no need to do so if you really want to jump in and read Silver Shark. Book is written in 3rd person limited, which I thought worked better, and it was a bit longer too. It has been recently published.

Very much worth checking for all Ilona Andrews fans, particularly those that have enjoyed their The Edge series. Much like their other books, these stories focus on powerful female and male protagonists, which is something I like very much, and as mentioned before, likable characters. And they're fun. I'm not much of a sci-fi reader, but I think if you're a person that likes a lot of science in your fiction, then this will probably not work out for you, but for those that like character driven stories with a science-fiction setting as a backdrop, then this should be to your liking. Even so, I would welcome more stories set in this universe, romance and all, and I'll surely read them as soon as they come out.

Where to buy:
Silent Blade E-Book
Silver Shark E-Book

Regardless of these books, every urban fantasy reader out there should have a look at their Kate Daniels series, which is one of the more kickass series out there. Make sure to check their website for more information and free reading:

Bastard Giveaway: Winner of Awakenings by Edward Lazellari

Thanks for everyone that participated in the first Bastard Giveaway, very much appreciated. The response and the feedback has been quite positive, so we'll see more of that in the future for sure. On that note, be sure to come back in the week of the 26th which will have a lot of prizes and I'd be surprised if anyone left without winning something.

Anyways, it was a tough battle to the end, but at the finish line it was Melissa (My words and pages) who out muscled everyone for the win. Much deserved, and I thought quite miraculous. Let's just say that after doing some random sorting and picking a random number the winning number came out to #1. When the heck does that happen in reality? First time I've seen it.

Thanks everyone for stopping by, hope you stick around so you can read some more crap from Mihir and me, some of it which is bound to be of good use to you, or so I'd like to think.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Mihir's Thoughts: Mind Games by Carolyn Crane

I think I’m always behind the curve when it comes to the Urban Fantasy genre; another title which I got clued much later than its release was Mind Games by Carolyn Crane, first in the The Disillusionists Trilogy. This book has been getting high praise from various sections, but me being me, never got around to reading it. Though, I was able to rectify this situation a few weeks ago when I read both her books back to back. I then came to know of the unfortunate news that she has parted ways with Spectra. But the author has said that she will be releasing the third book with another publisher.

Going on to Mind Games, the plot opens by introducing us to Justine Jones, a resident of Midcity [a vague Midwestern US city] who tries to live a normal life, but has one very big problem on her hands. The fact that she’s a hypochondriac who thinks she has vein star syndrome, a disease wherein the person has no idea when it will strike but whenever it does, the results are almost positively fatal. She is on a date with a guy called Cubby. However midst her meal she happens upon a person from her past who had swindled her father. She tries to tell the couple with him about it but to no avail. Not thinking much about it, she carries on with her date, and is later met by the same couple who offer her a tantalizing proposal.

Intrigued, but wary, she decides to meet their leader, a certain Sterling Packard who shows her how to discard her fear out of her body (quite literally). Then he hands her an invitation to join his team of disillusionists who are an undercover vigilante team who handle criminals by manipulating their fears and thereby shutting them down in more ways than one. Justine accepts after an initial period of doubt, and is immediately set her first task, but little does she know of the grim future ahead.

Mind Games is an absolutely terrific read when you consider the plot and its implications. Here is a superhero book which calls upon people to channelize their fear and somehow utilize it to affect people whom they target. I absolutely loved this concept, and was thrilled by the author’s execution of it. Justine Jones as a character is fun to read about, her neurosis, her fears, her thoughts are generously laid bare across the book for the reader to get an intimate hold of the person she is. Also, she's the sole POV voice of the story and if she weren’t so interesting I believe this story would have fallen flat. The overall plot is set into motion, and in the latter half of the book we find out what has actually happened previously in Midcity and what is currently going on. The author has inserted a very crucial mystery in the story in regards to Sterling Packard, the leader of the Disillusionists. This mystery propels Justine and the readers through the plot, and in the end with the revelation, the climax becomes that much more exciting to read about. The author has also done a very good job with her world building as she brings to life Midcity and its denizens. There is also enough humor inserted to make this book a little less dark than the subject matter is, and its via Justine's monologues we get several funny moments.

Drawbacks to this story are few but present. The first niggle I noticed was that pace of the book suffers from all the exposition it contained. Now, this is a very crucial balance; too little explanation and the story seems contrived, too slow and the reader would be hard pressed to finish the story. In this regard, Carolyn Crane got the balance a bit askew, but this being her debut book one can hardly fault her for it. There’s also an inexplicable attraction for Justine towards another main character who had yet to be introduced in the story, and after the first 4-5 times being mentioned, it can be a bit annoying. I believe the author was using the build-up as per the story requirements, and this move does pan out when the character is finally introduced to the readers. However this again could have been done with a bit more subtlety.

Overall Mind Games is a terrific addition to the Urban Fantasy field, and the way it's written, it has a little bit of everything for most of the genre readers except Vampires, Werewolves, and other such wanton critters. This should easily count as a plus point especially since 90-95% of the books feature them. A good debut book which takes a slightly unusual route via its plot and magic system, Carolyn Crane is definitely an author to look out for in the future with whatever she chooses to write about.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bastard Reaction: Resurrection by Tim Marquitz

It should come to no surprise by now that I've become a big fan of Tim Marquitz as evidenced in this previous post. Resurrection is the second book in the Demon Squad series, sequel to Armageddon Bound which happened to be the author's debut novel.

Armageddon Bound introduced us to Frank Triggaltheron, nephew of Lucifer, living in a world at the edge of the Apocalypse. You see, God and Lucifer have made peace with each other and proceeded to abandon all creation together, and no one knows where they are. With their disappearance; power voids have come to the surface, demons are out of control with no one to answer to, and angels are as lost as ever. The world is out of balance, and in comes Frank our unlikely hero, who also was a candidate to be the Anti-Christ, with his awesome sense of humor in one of the worst days of his life trying to safe day, or simply just survive to see the next one. The threat of another war between Heaven and Hell is in place, but the lines are more blurred than ever and it's not easy to tell friend from foe.

Resurrection deals then with much of the aftermath of what occurred in the first novel, we got a demon with a vast amount of power, which brings the possibility of the Apocalypse one step closer to coming true. We also find much of the protectors of Earth against supernatural occurrences at the verge of decimation and plenty of trust issues going around after all the betrayals. Not only that, zombies have been showing up, a necromancer is in town, and rumors of resurrecting one of the most powerful demons in history are going about. Once again we find Frank put in the middle of the crisis taking the mantle of unlikely hero once again because what other choice does he have? As if threats to his life weren't enough, he has to deal with his constant sexual frustrations that may just be what finally kills him. If his tombstone reads "Died because of a horny penis," it will be of no surprise. So what better way to avert a future Apocalypse than by partnering up with a traitorous succubus, an enemy wizard, and a speech disabled zombie metal-head.

Resurrection is just a fun book through and through. Frank to me is the funniest character I've read so far. Nothing is being held back here, no pulling punches, with plenty of dirty and dark humor. With the humor aside, this book has non-stop action and plenty of twists. Not that the twists are of any surprise since even Frank knows he's getting played, he just doesn't know how he's getting played. That's where the fun is.

My biggest compliment for the novel is that the writing level has improved since the first book and so did the presentation of the novel itself. The editing was better, the paragraphs better focused and structured, which in all made for a better reading experience than the first in the series. Considering that Resurrection was written in 2009, not long after finishing Armageddon Bound, and now witnessing these improvements makes me quite anxious to see what comes next from Tim Marquitz; particularly now that he's a much more experienced author and editor, and surely has been receiving feedback on how to improve his trade.

Despite my high regards for the books so far, they're far from perfect and there's a lot of room for improvement, which makes the wait for the next book in the series even more exciting. He's simply hitting all the right notes for me so far.

We need more books like this one, bringing a fresh voice to the urban fantasy genre that even with the abundance of new authors, much of the content is becoming a bit repetitive. While angels and demons are nothing new, the narrative voice and energy is indeed one that stands out.

Links to buy the Demon Squad series:
Armageddon Bound E-Book Damnation Books
Armageddon Bound Paperback Barnes & Noble
Resurrection E-Book Damnation Books
Resurrection Paperback Barnes & Noble

For more information on this and other projects, please visit Tim Marquitz at his website and his blog.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Bastard Giveaway: Awakenings by Edward Lazellari

This will be the first Bastard Giveaway, so bear with me if it doesn't go smoothly. Regardless, hope it'll be the first of many.

This time the giveaway will be an ARC copy of Awakenings by Edward Lazellari provided by an anonymous donor. Book's published by TOR.

This is the debut for the author, you can read a review for the book on Fantasy Literature. From what I've seen so far, a promising debut. Don't miss out.

Contest will run from Monday September 12, 2011 until Sunday September 18, 2011 11:59pm ET, after which no other entry will be accepted.

Giveaway is for US mailing addresses only, and you must be 18 years of age or older to participate. Void where prohibited by law. Giveaway rules are subject to change.

What do you have to do? Just comment on this post, and make sure I have access to your email to contact you. One entry per person allowed, unless you do the Bastard Bonus explained below, else you're disqualified. But you need to comment in this post to participate, and that's your only requirement.

I'll pick the winner by assigning each entry a number and using a random number generator.

Bastard Bonus:

1. If you "Follow" this blog publicly so that you show up the Google Friend Connect (to the right), then you'll have an extra entry for yourself. 

2. If you "Follow" my twitter account, @BastardBooks, then you get an extra entry for yourself (let me know your twitter username).

So while you can only enter the competition once regularly, you'll have the chance to duplicate or triplicate it. If you do follow me in any of those features, try to include them in your comment entry so that it'll be easier for me to look you up and verify. Might be impossible to know who is who otherwise. Following me on Twitter or Google Friend Connect is not enough to enter you in the giveaway, you need to comment in this post.

Bonus Bastard Bonus:

If you re-tweet any tweet of mine I use to promote this giveaway on twitter, you'll get an additional entry (only one). Make sure this is very easily verifiable by me, maybe by posting re-tweet link in your entry comment here. So there you go, if you do everything you have the chance to quadruple your original entry.

Here's a tweet link you can use for re-tweet:!/BastardBooks/status/113222127653617664

Also, if you follow me on Facebook, then you don't gain anything for it in this competition, but there's a chance you might become that much more awesome.

Summary of Entries:
  • Must comment on this post to enter (1)
  • Google Friend Connect Follower +1
  • @BastardBooks Twitter Follower +1
  • Re-Tweet the Giveaway +1
Total 4 possible entries if you follow the steps depicted above, and only by doing those steps. And once again, make it easy for me to verify by providing links where applicable.

Bonus Bonus Bastard Bonus:

Na', that's all. Good luck!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Bastard Promotion: Elemental Assassin by Jennifer Estep

Jennifer Estep came to my attention, through Mihir, with her Elemental Assassin series and its series debut Spider's Bite early last year 2010. Since then, three more books have been published in the series, and the fifth one, Spider's Revenge, due to be published later this month.

Aside from a few narrating quirks of the main character and a few love drama objections I had in the first two books, this has been one of my favorite urban fantasy series I've read. More of a straight forward thriller revenge tale, but with high action and violence quotient, which works very well for me. Gin is a "former" assassin for hire, who's very loyal and not afraid to make unethical or immoral choices in the hopes of setting right a wrong; often delivering justice by slitting someone's throat. She's also a great cook, and I've been tempted to try making some of the sandwiches she has described; but I've been lazy.

Fans of the series should be happy to know that Spider's Revenge will mark the culmination of the revenge arc which began with the first book. But that's not the end of the series as Estep has been contracted to write more books in the Elemental Assassin world. Which is very much welcomed to me as it'll be interesting and refreshing to see where Gin goes next after what promises to be a bloodbath, assuming she survives.

Cover for the sixth book, due out in February 28, 2012, By a Thread has been revealed :

For those curious about the series, you have until September 19 to buy an ebook version of the first book in the series, Spider's Bite, from Simon & SchusterBarnes & Noble, or Amazon for just $1.99.

Books in the Elemental Assassin series:

Spider's Bite
Web of Lies
Tangled Threads
Spider's Revenge
By a Thread

The series also has a ton of short stories, many of them available for free. Visit here to get info on them or simply read them.

Make sure to visit Jennifer Estep's site and blog to keep up to date with the series and also inform yourself of other projects she's working on.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Kameron Hurley's free Umayman short stories (by Mihir)

Kameron Hurley is an author whose debut God’s War, first in the Bel Dame Apocrypha series, was well received for its plot ingenuity as well as for its gritty characterization. I reviewed the book earlier this year over at Fantasy Book Critic and as noted in my review I was very much impressed by her writing skills and the world created. The series also has a couple of terrific covers by David Palumbo.

I’ll be reviewing Infidel as well near its release and so to give the readers who are eager to dive in to the world of Umayma, the author has come up with a great way for readers to learn more about the characters and the world. She’s planned to release three short stories for the readers, of which the first two were released last week. The three stories are:

3] Angels and Avengers

The recommended reading order is the one listed above as per the author. The first one can be found at various outlets such as Scribd & Smashworlds, ditto for Afterbirth HERE (Scribd) and HERE (Smashworlds). The third one will be released soon as well.

Lastly, for those readers who happen to be awestruck by Ms. Hurley’s debut and want to read more of her work, there’s a free download of the author's entire short story collection HERE (Scribd) or HERE (Smashwords). Bastard will be posting his thoughts on God's War soon as well, until then read these short stories to know more about the terrifying and violent world of Umayma and Nyx.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bastard Reaction: The Hour of Dust and Ashes by Kelly Gay

The Hour of Dust and Ashes is the third book in the Charlie Madigan series, you can read Mihir's Thoughts on the previous books here and here. I quickly became a fan of Kelly Gay after reading The Better Part of Darkness partly because I thought Charlie was simply a badass character and really enjoyed the political intrigue and procedural the book presented. Not only that, it was action packed, and Gay created a world in which actions have consequence, sometimes ruthless ones.

Though most enjoyed the sequel The Darkest Edge of Dawn more, I still think the first book was the better one particularly because the elements that brought me to the series in the first place were just better. What the second book did better though was improve in the interpersonal aspects and character interaction, but it was more of a thriller type of story, whereas I'm more of a mystery/suspense reader. Also, as Mihir illustrates in his review, there was indeed a scene which I found problematic. No surprise that it involved love drama aspects, but it was between two characters that I really felt would have been better if they didn't go there, and then the prospects of a possible love triangle, which I personally don't enjoy, but many do.

With these issues in mind, I was a bit nervous of what I might encounter in this third book, even though it certainly was one of my more anticipated urban fantasy books of the year. Right off the bat, most of my worries were put to rest as we get entangled in a fun action sequence which served as the launching pad of the book and many of its plot-lines. What ensues though is a slow development in which we find our protagonist, Charlie, introspecting on how she has gotten to this point, and ruminating on the event described above which had become problematic for me personally. And this went on for a good portion of the first half, of course also investigating the mystery at hand.

Then the second half came and it was awesome in my opinion. Still not all there for me action wise, but some really good plot directions I thought. More importantly though, some revelations come forward that made me do pretty much a 180° in regards to that problematic romantic plot-line I was obsessively worrying about. I'm sure the great majority had enjoyed that development, but for those who had not I think there's a good chance the second half will rectify it.

In The Hour of Dust and Ashes we find ourselves with Charlie still trying to figure out how to help those she loves after the fallout of the first book and also dealing with threats due to events of the second book. She's still dealing with some relationship issues involving her ex, currently possessed by a Revenant, and her partner Hank with whom Charlie's relationship has become a bit strained and, if anything, confused. Through all of this, a couple who was addicted to Ash have committed suicide, and Charlie has been called to the case wondering if it was a result of depression (an Ash addiction consequence) or if they were possessed and forced to do so, which would become a murder investigation. The book is not so much of a "who done it" type of book, but more of trying to figure out what is actually happening and how to put a stop to it. And to do just that, Charlie will have to put her own life at risk by finding help of legendary creatures that seem intent in killing her in the process and go through Hell in the process.

Personally I would like to see a bit more focus on procedural and the political intrigue aspects, which has taken a bit of a back seat since the first book. Due to some events in The Hour of Dust and Ashes, I really think we'll see a return of some of that in the next book, particularly on the political intrigue aspects. I really think this was a transitioning book, a book of growing, and of defining. Charlie, while being as confused as ever, she is certainly growing as a person and finding more clarity on what she wants for herself and on how to get it. And, you know me, always will want more action. I also thought we didn't get to see much of Charybdon, so be prepared for that, but understandable with how events progressed once there.

One thing I really like though is that events that occur on previous books still matter as the series goes along. We saw some growth in the mother daughter relationship in the second book, and that's still present in the sequel, when many others would have fabricated other issues just to keep the dramatic friction in place, or ignore the improvement completely.

Several hanging plot-lines get a satisfactory conclusions, while new exciting ones have begun. The Hour of Dust and Ashes is a welcomed entry to the series, though I struggled through some of it, I think the author delivers on the payoff. I recommend this series with little reservation to urban fantasy fans, and to those casual urban fantasy readers, well I'll deal with you guys on a case by case basis. Still one of my favorite series in the genre at the moment.

Cover done once again by Chris McGrath, I think it's the best in the series yet. I mean, we got a Dennis Leary look-a-like playing Hank, what's not to like?

Kelly Gay has simply created a well balanced series that I'm sure the great majority of urban fantasy readers will find something to like here. I'm of a mind to think that the next book will be the best one yet, so hopefully the author delivers on that prospect; no pressure.

The Hour of Dust and Ashes was released recently on August 30, and you can buy yourself a copy from The Book Depository.

Make sure to visit Kelly Gay's site, and if you're a YA reader make sure to read her other series written under the name of Kelly Keaton.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Mihir's Thoughts: The Darkest Edge Of Dawn by Kelly Gay

After finishing The Better Part of Darkness, I was very much intrigued by the book and world created by Kelly Gay. I hadn’t enjoyed the main character of Charlie Madigan that much but it was still a good book, and with the plot ending the way it did, the sequel was of high priority for me.

The Darkest Edge of Dawn, second in the Charlie Madigan series, opens a couple of months after the climax of the first, and now there’s a visible change in the skies of Atlanta which has the local Charbydonian population ecstatic unlike the other two races co-existing with it. The book’s plot has Charlie and Hank finding a dead body in a warehouse, however the situation is reasonably complicated by two factors, (a) the body is of an Adonai, the Elysian nobles and (b) the warehouse belongs to Charybdonians. Thus with such an incendiary circumstance which also precludes any peaceful solution to the earlier situation due to which hate towards Charybdonians has increased, Hank and Charlie have to be at the top of their game to avoid any fallout between races. However, the situation becomes complicated when they discover the identity of the person murdered. Also thrown in to the plot mix is the introduction of a new race and a kickass character that I hope we get to see more of. Lastly, the murder is just the beginning of a chain of events which will put further strain between the extra-terrestrial races and the unwitting humans caught between them. Charlie and Hank also have to struggle to put things together and keep things between them on a sane level which due to their personalities; is always easier imagined than done.

The events occurring in the book directly lead on from the events of the previous book, characters who helped Charlie in the previous book haven’t come out from the confrontation unscathed and there’s a thread in this book which deals with those insinuations. I liked this aspect of the book as there’s continuity shown by the author. Secondly the plot of this book does again entertain the reader throughout as this time the author does explain a bit more about the worlds as well as the human interaction with the other races. There are quite some interesting explanations and discussions about a few topics in this book which I believe clue in the reader to the working of the magic & worlds within.

Lastly there’s the action sequences and the plot twists which are spread evenly over the story, the reader can be sure that the author has done her best to keep the reader unsettled within the pages by having certain emotional, physical, and psychological events occurring. Charlie’s character is better etched out in this outing. I had some issues with the main POV character, which I had noted in the previous book review, however there’s some changes within her which made me this book a bit easier to read and showcases some opportunity for character growth in the future books. The book also has another great cover by Chris McGrath which adds to the positives for the book.

There were a couple of things which offered bumps in the reading experience namely, I wasn't completely sold on Charlie’s character yet , she still acts overtly headstrong to be a completely sympathetic character, however she’s quickly learning that there are things occurring within her world which she has no clue about, and she will have to swallow her pride and take help whenever and wherever she can. There’s also a pivotal event occurring in this book which feels completely off, in the sense it occurs between two main characters and seems more of a plot device than actual character intent/interaction. I must stress that while it did not detract much from the book’s enjoyment, it just seemed to occur for future plot reasons and this was off-kilter with the situation in hand.

Overall I am still liking this series very much, it does have its minor fallacies and can go in unexpected directions sometimes, but overall the good points outweigh the other side completely. I’m now eager to dive into the third book, The Hour of Dust and Ashes, which will be reviewed by B. over here, and which will also have the reader happen upon the world of Charybdon for the first time; something which I very much look forward to.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Bastard Reaction: Afterlight by Elle Jasper

I wasn't sure if I wanted to write this reaction, particularly since I don't enjoying shitting on people and messing with someone's livelihood. But on the other hand, I've always been about informing consumers, thus helping them choose how to spend their money wiser. Which leads me to this ├╝ber-negative reaction to my read of Afterlight by Elle Jasper, first book in the The Dark Ink Chronicles series. This is not something you'll see frequently from me, so enjoy it while it lasts. It'll contain a bit of spoilers, nothing big, but I don't think you guys will care. And I'll apologize right now by how crappy this "review" actually is, but not worth the trouble to do better I think. Before you go further, consider that this is a review aimed for strictly Urban Fantasy readers, if you read and like PNR, this will not be of much help to you I think.

Afterlight, to me, is representative of everything that I dislike in Urban Fantasy. Might even say, to some extent, representative of what's wrong with the genre. Some won't agree with this assertion, but I really feel like I was conned by the person who decided to market this book as member of Urban Fantasy; unless having 90%  erotica, romance, and graphic sex scenes is representative of such a genre. Add to that an investigative plot which ends up being dumbfounding and pretty much pointless, and it has become the first and only book that I've really regretted buying and reading. It's situations like this one which hold backs many readers from trying more Urban Fantasy books because they don't care to stumble into books like this one. Which is a shame for both the mindset and the books that allow it to fester.

When I finished reading the book it was quite apparent that this could be considered the porn version of Twilight. To add to that insinuation, going around reading the different reaction of those that have read Afterlight have noticed similarities between the this book and the Twilight series, some even quoting passages. But I don't care about that. One could say then that Afterlight might just be someone's Twilight wet dream come true. Even the titles are somewhat similar.

Before I'm misunderstood, let me just say that I don't like abundance of erotica, romance, and graphic sex scenes in my Urban Fantasy reading, and trust me I've tried. That's not to say that I don't understand it's place in it, or that I automatically dismiss books that contain such elements, else I wouldn't have bothered reading this book to its entirety, but I believe there has to be a balance and a relevance to it, particularly when a book is littered with it. I can handle it when the book is worth it, and I don't judge a book simply because it contains them. I've read plenty of books in Urban Fantasy that are heavy on those aspects and have thoroughly enjoyed the books, so just know it is not a deciding factor, but won't lie, it is a factor that it influences.

Those issues aside, I just didn't see anything worthwhile here. If you're not one of those readers who closes one's eyes and day dreams about the pulchritudinous alpha male with his banana hammock in full splendor jogging on the beach, then this is not a book for you. Else, you might actually like the book, and maybe even like it a lot. If you go to some review sites, you'll see an abundance of positive reviews. But I very much doubt any of those are from  people who are strictly Urban Fantasy readers, who read the genre because of great characters, mystery, suspense, plot, and action (where applicable).

Speaking of plot, what the heck just happen with it in Afterlight? Plot consists of main female character talking about how bad-ass she is, how awful her life has been up to this point, all the awful shit she did to herself when she was young, how moist she would get on the thought of getting high on drugs. Then someone close to her gets infected with Vampirism, she meets the hot alpha male, she has recurring sexual dreams, she gets horny, notices the dude going from supple to full on erection, same room masturbation time,  fucks the dude a couple of times, she has some more sexual dreams, fucks the dude a couple of more times.

Between all of this, the investigation consisted of she doing tattoos to her customers by day because it wasn't urgent enough to find the infected loved one, then by night going to some underground clubs she used to go to, filled with skulduggery, talk once more about how awesome she is while describing how she had underage sex with a sick mofo and was raped pretty much just so she could get her fix, talks about how many people are grabbing her ass in the club, then someone attempts to rape her. We learn nothing worthwhile; she has some more sex with alpha dude. Rinse and repeat the same investigation tactic one more night, and get her ass kicked by some of the infected kiddies. Then by the end of it, nothing of the investigation mattered because the location just presents itself (not that the investigation was any good in the first place). We have about 15 pages left, we do a summary of a crappy training, in which it becomes quite obvious that the protagonist is pretty much all talk and not as tough as she think she is, final battle comes along, 3 pages or so into it she gets knocked out. Then she wakes up and all is good and pretty much as resolved as it could be. Awesome. Actually, quite awesome indeed since it might just be the best part of the book.

If you're a strictly Urban Fantasy reader, then heed my words and stay away from Afterlight. If you are a reader that enjoys paranormal romance and those kinds of elements, then best move on to someone else's review because this won't be of any help to you. I say once more, got no problem with paranormal romance or it's readers, but I just hate getting conned into reading these types of books because people don't bother to differentiate between the two. It's becoming harder and harder to find what you actually want when reactions to books in Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance are mirroring each other.

If the argument is that this doesn't fit the Paranormal Romance mold, then we better find another sub-genre for these types of books because marketing them as Urban Fantasy is not doing anyone any favors.

For Twilight fans, well mixed reactions all around. So 50/50 chances of you liking this book.

And say what you want about the book cover, I actually liked it. Viva tramp stamps (though she actually has an awesome dragon tattoo in the back, and she let us know about 10 times in the story) and Truffula Trees!