demons

Review: City of Ashes, Cassandra Clare

City of AshesCity of Ashes (Goodreads)
Author:   Cassandra Clare

Rating: ★★★★☆

Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what’s normal when you’re a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who’s becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn’t ready to let her go — especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary’s only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil — and also her father.

To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings — and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?

Details

Series: The Mortal Instruments #2
Genre: YA Paranormal/Urban Fantasy
Published: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2008
Pages: 453

Paper copies: Amazon.com Amazon.co.ukBook Depository
E-copies: Amazon.comAmazon.co.ukBarnes & Noble • Bookworld (ePub)

Please note: This review is for the second in the Mortal Instruments series and so contains spoilers for the first book, City of Bones. You may wish to read my review of that book instead!


Review

It’s been quite a while since I read City of Bones, but after I saw the film recently I was keen to get back into Jace, Clary and Simon’s world to see what happens next. I didn’t think the movie was done very well, but that’s another story I’ll rant about another time…

At the end of City of Bones, (spoiler incoming) View Spoiler ». There’s no time to clean up the mess before Alec and Isabelle’s mother, Maryse turns up with the Shadowhunter Inquisitor, charged with finding out what is going on. Meanwhile, “Downworlder” children are being murdered in New York City and the Shadowhunters must find out who is behind it before they strike again.

In my City of Bones review, I mentioned I was disappointed by the cheesy one-liners that are everywhere in the dialogue (and I mean, everywhere). In City of Ashes the cheesiness is still there, but I think after having seen the movie and got used to the slightly toungue-in-cheek nature of Cassie Clare’s storytelling style, I’ll admit I didn’t find it quite so annoying.

There are still some annoying things about the characters in this story, mind you. Jace, for one, was just so whiny and brooding all the time. I mean, he does have quite a lot to be brooding about, but he’s always so grumpy, I’m not really sure what Clary sees in him! (my blogging buddy Philippa is going to kill me at this point, she loves Jace! Sorry!).

I did, however, enjoy the development in almost all the characters in this story – Simon’s transformation, the development of Clary’s powers, and the fact that we’re never quite sure which side Jace is actually on until the very end. Also, there is an almost exquisite awkwardness about Clary and Jace’s relationship. I’m going to hide this behind spoilers because really, if you haven’t read City of Bones, you don’t want to know yet! If you’re in a feed reader, click through to see the spoiler.

View Spoiler »

This series is written in such an engaging style – I struggled to put it down at all. I thought the storyline was a little thin, but it was the character interaction that kept me turning the pages all the way through.

Despite most of the plot threads being tidied away, City of Ashes ends on such a cliffhanger that I am almost having to jump right into the next book immediately!

Fans of YA Urban Fantasy, what are you waiting for? The Shadowhunters’ world is waiting for you.

The Mortal Instruments

City of Bones, Cassandra Clare City of Ashes City of Glass
 cityoffallenangels  cityoflostsouls

#6: City of Heavenly Fire

TBP May 2014

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: Long Lost Song, Stephen C Ormsby

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!


Long Lost SongLong Lost Song (Goodreads)
Author: flag_aus Stephen C Ormsby (website)

Rating: ★★★★☆

A virus is decimating America today and Michael Decker is the culprit. Or is he? Is it the work of a curse recorded into a song by 1930’s blues musician Ricky Jensen?

Long Lost Song tells the story of Ricky and Michael as they battle their personal and real demons while the world reaches end times of biblical proportions. One question remains. How do you stop a devil of a song made to break a crossroads deal?

Details

Series: Stand alone (for now)
Genre: Adult Paranormal Thriller
Published: Mythos Press, 2013
Pages: 244 (large format paperback)

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

Review

Long Lost Song is a modern take on the Faustian “selling one’s soul to the Devil” story. The story starts with the young musician Ricky Jensen, making a deal with the Devil in exchange for musical success. Ricky’s story of the 1930s is woven in and out with other stories from the present day, in which the retired rock musician Michael Decker is pulled from his quiet home in rural Victoria and convinced to travel back into the industry in the USA.

Meanwhile, a terrible pandemic has struck in both the US and Australia, spread by one of Ricky Jensen’s old recordings recently uncovered and spread like a virus via the internet and radio. Listening to the original track will kill outright, but watered-down remixes merely mind-control the listener so that the song can be spread further. Soon the whole world will be infected or dead, ready for the Devil’s final showdown. Michael is the only one who can stop the song’s spread, but he is being framed by the enemy as the instigator of the deadly virus, and he has no idea why he is suddenly America’s Most Wanted.

With plenty of unexpected turns, Long Lost Song is a story of the “end times” with a musical twist. There’s plenty of American and Australian music and pop culture references throughout and it’s clear that Stephen Ormsby must have an extensive playlist!

The pace stays high through the story – Michael gets more and more terrified the deeper he finds himself, and although the reader knows what’s going on with the song and its viral spread, most of the characters have no idea what’s really happening until right at the end of the story. This creates an air of fear and impending doom throughout – it’s very exciting storytelling and I found it difficult to put the book down. The jumping around between points of view (sometimes several times within a chapter) can get a little overwhelming and hard to keep up with at times, but each section helps to flesh out how the song is affecting people around the world.

The final chapter is very exciting and leaves plenty of opportunity for a sequel. Do you like the idea of a  fast-paced thriller with a rockin’ twist? Give Long Lost Song a try.

Warnings: Graphic violence including torture, sexual situations

About the Author

Stephen C OrmsbyStephen C Ormsby was an IT professional for twenty years before deciding to lead a more creative life. He has always loved the idea of writing novels and had written four when Long Lost Song came along, demanding to be published.

2013 looks to be a busy year with potentially three books coming out.

He lives in South Gippsland with his wife, two children and a mad cat named Smudge. He has travelled extensively, is an avid reader and enjoys listening to a wide range of music. He also plays guitar really badly.

(Bio paraphrased 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: The Water Witch, Carol Goodman

The Water WitchTitle: Water Witch (Goodreads)
Author:  Carol Goodman (or her pseudonym, Juliet Dark)

Rating: ★★★★☆

“You have only to call my name to bring me back”, he whispered, his breath hot in my ear. “You have only to love me to make me human”.

Callie McFay is the guardian of the last gateway between the world of Faerie and mankind. Seduced by a powerful incubus demon, she has succeeded in banishing Liam to the Borderlands but he still haunts her dreams, tempting her with the knowledge of how to bring him back. But loving an incubus usually ends in death for a human. For her own sake Callie must learn to control her desires and ensure Liam remains trapped for all eternity in his watery prison.

Only there is a more dangerous creature than Liam in the Borderlands. The Water Witch is also looking for a way back…

Details

Series: Fairwick Chronicles #2
Genre: Adult Paranormal Romance
Published: Ebury Press, September 2012 (will be published February 13, 2013 in the USA by Ballantine – Random House)
Pages: 339
My Copy: The publisher via Netgalley

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

Please note: This review is for the second book in this series, so contains spoilers for the first book, Incubus/The Demon Lover. You may wish to go and read my review of that book instead!

Review

Note: The Water Witch was published in the US under Carol Goodman’s pseudonym, Juliet Dark. 

Callie McFay is a doorkeeper – the only one who can open the last remaining door to Faerie in the woods near Fairwick. The society of witches called the Grove have decided that the door is too dangerous to remain open – it has been letting in all manner of creatures including the Incubus who attacked Callie a few months previously. They want it shut, for ever. Callie and the supernatural creatures who call Fairwick home do not agree and decide to do everything within their power to keep the door open.

US cover

US cover

Meanwhile, despite her best intentions, Callie is still desperately missing her Incubus lover, Liam. She travels to faerie and meets up with him there, but when she returns she starts having strange dreams again. Could Liam be back?

Water Witch is an enjoyable sequel to Incubus. We get to see the development of Callie’s powers, but the romantic aspects of the story that were in the forefront of Incubus are not so important in Water Witch. In fact, Callie has less actual sex with anyone and has more imaginary dream sex again. Also she falls for no less than three separate men over the course of this book. I’m starting to think Callie is… how can I put this delicately? Impressionable, perhaps?

The story is once again smart and quite funny at times. The secondary characters really develop well and bring out their interesting personalities.

One of the main problems I had with Incubus was that the story consisted of a few exciting events, interspersed with boring college life. Water Witch has none of that – in fact the entire story plays out within the space of a few weeks during the college vacation, so this book is free to contain pretty much all action. And it does!

Callie’s poor Incubus doesn’t get much of a go in this book, although there is some raunchy action early on in the story. Without giving anything away, Callie really frustrated me with her inability to see the obvious right in front of her. The second half of the story was really quite predictable and I found it a shame. Once again, we’re left on a cliffhanger so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens next!

Warnings: Graphic sexual content.

What did others think of Water Witch?

  • “It was an entertaining read, but very high on the cheese factor.” – The Book Stop
  • “I desperately wanted to know what would happen on each page. I was also hoping a heavy branch would fall on Callie’s grandmother.” – Fangs, Wands & Fairy Dust
  • “Callie Callie Callie… what are we going to do with you?? She seems to be a lovely girl, but someone you just want to smack upside the head for all the lousy decisions she makes!” – Book Chick City

Review: Incubus, Carol Goodman

incubusTitle: Incubus (Goodreads) or The Demon Lover in the US
Author:  Carol Goodman (or her pseudonym, Juliet Dark)

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Dr. Callie McFay travels to the small college town of Fairwick in New York State for a job interview. Despite it being her second choice she finds herself talked into accepting a job offer from the Folklore Department to teach a class on demons and vampires. She also finds herself drawn to an old house in the woods where Gothic novelist Dahlia LaMotte used to live and buys it on a whim, despite the seeming reluctance of the estate agent to sell it to her.

But on the night of her job interview, she had a very vivid erotic dream about a man made out of shadows and moonlight, and this dream becomes a regular occurrence when she moves into her new home. Callie starts to feel like a heroine in one of the gothic novels she teaches as slowly it dawns on her that things at the college – and in her home – are not what they seem. She learns that her house is supposed to be haunted by LaMotte’s former lover and her new – and rather strange – colleagues tell her an unfamiliar fairy tale about an incubus-demon with a human past who was enchanted by a fairy queen…

Details

Series: Fairwick Chronicles #1
Genre: Adult Paranormal Romance
Published: Ebury Press, July 2011
Pages: 466

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

Review

Note: Incubus was published in the US as The Demon Lover, under Carol Goodman’s pseudonym, Juliet Dark. It is called Incubus in the UK and Australia.

This is where all stories start, on the edge of a dark wood…

I started reading this book thinking it was a YA paranormal romance (perhaps based on the look of the cover?) – but from the first chapter it certainly is not! There are some quite erotic scenes all the way through, so be warned!

US Cover

US Cover

Callie has had erotic dreams featuring a shadowy stranger since she was a teenager, but since coming to live in the town of Fairwick, a few hours drive from New York City, she’s been having more of them. Her supposedly haunted house is not all that it seems and the woods in the back yard are home to some strange and dangerous creatures. Then, Callie discovers there is also more to the staff and students at Fairwick College than meets the eye. Callie’s struggles now include a strange presence in her house plus fitting into supernatural society, not to mention the freezing weather.

The premise and folklore of this story are very well-designed and those who love Celtic mythology should enjoy the many references to fairies and other creatures. It reminded me somewhat of Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches in its paranormal society and academia, and the sexy parts were quite True Blood. The writing was lovely to read and contains plenty of references not just to literary classics but also to modern pop culture.

Unfortunately, the plot did not flow well. Callie seems to flit here and there, does this thing, then she does that. There are a series of exciting events that happen every now and then, but the rest is filled with rather drab day-to-day college happenings.  I felt that quite a lot could have been removed without damaging the story, especially in the first half of the book. I was slightly baffled when Liam turned up, but it didn’t take me long to work out what was happening and after that the rest was quite predictable.

Callie didn’t seem like such a strong heroine and she doesn’t get much of a chance to try out her magical abilities, but I actually really liked Liam and I hope that the second book will bring more from him! I also enjoyed reading about the town of Fairwick and the staff and students of the college – the extra characters were the saving grace of this story, especially Ralph!

Despite the things I didn’t like about the story, I’ll read the second book in the series, The Water Witch – I’m very curious to find out what happens next.

Warnings: Graphic sexual content.

What did others think of Incubus?

  • “Steamy and nuanced, but ultimately a fairly predictable entrance into the already overcrowded paranormal romance genre.” – Kirkus Reviews
  • “If only it were just about the incubus, the story would’ve progressed and ended faster, but no; I was surprised toencounter a whole assortment of paranormal and magical creatures…” – 4 stars – My Library in the Making
  • “Such as the Gothic romances Callie references, this novel is rich in atmospheric prose and mystery. As a book lover and avid reader and hoarder of books, I can’t say how much I loved Callie’s constant references to literature and her talk of how many books she owned.” – 6/10 – All the Books I Can Read

Review: Jack Templar: Monster Hunter, Jeff Gunhus

JackTemplarbanner

Welcome to The Oaken Bookcase’s stop on the Jack Templar Monster Hunter tour! Following my review, there are links to a whole lot of other articles about this book. 

Warning: Only proceed if you are absolutely sure you want to find out about Monster Hunters. Reading this book will almost certainly cause a load of monsters to descend on your house. There’s no backing out if you suddenly get scared of zombies or vampires! Don’t say I didn’t warn you.



Jack TemplarTitle: Jack Templar Monster Hunter 
(Goodreads)
Author:  Jeff Gunhus (@JTmonsterhunter)

Rating: ★★★★☆

Orphan Jack Templar has no memory of his parents and only the smallest details from his Aunt Sophie about how they died. The day before Jack’s fourteenth birthday, things start to change for him.

At first it’s great: A sudden new strength helps him defend his nose-picking friend “T-Rex” from the school bully, and even his crush, Cindy Adams, takes notice. But then a mysterious girl named Eva arrives and tells him two facts that will change his life forever. First, that he’s the descendent of a long line of monster hunters and he’s destined to be in the family business. Second, that there’s a truce between man and monster that children are off-limits…until their fourteenth birthday! Jack has only one day before hundreds of monsters will descend on his little town of Sunnyvale and try to kill him.

Details

Series: Jack Templar #1
Genre: Middle-grade/Teen Fantasy
Published: Seven Guns Press, October 2012
Pages: 196

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk 
E-copies: Amazon.com  Amazon.co.uk  Barnes & NobleIndieBound

Review

Jack is an ordinary thirteen-year-old with the usual problems at school, but a few days before his fourteenth birthday, things start getting really weird. He’s suddenly a bit taller, stronger and faster, people start looking strangely at him in the street and his teachers start to go slightly mad. Jack thinks he’s the one going crazy, but then Eva shows up and reveals the world of the monster hunters to Jack and his two friends, Will and T-Rex.

As it turns out, monsters leave Monster Hunters’ children like Jack alone until they’re fourteen years old, then they’ll all be trying to kill him. Since Jack never actually knew much about his parents or the details of how they died, this is all rather overwhelming. He deals with the whole situation remarkably well though, and is kicking Creach butt before you can say “hey, here comes a horde of zombies!”.

Jack’s first person telling of this story is funny and rather dry, and very enjoyable. There are some rather adult concepts in this book including losing one’s parents, sacrifice and overcoming the odds, but it’s written about in a very accessible way and I think any young teen would love reading it. There’s plenty of non-stop action and at less than 200 pages, it’s quite a quick read.

Just be warned, the first chapter tells in no uncertain terms that reading this book will bring a horde of the Creach down upon your house, so read at your own risk. (Seriously, what a brilliant first chapter, I loved it!). Also, if you haven’t checked out the website, there’s plenty more monster hunter info there!

I really enjoyed this introduction to Jack’s world and I’ll be keeping my eye out for future Templar Chronicles!

Warnings: Some violence.

 

About the Author:

Jeff Gunhus grew up in Cyprus, Greece, and Saudi Arabia where there was a distinct lack of television. He quickly found books were the gateway to incredible adventures, fascinating characters and unbelievable discoveries. Now, with five children of his own (all who watch too much television, in his opinion), he has enjoyed revisiting his old books and reliving those adventures all over again.

 

The Tour

Visit the tour site at Girl Who Reads to see the full tour information, including a Giveaway with some awesome swag.

There will also be a Twitter party hosted by Jeff on Friday, Dec. 21, 6 pm – 8 pm EST. If you have survived the numerous monster attacks that you will undoubtedly face, chat with us using the hashtag #JackTemplar. The easiest way to join the party is with http://tweetchat.com/

Dec. 3 Kid Lit Reviews Character Guest Post
Dec. 4 Breath of Life  ReviewCharacter guest post, and swag giveaway
Dec. 5 It’s About Time Mamaw Review, Character Guest Post and swag giveaway
Dec. 6 Double the Fun Day
Mrs Mommy Booknerd’s Book Reviews Author Guest Post and swag giveaway
Mom With A Kindle Character Interview 
Dec. 7 Tamara’s One Stop Indie Shop Guest Post and swag giveaway
Dec. 8 Loves 2 Read Review, Character Guest Post, and swag giveaway
Dec. 9 Italian Brat’s Obsessions ReviewCharacter Guest Post, and swag giveaway
Dec. 10 Alli’s World Character Guest Post and swag giveaway
Dec. 11 Book Him Danno Review, Character Guest Post, and swag giveaway
Dec. 12  Double the Fun Day
Fairday’s Blog! Review
The Preppy Girl in Pink Guest Post
Dec. 13 Here’s The Story Review, Author Guest Post, and swag giveaway
Dec. 14 Fairday’s Blog! Author Interview and swag giveaway
Dec. 15 Bunny’s Review Character Interview and swag giveaway
Dec. 16 The Oaken Bookcase Review!
Dec. 17 Larkin’s Book Bloggers Review, Author Guest Post, and Swag Giveaway
Dec. 18 Double the Fun Day
Keeping Up With The Rheinlander’s Author Interview and swag giveaway
Geo Librarian Review, Character Guest Post, and swag giveaway
Dec. 19 Double the Fun Day
Pulling Down Books Review
Girl Who Reads Author Guest Post
Dec. 20 Rumor Has It Review, Character Guest Post, Swag Giveaway
Dec. 21 Ali’s Bookshelf Author Guest Post and swag giveaway

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