From a Drood to a Kill

Posted in Books, Recommendations, Reviews, Urban Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 26, 2015 by crookedreviews

courtesy of Amazon.comObligatory *SPOILERS* message be here. This book just came out so if you haven’t read it, skip this review.

Ah Simon. I do adore your writing. I am so sad that you’re going to be wrapping up your Secret Histories, Nightside and Ghost Finders novels. If you haven’t heard (and I think I may have posted on this earlier this year…? Maybe?), Simon R. Green has been diagnosed with diabetes and in anticipation of that perhaps having health complications, he is wrapping up his series quicker than he originally planned. He is then going to write individual novels a la Shadows Fall.

At any rate, I just finished up From a Drood to a Kill. This novel picks up, naturally, where the last one left off. Eddie’s parents are missing and he is heading to Drood Hall to demand they help him. Eddie and Molly make a right mess of the Hall and a bunch of Droods who, in theory, know how to fight but in reality just don’t Eddie’s skills. They make it to the Sanctity where they bargain with Maggie, the current Matriarch, for Drood help.

Since Eddie wants their resources for a private quest, he needs to do one for them. And only Eddie. Molly gets sidelined, which she isn’t happy about, but she takes the time to go visit her equally impressive and troublesome sisters, Isabelle and Louisa (or is it Isabella and Louise? Can’t remember and too lazy to go back and find the right page to check). It seems that some intelligence is leaking from Britain’s latest high tech listening station, nicknamed the Big Ear. No, I don’t know who came up with that name. Its a little ridiculous. Okay, it’s a lot ridiculous.

The mission delivered and agreed to, the Armourer (Jack Drood and my personal fav.), gives Eddie his old Bentley (man, I wish I had that car. It would be awesome) for the trip. The Bentley is much more than just a car. Or even much more than one of James Bond’s cars. It can travel through dimensions, among other things, so it allows for a trip across Britain much quicker than driving a regular vehicle or taking a train.

Of course, the mission starts out with a bump. The Bentley gets sidetracked, kidnapped to the subtle realms by a group of rogue fae that includes a former aunt of Eddie’s, Melanie Blaze. Eddie preps himself for a fight, because faeries don’t just give up, when Melanie…just gives up. She lets him go when just moments before she was planning on using him as a bargaining chip with the Drood (good luck with that). Utterly perplexed, Eddie completes his mission without having to kill anyone (his new vow, tough one to keep for a Drood).

When he finishes, he finds out exactly why Melanie gave up so easily. The one Drood she’d really wanted to deal with, the Armourer Jack Drood, died. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Not Jack! I was so upset by this! Even though it was established that Jack was really quite old, it was a hard it. It was such a likeable character. Luckily enough, it wasn’t murder (which is something of an issue with Droods) but just old age. Rare that an agent can die peacefully at home.

After a solemn ceremony on the Drood estate, a wake for friends (plus Eddie and Molly) gets held at the Wulfshead, Eddie’s usual club. People come from all walks of life to say goodbye to Jack in grand, drunken fashion. Including Cedric Drood, the Sergeant-at-arms, that Eddie doesn’t get along with in the least. They put their animosity aside for the night to celebrate Jack’s life. Eddie learns there was more to his beloved uncle than he ever knew. It doesn’t make him feel good, that he didn’t even bother to learn these things. He always thought he’d have the time to talk to Jack more, I suppose.

After the party, which goes off without a hitch oddly enough, Molly gets kidnapped. Right out of the Wulfshead, which is supposed to be impossible. Angry, grieving for his uncle, Eddie goes on a tear to find her. Kidnapped by the grandiosely (and self) named Powers That Be, Eddie kicks arse and takes names as he tries to find their home base of the Shifting Lands.

Molly has been kidnapped for the Big Game. A supposedly private and hush-hush event strictly for the Powers That Be and their amusement. They kidnap people who owe debts so large (usually on their soul and/or body) to powerful beings (Heaven, Hell, Powers, Dominations. You name it, they’ve probably done it) that they could never repay those debts even in death. Like Molly, who made deals upon deals with Good and Bad in order to gain the power to destroy the Droods for killing her parents.

The Big Game is a fight to the death and the last one standing has all of their debts paid for by the Powers That Be. To make things interesting, the Shifting Lands are ever changing based on the mood and force of will the players can enforce upon it. One minute, it can be your place of power, the next it might be your opponent’s place of power.

I won’t give away what happens with that. Its really too good and I wouldn’t do it justice. It was obvious from the writing that this series is, indeed (and sadly), winding down. That doesn’t make it any less interesting or well written though. In most cases of Simon’s writing, I would say you really don’t need to read the previous book to get the gist of this one. And while that is true to a certain extent with From a Drood to a Kill, I think it would definitely make more sense if you read Casino Infernale before reading this book. That one was absolutely amazing and the events in that have a direct impact on those in From a Drood to a Kill. Hell, I suggest you read the whole damn series. Its so much fun and the titles are delightful puns on James Bond titles. Rating: A.

Cinder

Posted in Books, Recommendations, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on July 11, 2015 by crookedreviews

Courtesy of goodreads.comAnd I’m back! Finally have internet back up at our new place after two weeks. I’ve gotten to read a few books in that time so I have something to review. Woohoo! I don’t often times go for scifi books. My genre of choice is urban fantasy. But I had an urge to see if there was anything good at Amazon in that genre and I managed to stumble upon a winner.

Written by Marissa Meyer, Cinder is a cyberpunk retelling of the classic Cinderella tale. Set in the Eastern Commonwealth of a far distant future, Linh Cinder is a cyborg mechanic. Cyborgs are considered second class citizens in this future and Cinder is no exception. An orphan who was saved by a man called Linh Garan, Cinder is treated harshly by her stepmother Adri who blames Cinder for her husband’s death. Cinder is only allowed her mechanic shop because the money she earns goes to Adri.

Cinder is a very talented mechanic. Considered the best in New Beijing, she is the one that Prince Kai, the Emperor’s only son, is referred to when something happens with his personal tutoring android. Cinder and Kai connect on a personal level. Cinder doesn’t treat him like royalty, Kai doesn’t treat Cinder like she’s nothing. Cinder eventually agrees to see what she can do about the broken android and the pair go their separate ways.

This is just a bit different from the usual Cinderella tale in that they meet first thing and not at a ball. Kai knows that Cinder is a mechanic, though she doesn’t let on that she’s a cyborg. Cinder thinks that she’ll maybe see Kai once more when he comes to pick up his android but events conspire to bring them together again and again. And yes there is a ball, but that doesn’t happen until the very end of the book.

First, there is her stepsister Peony getting sick from a plague called letumosis. Originally coming from the Lunar population (a group of people that had, at some point, been human but had evolved over time to become a separate species that can manipulate bioenergy that appears as magic to humans), letumosis is universally deadly to those who catch it. If you’re human and you catch it, you die. Peony getting sick causes Adri, the stepmother, to be even worse to Cinder. She does, in fact, sell Cinder to the cyborg draft which has been set up specifically to use cyborgs as test subjects for plague cures.

This brings her to the attention of one Dr. Erland. He’s been trying to work on a cure since Emperor Rikan, Kai’s father, got sick. Unfortunately, he’s come up negative from twenty-seven attempts. He injects Cinder with the plague and finds…she’s immune. Some how, her body gets rid of the letumosis. Intent on using her blood to find a cure, he bullies and blackmails Cinder into willingly working with him by promising Peony would get any potential cure right after the Emperor himself.

Unfortunately for him, part of Cinder’s cyborg programming is a built in lie detector. She knows when people are outright lying or even when they’re just holding something back. So there’s something more to what Erland wants than just her blood. She can do nothing about that though, as once she agrees to become a test subject, she runs into Prince Kai again while he comes down for an update from Erland.

At this point, Kai tries to get Cinder to attend the ball with him. And…she refuses. Because she’s a cyborg and she doesn’t want to draw attention to herself. Because there’s something more unusual about her that’s making Erland lie right to the Crown Prince. Cinder doesn’t want to drag Kai into whatever is going on but that wish is fruitless.

We find out later that the reason that Cinder is immune to letumosis is because she is herself a Lunar. And not just any Lunar but the long-lost beloved Princess Selene whom many presumed dead at the hands of her aunt, Queen Levana. So of course, her path crosses with Levana at the ball. There is a mess and an unveiling and Prince Kai ends up handing Cinder over to Levana as technically, Lunars are not allowed to live on earth (there’s a whole treaty because Levana wants to keep all of her people under her thumb or kill them if they can’t).

The book ends on a cliffhanger with Cinder in jail awaiting execution by Levana and Prince Kai refusing anything to do with her (rather understanding as she did kinda lie to him). She faces two choices, given to her by the somewhat barmy Dr. Erland: stay and die or use her newly found Lunar powers (‘magic’) to escape prison and go with him to Africa. Its a chance to save Kai and indeed many others from the clutches of Levana, who wants to conquer Earth.

The best I can describe this is: Cyberpunk Cinderella. And its actually pretty good. I’m strongly considering continuing with the series but Simon R. Green has just released two new books and there’s a new Jane Yellowrock that is calling my name. But I have to say, if you like cyberpunk and you like fairy tales, you should check this out. It just grabs your attention and keeps it. Cinder isn’t a damsel in distress and I hope she continues in that vein for the other books. Rating: B+/A-. The female characters could have talked about more than Prince Kai and the ball but otherwise a very well done and fresh take on Cinderella.

Intermission

Posted in Books on June 15, 2015 by crookedreviews

Okay, so I may not get around to writing a new review until next month. The hubby and I have bought a house and it’s going to be a long slog move. We’ll see if I get around to one before then but don’t be surprised if not. Until then, keep reading! :-D

Blood Cross

Posted in Books, Recommendations, Reviews, Urban Fantasy with tags , , , , on June 7, 2015 by crookedreviews

Courtesy of goodreads.comWell, I missed last week and might miss the next couple of weeks due to being in the middle of moving (yay!). So I’ll review the next book in the Jane Yellowrock series this week, Blood Cross. This book starts pretty much where the last one ends, maybe a few months down the line. Leo Pelletier, local vampire master, is deep in mourning for the ‘son’ that Jane killed last book (let’s face it, the son was crazy with a capital CRAZY). This mourning state, which Faith Hunter calls dolore, can cause a vamp to fluctuate between depressed and outright nuts. For instance, when Leo Pelletier tries to burn Jane and Jane’s best friend (and her two kids) out of Jane’s home during a hurricane. Luckily enough, Leo isn’t so crazy that he’ll actually burn children alive, so when Jane’s god-daughter Angie comes out of hiding to talk to Leo, he leaves without doing too much damage.

Jane is oddly hired by the local vampire council to hunt down one of their own in New Orleans shortly thereafter. Someone is breaking the carefully crafted rules that vampires live by in order to be accepted by humans. These rules are the only things that keep humans from just eradicating them, and they know it.

The problem here is, they don’t know who is breaking the rules, just that it is a vampire. That leaves Jane with very little to go on, which isn’t the worst thing in the world but it will take her longer than usual to track this rogue vamp. To make things worse, the victims of this vampire are witches. Witches and vampires generally do not get along and this is just straining things further. Not to mention that vampires themselves are notoriously tight-lipped. To add to the misery, little Angie and her little brother Evan are taken by the bad guy. This causes Jane, who was an orphan and therefore has this thing about protecting kids, a lot of guilt. Jane’s inner shifter, Beast, has to take over her several times to keep her functional.

We learn a lot more about Jane’s history in this book, vampire history and the New Orleans vamps in particular. I really enjoyed this book. I think that Faith Hunter hit the right balance of bad ass vamp hunter and vulnerable orphan in Jane. Often times in these sorts of books, the bad ass female lead with turn into a damsel in distress at the drop of a hat and need to be rescued by Man Of The Book (or Men in the case of Anita Blake). Sure Jane is a bit more vulnerable emotionally in this book but that doesn’t stop her from doing her job. I can’t wait for the next book in this series since I’ve read them all so far and they’ve all been pretty darn good. Rating: A

Shadow’s Fall

Posted in Books, Recommendations, Reviews, Urban Fantasy with tags , , , , , , on May 25, 2015 by crookedreviews

Courtesy of Goodreads.comThe of the many things I love about Simon R. Green is that his novels, even if they are stand alone books, are all interconnected in some way. For instance Shadow’s Fall takes place in the same world as the Nightside and Secret Histories series. They share a few of the same characters in Father Time and his self-appointed assistant Mad.

Shadow’s Fall is the town where legends go to die. Rock star that’s tired of the world? Pulp fiction hero that no one remembers? Beloved children’s show characters that people don’t watch any more? You’ll find them all and more in Shadow’s Fall. Its a place where people who aren’t ready to move on can pass the time until they’re ready to move on to whatever is next. Some people are even born in Shadow’s Fall, like James Hart.

Our story begins with James returning to Shadow’s Fall after the death of his parents in a car accident. He doesn’t remember a thing about this town where he’s supposedly from. He doesn’t have much in the way of memories before about the age of ten or so but the last will of his parents was that he return to the town where he was born.

Unfortunately for James, he didn’t exactly get a warm welcome. There is some sort of prophecy around James, but nobody’s exactly sure what it is though there seems to be a lot of death and destruction about it.  Everyone is along for the ride, trying to figure out what’s going to go wrong before it all goes wrong. There are shenanigans galore, including some with Bruin Bear and the Sea Goat, both of whom have been in the Deathstalker Series and the Nightside Series. The Sea Goat is my man. Or my goat as the case may be. I adore that character.

If you’re looking for a good stand alone modern fantasy novel, I highly, highly recommend this one. I love this book and as much as I kind of want to know what happens next, I’m mostly glad that it is it’s own book. So many novels are multi-book arcs these days that it’s refreshing to have a stand alone. Not that I hate multi-book arcs (see my Dresden Files reviews etc), but sometimes I like that ah, I’m finished and it’s all nicely wrapped up feeling you get when you reach the end of a standalone novel. And, like I mentioned, there’s all of Green’s little inside jokes that you have to be a fan in order to get. Love Simon R. Green and love this book. Rating: A

The Mummy, or Ramses the Damned

Posted in Books, Recommendations, Reviews with tags , , , , , , on May 18, 2015 by crookedreviews

Courtesy of bookfever.comSo I mentioned in my last post that I enjoyed the writings of Anne Rice, so I thought I’d review one of my favorites of hers. And as I sit here typing, I realize that its been quite a long time since I’ve actually read an Anne Rice book. Shame on me. :) At any rate, one of my personal favorites of hers is The Mummy, or Ramses the Damned. I confess myself to being a total geek of any and all things Ancient Egyptian. I even have an eye of Horus tattoo.

This book takes place in Victorian era London and Cairo, at the height of the mummy craze that caused so much of Egypt’s cultural treasures to go walkabout and not return. Heiress Julie Stratford’s father Lawrence has so much money that he can run off to Egypt on archaeological digs for funsies (I wish I had that problem). For some reason I fail to grasp, he brings his money-grubbing nephew Henry along for the ride. This proves fatal as Henry murders Lawrence inside a freshly opened tomb in Egypt (I don’t wish I had that problem). Its a foolish ploy to try and get himself some more inheritance.

Unbeknownst to Henry, someone witnessed the murder, the mummy of Ramses II. Millenia ago, Ramses ingested something called the Elixir of Life. It was the closely guarded secret of a Nubian priestess, who warned Ramses of the consequences of using the elixir. He ignored her (as people do when it comes to immortality, at least in books) and drank the elixir. It gave him everlasting life and youth, the sun giving him the ability to heal any found (kinda Superman-y, but okay). It increased his appetite (food wise and sex wise, though he was unable to sire any more children. That’s okay, he’d had quite a few by then anyway).

Unfortunately, he out lived his wife, his lovers, his children and grandchildren. He wandered, learning new languages and cultures, but still was unable to rest. He is unable to sleep, which I think would be the worst part of the whole thing because I love to sleep. Eventually, after losing Cleopatra (whom he loved very much), he tried to bring about an end to his eternity. The closest thing he could come to was basically hibernation. Since the sun gave him life, he took himself out of the sun. He had himself mummified alive, locked in a sarcophagus and then buried.

When Henry killed Lawrence in the burial chamber, there’s just enough light for Ramses to waken somewhat but not enough for him to do anything about it. Not long after, Ramses is taken back to London, to the home of Julie Stratford where he would be displayed and unwrapped at a party. Yes, this was absolutely a thing. Thanks Britain!

Julie opens the sarcophagus to see what her father gave his life for. Still in mourning, she doesn’t notice anything unusual about the mummy or her cousin Henry’s odd behavior. When Henry tries to poison her, Ramses, still lethargic from his millenia long hibernation, goes after him. After that, shenanigans about culminating in a trip back to Egypt with the now fully living Ramses and the heiress Julie Stratford, as well as the requisite escorts as Julie is an unmarried young woman and Ramses is an uber-hot sex machine (almost literally in this book).

I wouldn’t call this steampunk as it doesn’t have the love of bronze and gadgetry that typifies steampunk novels. I think I’d probably call this more of a Victorian horror novel. Anne Rice is amongst my favorite authors because she can describe something so well that you can almost feel yourself immersed in it. This book was great for an Egyptophile like me (don’t know if that’s word, but it is now if not). I’m honestly not a fan of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (blasphemous I know) but if you liked that book and/or Bram Stoker’s Dracula, you couldn’t go wrong with giving this a shot. Rating: A+

The Strain

Posted in Books, Recommendations, Reviews, Urban Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , on May 12, 2015 by crookedreviews

Courtesy of booksamillion.comOkay, so this one is also a little out of my usual wheelhouse, but it was good. I got the idea to read this from following Wil Wheaton on Twitter. He really enjoyed it and as I am something of a geeky mind with him, I thought I’d give it a shot. Writer/director Guillermo del Toro (Yes, the man who directed the Hell Boy movies and Pan’s Labyrinth) hooked up with author Chuck Hogan to bring both a book trilogy and a television series called The Strain.

I’ve been a little disappointed with vampire themed books as late. I loved Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire and Queen of the Damned. Those were the books that got me into fantasy/urban fantasy novels. I’d had hopes for the Anita Blake books, but they just turned into pure porn and the main character went from a fierce and principled person to a bit of a damsel in distress. Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels also started strong and ended with a whimper, so I’m a little leery of starting new vamp related series.

That being said, I finished this almost six hundred page book in about three hours. Its good, though I’m still debating whether I want to read the rest of the series. The best description I can give is that this is Outbreak meets Dracula. In this book, vampires are a parasite that transforms the host into a parastic, almost zombie-like really, feeding organism.

The main protagonist is an doctor with the CDC, Ephraim Goodweather. Goodweather is called in to JFK when a plane from Berlin just stops on a runway after landing. They made a perfectly safe, soft landing and then the plane went dark. When they finally get people on board, everyone is dead. Fearing some sort of bioterrorism, the CDC is called in.

And in a way, it is bioterrorism, but not in the way they’re expecting. While Ephraim and his coworker Nora Martinez are trying to figure out what killed all those people before it starts to spread (and it will), super richie rich Eldritch Palmer (okay, del Toro, really? Eldritch?) is actively working with the vampire master that was on the plane. He’s actively trying to spread this plague in return for immortality. Natch.

Meanwhile, the only one who knows what’s going on is an old Jewish gentleman who survived the extermination camps, a man by the name of Abraham Setrakian. Setrakian’s grandmother used to tell him stories of a monster named Sardu from her home town in the mountains of Eastern Europe. He himself saw the same monster while trying to survive the Nazis. He made it his life’s mission to be able to fight these things. At first, Ephraim doesn’t believe the raving old man, but when he can no longer deny it, he goes to the old man for help.

Anyway, I won’t go into too much detail but it was really good. There are real human connections in this book. More than just “oh, you’re cute, let’s hop in bed”. Ephraim Goodweather is trying to be a good dad in the midst of a divorce. AI’ll have to check out the series, I think. Rating: A.

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