Tag Archives | review

Advent Thanksgiving: I Gots Terrible Fever

downside covers stacia kane city of magic unholy ghostsMy Advent Thanksgiving series is a series of posts about stuff I liked in 2011. Music, books, tv, games, handsome gentlemen – you get the idea.

I think my love of Stacia Kane’s Downside series is pretty well documented already. I’ve tweeted about it, written a glowing review for the first book in the series, bought the books for my friends and joined the Goodreads self-help group for people with an unshakeable passion for the male lead, Terrible. I read all three books this year (in about a week) and they have undoubtedly been a major highlight of my 2011.

One more thing. Here’s a playlist of tracks from the novel, feat The Stooges, Richard Hell, Chuck Berry, X, Misfits, Them, The Clash and Stiff Little Fingers. Stacia’s got a page of playlists on her site, too. Short of crocheting amigurumi witches and priests (like the people in my last post would), I’m done for now. I’ve said it. The Downside series is great. If you don’t read them it’s your own fault – I did all I could.

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Advent Thanksgiving: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

daughter of smoke and bone laini taylor coverMy Advent Thanksgiving series is a series of posts about stuff I liked in 2011. Music, books, tv, games, handsome gentlemen – you get the idea.

This one’s  a no-brainer. If you haven’t already seen my gushing review of this for the BFS, click here to read it.

When I started doing book reviews it was because I thought it would be cool – I’d just joined the British Fantasy Society, and when they tweeted that they needed more reviewers it seemed an ideal way to get involved. Plus, hey, free books!  I was right, it is cool, and perhaps book reviewing should get it’s own Advent Door as it’s definitely made 2011 fun. I’ve discovered new writers and read great books I might not have found out about otherwise, often before they were published. It’s connected me to other reviewers with similar tastes, and now I review for Slacker Heroes too.  It’s hard to believe that this time last year I didn’t have a blog and hadn’t ever reviewed a book (except out loud, ranting, raving or recommending to my friends).

But when I offered to get involved with reviews there was another factor, apart from coolness and book-greed. Hope. I knew that Laini Taylor and Stacia Kane (two of my favourite writers) both had new books out soon. I didn’t expect it to work out, but I crossed my fingers and squinted my eyes up and hoped I might get to read one of them early. I was willing to risk reading bad books by other people if it meant I was in with a chance of getting one of theirs. I didn’t think I actually would, but you gotta hope, right?

daughter of smoke and bone laini taylor fan art

But I did! Hope works, people! The reviews person at the BFS had approximately 90 seconds grace between sending out the ‘Would anyone like to review ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone‘ and getting a shrieking, capitalised response from me, begging for the review copy. Which I got. W00t!

I then panicked that the book might not be as good as I hoped, that my high expectations would sour it, and I left the book on my table for a while. I worried. Then finally I began, and loved it. Phew. I still want more Dreamdark books, and I miss Magpie and her band of crows. But Karou and the warring angels were a sumptuous substitute for the sequel to Silksinger (ooh, so many Esses) and now I have two Laini Taylor series to recommend. Marvellous.

(Just need someone from Harper Collins to send me an ARC of Sacrificial Magic now… #cheeky).

Here’s a great trailer for the book, and another link to my review.

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Rulebreaker reviewed at Slacker Heroes

Rule Breaker Cathy Pegau coverOh, I have been remiss and not linked to my review of this yet, though it was such a fun novel to read And – and! – the lovely lady who wrote it, Cathy Pegau, agreed to step into my virtual parlour and answer some questions for me.

After working my way through a knot of books that were hardgoing and/or disappointing, Rulebreaker turned up in my ‘To Read’ pile at just the right time to give me a breather & remind me that reading should be a good time. Here’s the Slacker Heroes review:

I’m excited today because, as well as a book review, I’ve invited the author to answer some questions for us. Rulebreaker is a sci fi romance by Cathy Pegau, out now from Carina Press, and our Q&A session is at the end of this review.

Rulebreaker’s  heroine, Liv, is a low-level criminal with a history of smash ’n grab jobs. She’s been a con since she was a kid, and has yet to find either an honest alternative or the job big enough for her to retire.

The novel opens with Liv on the floor with a gun at her head, held hostage during a bank job. She is particularly peeved about this because she was there to rob the place herself. It’s a nice twist, and gives us Liv’s droll, down on her luck point of view from the start.

The first person, ‘just-wants-an-easy-life-but-keeps-getting-into-trouble’ point of view reminded me of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels, and the light but fast-paced tone made this a quick and enjoyable read.

The story’s set on Nevarro, a mining planet that’s seen better days. Like most of the drones who work for the mining company, Liv dreams of a bigger things, a better life, legitimate or not. When her handsome ex husband tells her about the job big enough to give her what she wants, she’s tempted despite how things ended between them. One last job, right? Right. We all know how that’s going to go.

As in all good crime capers, Liv gets involved despite the obvious danger. Before long she’s embroiled in corporate espionage, living with her ex and chillingly aware that the people she’s working for are seriously nasty criminals. They’ve hired her to get close to her sexy new boss, and do whatever it takes to get the information she needs. Did I mention that Liv’s long-lost mother (also a con) picks the worst time to reappear and move into her flat, or that her sexy new boss is a woman?

The scene is set for an engaging adventure with some deliciously saucy scenes. Pegau writes well and delivers humour and a believable plot along with the sexual tension. I’ll definitely look out for more of her books in the future, and especially recommend this for Stephanie Plum fans who like a little sci-fi (and a bit of girl-on-girl).

Now for the Q&A section

Thanks for your time, Cathy! How long have you been writing SF/F?

I’ve always loved the SF/F genres as a reader, so it was a natural progression when I started writing years ago. And I do mean YEARS. I wrote my first novel (sword and sorcery fantasy, not pubbed, still in the virtual desk drawer, would love to revise and see it out there) about 12 years ago. There have been sequels and other genres in that time as I learned more about the craft and about myself as a writer. The futuristic/SF setting has been a favorite for a while, but the addition of romance is a relatively recent thing for me.

What comes first for you, characters or story?

That’s sort of a chicken or the egg question, isn’t it? It changes for each story. I’ve had plot ideas that generated characters as well as characters I knew I’d love that I built the plot around. Not that it’s ever so simple : )

For Rulebreaker it was a little bit of both. I was contemplating a story about a thief falling for the person she was supposed to steal from, so the plot and character went hand in hand pretty much from the beginning. Liv was fleshed out as the plot continued to develop, before I even started the actual writing. When it came time to “cast” the love interest, however, the fact it was another woman added all kinds of conflict and characterization dimensions. So while Liv more or less came along with the story, Zia grew from it.

What’s coming next – when can we read more of your stuff?

Nothing official at the moment. I have a couple of more books in the same world with secondary characters taking the leads. I’ll let you know when something happens with them.
Please recommend another writer from Carina, for us to read while we wait for your next novel/

Wow, so many to consider! For science fiction (with or without romance) I like Ella Drake, Robert Appleton, Lilly Cain, KC Burn, Lisa Paitz Spindler, Diane Dooley, among others. There are also great romantic suspense authors like Natalie Damschroder and Maureen A. Miller. I love a good romantic suspense story.

Thanks again, Cathy, for answering my questions. You can get to know Cathy better from her Twitter, website or blog.

 

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My Muses, aka I love Kristin

I don’t remember my first kiss. I don’t remember my first drink or first cigarette (though I do remember my first Marlboro. I nearly fell over, and had to pretend I was deliberately leaning against a wall, all nonchalant like a cat pretending not to have done anything it didn’t intend to). But I do remember my first gig, my first nightclub, and the first time I heard Throwing Muses.

 

Mark & Lard’s Graveyard Shift radio show in the ’90s was responsible for the majority of my taste in music; two hours of mind-expanding excellence, four nights a week, during my most impressionable years. Like a cool older boyfriend, but without the seediness or leather-jacketed heartbreak, they took me by the hand and turned me on to Nick Cave, Belle & Sebastian, The Flaming Lips, Stereolab, Tindersticks. But they could have played crap non-stop and I’d forgive them it, so long as they still played Dizzy that one night, the night I turned the radio on and heard Throwing Muses for the first time.

Poppy and fun, Dizzy is very different from the darker tracks that became my favourites. I guess it was my gateway drug to their close-to-the-bone, raw-edged other songs. The view into darkness that I got from their music was important, because when the black dog came to rip at my own throat few years later, I recognised it. I’d seen it in books, heard it in songs. I knew that some of my heroes had been pushed to the edge and made it back. I knew that they had experienced the walls closing in and the ground falling away, the same way it was happening to me.

It wasn’t anything as conscious as that at the time, and I don’t mean that the music I listened to glamourised mental illness or that my experience was as intense as Hersh’s bipolar disorder. That’s not how it works – it’s not a game of Snap! where only people who’ve had the same experiences can understand or help each other. I listened to stark, lost music not to wallow in how I was feeling, but because it comforted me to know that other people had felt that way and managed to return to centre in the end.

Hunkpapa, along with PJ Harvey’s Dry and, later, Bjork’s Homogenic, became my first aid kit, applied whenever I get fragile and frayed.Even before I had my own frame of reference, there’s something visceral about those albums, an honesty that makes them compulsive.

Muses songs are also damn good fun and sound fantastic played as loud as possible – don’t let my reference to depression give you the wrong idea. Screeching along to ‘Mania’ is one of the most invigorating ways to spend 3 minutes 2 seconds, and I challenge anyone to get 2 minutes into ‘Rabbits Dying’ without bouncing around. Watch this video for ‘Not Too Soon’ and witness perfect pop.

Tuesday night was another first – the first time I got to see the band play live. I’ve seen Kristin play solo lots of times, and seen her play a whole set of Muses songs, but the sound with the whole band was always going to be different. The gig was breathtaking, even better than I expected it to be. I don’t think I blinked once, especially not in the last part of the show when the pace of their early material was especially intense. I’m not a music writer and I’m sure people who are will describe the set better than I can – I’ll put links here when I come across ‘proper’ reviews.
If you’re a fan and you want to know what it was like, just imagine them playing a selection of their finest songs (the tracklisting of their Anthology would be a good place to start if you lack imagination) for two hours in front of a rapt, reverential audience. ‘Pearl’ and ‘Furious’ from Red Heaven were highlights for me (cos that album will forever remind me of being 17. Plus, Bob Mould. Nuff said). Otherwise, ‘Soul Soldier’ and ‘White Bikini Sand’ were (and could only ever be) gorgeous ways to start and end the set. If you’re not yet a fan, buy that same Anthology cd and get started, eh? There’s a wealth of genius to catch up on.
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