Review: Iron & Velvet

Posted on April 22nd, 2014 @ 18:35
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Iron & Velvet (Kate Kane, Paranormal Investigator, #1)Iron & Velvet by Alexis Hall

My rating:


First rule in this line of business: don’t sleep with the client….

My name’s Kate Kane, and when an eight-hundred-year-old vampire prince came to me with a case, I should have told her no. But I’ve always been a sucker for a femme fatale.

It always goes the same way. You move too fast, you get in too deep, and before you know it, someone winds up dead. Last time it was my partner. This time it could be me. Yesterday a werewolf was murdered outside the Velvet, the night-time playground of one of the most powerful vampires in England. Now half the monsters in London are at each other’s throats, and the other half are trying to get in my pants. The Witch Queen will protect her own, the wolves are out for vengeance, and the vampires are out for, y’know, blood.

I’ve got a killer on the loose, a war on the horizon, and a scotch on the rocks. It’s going to be an interesting day.


A fun read in several ways. I quite liked the tone in general, as well as some of the characters. I think Elise remains my favourite, even though she doesn’t appear that much, and I can only side with Julian when she says, basically, that “very few people manage to give life to something inanimate, it’s a great feat of ancient, difficult magic… and most of the time, they use their creation as a sex toy.” But then, I’m always partial towards golems. And London, because I love this city. Blood magic and creepy fairies and a hive mind of rats. And there’s a Geat vampire prince. Seriously, how fucking cool is that?

However, after a while, some of the recurrent sass became a little, well, too recurrent—notably Kate’s “Huh” and her tendency to underline the crappy situations in which she put herself in (“Here lies Kate Kane, blah blah. Beloved daughter. Sorely missed.”). She didn’t strike me as a good investigator, spending too much time running here and there grasping at straws, too easily distracted, and I felt that the lead she needed rested too much on happenstance, and was made for plot convenience, rather than something a talented investigator could deduce (or maybe she should have deduced it, considering her origins?). At times I wanted to bang my head and call a too stupid to live on her.

I really didn’t connect with the Kate/Julian relationship. I do get lust, physical attraction, spur-of-the-moment desire, but I tend to find it hard to believe when it turns into strong ties in barely a few days. Certainly not when 800-year-old immortals are concerned (I’d expect them to be more jaded about that). The “sweeting” bit got on my nerves pretty quickly—but I have a hard time with pet names in general. Also, every other female wanted to do Kate, or had been her girlfriend, it seems, and this is treading too much into Mary Sue territory to my liking. As for the sex scenes, they weren’t so exciting—too much purple prose and weird metaphors (“She lay underneath me like an unexploded grenade”… How to put it… Uhm, no?).

I still don’t know if the hints at other stories (Patrick, for instance) are intentional, winks, or lack of inspiration. They’re fun, in a way, but… I don’t know.

2 or 2.5 stars, not sure. I can’t say I disliked this novel, because it does contain elements that make me go squee; however, I can’t say I loved it either.

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Review: What Remains

Posted on April 21st, 2014 @ 17:08
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What Remains (Dead World, #1)What Remains by Kay Holland

My rating: 


Project Fed. It was supposed to be the answer to hunger, but
instead, it was the destruction of the world as we knew it. The growth of chemically enhanced “super” fruits and vegetables began in unmarked farms across the Nations, as well as their distribution in small towns. Within hours of Project Fed’s first delivery and primary consumption, something far beyond expectancy was unleashed. Something far beyond what anyone could help.

Four months later, Seventeen year old Max Cade is trying to
survive amongst what remains of her old life. In an effort to escort an awry “Doctor” from one camp to the next, she will have to reintroduce her two young friends to the horrors beyond their shelter that she so badly wanted to shield them from. Getting there was supposed to be the easy part, but when travelling through a world of ruin, sometimes the undead have other plans.


[I got a copy through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. The book already been published when I requested it, I don't think it was an ARC.]

From the blurb, as well as from the first two chapters, this novel had an interesting premise, and looked like a short, nice read; alas, I didn’t enjoy it.

First problem: too many spelling mistakes and misused words. I know a lot of books out there contain the odd typo, and I wouldn’t nitpick about one, but too many will just throw me out of the story, and this is exactly what happened. A few examples:

“Something still stirred in her bowls after all of this time”
“their since of security”
“the extent of differentially”
“A few interns had committed suicide due to depression and fear” (I think the right word was “inmates”?)
“psychical” in place of “physical”

Also weird sentence structures:

“made helped him to decide”
“Just behind him whom Max thought to be his father was standing at the makeshift hole/window watching the kid and wearing a blank face.”

After a while, it really gets hard to ignore those. (There are also a couple of weird tense shifts, as well as point of view changes that sometimes made it confusing when it comes to know who’s thinking/doing what.)

Another problem: the dichotomy between blurb and book. We readers immediately know what caused the epidemics, but the characters learn about it some 69% in, and in a kind of passing way, as if so many people already knew, except for them. I wouldn’t have minded the late reveal, if the blurb hadn’t given it away from the beginning. So basically the whole mystery about the “virus” petered out quickly, and I wondered what was the point.

The story also runs into several plot holes. The well-locked store where they find shelter, for instance: no infected has been able to enter it in months, yet the characters just waltz in? Or a character whos named before he was formally introduced (probably a typo more than a plot hole… but still annoying). Or the crazy camp captain who threatens to throw them out without their weapons if they don’t do his bidding, yet never takes their guns to better keep them under his thumb.

I couldn’t like nor connect with the characters either. Too much telling about their feelings, for starters; as a result, they came off as bland and more like generic zombie-novel-archetypes rather than real people (and Peter being so ready for a zombie apocalypse, just like that? Hmmm…). They also displayed contradictory reactions (Max knows Paul was only a pre-med student, yet blames him for not being a “real doctor”—he never said he was). Sometimes, those even reached the Too Stupid To Live zone: Paul doesn’t do much when it comes to defending himself, and although they know that travelling by car attracts zombies, they still jump in one as soon as they get the opportunity. Guess what happens next?

The novel does contain good ideas that clearly have their place in such a genre: trust issues; fear of losing one’s “family” because any such connection can be severed at any moment; difficult decisions to make (abandoning someone who may or may not be infected); people going overboard, their crazy desire for control running amok now that there’s no more real society to keep them in check. Unfortunately, those weren’t enough to counterbalance the many mistakes and abrupt transitions.

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Review: Have Wormhole, Will Travel

Posted on April 20th, 2014 @ 09:07
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Have Wormhole, Will TravelHave Wormhole, Will Travel by Tony McFadden

My rating:


Vampires? No Such Thing.

Aliens, though, that’s something else.

They’ve been here, living quietly among us, since before the Industrial Revolution.

Their goal: To ensure we never leave our Solar System. We have a bad habit of wiping out indigenous populations, and theirs is the nearest inhabited planet to ours.

So when a scientist at Sydney University harnesses the power of wormholes, making interstellar travel a virtual walk in the park, one of these tall, pale-skinned aliens, Callum, is forced to choose: destroy us, or help us survive the inevitable Armageddon.

8 billion Earthlings, and our survival is in the hands of one guy – alien – meant to wipe us out.


[I got this book from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

To be fair, I got it a couple of months ago, perhaps a little more, and should probably have read and reviewed it sooner, but… Oh, well.

I liked the basic idea: an alien race has been monitoring Earth (as well as other planets) to make sure none would develop interstellar travel—wormholes would allow just that. It seems we puny humans have a reputation of pillaging barbarians, so they don’t want us anywhere near their home. As a result, their agents have been on planet for centuries, squashing out scientific discoveries (such as cold fusion) as soon as they hit a little too close to home, so to speak. Callum and Jason (we can assume those aren’t their real names) are two such agents, currently living in Sydney, and so when Professor Sam Sheppard stumbles upon the perfect theory to create instant means of travel by way of wormholes, it’s up to them to report to their own bosses and try to fix the problem… or not.

(I won’t pass judgment on the science aspect. String theory isn’t my forte, and I honestly wouldn’t know if what was mentioned in the novel was true to real science or not.)

This premise raised interesting ethical questions, because the aliens are ready to wipe out all human beings just out of fear (but we are the ruthless barbarians). I definitely would’ve wanted to see this developed some more, especially considering the method used in the attempt to save our planet, because there was strong potential in that. On the one hand, it probably would’ve made for a less funny story; on the other hand, the comical aspects weren’t that funny for me, so I guess that’s why I wouldn’t have minded. The novel didn’t do anything for me in that regard, and I felt at times that it didn’t know where to go, whether to be comical or lean towards more serious science-fiction.

The plot was also a bit disjointed here and there, though nothing that prevented me from following what was happening. There was a lot of dialogue and not that many descriptions, so at times it was a little difficult to picture places and people. I’m usually not for long descriptions anyway, but I admit some more this time would have helped.

The characters, to be honest, left me cold. The three girls convinced that Jacob and Callum were vampires made me smile at first; however, their antics tended to become tiring, and I wasn’t sure in the end what was the point, since one of them is only really important because of where she lives, another is simply comic relief, and they were interchangeable. Same with Sheppard, insufferable prick as he was. Though I get those characters were likely meant to be on the cliché side for the sake of poking fun at clichés, it was hard to actually care about them, and consequently about the fate of Earth and how everything would end. They came off as mean and/or stupid more than anything else. Also, Callum definitely pulls a TSTL: what’s the point of being here to stop Sheppard if you give him the means to create wormholes by accidentally doodling equations on a sheet of paper right under his nose? Hadn’t he done that, the problem would’ve been solved from the beginning. I don’t like it when a plot rests on such “happenings” that aren’t too believable.

Some more background about the aliens would’ve been welcome, too. Since one of them appears to lean towards a relationship with a human being, I expected something to explain it. Their race as a whole brushes off humans as expendable, after all.

All in all, as I said, I liked the idea about wormholes, and the book was in itself an easy read. Unfortunately, the unsavory characters, a couple of plot holes, and the way the story seemed to hesitate between “comical” and “actually serious” didn’t allow me to enjoy this novel more.

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Review: Cipher

Posted on April 17th, 2014 @ 22:55
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CipherCipher by S.E. Bennett

My rating:


Cipher Omega is a failed experiment, an identical clone of the brilliant, damaged woman whose genome the scientists of the Basement were trying to copy and improve. All her life she has dreamt of life outside the laboratory, on the surface world, but when her home is destroyed and she’s left the only survivor of a hundred-year human cloning project, she is forced to face the reality of the military-ruled nation that created her. Aided by the only other surviving child of the Basement, an enigmatic solider named Tor, and two rebel freedom fighters named Bowen and Oona Rivers, Cipher finds herself searching for answers, at any cost.


[I got a copy from the publisher through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

I quite liked this novel, though I must admit I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had expected.

The Basement setting and situation were intriguing, and I found the story as a whole pervaded with a feeling of oppression. It was more an impression than definite proof, but I had the nagging feeling that everyone was always being watched by someone else. Maybe because of the Feeds, maybe because Cipher remained aware that she had to watch her back at all times, and acknowledged that as soon as she’d let her guard down, it’d be the end. (And I agree she was right in thinking so!)

Cipher was a likeable character, one who was aware of the problems she was in, yet tried to keep fighting, even if it meant lying low for a while. She wasn’t a whiner, she kept focused on what she wanted and hoped for, and she knew how to put her coding and engineering skills to use in order to build a few backdoors. She only allowed herself to trust a handful of people, and wasn’t fooled by the shiny varnish and empty promises of the Municipality. While there were hints of a potential romance too (perhaps even a triangle), she kept her priorities straight and never let herself be engulfed into that, the way too many characters unfortunately seem to do as soon as a love interest appears. Love was an important motivator for her; however, it was ‘love’ in a wider sense, encompassing friendship and wanting to protect the few people she held dear—not the old-as-sin trope of True Love At First Sight Forever for a boy she had just met. And she remained ‘faithful’ to the Basement people, to her father, even to her sisters, in that she mourned them like the people they had been, and didn’t forget about them as soon as she was out, nor no matter how dire her own circumstances.

I also liked the siblings: Oona for her entusiasm for gardening and living things, in a world so devoid of positive life and new births; and Bowen for being overall sympathetic, understanding, and ready to take calculated risks to get the truth out.

A few things bothered me nevertheless. I expected Tor to be more… impressive when it came to planning, and the same went for Sally (deemed quite the strategist, after all). Some things are explained later when it comes to Tor, but I thought his mother wasn’t so foreseeing, and it seemed a little jarring. (Minor quibble about Tor: his way of calling Cipher ‘love’. It’s probably just me, but I can’t stand that, just like I can’t stand ‘babe’.) I wondered about a couple of inconsistencies, too: for instance, how come Cipher didn’t remember Tor from the Basement, when she was only two years younger, and she said she knew everybody there? She was rather young at the time, yet since she remembered classes she took when she was 4-5, I would’ve thought she would remember him as well?

At times, Cipher’s thoughts also intruded too much on the narrative. They weren’t useless, and contained important information, so they weren’t a problem in themselves; only they tended to interrupt the flow, and made me wonder if they wouldn’t have been better included elsewhere.

I wished Bowen and Oona had been given more importance, probably because of The Truth (the unauthorised Feed they broadcast in the beginning): the latter looked like a useful tool, able to ignite a lot of things, yet it just went away, and the siblings became more and more like ‘people to protect’, and not ‘people who mattered thanks to their actions’. (Perhaps I also slightly resented how Oona was important due to her pregnancy; it made sense within the context of that specific world, but I tend to find such things annoying. As a woman, I’m not at ease with the idea that what makes me important is my ability to have children; I want to believe we’re much more than that. This is however a very personal observation, and I doubt it’ll be a problem for every reader.)

In general, I liked this novel, and if there were to be a next installment—the ending kind of begs for one, especially now that Metis has appeared—I’d probably want to read it. I just can’t push myself to give it more than 3 stars.

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Review: Night Terrors

Posted on April 16th, 2014 @ 21:42
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Night Terrors (Shadow Watch, #1)Night Terrors by Tim Waggoner

My rating: 


It’s Men In Black meets The Sandman.

Meet the fine men and women of the NightWatch: a supernatural agency dedicated to hunting down rogue nightmares that escape from other realms when people dream about them, while ensuring that other dream-folk are allowed to live among the regular, human population… as long as they play by the rules.


[I got a free copy through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

Well, what can I say… I really liked this one? I tend to naturally gravitate towards themes such as dreams and nightmares, and when I saw that Night Terrors dealt with exactly that—more specifically, nightmares made “flesh”—I just couldn’t pass on it. Although I’m also a glutton for punishment, since clowns have always creeped me out, and guess what Jinx is? Yep. The cover kind of gave it away, after all.

Audra and Jinx are agents of the Shadow Watch, an organisation bent on regulating interactions between the human world and Nod, a place where dreams have attained a state of self-awareness. Audra is an Ideator, a human whose psyche created and fleshed out a nightmare (Jinx), until the latter became his own self. Since then, both have been working for that special agency.

Some aspects of this novel rest on well-known tropes, such as the two “cops” with a record of regularly causing havoc while on a mission, or the dashing potential love interest with mysterious goals and a mysterious employer. Or the shady bar with shady customers and a shady bartender who deals information. However, those being traditional fixtures of the detective novel/UF genre, I wasn’t too surprised to see them here. What I appreciated was how they were, but didn’t become too heavy.

I seriously dug the world-building here. The narrative, told in Audra’s voice, is peppered with small doses of information here and there, which allowed me to qickly grasp what Nod and the Shadow Watch stood for, how things worked there, what an Ideator was, and so on. Audra has a tendency to address the reader, which can be annoying to a degree if you don’t like that; personally, I thought it created some kind of complicity, as if I was allowed to get a glimpse of what dreams are really made of.

The characters weren’t the most developed ever, but I found them fun and sympathetic nonetheless. The nightmares/dreamt creatures came in many flavours, ranging from relatively human-looking dreams to strange animals, fear-inducing shadows and even Deathmobiles beaming green aging lasers into their enemies. The concept of their having Night and Day Aspects added interesting possibilities in my opinion. Night Jinx was pretty funny (in his own frightening ways), while Day Jinx turned out to be quite the decent fellow. There’s also a hint of a potential love interest, as said above. It never becomes overwhelming, which I was grateful for: the story’s stakes are high enough, and I seldom root for making-out sessions in such cases. The novel paved the way for more in that regard… or not… and it doesn’t really matter.

I admit I wasn’t too keen on the Evil Gloating speech of the villain towards the end, but at least it wasn’t the Bond Villain Stupidity kind.

As a whole, this book simply… clicked with me. I can’t really explain in objective terms.

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