angels

Review: Happy Hour in Hell, Tad Williams

Happy Hour in HellHappy Hour in Hell (Goodreads)
Author: flag_usa Tad Williams (website)

Rating: ★★★½☆

I’ve been told to go to Hell more times than I can count. But this time I’m actually going.

My name’s Bobby Dollar, sometimes known as Doloriel, and of course, Hell isn’t a great place for someone like me – I’m an angel. They don’t like my kind down there, not even the slightly fallen variety. But they have my girlfriend, who happens to be a beautiful demon named Casimira, Countess of Cold Hands. Why does an angel have a demon girlfriend? Well, certainly not because it helps my career.

She’s being held hostage by one of the nastiest, most powerful demons in all of the netherworld – Eligor, Grand Duke of Hell. He already hates me, and he’d like nothing better than to get his hands on me and rip my immortal soul right out of my borrowed but oh-so-mortal body.

But wait, it gets better! Not only do I have to sneak into Hell, make my way across thousands of miles of terror and suffering to reach Pandemonium, capital of the fiery depths, but then I have to steal Caz right out from under Eligor’s burning eyes and smuggle her out again, past demon soldiers, hellhounds, and all the murderous creatures imprisoned there for eternity. And even if I somehow manage to escape Hell, I’m also being stalked by an undead psychopath named Smyler who’s been following me for weeks. Oh, and did I mention that he can’t be killed?

So if I somehow survive Hell, elude the Grand Duke and all his hideous minions and make it back to the real world, I’ll still be the most hunted soul in Creation. But at least I’ll have Caz. Gotta have something to look forward to, right?

So just pour me that damn drink, will you? I’ve got somewhere to go.

Details

Series: Bobby Dollar #2
Genre: Paranormal fantasy
Published: Hodder & Stoughton, 26 September 2013
Pages: 400

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository 
E-copies: Amazon.com  Amazon.co.uk Barnes & Noble

Please note: This review is for the second book in the Bobby Dollar series and so contains spoilers for the first, The Dirty Streets of Heaven. You might prefer to read my review of that book instead!


Review

Hell is a pretty horrible place, designed to be eternal punishment. Somewhere you’d ideally avoid, right? Bobby Dollar, angel and advocate is heading down there, though, to rescue his girlfriend.

Trouble is, Bobby has no idea how to get there, let alone how to steal Caz from Grand Duke Eligor and get out again. Then there’s the strange business with the Third Way and the investigation by the Archangels Bobby is embroiled in. It’s a mess, and it’s only about to get messier.

I’m having trouble putting words together for this review. On one hand, the detail, depth and imagination in this book is amazing, as I always expect from Tad Williams. On the other hand, the story didn’t quite flow as well as I would have liked and I got the feeling that not much actually happened, even though Bobby goes through a hell of a lot (pardon the expression).

Williams’ Hell is Dante’s Inferno gone mad – a cylindrical piston tube with each level designed for progressively worse levels of punishment. At times, places Bobby visits almost seem like really nasty parts the real world – the inhabitants still need to eat and drink, but everything is designed to keep everyone as miserable as possible, for eternity. Here’s where Bobby finds some interesting aspects to Hell – do the damned really deserve to rot in Hell for ever?

There’s not just horror and pain in this story, although grisly torture and humiliation is a major part of it. There is also hope, redemption and loyalty down there. I’m actually really looking forward to reading more about how the penitent inhabitants of Hell can redeem themselves. It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted, and I definitely wouldn’t recommend reading it while eating your lunch (from personal experience).

I didn’t like Bobby as much as I did in The Dirty Streets – time and again he reiterates that it’s his love for Caz that is getting him through this, but it seemed to me more like its his lust for her that drives him. Casimira herself is portrayed as less of the bad-ass Countess of Cold Hands and more like a helpless victim of Eligor, which I thought was a bit of a shame. Anyway poor Bobby gets taken to some very dark places in this story, both in Hell and within himself. I got the feeling several times that Mr Williams seemed to be enjoying his torture a little too much.

Because most of this book is spent with Bobby moving from one horrific situation to the next, being chased or dragged or sneaking about, there’s not a lot of dialogue. The constant descriptions of travel are great, but after a while they tend to slow the story down a bit. There is plenty of action, but it happens in chunks in-between narrated scenes.

I did enjoy the descriptions of locations in this story, even if I didn’t particularly what was happening to the characters. There are some very interesting concepts explored but, frustratingly, nothing resolved. I will be grabbing the third book though – Sleeping Late on Judgement Day is due during 2014.

Warnings: Graphic violence including plenty of torture, explicit sex scenes, some abusive.

Bobby Dollar series

The Dirty Streets of Heaven Happy Hour in Hell 3: Sleeping Late on Judgement DayTBR 2014

What did others think of Happy Hour in Hell?

  • “… it’s scary in here in Tad’s imagination!” – Letters and Leaves
  • “The Dirty Streets of Heaven showed that Tad Williams was on top of his game, Happy Hour in Hell proves this even more the Bobby Dollar series is utterly brilliant.” – The Book Plank
  • “Of course if you’ve read any of Tad Williams’ work prior to the Bobby Dollar series then you probably weren’t surprised to hear that he gets a little, ah, descriptive in this book. The difference between the exposition in this book and, say, his Otherland series is that HAPPY HOUR IN HELL is way shorter.” – All Things Urban Fantasy

Review: Shadows, Paula Weston

This review is part of the Discover Aussie Fantasy feature, running during July on The Oaken Bookcase. You can find details of the feature and enter the giveaway on the Aussie Fantasy page!


ShadowsShadows (Goodreads)
Author: flag_aus Paula Weston (website)

Rating: ★★★★★

It’s almost a year since Gaby Winters was in the car crash that killed her twin brother, Jude. Her body has healed in the sunshine of Pandanus Beach, but her grief is raw and constant. It doesn’t help that every night in her dreams she kills demons and other hell-spawn.

And then Rafa comes to town. Not only does he look exactly like the guy who’s been appearing in Gaby’s dreams—he claims a history with her brother that makes no sense. Gaby is forced to accept that what she thought she knew about herself and her life is only a shadow of the truth—and that the truth is more likely to be found in the shadows of her nightmares.

Who is Rafa? Who are the Rephaim? And most importantly, who can she trust?

Details

Series: The Rephaim #1
Genre: YA Paranormal Fantasy
Published: Text Publishing in Australia, July 2012. In the UK was published January 2013 by Indigo. Will be published in the US and Canada by Tundra Books in September 2013.
Pages: 388
My copy: the publisher for review

Paper copies: Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository • Barnes & Noble (pre-order) • Bookworld
E-copies:  Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Bookworld (epub)

Review

Gaby has been living in Pandanus Beach for eight months, seeking peace and quiet after the tragic accident that killed her twin brother Jude and almost her as well. She’s still trying to shut out the nightmares and the grief when the very attractive Rafa shows up, revealing a whole new world of fallen angels, demons and hellions that Gaby had literally only dreamed of – and to top it off, Rafa claims to have been friends with Jude.

Shadows is a roller-coaster ride of a read, very tense all the way through. The story is told in the present tense exclusively by Gaby, so we only get revelations about what’s going on as she does. I found it very difficult to put down!

Gorgeous UK cover

Gorgeous UK cover

The romance (yes, of course there’s some) is very subtle and slow-burning, even after a “whoa, hang on a minute” section right at the start of the story where I was a little worried insta-love was going to be rearing its ugly head. Early on I did feel like slapping all the male characters for various reasons, but they did start to grow on me (especially Rafa!). I loved Gaby and her friend Maggie and their relationship all the way through, though. Gaby is certainly what I’d call a kick-arse heroine, not really in the physical fighter sense (yet) but even after she’s hit with a bewildering variety of situations and information about what her life was really like before the accident, she never stops questioning what is actually going on.

I think the thing I loved most about reading this story is the “Aussie-ness” of the settings, the characters and the dialogue. How many books have baddies referred to as “arse-clowns” or that one’s injuries “sting like a bastard”? Pan Beach sounds like somewhere north of the Sunshine Coast I may have visited on holiday – just perfect for the story, and the whole atmosphere feels very familiar. I enjoyed every moment of reading it and I can’t wait to get my hands on the second book, Haze.

If you’re looking for a paranormal fantasy with an Aussie twist, I highly recommend Shadows. Certainly one of my favourite YA reads of this year!

Warnings: Sexual references, graphic violence

The Rephaim series

shadows_uk Haze Book 3: Shimmer Due 2014  Book 4: ??

About the Author

Paula WestonPaula Weston is an avid reader and blogger, a huge fan of Australian literature and fantasy/paranormal stories, a closet comic reader and TV addict…and she’s borderline obsessed with the Foo Fighters.

In her day job, she’s a writer-journalist-professional communicator with pH creative.

(Bio from Goodreads)

 

Review: In The End, Alexandra Rowland

In the EndIn The End (Goodreads)
Author: flag_usa Alexandra Rowland (website)

Rating: ★★★★☆

The Fallen Angel Lucien never expected the world to end. Inconveniently enough, it did. He and Lalael, an angel of the Higher Realm, are abandoned to make their way in what’s left of the world.

It has changed, however. Uncountable humans have died or vanished, and leftover groups are determined to survive however they can, fighting off new dangers and killing anything they do not understand.

But demons were not the only thing released into the world at the End: A strange new power fills the world, and no one knows what this might bring.

Details

Series: Stand alone
Genre: Paranormal/Apocalyptic Fantasy
Published: Self-published, June 2012
Pages: 299
My copy: from the Author for review

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Createspace
E-copies:  Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Smashwords • Barnes & Noble

Or you can download the first couple of chapters for free, here!

Review

I seem to have ended up reading quite a few apocalyptic angel/demon stories lately. I thought that In the End would be another slightly depressing, fire and brimstone end-of-the-world thriller, but I was very pleasantly surprised to find that, as well as being quite thrilling at times, this story is also very funny. The blurb doesn’t really give that away at all, but yes, this is a snarky comedy.

The Fallen Angel Lucien has been based on earth for several years now, and is just starting to wonder if he might be able to stay here forever when the trumpets sound and the Last Days arrive. The souls of the believers are taken, and Lucien rushes to the battle ground and sees the hosts of Heaven (Ríel) and Hell (Rielat) fighting for supremacy. In the confusion he runs into an angel who mistakes Lucien for a demon and tries to kill him, but as they are fighting, the battle somehow ends and the angels and demons disappear, leaving Lucien and the somewhat bewildered angel, Lalael, stranded. Lalael is angry and confused as to why he should be left behind, not to mention baffled as to why Lucien, a fallen and cursed angel, should be so kind to him. Lucien takes Lalael back to his apartment to meet his cat, Antichrist.  The unlikely friends must try to find their place in this new, post-apocalyptic world, and maybe even find a way back to Ríel.

Firstly, let me just say that Alexandra Rowland is certainly a talented author. This story gripped me all the way through – the action scenes were brilliant and the banter between Lalael and Lucien, while occasionally silly, lifted the whole tone of the story. The two angels have very strong personalities and their relationship is the highlight of this story for me. Loved them, need more please!

There were, however, some things that genuinely confused me about this story. The plotline is a little odd. Here we are, travelling from one community of humans to the next trying to find somewhere to fit in, when Jocelin shows up and the whole story just changes into something in quite a different direction. I’m still not sure who or what Jocelin is and what Jocelin is supposed to represent. Also, we never find out what happened to Ríel and the souls taken from earth. I really hope there’s another story coming to follow up, because the whole tale felt a little unfinished to me.

My issues with plot aside, I really did enjoy reading In the End. It’s a very dry and witty take on the apocalypse, and a well-written debut. I hope there’s more to come from Lucien and Lalael!

Warnings: Strong violence including torture.

What did others think of In the End?

  • “I recommend In The End if you’re a fan of Neil Gaiman style fiction. It’s a really unique novel well worth a read.” – Once Upon a Time
  • “The language is playful and mood-appropriate.  The creativity is humbling.  It is sophisticated entertainment.” – Heather McNamara
  • “…I was really impressed that the humour in In the End felt genuine and the characters were so skilfully brought to life in just a few sentences. Well…for the most part.” – SFF Chat

Review: The Seers, MD Kaczkowski

The Seers, MD KaczkowskiTitle: The Seers: New World Order (Goodreads)
Author: flag_usa M.D. Kaczkowski (website)

Rating: ★★★★☆

The Seers introduces a world where good battles evil for the world’s soul. The fate of humanity rests in the hands of the Seers, a handful of humans with the rare ability to see the unseen, who call their Angels into action to do battle with Demons.

NYPD Detective John Scarcepho is investigating the murder of dozens of homeless who are dead with their eyes surgically removed. As he tracks down what he believes is a crazed serial killer, he discovers that he has special powers that he had suppressed as a child. He is drafted into saving humanity by empowering his unrivalled abilities, but self-doubt, temptation, and anger challenge his ability to harness his gift for good.

This captivating, fast-paced story blends two classic genres: part apocalypse and part detective story. Through the characters’ lives, readers are introduced to the prophets of humanity, known as the Seers. Between chapters, Dr. John Alderson, a well-traveled Seer-physician, shares his inside knowledge and encourages readers to delve deeper by guiding them to sections in The Seers’ Handbook, which makes up the final third of the book. Welcome to the universe of The Seers. Your journey has only just begun.

Details

Series: Stand alone (for now)
Genre: Paranormal fantasy
Published: Scilestial Fiction Press, March 2013
Pages: 304 (story 227)
My copy: For review via Media Connect

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository
E-copies: Amazon.com Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble

The Seers

Review

The world as we know it is breaking down – country after country is rejecting democracy and installing a single leader – King, Emperor or Dictator. Meanwhile, in the USA, ex-cop-turned-PI John Scarcepho is investigating a series of murders in which the victims’ eyes have been removed surgically and the sockets filled with sea water. He is approached by a strange man who introduces him to the world of the Seers, a group of people with the ability to see into the spirit world and observe the battles between angels and demons for the souls of the living. As it turns out, John has a particularly powerful Archangel as his guardian, but can he gain enough control of his new power to save the world from Lucifer’s control?

The Seers is not just a story, although it is a rather enjoyable page-turning thriller. It is also a new experience in multimedia storytelling, backed by a wealth of information available to the reader through QR Codes and links at the end of each chapter, plus the extensive Seer’s Handbook in the back of the volume.

At the end of each chapter, the QR code links the reader to a page on the seers website containing information about the subject matter in that chapter. Sometimes it is just links to sections of the Handbook to further explain concepts. Other chapters contain links to news articles, videos or real-world organisations that were mentioned in the story. It’s an interesting way to get access to information about aspects of the story and adds a lot of extra depth.

Even though I found the extra information interesting when I did look at it, I found it was a little distracting at first having to pick up my phone after every chapter. After a few chapters I just kept reading the story, and only went back to look into the information further after I was finished. The way the info is linked means that you can look at as much or as little of it as you wish, and wow, there is a lot of it to take in.

Although it is stated in the start of the book that it is a work of fiction, it’s quite clear that the author has put in years of research into belief systems around the world and painstakingly collected the resources into this accessible format. It has to be assumed that he believes in the tenets to a certain degree, and at times the story itself did come across as a bit “preachy”, showing the reader that their soul is being harmed by such vices as greed, lust, arrogance and vanity and that only your guardian angel is keeping you from being possessed by a demon. That said, if you read it from the point of view of an urban paranormal fantasy, it’s a very well put together system and quite an enjoyable story. The writing itself may lack some of the finesse of a veteran author, but The Seers is still a very enjoyable debut novel and an interesting concept in the future of storytelling.

Warnings: Graphic violence

Review: The Dirty Streets of Heaven, Tad Williams

The Dirty Streets of HeavenTitle: The Dirty Streets of Heaven (Goodreads)
Author: flag_usa Tad Williams (website)  

Rating: ★★★★½

Bobby Dollar is an angel—a real one. He knows a lot about sin, and not just in his professional capacity as an advocate for souls caught between Heaven and Hell. Bobby’s wrestling with a few deadly sins of his own—pride, anger, even lust.

But his problems aren’t all his fault. Bobby can’t entirely trust his heavenly superiors, and he’s not too sure about any of his fellow earthbound angels either, especially the new kid that Heaven has dropped into their midst, a trainee angel who asks too many questions. And he sure as hell doesn’t trust the achingly gorgeous Countess of Cold Hands, a mysterious she-demon who seems to be the only one willing to tell him the truth.

When the souls of the recently departed start disappearing, catching both Heaven and Hell by surprise, things get bad very quickly for Bobby D. End-of-the-world bad. Beast of Revelations bad. Caught between the angry forces of Hell, the dangerous strategies of his own side, and a monstrous undead avenger that wants to rip his head off and suck out his soul, Bobby’s going to need all the friends he can get—in Heaven, on Earth, or anywhere else he can find them.

Details

Series: Bobby Dollar #1
Genre: Paranormal fantasy with a side of detective work
Published: Hodder & Stoughton, September 2012
Pages: 406

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository 
E-copies: Amazon.com  Amazon.co.uk Barnes & Noble • Bookworld (epub)

The Dirty Streets of Heaven

Review

It’s been a long while since I read anything from Tad Williams. Since I absolutely loved his Otherland series, I was interested in what his spin on an angels and demons story would be in the first of this new paranormal series. As it turns out, he pulls it off amazingly well.

Bobby Dollar, or Deloriel, is an angel – or more accurately, an Advocate of Heaven. After death, each person’s soul is judged on their actions and it is decided whether they go to Heaven, Hell, or spend some time in Purgatory. Bobby’s job is to argue the case for Heaven – to try to spin the life of the recently deceased into something positive that will get them into Heaven. The demons who argue Hell’s case are pretty nasty guys, but even they are worried and upset when souls start going missing after death, without being judged. Bobby Dollar realises he is in serious trouble when he is accused of stealing something valuable from one of the higher Demons, and he doesn’t even know what it is he is supposed to have stolen! The Hellspawn are angry though, and they’ll go to any lengths to get back what is theirs.

Don’t be put off by the whole religious subject matter – this is Fantasy rather than Christian lit, after all, and the business of which religion actually gets it right is glossed over rather well – the Angels just don’t know that, they onlt know they serve Heaven and the Highest. The concepts explored in this story are fascinating – from the whole hierarchy of Angels and the society of Heaven and Hell, to the mysterious Third Way and what happens when we start to question the reasoning of those who are supposed to be acting in our best interests.

There’s a lot of explanation at the start of the book, which is probably necessary to explain the complicated nature of what happens after death. There’s quite a lot of action throughout the book including car and motorbike chases, shoot-outs and even a boat chase (James Bond, anyone?), but the action is often interspersed with Bobby doing his gumshoe work to find out what’s going on – something I found slowed the pace dramatically. Perhaps that’s just because I don’t particularly like cop dramas that much. I did wonder why, as an advocate for souls with guardian angels to tell him about the lives of the recently deceased, did Bobby have such an extensive network of informants and hackers at his disposal? He never mentions having to do other kinds of “spook” work for his bosses.

The descriptions are fabulous – of Heaven, of the Outside, even of San Judas itself. I think this story would make a great screenplay because I could almost see the scenes coming together as I read them, and the humour is spot on and had me giggling to myself on the train.

What really made this story stand out for me was Bobby Dollar himself. He’s snarky and often unpleasant, but at the core, a really decent, funny and good guy. If I was using D&D terms, I’d call him “chaotic good” – his methods may be unorthodox but his intentions are always for the best. I really hope one day, there’s an angel like him on my side!

The Dirty Streets of Heaven was a very enjoyable story – fans of Williams should enjoy it, and well as anyone interested in a different take on the Heaven/Hell mythos. I’ve seen it compared in Goodreads reviews to Supernatural, and to the Dresden Files series (neither of which I’ve seen or read – perhaps I should!).

The second in this series, Happy Hour in Hell, is due for release sometime later this year.

Warnings: Graphic violence including torture, explicit sex scenes.

What did others think of The Dirty Streets of Heaven?

  • “While far from perfect, The Dirty Streets of Heaven is a really fantastic book. Set against a fascinating religious backdrop, brimming with all sorts of exciting ideas, and maintaining a seamless blend of action and humor throughout its entire length, everything here is worth reading.” – The Ranting Dragon
  • “Bobby Dollar is every inch the sarcastic, self important maverick detective he should be, happy to pursue even his friends past the limit of patience and willing to take risks with his job (and his life) in his search for answers.” – The Upcoming
  • “I will admit the Angel and Demon warfare aspect of this book is what I enjoyed the most; Williams added some interesting concepts and blended some theology in as well and I think it balanced out nicely.” – Literary Exploration

Review: Days of Blood and Starlight, Laini Taylor

Title: Days of Blood and Starlight (Goodreads)
Author:  Laini Taylor (@lainitaylor)

Rating: ★★★★½

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a new way of living – one without massacres and torn throats and bonfires of the fallen, without revenants or bastard armies or children ripped from their mothers’ arms to take their turn in the killing and dying.

Once, the lovers lay entwined in the moon’s secret temple and dreamed of a world that was a like a jewel-box without a jewel – a paradise waiting for them to find it and fill it with their happiness.

This was not that world.

Details

Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: Little & Brown, November 6, 2012
Pages: 528

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository
E-copies: Amazon.com  Amazon.co.uk  Barnes & Noble • Bookworld (epub)

Review

Please note: This review is for the second in the series, and so contains spoilers for book one: Daughter of Smoke and Bone. You may wish to read my review of that book instead!

The Angels have won – the lands of the Chimaera are ravaged, the cities destroyed and the people are being hunted down and exterminated or taken into slavery. Karou has become the new resurrectionist, holed up in a Kasbah in the deserts of Morocco building new bodies for the White Wolf’s army, and she suspects that Thiago isn’t telling her all that he’s up to on the other side of the rift. Meanwhile, Akiva is struggling with his place in the Misbegotten, heart-sick with what he has done to Karou and with what he and his brethren have been ordered to do to the fleeing Chimaeran survivors.

If it’s been a while since you read Daughter of Smoke and Bone, you might like to take a quick flick-through to remind yourself of what happened – there isn’t really much of a recap at the start of Days of Blood and Starlight and I had a bit of trouble catching up with what was happening.

Because this book is the second in a trilogy, it is the middle section of a story of war. Sadly that makes this a very dark and often disturbing telling of the events taking place in the two worlds – there is very little of the romance that made Daughter of Smoke and Bone so amazing. Days of Blood and Starlight is a very important part of the overall story, although not a particularly enjoyable one, being an occasionally horrifying account of the persecution of the defeated Chimaera and of the torment of the few soldiers on both sides that question their own orders. It is a story of compassion and love, locked in an epic struggle against the machinations of evil warlords on both sides. It makes for an emotionally raw experience but is certainly building up toward a big finale.

The romantic elements aren’t completely missing from this instalment, although they are much more anguished and desperate. The first time Karou and Akiva come face-to-face in this book – wow. I was riveted! I cannot wait to see how it all plays out in book 3.

As before, the supporting cast is brilliant. Karou’s best friend Zuzana and her boyfriend Mik play a significant role in this book and I’m so glad – they are so whimsical and adorable and bring just the right amount of light-hearted wit into the story to alleviate the despair. Akiva’s brother- and sister-in-arms also lend their quirky humour to the events, as well as their wisdom and support to the cause. Thiago makes the perfect villain – a beautiful and talented leader, but a chillingly evil psychopath at the same time.

Days of Blood and Starlight is a beautifully crafted roller-coaster ride from the depths of despair to a bright burst of hope, and back again. Laini Taylor’s writing is emotional and compelling – make sure you’ve got a few hours to sit down and read this one, because it won’t let you go! I’d happily recommend this series to all fantasy fans.

Warnings: Graphic violence, abusive situations.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor Book 3 coming in 2013!

 

What did others think of Days of Blood and Starlight?

  • “Shit has well and truly hit the fan. Oh look, apocalypse. How fun!” – 5 stars – Escape Through the Pages
  • “I feel the need to revisit Laini’s magnificent prose. Her writing is captivating and engaging, provoking vast feeling in you as a reader. She a way with words that not many other writers have (like Karen Marie Moning and Lauren Oliver), and it kept me enthralled every moment of the way, greedily gobbling up every word.” – 5 stars – Auntie Spinelli Reads
  • Days of Blood & Starlight is a gorgeously written, vividly drawn, page-turner.  Absolutely recommended for anyone loving a epic tale that is bigger than a romance, unique in its approach to age old creatures, and full of characters you can’t help but love (or hate as the case may be.)” – 5 stars – Refracted Light Reviews

Tour: Review: Angelkiller and Traitor Angel, H. David Blalock

Welcome to The Oaken Bookcase’s stop on the Traitor Angel tour! In this post you will find my reviews for both books one (Angelkiller) and two (Traitor Angel) in this trilogy. Make sure to stop by the other stops on the tour for more opinions and other goodies!


Title: Angelkiller (Goodreads)
Author:  H. David Blalock

Rating: ★★★★☆

Why do bad things happen to good people? Simple. In the ancient war between the Angels of Light and Darkness, the Dark won. Now it is the job of an undercover force simply known as The Army to rectify that.

Using every tool available, The Army has worked to liberate our world from The Enemy for thousands of years, slowly and painfully lifting Mankind out of the dark. On the front of the great Conflict are the Angelkillers, veterans of the fight with centuries of experience.

Details

Series: The Angelkiller Triad #1
Genre: Paranormal Sci-fi/Fantasy
Published: Seventh Star Press, 2011
Pages: 207
My copy: From the publisher for the tour

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository
E-copies: Amazon.com  Amazon.co.uk  Barnes & Noble

Review

The Conflict between the Light and the Dark has been raging for centuries. Jonah Mason is a veteran in The Army, working to free mankind from the clutches of evil. Together with his fellow soldiers and an impressive array of  high-tech wizardary, they are gradually gearing up for what could be the battle of their lives.

Set in the near future, Mason and the members of his cell have been using full-virtual-reality MMORPGs (online games, for the uninitiated) as the most secure meeting points. At least, they did until their security is breached and a Minion of the Enemy pays them a visit, offering a deal that could strike a decisive blow in the Conflict.

I’ll admit, the cover and title of Angelkiller did not entice me to pick up a copy of this one during Seventh Star’s open day a couple of months ago, but I’m so pleased I took part in this tour because I really enjoyed reading these two books. They are both fairly short reads which did make them feel a little like one longer work that was broken up into parts, but in the case of this first part, that is not a problem. Occasionally I felt the descriptions of events did not flow as smoothly as I would have liked, but in general the writing style is very enjoyable. There are even a few black and white drawings dispersed throughout the story to aid in visualisation of events!

In Angelkiller, We’re dropped into the action right away with only a few flashbacks to give us context about the cell and their activities in the Conflict. This is a Good versus Evil story on a grand scale, and the author has done a fantastic job of creating the history of the Conflict through the characters and their stories. Even though there are angels and demons involved and plenty of references to “the Master”, this is not a preachy story.

The tension in Angelkiller is brilliant – gradually building up to a tense showdown that was described in loving detail. I was very pleased to have Traitor Angel on hand to carry on with right away!

 


Title: Traitor Angel (Goodreads)
Author:  H. David Blalock

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Jonah Mason, called Angelkiller, faces more than one decision. His Army resistance cell is wounded physically and emotionally, on the brink of falling apart. The mysterious allies calling themselves Knights are pressuring him to abandon his people. Meanwhile, the world outside draws closer to Armageddon.

As Mason and his friends pursue their campaign against Dorian Azrael’s global megacorporation, Andlat Enterprises, the stakes get higher with each desperate foray into the enemy’s computers. They are fated to lose one of their number and gain an unlikely ally, but any advantage they gain could be fleeting at best.

Details

Series: The Angelkiller Triad #2
Genre: Paranormal Sci-fi/Fantasy
Published: Seventh Star Press, October 2012
Pages: 228
My copy: From the publisher for the tour

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository
E-copies: Amazon.com  Amazon.co.uk  Barnes & Noble

Review

In this second book in the Angelkiller Triad, Mason and his cell must try to decipher the files recovered from Azazel, work out who the mysterious Andrael is and try to take down the corporation headed by Azrael.

I felt this instalment suffered from being the middle part in this larger story – there was quite a lot more talking and plotting and nowhere near as much action as there was in Angelkiller, but it does feel like it’s all building up to something amazing in the final part.

The events of Traitor Angel opened up quite a few new questions – who captured Martin and what has happened to him? We only get hints of what is happening in the rest of the world – there’s something brewing in the Middle East, but what? Also, there were tantalising glimpses of what cities are like in this time (in the USA, at least). We are only told that travel is restricted and most people don’t need to commute, but that’s about all. Perhaps it’s not relavent to the story, but I hope part of the third book is set in a city so we can see the society at work!

Even though I didn’t enjoy Traitor Angel as much as Angelkiller, I will be very interested in reading the third part of this Triad. I love a Good versus Evil battle, especially when the combatants are as bad-arse as the Army and the Knights!

Warnings: Supernatural scary bits, but clean.


About the Author

H. David Blalock has been writing speculative fiction for nearly 40 years. His work has appeared in print and online in over three dozen publications, spanning every format from short stories to novels, non-fiction articles to screenplays. He is also editor of parABnormal Digest for Sam’s Dot Publishing. To find out more visit his website at www.thrankeep.com.

 

The Tour

10/29 Great Minds Think Aloud – Review
10/30 Splash of Our Worlds – Character Post
10/31 A Book Vacation – Guest Post
11/1 The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia – Excerpt
11/2 JeanzBookReadNReview – Interview
11/3 Vilutherial Reviews – Interview
11/4 Crossroads Reviews – Review
11/5 The Bunny’s Review – Character Interview
11/6  Ali’s Bookshelf – Review
11/7  Red Headed Bookworm  – Guest Post
11/8 Azure Dwarf Horde of SciFi & Fantasy – Review
11/9  From the Bootheel Cotton Patch  – Character Post
11/10 A Few Words – Review
11/11 The Independent Review – Review
11/12  The Oaken Bookcase – Review
11/13  Beauty in Ruins – Interview
11/14  Ginger Nuts of Horror – Interview
11/15 Bookishly Me – Review
11/16  Full Moon Bites – Interview
11/17  A Daydreamer’s Thoughts – Guest Post
11/18  Stuck in Books – Guest Post
11/19 Sheila Deeth – Review
11/20 Bee’s Knees Reviews – Review
11/22  Darlene’s Book Nook  – Guest Post
11/23  Book and Movie Dimension – Review
11/24  Jess Resides Here – Interview

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for review from Seventh Star Press author as part of a virtual book tour. I was not compensated nor was I required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Guest Review: Embrace, Jessica Shirvington

This is a guest review from Philippa of Tea, Daydreams and Fairytales. It is part of the Discover Australian Fantasy feature, running all July on The Oaken Bookcase. Please visit the Aussie Fantasy page to see the other reviews and articles and also to enter the giveaway – you could win a copy of Embrace!

Also, check out the Dream Cast for Embrace that Badass Bookie guest posted!

Title: Embrace (Goodreads)

Author:  Jessica Shirvington

Rating: ★★★★☆

It starts with a whisper: “It’s time for you to know who you are…”

Violet Eden dreads her seventeenth birthday. After all, it’s hard to get too excited about the day that marks the anniversary of your mother’s death. As if that wasn’t enough, disturbing dreams haunt her sleep and leave her with very real injuries. There’s a dark tattoo weaving its way up her arms that wasn’t there before. 

Violet is determined to get some answers, but nothing could have prepared her for the truth. The guy she thought she could fall in love with has been keeping his identity a secret: he’s only half-human—oh, and same goes for her.

A centuries-old battle between fallen angels and the protectors of humanity has chosen its new warrior. It’s a fight Violet doesn’t want, but she lives her life by two rules: don’t run and don’t quit. When angels seek vengeance and humans are the warriors, you could do a lot worse than betting on Violet Eden…

Details

Series: The Violet Eden Chapters #1 of 3
Genre: Young adult Paranormal
Published: Hachette Australia, October 2010. Overseas: Sourcebooks Fire, March 2012.
Pages: 400

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository
E-copies: Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble
NB. Not available in Australia on Amazon.com for kindle but it might be in the US!

Review

I have had both good and bad experience with YA angel novels in the past.  Firstly there is the Unearthly series by Cynthia Hand with I absolutely loved, then there are books like Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick which I would quite happily burn all copies of the book and main character irritated me so much and Fallen which I put down as a DNF after struggling to get through the first 100 pages!  I had first chosen to read Embrace at the beginning of the year when choosing books for the 2012 Debut Author Challenge hosted by The Story Siren.  Much to my surprise I discovered that Jessica Shirvington is in fact a fellow Aussie and this book has been out Down Under for quite awhile now! I was so keen to read it I broke my ebook only rule and actually purchased the physical book (sadly the ebook is NOT available in Australia along with many other wonderful YA books I’m desperate to purchase!).

Alternative cover

Embrace is the story of Violet who has never particularly enjoyed her birthdays as her mother died shortly after giving birth to her.  On her 17th birthday her mother had left her a gift including a strange letter hinting about faith and otherwordly concepts leaving her feeling quite confused.  Shortly after turning 17 Violet discovers she is part angel and has to decide whether to forgo her angel heritage or “embrace” this side of her fully.

I really liked Violet as a character for the most part of this book.  She starts off strong, self sufficient and completely relatable.  It’s actually a nice change to have a girl who is fit and sporty as a central character for no reason other than she wants to be, I can’t really think of another main heroine who is like that.  Through the book she gets quite ragey and spiteful which is out of character and at first I was puzzled by it then caught on that there were paranormal influences at work and this just worked for the story. Like any good heroine Violet isn’t perfect, she makes mistakes, learns a lot and really grows into her new world as the story progresses while still managing to stay grounded in her normal day to day life.

Like so many Young Adult books there are 2 guys and I found both of them to be completely HOT, there is the quiet, reserved “good” guy Lincoln and then the dark mysterious “bad” boy Phoenix who both get quite a bit of air time.  Now I’m sure there will be quite a few Phoenix fans out there but I must be drawn to the strong silent type or something because I swear if she ends up with Phoenix at the end of this quartet I will have to smack her over the head for her stupidity! For a bit of fresh air in a YA book there is actually some sex which is so rare these days I actually reread the scene because I was like “did she just do that… like really did she?!!!”  Both of the guys really are more than they seem, their characters are definitely much deeper then just good and bad and this is what really made this story a great read. I personally can’t wait to find out more about Phoenix’s backstory in the future books.

I really enjoyed the angel mythology and premise of this world as well and can’t wait to find out more, the whole “Embrace” trials to accept your Grigori powers was really interesting and I will be interested to find out even more about the myhology in the remaining books of the series. I really liked how the whole Angel and Grigori lore was new to Violet as well and the information was given out in a way that didn’t make it too overwhelming – you just went on the learning journey with her as the story progressed.

Overall I found this to be a fantastic debut novel by a great Aussie author and think anyone with an interest in Angel or paranormal stories will appreciate this story!

– Philippa, Tea, Daydreams and Fairytales

The Violet Eden Chapters

  1. Embrace (2010 in AU/2012 overseas)
  2. Enticed (2011 in AU/Sept 2012 overseas)
  3. Emblaze (2011 in AU)
  4. Endless (Expected publication 2012)

 

About the Author

Jessica Shirvington lives in Sydney with her husband of ten years, FOXTEL presenter and former Olympic sprinter Matt Shirvington, and their two daughters. She has previously founded and run a coffee distribution company, Stella Imports, in London, and been involved in managing the restaurants Fuel Bistro, Tow Bar and MG Garage in Sydney.

She is currently a full-time mum, author and co-director in the company MPS Investments Pty Ltd.

Review: Dark Kiss, Michelle Rowen

Dark Kiss, Michelle RowenTitle: Dark Kiss (Goodreads)

Author:  Michelle Rowen (@michellerowen)

Rating: ★★★☆☆

I don’t do dangerous.  Smart, über-careful, ordinary Samantha-that’s me. But I just couldn’t pass up a surprise kiss from my number-one unattainable crush. A kiss that did something to me…something strange. Now I feel hungry all the time, but not for food. It’s like part of me is missing-and I don’t know if I can get it back. Then there’s Bishop. At first I thought he was just a street kid, but the secrets he’s keeping are as intense as his unearthly blue eyes. If he’s what I think he is, he may be the only one who can help me. But something terrifying is closing in, and the one chance Bishop and I have to stop it means losing everything I ever wanted and embracing the darkness inside me.

Details

Series: Nightwatchers #1 (of 3)
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Published: Harlequin Teen, May 22, 2012 – e-book versions releasing June 1
My Copy: Digital ARC from Netgalley

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository
E-copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble

Review

Don’t let the blurb fool you – this book is not about vampires. It’s similar, but it’s souls that are being sucked rather than blood. A team of two angels and two demons have been sent from Heaven and Hell to find the Source of these soul-sucking “greys” and destroy it. Samantha is just a normal seventeen year old, until a kiss changes everything and she discovers mysterious powers she didn’t have before. She meets and helps Bishop, but it’s not long before she’s not sure who she can trust.

Dark Kiss is a fairly typical paranormal romance – girl is attracted to supernatural boy, boy is dangerous but girl doesn’t care, swooning ensues. There are plenty of romantic moments in this story, but they ended up slowing the story down at times as Sam described pages of how she was longing to touch him and could smell his spicy scent. Some of the descriptions and inner monologues were a little wordy, and there is a LOT of dialogue between the characters as well, mostly talking about the same stuff over and over. If one more person referred to Sam as being “special”, I was about ready to throw the book down and scream! Thankfully, the action picked up a lot more towards the end, making up for the earlier slow parts.

Poor Sam doesn’t know who to trust for most of the story as it’s not clear who the “good guys” actually are. The angels are sweet but keep dark secrets. The demons are snarky or downright nasty but they have a softer side. The Source is just trying not to let Heaven and Hell kill off unique snowflakes, or so she says, and it’s all a big mess for Sam to try to understand. This actually makes it quite suspenseful for the reader.

Sam is an interesting character in that she is kind of flighty and undecided. One moment, she hates Bishop and doesn’t want anything to do with the angels and demons, and the next moment she is madly in love with him and is in agony trying not to let herself get too close.  She jumps to conclusions very quickly and gets angry at the drop of a hat, but she is quite a generous person and wants to help everyone if she can. I didn’t really connect with her all that well, partly because I had no idea what she was going to do next! Perhaps I just described a teenage girl. Perhaps it’s been too long since I was one.

There’s an awful lot of past hinted at but left unsaid in this story, leaving plenty of material for the next in the Nightwatchers series. I will probably read it just to see what happens next. I didn’t enjoy Dark Kiss as much as I thought I might, but paranormal romance fans might like it a lot more.

Warnings: Violence. Kissing but no sex.

This book was read and reviewed to be included in the Immortal Reading Challenge.

Review: Talisman of El, Alecia Stone

Talisman of El, Alecia Stone

Title: Talisman of El (Goodreads)

Author:  Alecia Stone (@Alecia_Stone)

Rating: ★★★☆☆

When 14-year-old Char­lie Blake wakes up sweat­ing and gasp­ing for air in the mid­dle of the night, he knows it is hap­pen­ing again. This time he wit­nesses a bru­tal mur­der. He’s afraid to tell any­one. No one would believe him … because it was a dream. Just like the one he had four years ago – the day before his dad died.

Details

Series: Talisman of El #1 of 3
Genre: Middle-grade/Young Adult Fantasy/Mythology
Published: Centrinian Publishing, May 20, 2012.
Pages
(hardcover): 364
My copy: Digital ARC from Netgalley

Paper copies: Amazon.com (hardcover) • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository
E-copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble

Review

Charlie is a fourteen-year-old orphan who has just moved into a new foster home. His sleep is plagued by strange dreams, but things start to get really strange when he finds out that the events of his dreams have actually happened. The story draws Charlie and his friends into a strange underground world populated by angels, elementals and demons and sets him on the path towards finding out who he is and why he has these strange dreams.

Talisman of El has an amazing premise – a returned King set to restore an ancient amulet and to save mankind from destruction. The exciting and dramatic scenes are great, and the plight of the orphaned boys really pulls at the heartstrings. Unfortunately, there was just something about the story that prevented it from being the epic read that it sounded like it could have been.

The main problem I have with Talisman of El is that there is a lot of detail. The mythologies that Charlie, Derkein, Alex and Richmond encounter are very complicated and terminology is thrown out all over the place. I had to keep going back in the story to check descriptions to keep up with what was going on, and that’s not so easy on a Kindle. I’m just a little concerned that younger readers will have trouble following all the ins and outs of the worlds, the elements, the angels and all the systems described.

I’m not sure if it’s the amount of explanation, but the story didn’t flow well for me. The story sometimes jumped forwards in time within the same chapter, as though a few minutes of the story had been cut out. This wasn’t made easier to deal with by a few formatting issues in the Digital ARC I read, but occasionally I was confused as to what just happened and had to go back and check.

Despite these issues, Talisman of El was an exciting read and a great debut for Alecia Stone. I will be interested to see how Charlie’s story continues in the next part of the series.

No warnings: It’s squeaky clean.

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