Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Supernatural: Mythmaker by Tim Waggoner

June 21, 2017 - 1:02 pm No Comments

Supernatural: Mythmaker
Author: Tim Waggoner
Publisher: Titan Books
Page count: 301pp
Release date: 29th July 2016
Series: 10: Between Hibbing 911 and The Things We Left Behind

Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

Ok, where to start?
I’m a huge Supernatural fan, a part of the #SPNFamily, a #WaywardDaughter/Sister. Suffice to say, I know the universe and characters of this outstanding TV show pretty damn well. So, when I read the fan fic (Destiel anyone?) or these TV tie-ins released by Titan Books, I’m a good judge. I’m a rabid fan, but also a common sense fan, and I know what doesn’t work.
But, for the uninitiated- here’s the basic concept of the show;
The Winchesters; Family Business; Hunting Things, Saving People.
The show, starting in 2005, begins ’22 years ago’, with six month old Sammy Winchester asleep in his crib, and 4 year old older brother Dean asleep in bed.
A yellow eyed demon creeps into Sammy’s room. Mom, Mary Winchester investigates and kaboom – Crispy Fried Mom.
22 years later (series one), Dean heads to Stanford where Sam is at Uni, and tells him;
“Dad’s on a hunting trip; he hasn’t been home in a week.”
But hunting what?
The answer is basically monsters. Vampires, demons, shifters, witches, werewolves, ghosts – supernatural creatures.


This novel written by Bram Stoker award winning author Tim Waggoner is set in series ten.
A lot of crap has happened to the boys. And no, I won’t spoil it for you.
What I will say, is you can catch on pretty easy from Waggoner’s careful exposition what the series is all about.
In ‘Mythmaker’, Rene is a talented young artist who recently has been painting strange, powerful creatures, but as she finishes the painting, the mythology figure disappears from the canvas. And the process is literally draining her; physically, mentally and emotionally.
In the small town of Corinth, a
silver, gauntleted woman appears, with astounding powers, and she begins to gather followers. Adamantine believes herself to be a god with a little ‘g’.
But she’s not the only one popping up in the town. In fact, there’s a shed load of them. Rene is the ‘Mythmaker’ inadvertently creating these monsters.
And in a kind of mash up between Highlander and #SPN S5 episode ‘Hammer of the Gods’ they must fight until there is only one left standing, who will destroy all of the rest, absorbing their powers. And these gods can be fickle. And deadly.
Enter stage left; Sam and Dean Winchester.
Sam is worried about Dean, bearing the ‘Mark of Cain’ and that’s the underlying tension in season ten. It basically makes him even angrier than his normally very angry self.
As a book in its own right, there’s humour, monster bashing, with Waggoner blending myths and his own imagination to generate all manner of beasties, blood, emotion, and a cracking final fight scene.
For #SPN fans, it’s so much more.
Sam and Dean are spot on; Dean’s reaction to Adamantine that much more intense.
The banter between the two brothers is funny and heart warming, as is the love they obviously share but don’t talk about (hey, they’re dudes), but in the end, they’re there for each other. It seems Waggoner knows the series inside out.
The supporting cast characters are also very well realised, and I particularly liked Paeon.
I can see why this particular novel has been nominated for a TV tie-in award.
It’s a worthy contender.
5/5

Archangel’s Heart

June 21, 2017 - 12:24 pm No Comments

Archangel’s Heart
Guild Hunter Book 9
Author: Nalini Singh
Publisher: Gollancz
Page Count: 381pp
Release date: 2nd Nov 2016
Tweet if you like it: @NaliniSingh, @Gollancz, @StevieFinegan
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Archangels-Heart-Book-Guild-Hunter-ebook/dp/B01D8ZZWO2/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1498047841&sr=1-5&keywords=nalini+singh

 

Right, things are a little complicated if you don’t know the series or haven’t read the previous books, but Singh drops in pieces of exposition during the first couple of chapters. So, I’m going to summarise the gist of it here for you.
This is the ninth book in the Guild Hunter series, a series in which an Archangel named Raphael is betrothed/mated (call it what you will) to his consort Elena. Raphael is in charge of New York, a city where angels, humans and vampires roam. Vampires are created by Archangels/angels, who repay the debt of saving their life and making them immortal, with a 100 years of servitude. Some angels can be brutal towards their ‘property’ indulging themselves in sexual torture, physical abuse and downright nastiness. But in the main, they are treated well, for instance, Montgomery was made by Raphael and works happily for him as a kind of butler/organiser/PA. He is also happily married to his partner of choice. Raphael is madly in love with his Elena (Guild Hunter-turned angel) who is the equivalent of a toddler in terms of angelic power. She returns his passion in spades. As for the Guild Hunters, they basically hunt ‘naughty’ vampires who runaway from their masters.
At this stage of the series, Elena is coming into her powers. This book is set two years after the events of the last book. Archangel Alexander awoke from ‘Sleep’ claiming back half of his lands from the current ruler Favashi. Cue tension and possible war. At the same time two years ago, after making zombie-ish creatures to try and take power, Lijuan was last seen disappearing into the distance (presumed not-dead due to her age) and there was the ‘cascade’, causing untold destruction and changes in the world hierarchy. Now, as Lijuan has been missing/dead for two years, a mysterious and ancient order of angels, the Luminata, call the Cardre of Archangels together to discuss the fate of Lijuan’s territory. But if she is not in ‘Sleep’ and is in fact alive, there will be eleven Archangels awake at the same time; with possibly deadly and disastrous consequences.
Elena is allowed to accompany Raphael to the compound but only as consort, so bringing her faithful guards with her is out of the question. So death is a very real possibility. Especially as her best friend Bluebell (Illium) will remain on duty in New York. He, too, is becoming a staggering angel in his own right. Thankfully though, she can take one of Raphael’s other ‘Seven’, Aodhan. Still bearing the dual scars from his time in hell, Aodhan has finally returned to art. Yet his creative side belies a clever, dangerous angel.
So, the trio set off in the skies to meet with the Luminata and the other Archangels and co.
When they get there, the architecture is stunning, as is the Morrocan scenery, bringing back all manner of memories for Elena about her mother. But something is not right at their lair. And lair is probably the best word for Lumia; for it feels more like another Archangel’s refuge than a pseudo-religious/mystic and peaceful land it pretends to be. The angels at Lumia ring alarm bells for Raphael, Elena and Aodhan. Secrets abound. Adding to this is the evidence of bloodlust attacks and the possibility that it could worsen, and the need for proof as to what has indeed happened to Lijuan.
When Elena visits the local town, it’s clear the villages are scared to death of angels – the question is ‘why?’.
Between various mysteries and story threads, Singh delivers an intricate sometimes confusing world build. If you’re new to the series, this isn’t the best book to start with, as it’s heavy on the politics and world build.
I love that Singh delivers multicultural societies in her novels, reflective of the world in which we live (without the mythical creatures that is) and she is brave enough to deal with Aodhan’s PTSD among other issues. However, I have to confess, of the series, it wasn’t my favourite, though it did give us a glimpse into Elena’s history, and the relationship between Raphael and his mother Caliane was explored.
Enjoyable, romantic and lots going on.
A solid 3.5/5

Holiday in The Hamptons- Sarah Morgan

May 30, 2017 - 1:22 pm No Comments

Holiday In The Hamptons
Author: Sarah Morgan
Publisher: HQ
Page Count: 384pp
Release date: 15th June 2017
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

 

Fliss’ eighteenth birthday wasn’t the joyful experience she expected; not with her father returning to their beach home in a storm of anger.
Every summer, their mom took her, her twin sister Harriet and brother Daniel (New York Actually) to their holiday home in the Hamptons, to escape the ire and tyranny of a bully; their father.
When her father follows them and turns up unexpectedly at her eighteenth birthday with his usual insults and degradation, young Fliss flees to the beach, where Seth, Daniel’s friend, finds her.
Seth Carlyle, five years older than her, looks at her like she’s a woman, treats her like a woman. The chemistry sizzles between them, until it ends. Then she sees him again, ten years later.
Seen in a series of flashbacks and memories, we discover that they marry young and divorce just as quickly.
Ten years later, when Fliss is buried in work at Bark Rangers (fans will know the dog walking service family from from the other ‘Manhattan’ books by Sarah Morgan),
she is a workaholic wanting to expand the business, hiding her constant hurt and loss in Bark Rangers. Where Fliss is vivacious, opinionated and hardly shy, twin Harry (Harriet) is the opposite (introverted and lacking in confidence despite her talents, having been bullied about her childhood stammer). Though there is a steel to a Harry that her twin Fliss doesn’t realise exists.
Together the sisters own and run the business, Harry’s natural affinity for animals being perfect for their success, whilst Fliss’ no nonsense approach sortes the finances and the piles of paperwork.
When ex husband Seth turns up unexpectedly in Manhattan to do a stint at her local vets, Fliss flees to see her Grams in the Hamptons, taking on Harry’s identity to look after her Grandmother whilst she recovers from a fall.
Then the worst thing she could possibly imagine happens.
Seth turns up in the Hamptons; where he actually lives.
In a panic, she continues her charade pretending to be her twin.
Of course, all Seth talks about to ‘Harriet’ is ‘Fliss’. And her defences start to crumble just a little.
“Maybe she’ll be the first woman in history to break up with a guy because she’s jealous of herself.” friend and former Best Man Chase remarks.
So, in a funny, warm and romantic twist on The Parent Trap, Fliss and Seth find themselves spending lots of time together. And as the old adage says ‘the truth will out’.
This book is about secrets, family, love, friendship; the things that matter. It also tackles the difficult subject of bullying.
As a child and teen, Harriet is the subject of bullying at school, whilst at home through their younger years, Harriet, Daniel, Fliss and their mother are all victims of bullying too.
Morgan deals with the issue sensitively, and whilst we later learn some of the reasons for the bullying, the behaviour is not excused.
Though we do learn to understand one important message; honesty is key to any relationship. Keeping things – emotions- bottled up inside will lead to an unfulfilled life.
There’s a lot, as usual with a Sarah Morgan book, going on in this one. Emotional trauma, romance, social and human issues, humour and shock. But what I love most about this book, and the Manhattan series, is the use of animals, particularly dogs.
Each ‘doggy character’ is fully fledged and brings a smile to the readers’ face, or a gasp when they are injured. Hero is awesome, a massive, friendly against stereotyping Doberman and he’s adorable, whilst Lulu is hilarious. And also adorable.
The humans, and the animals, are living breathing characters in her skilled hands.
Reading Sarah Morgan is like being wrapped up in a warm blankie, candle lit, with chocolate cake being served by Ryan Reynolds; who puts on your fluffy cat slippers for you.
Sheer bliss, sheer delight, sheer comfort.

The Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter

April 26, 2017 - 5:48 pm No Comments

THE MASSACRE OF MANKIND by Stephen Baxter
Gollancz / 464 pgs / £18.99 hardback / ISBN 1473205093
Reviewed by Carol Goodwin.


This novel is a sequel to H G Wells’ THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, and the new story revolves around the Martians return to Earth in the 1920’s. Whilst other authors have previously written sequels, this version is listed as “authorised by the H G Wells Estate” and I presume was timed to coincide with 2016 being the 150th anniversary of Wells’ birth. The author, Stephen Baxter has previously written another authorised H G Wells’ sequel, THE TIME SHIPS which was a follow-up to THE TIME MACHINE and marked the centenary of that book’s publication.
It is fourteen years since the Martians invaded England, and the world has changed considerably. Examination of wrecked and abandoned Martian machinery has led to significant advances in technology. History as we know it has changed as a consequence of the original invasion; most significantly, a recovering UK formed an alliance with Germany, and a “Schlieffen War” between Russia and Germany is still ongoing. The governments of Earth scan the skies, but as another close approach between Earth and Mars nears, they are confident that their progress and prior knowledge means that this time they are prepared for the Martians. But when another Martian fleet begins to land, it becomes obvious that the Martians have also learned lessons and adapted so that yet again mankind is in deadly peril.
Writing in another author’s world, especially one so well-known and iconic as this one, is always going to be a difficult task. What is done very well is the attention to the details of 1920’s geography, vocabulary and appropriate technology. It is clear that a considerable amount of research has gone into writing this novel, and I also enjoyed the little nods to other people or works connected to Mars, ranging from Schiaparelli through to Grover’s Mill.
The worldbuilding is excellent and like the original, there are some suitably gruesome accounts of the Martians’ treatment of captured humans. However, I found myself a little frustrated with the pacing. The first section of the book, which deals with the initial landing, consolidation and the flight of refugees is the most successful in my opinion. After that however, there is an interlude of a couple of years where the Martians in England spend a long time just consolidating this bridgehead, without any attempt to spread further, and I found the urgency and menace of the story evaporating in this section. Towards the later part of the book there are further landings around the world, and the pace picks up but it felt to me like there was then too little space left to give these invasions sufficient details and thus engage the reader.
Fans of Wells’ will appreciate that the narrative does link back and reference the original story. It also includes many of the characters from the Wells’ story, including the original narrator, Walter Jenkins and the artilleryman, although much of the tale is now told by Julie, the sister-in-law of Walter Jenkins. However, I felt that the major focus was on the plot and that thus the characters often seemed to lack depth and I often found it hard to care much about their struggles.
Finally, it was always going to be difficult to find an ending with equivalent impact to the original. Without giving away the conclusion, this story finishes with a resolution that feels a little too “easy” and hence unsatisfying, although there is a “epilogue” which leaves scope for future developments. To summarise, this is a “curate’s egg” of a book – there are some very good bits but other bits that didn’t work for me. CG
(ARC kindly donated at Gollancz SF Gateway anniversary party)

Miracle on 5th Avenue

April 18, 2017 - 1:37 am No Comments

Reviewers note: this site does not often review contemporary romance, however, as her alter ego Eve Campbell, Theresa Derwin has started to write in the romance genre and found some great books worth sharing with our readers.

 

Miracle on 5th Avenue
(From Manhattan with Love Book 3)
Author: Sarah Morgan
Publisher: MIRA (Harper Collins imprint)
Page count: 384pp
Release date: 20th Oct 2016
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

Eva Jordan is a glittering star when it comes to understanding romance; just unfortunately not for herself. She works like a maniac and her bedroom companion is a stuffed kangaroo her grandma gave her when she was four. At least, unlike the men in her life, the kangaroo never lets her down. Besides, she has no room or time for men in her life. Eva is still grieving the loss of her grandmother a year ago, wearing the heavy emotional scars and unable to really confide with anyone for fear of being a burden.
Still, at least she was busy with Urban Genie, the event and concierge business she ran with friends Paige and Frankie. It was their first Christmas since going into business, so things were looking up.
She used to love the silly season, and was determined to start enjoying it again, to do the things her Graham’s would want her to do. To make her proud.
On a personal note, I’m reviewing this late because I suffered a loss just after Christmas myself and I suspect Morgan has experienced a similar loss. She has completely captured the all-consuming pain and emptiness such grief brings. And though it may seem strange, this novel comforted me through that.
Lucas hates Christmas- as a crime writer at the top of his fie,d, he has deadlines, fans, a publisher and an agent – but no book. Normally he can force the worse out but this year is much worse, memories of his Sallyanne in the morgue haunting him. He’s supposed to be away writing in a cabin in Vermont, but just couldn’t face it. He’s still in his Manhattan aapartment alone.
He needed a miracle.
In the midst of a snowy blizzard, Eva turns up for her next job.
Decorating best seller author Lucas Blade’s fifth avenue apartment for the holidays. A preseng arranged by his grandmother.
A fabulous surprise …
And the first time they meet in his darkened penthouse suite? Hilarious. I laughed out loud at one part when Eva thinks of the contents of her purse. The dialogue between the two sparks the instant they meet, even if it starts as hostile, and Eva is ‘unintentionally’ funny. The reader finds her funny, the characters find her funny, but she doesn’t realise just how witty and insane she really is. There’s a genuine warmth to the banter between Lucas and Eva that reminded me almost of Marian and Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Last Ark. I love Morgan’s writing but with these two she’s excelled herself.
Lucas’ outlook as a crime writer is also pretty funny in an “OMG did he really go there?” way. His dark nature is very apparent from the first interaction, juxtaposed with Eva’s more positive outlook. It makes for great chemistry between the two. And as a horror writer, it also gave me some cracking ideas. In chapter two we also have a sly wink to ‘Psycho’. And the internal thoughts of both protagonists almost runs like a comedy of errors. Brilliant.
This is easily the best Sarah Morgan I’ve read and in her dealings with grief she is spit on.
5/5