paranormal

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: The Bone Season, Samantha Shannon

The Bone SeasonThe Bone Season (Goodreads)
Author: Flag_uk Samantha Shannon (website)

Rating: ★★★★½

It is the year 2059. Several major world cities are under the control of a security force called Scion. Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London, part of a secret cell known as the Seven Seals. The work she does is unusual: scouting for information by breaking into others’ minds. Paige is a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant, and in this world, the voyants commit treason simply by breathing.

But when Paige is captured and arrested, she encounters a power more sinister even than Scion. The voyant prison is a separate city—Oxford, erased from the map two centuries ago and now controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. These creatures, the Rephaim, value the voyants highly—as soldiers in their army.

Paige is assigned to a Rephaite keeper, Warden, who will be in charge of her care and training. He is her master. Her natural enemy. But if she wants to regain her freedom, Paige will have to learn something of his mind and his own mysterious motives.

Details

Series: The Bone Season #1
Genre: Dystopia/Paranormal Fantasy/Sci-fi
Published: Bloomsbury, August 20 2013
Pages: 480
My copy: the publisher for review

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

Review

With a fast paced story, a strong heroine and a world described with exquisite detail, I enjoyed The Bone Season from beginning to end. I had heard a lot about how this was to be the next Hunger Games, the next big hit. While I’m not sure it quite hit that mark, I thought it was a brilliantly written debut that fans of the Hunger Games should certainly enjoy.

Paige is a clairvoyant – living in hiding in the criminal underworld from those in Scion London who believe her to be “Unnatural”. Her gift is to be able to sense other people’s dreamscapes and can influence others, even hurt them. She discovers that her abilities can even be deadly when she is discovered on the underground and kills two guards in self-defence. For that crime, she is arrested and sent to the penal colony of Sheol I, in the mysterious lost city of Oxford. There, she is introduced to the Rephaim – a strange race of humanoid beings who are living alongside voyant humans as their masters. All Paige wants to do is get away from her cold and aloof keeper, Warden, but as the weeks unfold it seems that the Rephaim are up to more than just keeping the world safe from the flesh-eating Emite beasts.

The Bone Season isn’t actually publicised as Young Adult, but it reads a lot like a YA Dystopia with its young protagonist, fighting to release other young people from an repressive society. This is not a new story – in fact I can think of several books I’ve read recently that have quite a similar high-level storyline, but in the Bone Season we are treated to quite a unique take on it. The world that Samantha Shannon has created here is rich and incredibly detailed, not just the corporeal world of the Scion citadel of London and of Oxford’s Sheol I, but also the etheral world – that of dreamscapes, spirits, soothsayers and guardian angels.

The world of Scion is a sort of alternative future, where the United Kingdom was rocked by some kind of event in the early nineteenth century. The Rephaim appeared from the aether and clairvoyants started appearing in the population. Fast forward to 2059 and London is now a Scion citadel, providing young voyants for the use of the Rephaim of Sheol I, or Oxford. It all has a slightly steam-punkish feel to it, although history seems to have continued in a similar fashion to the real world with Frank Sinatra music, computers and high heels still around.

The first few chapters of the story felt rather overwhelming at times, as the reader is thrown right into the thick of this world and its vernacular. There is a glossary at the back of some commonly used slang which might come in handy if you know about it before you get to the end! We only gradually learn about what has happened in the past and what the Rephaim actually are, and by the end of this first book in the series I still have a lot of questions about all manner of things in this world. The Rephaim themselves actually confused me a little as in another series I’ve read recently by Paula Weston, the Rephaim are half-angels and quite different from the beings in this book.

Information overload aside, Samantha Shannon has done an amazing job of keeping the pace up in this debut work. I had a hard time stopping at the end of each chapter, especially towards the end! The action grabbed me more than the characters did – while some of the characters were charmingly unique, I felt that most of the Dials group were a little nondescript and even the Rephaim themselves were hard to visualise. I did love Paige though – she was incredibly determined to hate everyone she perceived as an enemy and that made her a very strong character. The progression of her relationship with Warden was slightly predictable but subtle enough that I loved how it evolved.

I found The Bone Season to be a fantastic debut from Samantha Shannon who at only 22 years of age, with a seven-book publishing deal and upcoming film production under her belt certainly has a bright career ahead of her. Bring on the next in the series!

Warnings: Graphic violence, some sexual situations

What did others think of The Bone Season?

  • “If you like urban fantasy at all, please read this, you won’t regret it.” – Curiosity Killed the Bookworm
  • “Shannon has created so much strange and peculiar mythology that provided so much depth to the novel. This book is just something so odd and yet so special at the same time. ” – Scott Reads It
  • “The world in The Bone Season was very in depth and well thought out, with its own language and a uniqueness unlike anything I’ve ever read before. But … sometimes it got a bit confusing and hard to grasp.” – Auntie Spinelli Reads

 

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Review: Banish, Nicola Marsh

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!


BanishBanish (Goodreads)
Author: flag_aus Nicola Marsh (website)

Rating: ★★★½☆

Alyssa has one week to destroy her enemy, save her spirit… and save her soul. 

After her ex-boyfriend commits suicide and her mum’s alcoholism sparks yet another psychotic episode, seventeen-year-old Alyssa Wood flees her small hometown of Broadwater and heads to New York City to stay with her bohemian aunt — a Wicca High Priestess.

Alyssa revels in the anonymity of a big city and her new life. Her grades climb, she has a new best friend, and a new guy: the sexy geek Ronan — a saxophone player who prefers jazz to pop.

But her newfound peace is soon shattered when she sees a dead body in one of Ronan’s music clips — and she’s the only one who can see it. Worse still, Alyssa recognises the body that has been murdered a week forward!

Alyssa doesn’t believe in the supernatural…despite her family’s Wicca background. So how will she overcome evil when it’s closer than she thinks?

Details

Series: Stand alone (so far)
Genre: YA Paranormal Fantasy
Published: Harlequin Teen, August 1, 2013
Pages: 272
My copy: the publisher for review

Paper copies:  Book Depository (pre-order) • Bookworld • Booktopia
E-copies:  Amazon.com

Review

Alyssa’s boyfriend committed suicide just after she dumped him, and on top of her mum’s strange behaviour and alcoholism this is all just too much. She flees to New York City to live with her aunt, who is a Wicca High Priestess. She loves living in the city and she is settling in to her new school. She has even been asked out by the hot music tutor, Ronan. But something strange starts to happen to Alyssa – one of Ronan’s music clips contains footage of a murdered person at the end, and when things relating to her dead ex-boyfriend Noah start showing up, Alyssa is seriously freaked out. Is there someone out to get her, or is there something more supernatural at work?

Banish is a rather creepy paranormal thriller. The story takes a little while to get going, with Alyssa only gradually revealing what happened to her before coming to New York City, but once things get going the tension is high all the way through.

Sadly, the characters annoyed me. Ronan was too perfect and a rather creepy older guy – I kept thinking he would make a great psycho killer, even though it was rather obvious who the real baddie was going to be. Alyssa was just extremely selfish all the way through – she gets back home to find her mother feeling much better than she was before Alyssa left, and rather than be happy for her mum, she feels angry and upset that her mum is doing so much better without her. It’s not until the very end of the story that she matures slightly, enough to realise that the world doesn’t revolve around her and that she might have dealt with things differently. Also, she is a die-hard skeptic, even after paranormal events happen to her. As the child of a Wiccan, even as a supposed non-believer I thought that she might be slightly more open-minded than she was stubbornly being. I dunno, it’s probably just me being rubbed the wrong way!

Despite my character dislikes I did enjoy the overall storytelling style. I don’t know a lot about Wicca as a belief system but the elements of it within this book are well-written. It’s obvious that Nicola Marsh’s previous works are romances – the romantic scenes in Banish are rather swoony. The end of the story is left wide open for a sequel, so there’s a good chance I’ll pick up the next book in the series.

Warnings: Sexual references, violence

About the Author

nicolamarshUSA TODAY bestselling Aussie author Nicola worked as a physiotherapist for thirteen years before she tired of saying “I’m going to write a book one day” and actually did it. She started writing late 2001 and found once she started she couldn’t stop!

Nicola has published 40 books and sold over 4 million copies worldwide with Harlequin Mills & Boon, Entangled Publishing and indie. Her first mainstream contemporary romance, ‘Busted in Bollywood’, (‘Sex and the City’ meets ‘Eat, Pray, Love’) released from Entangled Publishing December 2011 to rave reviews and was a finalist for ROMANTIC BOOK of the YEAR 2012.

Nicola loves the hip, vibrant, cosmopolitan vibe of her home city, Melbourne, where she’s set the bulk of her novels, highlighting fabulous cultural and food havens like Acland Street (St. Kilda), Brunswick Street (Fitzroy) and Lygon Street (Carlton).

When she’s not writing she’s busy raising her two little heroes, sharing fine food with family and friends, cheering on her beloved North Melbourne Kangaroos footy team or her favourite past time, curling up with a good book.

(Bio and image from Goodreads)

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 Golem and the Jinni, Helene Wecker

The Golem and the Jinni, Helene WeckerThe Golem and the Jinni (Goodreads)
Author: flag_usa Helene Wecker (website)

Rating: ★★★★★

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life to by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master-the husband who commissioned her-dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York harbor in 1899.

Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free-an unbreakable band of iron around his wrist binds him to the physical world.

Overwhelmed by the incessant longing and fears of the humans around her, the cautious and tentative Chava-imbued with extraordinary physical strength-fears losing control and inflicting harm. Baptized by the tinsmith who makes him his apprentice, the handsome and capricious Ahmad-an entity of inquisitive intelligence and carefree pleasure-chafes at monotony and human dullness. Like their immigrant neighbors, the Golem and the Jinni struggle to make their way in this strange new place while masking the supernatural origins that could destroy them.

Details

Series: Stand alone
Genre: Historical and Paranormal Fantasy
Published: HarperCollins, April 23 2013
Pages: 496
My copy: the publisher via Edelweiss

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository
E-copies: Not available on kindle • Barnes & Noble

Review

I was first attracted to The Golem and the Jinni because of the cover (see my recent Cover Lover post), but the blurb further intrigued me. It combines two genres that I love to read – historical fiction and mythological creatures.

The Golem and the Jinni is the story of two creatures of myth – a Golem created out of clay and animated with dark Kabbalist magic, and a Jinni of the Syrian desert, trapped for a thousand years in a metal oil flask. Each of them comes to America with migrants, and must try to find their way while keeping their natures secret. Luckily for them, each has a confidante in their respective ex-pat communities who helps them to integrate into society as best they can. They meet in New York at the turn of the twentieth century and each instantly recognise the otherworldliness of the other. This story is not just about their relationship, but also about the lives of those in the Jewish and Syrian ex-pat communities as well as others who call New York City home. Each has their own story of heartbreak and hope and their story threads are woven into the picture of immigrant life. It was a hard life for those who chose to leave their countries, families and all that was familiar and make a new start in a strange country, but the community banded together to help newcomers, and as long as you brought with you a willingness to work hard, things worked out just fine.

These are characters that stay with you after you’ve finished reading – the doctor who was possessed by a demon and cannot look at faces anymore, the coffee shop owner who knows all the business of her customers and oils the cogs of community life, the young heiress who cannot face the life of boredom that awaits her once she is married.

As the characters travel through the city of New York, it almost feels like the city is a character in itself. I’ve only been to NYC once for a couple of days, but I could feel the spirit of the city as I read about the Jinni walking the streets and visiting the different neighbourhoods.

Throughout the story the subject of religion is brought up at different points – from the Jinni trying to understand why these strange humans would bother believing in a ghost in the sky who grants wishes, to the agnostic Michael re-discovering the soothing sounds of his childhood in the Synagogue. This is by no means a religious story, but the different ways that religion manifests in people’s lives is explored in quite a profound way. The main feeling I took away from the story is that for many people, their faith is a constant – a comforting way to deal with everyday pressures, joys and tragedies. Thankfully, the different religious groups in NYC keep to themselves and there’s no actual religious conflict during this story.

The Golem and the Jinni has been compared to quite a few books, such as A Discovery of WitchesThe Night CircusJonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, but I really didn’t think it was similar to any of those. The pacing is spot on – quite comfortable for much of the story but gradually building with the tension. The romance element is very subtle, almost non-existent in fact, but still quite lovely.

Helene Wecker has created a beautiful story full of loneliness, self-discovery and magic. It is a perfect combination of folklore set in a historical setting. I found it very enjoyable and I’ll be looking out for Wecker’s future works for sure.

Warnings: Sexual situations (not graphic) but on the whole, quite squeaky clean.

What did others think of The Golem and the Jinni?

  • “It’s a magical tale, but the magic is not overt. It’s subtle, and lies more in the sense of wonder and creation than the fantastical.” – Let Them Read Books
  • “Absolutely stunning and captivating I cannot recommend the Golem and the Jinni enough.” – Kimba the Caffeinated Reviewer
  • “Both subtly magical, and mythical, The Golem and the Jinni excels at crafting a wide array of characters, as well as showcasing 19th century New York.” – Ageless Page Reviews

Review: The Eternity Cure, Julie Kagawa

The Eternity Cure Julie KagawaTitle: The Eternity Cure (Goodreads)
Author: flag_usa Julie Kagawa (website)

Rating: ★★★★☆

Allison Sekemoto has vowed to rescue her creator, Kanin, who is being held hostage and tortured by the psychotic vampire Sarren. The call of blood leads her back to the beginning—New Covington and the Fringe, and a vampire prince who wants her dead yet may become her wary ally.

Even as Allie faces shocking revelations and heartbreak like she’s never known, a new strain of the Red Lung virus that decimated humanity is rising to threaten human and vampire alike.

Details

Series: Blood of Eden #2
Genre: Young adult Paranormal/Dystopian Science fiction/Horror
Published: Harlequin Teen, 30 April 2013.
Pages: 446
My copy: the publisher via Netgalley

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

The Eternity Cure (Blood of Eden #2

Please note, this is my review for the second book in the Blood of Eden series and so contains spoilers for the first book. You may wish to read my review of The Immortal Rules instead!


Review

After the rollercoaster ride that was The Immortal Rules, I was keen to get stuck into The Eternity Cure. I was delighted to discover that, although a little slow at the beginning while things were re-capped, this second instalment gripped me just as much as the first!

Allison Sekemoto has delivered her friends to safety, but as a vampire, she is not welcome with them. She resumes her search for her mentor, Kanin, following her sense of his presence as her sire. She knows he is being held captive and tortured by the psychotic vampire Sarren, but instead of being led to Kanin, she discovers her sibling, Jackal – the leader of the Raider city her human friends had been held captive in not long ago. It seems he and Allison might be after the same goal in the short term, but is it safe to trust him?

Even though the subject matter in this story is often quite dark and violent, there is just enough light-hearted humour to bring the story out of being a depressing read. The first few chapters contain quite a lot of re-cap from the first book, so it felt a little slow to someone like me who only just read the first book, but once the action got going, it was all go, go, go. The journey into and back out of New Covington was nail-bitingly suspenseful and there were just enough twists to keep me guessing all the way to the end. And wow, what an ending! The third book cannot come fast enough!

When Allie first meets back up with Jackal, I was a bit confused. I didn’t remember him playing a very large role in the first book – apart from being a heartless bastard, that is. In any case, he was an interesting and enigmatic addition to the new storyline, and even by the end we have no idea whether he is trustworthy or not. Such a well-written character, and I enjoyed his snark, even if I wanted to slap him more than a few times! Zeke, also, is quite different in this book – harder and more kick-arse. As the only human through a lot of the story he does a great job at making sure none of the vampires push him around, even if they could rip out his throat at any moment.

The one thing that slightly disappointed me about this book was the romantic aspect. I know, I know, it’s young adult, there has to be some romance, and after the scene at the end (no spoilers) it is necessary to a certain degree (my heart! *clutches*), but hear me out. After Zeke appears back on the scene, he knows that Allie is a vampire and that she is now working with Jackal, but he forgives her way too quickly, in my opinion. The rebuilding of their relationship could have been drawn out until the very end of the book in exquisite agony for each of them, but no. I’m trying not to give too much of anything away here, so I’ll just say that the romantic elements of this particular book didn’t work for me.

The Eternity Cure is a much darker book than The Immortal Rules in a lot of ways, but still brilliantly written and full of edge-of-the-seat suspense all the way through. I would highly recommend this series to any dark urban fantasy enthusiasts.

Warnings: Graphic violence.

Blood of Eden series

immortalrules The Eternity Cure Julie Kagawa

What did others think of The Eternity Cure?

  • “Even better than the first book! Fast pacing and high action combine for a gripping, edge of your seat read!” – Auntie Spinelli Reads
  • “It is Jackal – Allison’s blood brother and old enemy – that truly makes an impression in this instalment. He is cocky, presumptuous, unpredictable, and, more than anything, a brilliant source of dark humour and entertainment.” – Realm of Fiction
  • “…I don’t know that I’ve ever read a vampire story — especially from the point-of-view of the vampire — that I’ve loved more.  And I’ve read a lot of good ones.  Trust me.” – The Starry-Eyed Revue

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 Immortal Rules, Julie Kagawa

The Immortal RulesTitle: The Immortal Rules (Goodreads)
Author: flag_usa Julie Kagawa (website)  

Rating: ★★★★★

Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a walled-in city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten. Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them—the vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself dies and becomes one of the monsters.

Forced to flee her city, Allie must pass for human as she joins a ragged group of pilgrims seeking a legend—a place that might have a cure for the disease that killed off most of civilization and created the rabids, the bloodthirsty creatures who threaten human and vampire alike. And soon Allie will have to decide what and who is worth dying for… again.

Details

Series: Blood of Eden #1
Genre: Young adult Paranormal/Dystopian Science fiction/Horror (Vampires and Zombies, oh my!)
Published: Harlequin Teen, April 2012. Paperback March 26, 2013.
Pages: 485
My copy: the publisher via Netgalley

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

The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden #1

Review

I heard so many amazing things about this book around its original publication date in 2012, but avoided it because, well… vampires. I really wish I had picked it up though – I ended up loving it as much as everyone else seemed to!

At some point in the near future, a deadly disease wipes out most of the human population of earth. The vampires were not susceptible to the disease, and barricaded themselves within certain cities, keeping some humans nearby as a food source in exchange for relative safety. In trying to create a cure for the disease, the rabids were created – mindless zombies who roam the world outside the cities, killing any living creature in their path.

Allison (known as Allie) lives in the fringe of the city where everyday survival is a struggle for those who choose to remain unregistered as “blood donors” by the vampires. One fateful night, Allie and her group are attacked and killed by rabids. Allie, however, doesn’t stay dead. She is “rescued” by a vampire – turned into the very thing that she hates.

Allie spends much of the story trying to come to terms with the fact that she is now dead, no longer human, and a blood-craving monster. I really admired her strength, but also her vulnerability as she mourns the life she left behind, even if it wasn’t much of a life. Her journey out of the city and towards the fabled city of Eden is very tense – at any moment she could be discovered or attacked, or get a whiff of blood and lose her self-control. The pacing is just right and I couldn’t put the book down – in fact it kept me reading well into the night with a torch while I was camping over the Easter weekend!

I wasn’t sure how I felt about the whole business with the religious group at first. I was slightly annoyed that religion had come into it, but the more I thought about it the more it made sense for someone like Jeb to have such a single-minded purpose. I must admit I thought Zeke was a bit too much of a warm fuzzy romantic interest rather than a real leader, but he does improve by the end. I hope Allison manages to run into him again before long.

Vampire society, while briefly introduced to Allie by Kanin during her training, doesn’t play any part in this part of the story. The fact that we see barely any other vampires and that Kanin disappears from the picture so quickly made it painfully obvious that this is just the first part of a much larger story. I’ll be interested to see how he comes back into things.

I would highly recommend The Immortal Rules for anyone who likes the sound of a gritty dystopian, with vampires and zombies who are slightly different from the current norm. The second book in this series, The Eternity Cure, is due for release at the start of May and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into it!

Warnings: Graphic violence including towards children.

Blood of Eden series

The Immortal Rules The Eternity Cure

What did others think of The Immortal Rules?

  • “If you swore never to pick up a vampire book again, this book is worth breaking that promise over.” – Tea, Daydreams & Fairytales
  • “Allison is actually a kick-ass heroine set to rival the likes of Buffy and whilst I didn’t see her as more than a regurgitated Katniss at first, she soon proved to be a hell of a lot more.” – Once Upon A Time
  • “The Immortal Rules is anything but traditional, and most importantly it is GOOD. (And by good I mean awesome to the point where I had trouble doing my job because I kept telling myself to read “just one more page” on my Kindle app.)” – Nina on Goodreads
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