Review: Guilty Pleasures (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #1) ~ Laurell K. Hamilton

Guilty PleasuresISBN ~ 978-0425197547
Publisher ~  Berkley Trade
No. Of Pages ~ 355 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Guilty Pleasures

Anita Blake may be small and young, but vampires call her the Executioner. Anita is a necromancer and vampire hunter in a time when vampires are protected by law—as long as they don’t get too nasty. Now someone’s killing innocent vampires and Anita agrees—with a bit of vampiric arm-twisting—to help figure out who and why.

Trust is a luxury Anita can’t afford when her allies aren’t human. The city’s most powerful vampire, Nikolaos, is 1,000 years old and looks like a 10-year-old girl. The second most powerful vampire, Jean-Claude, is interested in more than just Anita’s professional talents, but the feisty necromancer isn’t playing along—yet.

4 Thumbs-UpI had this book recommended to me, and I have to admit I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to read it; after all it has a romantic overtone to it, contains vampires and well just isn’t my usual read or even one I would have thought to pick up.  In this case I am glad I did as despite being classified as romance, it really wasn’t at all.

The main protagonist is the Anita Blake mentioned in the title of this review, and I thoroughly enjoyed her and her character make up immensely.  She is a strong-willed woman, very independent and has a sarcastic tongue that really helped me connect with her.  She has flaws too, she is judgmental and extremely abrasive but these only add to her appeal and make her a character that both male and female readers can get to grips with, even if they cannot relate to her.  I found it absolutely hilarious, and like so many people I know to discover that this character had never developed a working filter between her brain and her mouth.  Through great descriptive writing I was able to build an image of this main lead in my mind’s eye, and this is something that some Authors are unable to do.  All the other characters are treated with equal measure in this book, and are all given their personalities and flaws that the reader will either be drawn to, or dislike instantly.

This book is a quick read and, although gory at times, well it does contain vampires so go figure, it is full of mystery and irreverent humour.  However, I have to mention as a warning to those sensitive souls out there that the Author has managed to include a great deal of implied and actual eroticism in the storyline, so if this is not for you I would advise you to give the book a miss.  My reason for the 4 thumbs review was the dialogue, and I felt at time that the Author was trying to see how many times they could have the speaker use the interlocutor’s name; another reason is that although this is a darned good read it would never go down in the annals of classic writing and, if you want to enjoy them but don’t want to be seen doing so it would be a book to hide in something more ‘high brow’.

As for me I’ll definitely be reading some more in this series and I would highly recommend this book to any reader is looking for a light read, but one that has some substance to it.

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Review: Timelapse ~ Lorrie Farrelly

timelapseThe accidental death of his beloved wife sent Alex Morgan into a numbing world of suppressed grief and rage, eased only by a profound bond with his son. Suddenly his life is shattered again when a chance discovery propels him into a world gone horribly, terrifyingly wrong.

Piecing together clues in this new nightmare, Alex suspects a colleague of taking a few, meddling steps back in time, changing the course of history – destroying Alex’s family and his world. Desperately clinging to his sanity, he searches for any evidence his young son still exists.

Jessica O’Neil is fighting a nightmare of her own, captured and facing execution for freedom-fighting heroics in her grim, oppressive world. When Alex rescues the feisty young rebel, she resists her dangerous attraction to him – a man who’s clearly crazy, literally in a world of his own.

Bound together first by chance and desperation, then by growing purpose, respect, and emotion, Alex and Jessie must depend on each other to survive. More than that, they must find a way to prevent a terrible crime from taking place – a crime that plunged both their worlds into nightmare – over a hundred years before. To have a future, they will have to find their way to the past.

4 Thumbs-UpAfter having read the synopsis for this particular novel, you may be forgiven in thinking that I may have had too much sun this summer, as this book appears to be one of those dreaded romance novels that I avoid as if I may catch something nasty from them; and you would be right, not about the sun thing but about this being a romance novel… except it isn’t one in the true sense of the word.  From the very first page this book had me pulled in hook, line and sinker and, because I was expecting one of ‘those’ novels took me totally by surprise.

The male protagonist is written wonderfully and in such a manner that both male and female readers will develop a close connection with him.  He is vulnerable while at the same time having an inner strength that the reader can only wonder at, is devoted to his family but also feels that fate is not on his side as life continues to throw one, almost unbearable curve ball after another at him.  The female counterpart to his lead is a perfect foil for him, she is strong and capable in all the traits that he lacks, and is also able to retain her own individuality during the most trying of times and circumstances.  The Author wrote these, and all her characters in such a way that they came alive within the novels pages, and make the reader feel as if there might be a possibility they would run into them as they go about their daily lives.  These are three-dimensional, well fleshed out participants in a definitely not your run of the mill romance.

Now we move onto why this is not a romance book, it is primarily a science fiction novel which deals with time travel and just happens to include the story of a developing relationship between two of its characters.  The fact that the romance wasn’t overwhelming made this book even more enjoyable for me.  The plot line is excellent and contains plenty of fast paced action for those readers who like this kind of thing in their sci-fi/time travel reads and, although some of the scenes could have been written with a bit more punch for my liking, I attributed this to being the Author’s writing style more than anything wrong with the novel.  My one complaint and the reason for the four thumbs rating was I would have liked to have read more about the world in which our male lead finds himself in even though it was not necessary to the flow of the story, it would have added a little more depth.

I would highly recommend this to all readers of time travel and science fiction novels and to anyone who want an enjoyable read with a twist.

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Monday Mornings ~ Claire Howes

happy-monday

Monday Mornings

Every day is the same; they wake up in the same bed, at the same ungodly hour, to the same monotonous ringing from the alarm clock.

They grumble their ‘good morning’s; whether they believe it is or not, rolling out of opposite sides of the duvet.

They dance around each other in the bathroom, the heat of the shower creating a fog through which neither of them can see; causing him to stub his toe on the toilet or the counter, and steaming up the mirror so she can’t apply her make-up.

They continue their ritual into the kitchen; flicking on the kettle, popping in the bread, pouring the orange juice; stirring the tea, catching the toast and spreading the butter and jam. Crunching and slurping together at the table, mumbling about what their days have in store; tapping texts on their phones, crinkling newspaper in their hands.

They peck each other a kiss goodbye and mutter a ‘see you later’ before going their separate ways.

But then Monday comes…

Mondays are different.

He knows she doesn’t like Monday mornings. It’s the very beginning of a new, long, tiring week. She never looks forward to Mondays.

So he changes that.

He sets the alarm on his watch a little earlier than other days; shutting it off before it can wake her.

He slips silently out of bed and tiptoes quietly into the bathroom to shower; leaving her smiley faces and love messages on the steamy mirrors.

He creates her favourite tea and makes her toast with raspberry jam; just the way she likes it. Picking a flower from the garden; whichever one looks the happiest and brightest, he places it all on a tray and pads back up to the bedroom to wake her.

She no longer sets her alarm on Mondays. She knows he’ll not let her oversleep.

He places the flower in her hair and drops delicate kisses; full of his love and affection for her, to the corner of her mouth, until she stirs gently.

She smiles on Monday mornings.

They eat breakfast in bed, covering the sheets in crumbs and giggling contentedly as the cat licks them up.

She hums in the bathroom while he clears away crockery, and always re-emerges with the flower tucked behind her ear.

It remains there ‘til night fall.

They never once look at their phones or the paper, far too focused on each other to pay anything else mind.

Their kiss as they part reminds them of their love for each other and of the good things in life; like strolls along the shore, strawberries dipped in dark chocolate, smiling sunflowers that open to a beautiful summer’s day, and of course, Monday mornings.

Claire Howes

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Review: The Very Thought of You ~ Rosie Alison

The very thought of youEngland, 31st August 1939: the world is on the brink of war. As Hitler prepares to invade Poland, thousands of children are evacuated from London to escape the impending Blitz. Torn from her mother, eight-year-old Anna Sands is relocated with other children to a large Yorkshire estate which has been opened up to evacuees by Thomas and Elizabeth Ashton, an enigmatic childless couple. Soon Anna gets drawn into their unhappy relationship, seeing things that are not meant for her eyes – and finding herself part-witness and part-accomplice to a love affair, with tragic consequences. A story of love, loss and complicated loyalties, combining a sweeping narrative with subtle psychological observation.

2 Thumbs-UpThis book was given to me to read by a co-worker, and as our reading tastes are usually similar I looked forward to reading this debut novel from this Author.  I will come straight out now and say the only reason this book received the two thumbs it did is because it is located in my home county of Yorkshire, England.

However, if you like books with multiple characters, each with their own separate plot and agenda, this may be the book for you.  I found the profusion of characters and plots became rather confusing after a while, and this nearly resulted in my consigning it to my empty ‘did not finish’ pile.  The reason it did not end up there was the hope I held that when I turned the next page the development of the main protagonist would start and the storyline proper would then get underway.  Unfortunately this was not to be the case and I’m not sure if it is the sheer number of characters that prevented this, or sympathy for the Author that they may have been a little unsure of themselves in this area of their writing.  I feel that if the Author had pared down the amount of characters in the novel, and concentrated some of that energy into the development of the key ones, this would have become a much better, if not compelling, read.

What a disappointment, I was expecting a book based around the evacuees from the London Blitz and the way it affected them both mentally and physically; I was expecting maybe something more along the lines of ‘Good Night, Mr. Tom’, but received a rehashing of parts of ‘The Go-Between’ and ‘Atonement’  without any of the plot development or characters that would truly make it worth the time I invested in reading this.  I feel that an outstanding editor would have been able to point out these issues to the Author, and with gentle guidance been able to help them turn this into a fresh perspective on love and happiness.

The ending of this book was the final nail in the coffin for me; most of the novel takes place during World War II, and when I say most it is probably about 75% of the book, then in the final 25% the Author suddenly felt the need to cram sixty years into about 50 pages; no explanation or tie in to the rest of the book, just ‘here it is’.  In this particular case this is one of those books that would have been better off left with an open-ending without the Author feeling the need to tie everything up neatly.

Unfortunately I don’t feel I could recommend this book to any one group of readers, but it may be something that book clubs would enjoy dissecting at their meetings.

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From Tear-Jerkers to the Warm and Fuzzies…

As regular followers of my blog will know I am not a lover (excuse the pun) of the romance novel genre.  However, as today is Valentine’s Day I thought I would share with you six of the greatest love stories of all time, and which I fully intend to bite the bullet and read, or reread as in the case of Bronte, to review at a later date.  As always this list is in no particular order.

Wuthering HeightsTitle ~ Wuthering Heights
Author ~ Emily Bronte
ISBN ~ 978-0141439556
Publisher ~ Penguin Classics

One of the most passionate and heartfelt novels ever written, Wuthering Heights tells of the relationship between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, the orphan boy her father adopted and brought to Wuthering Heights when they were children.

While Catherine forms a deep attachment to Heathcliff, her brother Hindley despises him as a rival. Heathcliff becomes torn between love for Catherine and the rage and humiliation he suffers. Finally he can stand it no longer and, in the violence of a summer storm, leaves the Heights for three years. During his absence Catherine has married, but her tormented heart belongs eternally to Heathcliff who is now prepared to exact his tyrannical revenge.

With its freedom from social convention and its unparalleled emotional intensity, Wuthering Heights is a highly original and deeply tragic work.

Anna KareninaTitle ~ Anna Karenina
Author ~ Leo Tolstoy
ISBN ~ 978-1593080273
Publisher ~ Barnes & Noble Classics (June 1st, 2003)

Married to a powerful government minister, Anna Karenina is a beautiful woman who falls deeply in love with a wealthy army officer, the elegant Count Vronsky. Desperate to find truth and meaning in her life, she rashly defies the conventions of Russian society and leaves her husband and son to live with her lover. Condemned and ostracized by her peers and prone to fits of jealousy that alienate Vronsky, Anna finds herself unable to escape an increasingly hopeless situation.

Set against this tragic affair is the story of Konstantin Levin, a melancholy landowner whom Tolstoy based largely on himself. While Anna looks for happiness through love, Levin embarks on his own search for spiritual fulfillment through marriage, family, and hard work. Surrounding these two central plot threads are dozens of characters whom Tolstoy seamlessly weaves together, creating a breathtaking tapestry of nineteenth-century Russian society.

From its famous opening sentence — “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”—to its stunningly tragic conclusion, this enduring tale of marriage and adultery plumbs the very depths of the human soul.

Doctor ZhivagoTitle ~ Doctor Zhivago
Author ~ Boris Pasternak
ISBN ~ 978-0679774389
Publisher ~ Pantheon (March 18th, 1997)

This epic tale about the effects of the Russian Revolution and its aftermath on a bourgeois family was not published in the Soviet Union until 1987. One of the results of its publication in the West was Pasternak’s complete rejection by Soviet authorities; when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958 he was compelled to decline it. The book quickly became an international best-seller.

Dr. Yury Zhivago, Pasternak’s alter ego, is a poet, philosopher, and physician whose life is disrupted by the war and by his love for Lara, the wife of a revolutionary. His artistic nature makes him vulnerable to the brutality and harshness of the Bolsheviks. The poems he writes constitute some of the most beautiful writing in the novel.

Sense and SensibilityTitle ~ Sense and Sensibility
Author ~ Jane Austen
ISBN ~ 978-0141439662
Publisher ~ Penguin Books (April 29th, 2003)

‘The more I know of the world, the more am I convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!’

Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor’s warning that her impulsive behaviour leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love—and its threatened loss—the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.

Dangerous Liaisons - Les Liaisons dangereusesTitle ~ Dangerous Liaisons: Les Liaisons dangereuses
Author ~ Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
ISBN ~ 978-0192838674
Publisher ~ Oxford University Press (March 18th, 1999)

The complex moral ambiguities of seduction and revenge make Les Liaisons dangereuses (1782) one of the most scandalous and controversial novels in European literature. The subject of major film and stage adaptations, the novel’s prime movers, the Vicomte de Valmont and the Marquise de Merteuil, form an unholy alliance and turn seduction into a game – a game which they must win. This new translation gives Laclos a modern voice, and readers will be able a judge whether the novel is as “diabolical” and “infamous” as its critics have claimed, or whether it has much to tell us about the kind of world we ourselves live in. David Coward’s introduction explodes myths about Laclos’s own life and puts the book in its literary and cultural context.

Hunchback of Notre DameTitle ~ Hunchback of Notre Dame
Author ~ Victor Hugo
ISBN ~ 978-0140443530
Publisher ~ Penguin Classics (October 26th, 1978)

In the vaulted Gothic towers of Notre-Dame lives Quasimodo, the hunchbacked bellringer. Mocked and shunned for his appearance, he is pitied only by Esmerelda, a beautiful gypsy dancer to whom he becomes completely devoted. Esmerelda, however, has also attracted the attention of the sinister archdeacon Claude Frollo, and when she rejects his lecherous approaches, Frollo hatches a plot to destroy her that only Quasimodo can prevent. Victor Hugo’s sensational, evocative novel brings life to the medieval Paris he loved, and mourns its passing in one of the greatest historical romances of the nineteenth century.

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Review: Exsanguinate – World of Blood (Book #1) ~ Killion Slade

ExsanguinateA Halloween scream night theme park adventure for software gaming developer Cheyenne O’Cuinn reveals a hidden supernatural reality she never dreamed existed. Recovering from a vicious attack and her sisters’ abductions, Cheyenne must rescue her sisters from vampiric kidnappers before they’re used to breed warmongering dhampirs.

Betrayal lurks in every corner. Cheyenne must evade attackers by unconventional means through her online role-play game. She must navigate through virtual, tortuous clues and mailed body parts, which cross over from her virtuality into reality. Can a team of dragons, vampires, and werewolves come together to help her? Who can she trust? Will the help from her virtual lover become compromised when he learns of her new immortal existence and crush the fragile love they share?

Amidst an impending vampire apocalypse, Cheyenne finds herself both in conflict for survival and for her heart. Will her immortal self derail any hope of solving the multiplying puzzles before time runs out to save her sisters, herself and her humanity?

5 Thumbs-UpLet me get this out there right from the start of my review, I absolutely hated this book!  It wasn’t the book itself I despised; it was what it turned me into.  As an online gamer, and a casual one at that, I hold no love for those that crow about their access to areas of the game I can only dream about; they like to call themselves the L33T!  This book turned me into one of these people, but in the book world, and I loved it.  In the pages of this book I was able to experience content that I KNOW there are a few out there will not be able to access, and it made me feel like a God.

Urban Fantasy novels are really not my usual thing, but I was so glad I read this book.  The characters are realistic and full of humour, sadness, secrets and guts.  They are written in such a way that you feel as if you know them, or may have even grouped up with them in your online game of choice.  The Author invested a lot of time into making sure the characters in this novel were true to life representations of the gaming community, and made sure they did not fall into the stereotypical portrait most people have of gamers, that they are loners with no lives living in their parent’s basements.  With a skilful use of words the characters show that a wide variety of people game, and without overloading the reader with technical terms and phrases, he painted these characters as intelligent and likeable people who the reader would want to socialize with.  The main protagonist of the novel is a strong, smart woman; however she is also extremely loyal and once she gets her teeth into something sticks with it to the end.  On the flip side of her personality is a woman who is also a little unsure of herself, especially when it comes to the area of romance, and one who is determined to confront the fears she has of the main driving tool behind the project she is working on.

This is a very imaginative novel, full of strategy and clues that span not just the online role-playing game in the book, but also the real world lives of the characters.  I was delighted at how well the Author brought the vividness of these games to life and managed to get across to the reader just how many people are involved in the playing of them.  They also managed to convey that for some people this is not just a game, but a form of connecting with others around the globe; a kind of social media tool with quests thrown in.  Blending them well together, the book has just enough humour its pages to stop the horror aspect of it from becoming overwhelming; the humour is laugh out loud funny and the horror is blood chilling made even more so as at some points in the action you are not sure if you are in the virtual world or the real world.

This book creates its own world and mythology, but uses well-known creatures of the supernatural to do so, and this serves to make the reader feel they are experiencing something new that has a familiar feel.  The real novelty in its pages though was the inclusion of the ‘quick mark’ tags, this enables the reader with a smart phone access to hidden ‘Easter eggs’ which include additional pages of the novel and numerous other hidden goodies on the book’s website; this was the part that made me L33T!  Flawlessly bringing fantasy, horror, humour and action together the Author has done an outstanding job of putting together a highly absorbing and entertaining read.

I would highly recommend this book to readers of all genres and lovers of epic series as I am sure this is going to be among the greats.  I will definitely be reading the remainder of this series as it is published.

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Review: Hope Flies on Broken Wings ~ L.F. Falconer

Hope FliesCome along on a summer journey of two souls seeking release from their own perceptions of hell.

From a medieval, seacoast realm, comes this haunting love story that hovers on the cusp of fantasy. 19-year-old Dugan is the troubled son of an evil man. He is beautiful, he is forbidden, and he has captured 16-year-old Collie’s heart. But is the young man truly as dangerous as Collie’s parents make him out to be?

When two worlds collide, Collie and Dugan struggle with their own inner conflicts as they attempt to break the barriers that constrain them, hoping for the freedom to finally fulfill the love that keeps drawing them together. But the choices they make aren’t always wise, and all good things must one day end. Sometimes, much too soon.

A story of dramatic love and equally dramatic loss, seen through the eyes of two innocent, but defiant adolescents. Its simple medieval setting brings to light many of the societal issues of today, including domestic violence, child abuse, bigotry, class segregation, and religious intolerance.

2 Thumbs-UpThe synopsis on the back of this book does not really give any clear description of the contents; it is really just one paragraph from the tale within its covers.

The two main protagonists are adolescents on a journey of discovery, and this tended to give the story an over the top dose of teenage angst.  For my liking the Author did not develop these characters as individuals as fully as I felt they could’ve have been, but for some readers this may be the type of character they like; unfortunately they were not for me.  I didn’t find anything endearing about either of them as they progressed through the book, that made me not care about them or connect with them on any level whatsoever, despite the themes of love, hope and destiny being there to provide them with fuel to become truly captivating.

Set in an unknown time and setting, all the Author hints at is that it is in medieval times, the book alludes at the possibility of becoming something more with brief mentions to magic and mermen; again, this was not developed into anything more than just a mention so the reader never truly finds out if this is one of those settings where magic can happen or not.  Something that really pulled away from my enjoyment of this book was that it starts out being written in the first person, but as the story progresses and the action picks up, the Author tends to lose their way and keeps bouncing backwards and forwards between the first person point of view and having a narrator.  This made it increasingly more difficult to follow what was actually happening and to keep things in perspective.  Another thing that baffled me, and again some readers might understand, is the introduction of religion into the novel and this, in time, added an air of preachiness to the book that made me feel like I was being given a sermon.  Given that the book is set in an unknown time, it was not easy for me to link this sudden introduction of the Christian religion with the uprooting of whatever beliefs were being followed, and eventually it just added nonsense to what could have been an otherwise fairly enjoyable read.  However, despite all its flaws it was a well written book and, if you are a devout Christian would probably appeal to you.  Unfortunately it was just wasn’t for me and I doubt very much if I would read anything else by this Author.

I would recommend this book to lovers of Christian Fiction, and YA readers that are active in their Church.

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