Skip It: The Club Dumas – Arturo Perez-Reverte

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Summary:

Lucas Corso is a book detective, a middle-aged mercenary hired to hunt down rare editions for wealthy and unscrupulous clients. When a well-known bibliophile is found dead, leaving behind part of the original manuscript of Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers, Corso is brought in to authenticate the fragment. He is soon drawn into a swirling plot involving devil worship, occult practices, and swashbuckling derring-do among a cast of characters bearing a suspicious resemblance to those of Dumas’s masterpiece. Aided by a mysterious beauty named for a Conan Doyle heroine, Corso travels from Madrid to Toledo to Paris on the killer’s trail in this twisty intellectual romp through the book world.

Review:

So the other day I was browsing Amazon Prime and I noticed that The Ninth Gate was now available to stream. I remembered it being a bit slow and kind of confusing. Still, the movie came out in 2000 and I wanted to watch it with older eyes, to see if might not have a better appreciation of it with age. Deciding to do a search on the ending (which I remembered being the most confusing aspect of it) the advice I basically got was: don’t. Read the book instead because it actually makes sense. I figured this wasn’t a bad approach to take and here we are.

Good news: the book does make sense. It won’t necessarily help you with the movie which not only excises a major subplot of the book but changes the ending entirely, but it makes sense.

There’s also some good stuff in here about the history of books, and of book forgery, all of which comes in and plays nicely at the end.

The bad news: the book is, in many ways, just as unfulfilling as the movie. That entire subplot that Polanski dropped? The one for which the book was ultimately named? It wasn’t without cause. The book itself admits that the two strands are completely separate of one another; it’s only through Corso’s eyes that there is any kind of connection at all. It seems to be included because the author wanted to talk Dumas, pad the length of the book, or both. It not a little frustrating to see that story come to an end and realize just how anti-climatic it all was.

Adding to this disappointment is that the girl figure (both in book and film) is very much a living, breathing deus-ex-machina figure. Polanski certainly believes her to be either a servant of (if not the Devil himself) and the book makes her out to be some kind of guardian/sage too: protecting him and pointing the way so speak. It doesn’t add much to the narration when everything keeps happening (or not happening) because she happens to be at every right place at every right time. If something were to come of it it might be acceptable, but the book too just overall comes to an end and it doesn’t feel like there was a reason for the pair to have ever come together.

Really, the most interesting bits of the book were the discussion of Dumas, of occult books (most of which were created by the author for the story) and the discussions of book forgery. I almost wonder if a non-fiction piece might have been more satisfying.

As it stands, the book might be worth a pick up to read it for those reasons, but the rest is such a let down that it’s hard to recommend except for one scenario: you’re planning to watch the film. The film focuses on the quest to authenticate this one copy of the book. Between the conversations that Corso has, and the notes that Corso takes, you the reader are very easily able to wrap your head around that mystery of what is going on well before the ending which ratchets up the tension at the end because you know something isn’t right. Polanski, on the other hand, changes the nature of a key conversation and doesn’t have Corso make the connection and ultimately has has to tell the audience what was going. By then though, the climax is over and the tension is hurt leaving the audience wondering what was going on. Though the two pieces are quite different, knowledge of the the book immeasurably helps enjoyment of the film.

Verdict: Skip it. Its almost a borrow it because there were some parts I genuinely enjoyed, but I can’t in good consciousness endorse only portions of a book.

Available: Now

 

 

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Succubus Blues (Georgina Kincaid #1)

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Summary:

When it comes to jobs in hell, being a succubus seems pretty glamorous. A girl can be anything she wants, the wardrobe is killer, and mortal men will do anything just for a touch. Granted, they often pay with their souls, but why get technical?

But Seattle succubus Georgina Kincaid’s life is far less exotic. At least there’s her day job at a local bookstore–free books; all the white chocolate mochas she can drink; and easy access to bestselling, sexy writer, Seth Mortensen, aka He Whom She Would Give Anything to Touch but Can’t.

But dreaming about Seth will have to wait. Something wicked is at work in Seattle’s demon underground. And for once, all of her hot charms and drop-dead one-liners won’t help because Georgina’s about to discover there are some creatures out there that both heaven and hell want to deny.

After Vampire Academy left me cold (sorry, Rose/Dimitri still kinda wigs me out) and after the major problems I had with Age of  X (and especially The Immortal Crown), I was a bit weary of picking this one up. Luckily, and perhaps because it is one of her older series, I didn’t have any of the issues I had with the other books.

Georgina is a very likable. She’s just the right amount of jaded that it doesn’t feel like it’s trendy or edgy, just naturally world-weary and the backstory of how she became a succubus has just the right note of tragedy. Her reasons for not dating seem genuine, and I think most bookworms can easily relate to the way that she’s in absolute love with Seth Mortensen’s books. I also like that she’s got no connection to police work, detective work or bartending which is always a bonus (okay, I’ll admit book store form of retail is almost a trope in of itself, but it doesn’t bother me as much here).

Really, all told this is quite a fun, basic, urban fantasy novel. My only real gripe is I picked out the bad guy from the moment they met. I was questioning whether you were supposed to, but considering a review for the last book in the series mentioned clue-by-fours, I’m going to go ahead and say that yes, yes you were. Thankfully, it didn’t ruin the fun by having it spoiled, and yet I don’t know that it was strictly necessary either.

As an aside: though there are one or two sex scenes, this book is pretty bloodless as far as violence goes. If you want a cleaner series, this is a good place to look.

All told, I’m not upset I broke my no additional UF series rule. I’ll give the next one a look and see where it goes from there.

Plus, as of 3/23, the book is on sale for $1.99 for Kindle. Hard to beat it at that price!

Verdict: Buy it  if still on sale or if you’re a big UF fan. Otherwise, borrow it. It may be a bit too traditional for some to hold your interest.

Available: Now.

 

Review: Angelus (The Books of Raziel #3) – Sabrina Benulis

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Summary:

The heart-pounding conclusion to the Books of Raziel trilogy, a gothic supernatural tale about a girl who discovers that she holds the keys to both Heaven and Hell—and that angels, demons, and all the creatures in between will stop at nothing to possess her and control the power she holds

“These angels can be vindictive and cruel, more human than you might expect and oozing supernatural abilities. . . . If you think you have the guts . . . pick it up.”—Boulder Examiner on Archon

The war begun by three powerful angel siblings—Raziel, Lucifel, and Israfel—has divided the kingdoms of both Heaven and Hell, and the destruction is spilling over into the human world.

The last hope for a crumbling world is the Archon—the human Angela Mathers who has the power to control the supernatural universe. Angela alone can successfully oppose Lucifel and open Raziel’s Book, to use its power for good. But to do so would mean murdering her best friend, a sacrifice Angela refuses to contemplate.

Angela sits on the throne of Hell, fulfilling a prophecy of ruin. But ruin does not always mean destruction—sometimes it means revolution. Time is running out for both Angela and the universe, and former enemies are eager to see her fail . . .

Review:

Before I get into the review proper, I’m going to do something I don’t normally do and gush about the book cover. I was fortunate enough to receive a finished copy from the publisher, and man, the photograph doesn’t really do it justice. The cover itself is almost completely matte, the grays are nice and saturated so the blood-red color of her hair and the hourglass all really stands out. The lettering also has the barest hint of a shine to it too that helps makes it stand out. All told, it’s quite eye-popping and probably one of my favorite covers in quite some time.

Of course, while a catchy cover can catch your eye, it doesn’t mean that the heart of the book itself can slack, and I don’t think it has. As before, Angelus picks up not too long after we left off and the End is basically here with Angela running out of time to open the Book of Raziel and save all mankind. She is still trapped in Hell at the beginning and the book is largely her journey to not only escape, but to see if there any way she can open the Book without Sophia, while of course trying to avoid being killed by Lucifel or the humans on earth who have been convinced that she is the new devil.

Again, as always the series places its emphasis on action more than anything else. We do get story dolled out, but it’s as Angela and her friends/allies dart from place to place. I still personally wish that there was more character development and I still feel like this would make an amazing television series where you could really bring all the great visuals to life.

The story does get wrapped up satisfactorily, and there’s a great (and grisly) end for one of our primary antagonists that did make me cheer, and I think fans of the series should be quite pleased with this ending.

Verdict: Borrow It

Available: February 9

 

Stacking the Shelves #13

Now that I’ve done my Best Of list, it seems to make sense to do a final Stacking the Shelves for the year. I have to say, there seems to be something about the month of December where I get book crazy. It’s been a little less than a month since my last post, and yet I’ve managed to acquire some twenty books in that time frame! And that doesn’t count one that will arrive in January and that I think I still have 3-4 ARCs out for request on NetGalley and Edelweiss that I’m hoping to get my hands on. Yikes. Maybe I should be sliiiightly more choosy for a while? My TBR pile would thank me 🙂

For the last time in 2015, let’s do this.

ARC

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My first unsolicited ARC. I feel all grown up :* It’s pure sci-fi, which I’m looking forward to. I played in the YA end of the pool in 2015, so looking to dip my toes more in the adult end in 2016.

DRC

There’s definitely a broad assortment of books in this group. In the YA camp we have The Prophecy of Shadows (Greek mythology-inspired), Daughter of Blood (epic fantasy), Seven Black Diamonds (faery) Burning Glass (romance/fantasy), Beyond the Red (sci-fi) and Flawed (dystopian).  On the adult side we have Submissive Seductions (erotica) A Girl’s Guide to Landing a Greek God (Greek mythology based) and Masks and Shadows (historical).  It’s a fun mix. The books here are posted in order of publication date; though it’ll take me a while to get to Daughter of Blood. It’s the the third in a trilogy and I managed to pick up the first two for $1.99 each on Kindle and will be reviewing those first. The others are all stand-alones/first in series, so there is that :*

physical books traded for by me

I picked these up in a blog sale. These are all young adult except for The Forbidden Library which is more middle grade, but Django Wexler was an enticing thought. Becoming Jinn got a lot of love when it came out and others sounded like fun (angels! steampunk!). Given the size of my TBR pile though, these are definitely going to be lower on the totem pole for when I’m looking for something different to mix it up.

eBooks bought by me

Another hodgepodge of adult and young adult. The Strange Maid is the sequel to the just-reviewed The Lost Sun. Hidden is the next Alex Verus novel. The Heir of Night/The Gathering of the Lost are the first two in the Wall of Night books. These Broken Stars is a sci-fi/romance The Rook is a fantastical thriller and Tooth and Claw is a novel of manners…with dragons.

Twenty-one books. Twenty-one. I think I need to slow down just a wee bit. LOL. So. Have you gone as crazy as I have? What have you added to your shelves?

Marked (Soulseer Chronicles #1) – Sue Tingey

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Summary:

With no family and very few friends, Lucky’s psychic ability has always made her an outcast. The only person she can rely on is Kayla, the ghost girl who has been with her since she was born.

But Kayla is not all that she appears.

And when Lucky is visited by a demonic assassin with a message for her friend, she finds herself dragged into the Underlands – and the political fight for the daemon king’s throne.

Lucky, trapped in the daemon world, is determined to find her way home… until she finds herself caught between the charms of the Guardian Jamie, the charismatic Daemon of Death Jinx – and the lure of finding out who she really is.

Review:

Marked is a bit of fun paranormal fantasy (I hesitate to call it paranormal romance as it never quite gets there, though I’m certain later volumes will get closer) that is being marked as young adult. And while the main character seems to teeter on that edge, the story definitely fits squarely into the young adult niche: if you’ve read enough fantasy, you can eventually figure out who Lucky is…or at the very least if you’re like me, kick yourself for not figuring it out as you’ve ultimately seen this before.

In some ways, this story reminds me of Angelbound about a girl who gets dragged into politics of the underworld and (of course) ultimately has an ability that makes her special. I do think this is a slightly better version of that tale. The opening is stronger and the demons definitely feel more menacing. The Underlands have an old school vibe to them, though the excuse for the lack of technology (what good has technology really done anyway?) is preachy and given how it doesn’t actually contribute to the story as a whole could have been better off tossed.

The companions in this book are probably the best part. There are demon body guards named Mr. Kerfuffle and Mr. Shenanigans, a pet draken which I totally want one for myself, and of course Jinx and and Jamie. The latter two are very much your more typical good guy/bad guy tropes, but again, they all work. I do wish we saw more of the political maneuvering – it basically happens off stage, and I do wish there could have been some actual romance here as only at the very end does our heroine realize that hey these guys are hot, but the quibbles are minor.

This is a fun little book that fans of the genre should enjoy. If you like the genre and you like the description, I think you’ll be pleased.

Verdict:

A strong borrow it.

Available: Now

Miserere: An Autumn Tale

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Summary:

Exiled exorcist Lucian Negru deserted his lover in Hell in exchange for saving his sister Catarina’s soul, but Catarina doesn’t want salvation. She wants Lucian to help her fulfill her dark covenant with the Fallen Angels by using his power to open the Hell Gates. Catarina intends to lead the Fallen’s hordes out of Hell and into the parallel dimension of Woerld, Heaven’s frontline of defense between Earth and Hell. When Lucian refuses to help his sister, she imprisons and cripples him, but Lucian learns that Rachael, the lover he betrayed and abandoned in Hell, is dying from a demonic possession. Determined to rescue Rachael from the demon he unleashed on her soul, Lucian flees his sister, but Catarina’s wrath isn’t so easy to escape!

Review:

Show, don’t tell. It’s one of the first rules of writing that your English teacher tries to drill into you when practicing creative writing of any sort.

And yet, all Frohock does is tell, tell, tell.

We know Lucian loved Catarina, because the story tells us it was so. We know that Lucian loved Rachel and that he did what he did, because the story tells us it was so.  As it was, all we get are glimpses of a backstory that could have been amazing, but instead just teases us with what might have been. It’s a problem too, because your investment in the story hinges on you buying that Lucian has remorse, and that Lucian loves Rachel. But here’s the thing: we never see Lucian actually loving Catarina. By the time we meet them, his feelings are mainly a mixture of hatred and fear. There’s some regret to be sure, but love? You don’t see it. Throw in the fact that Catarina is almost over the top villain – she lacks all subtly as a woman who wants power and will do anything and everything to get it. You literally can’t see why he would do what he did. Rachel says that she’s gone crazy. I do not doubt it, but why couldn’t we have seen it?

If there were ever a story begging for length, it is this. At 280 pages, I wish, wish wish that the book had doubled the length so we could have seen more of this tantalizing past, because I fully believe that the world created and characters that populate it are rich enough that they could have supported it. It’s so frustrating because I feel like there was so much more to see, but sadly she had chosen to tell instead.

At time of writing, the e-book was on sale, if you can get it on sale, I say pick it up. There’s just not quite enough here for me to give it my full recommendation.

Verdict: Borrow It

Available Now

The Veil – Chloe Neill

Hey everyone! Hope you all had a nice (hopefully long) holiday! Work and life got a bit stressful so I didn’t exactly get a ton of reading done last week, unless you count me DNFing Masque of the Red Death as actual progress. Things are settling down, so I’m hoping to get back into the groove of things. That said, my former 3-reviews a week just seems like it’s just not going to happen until I have some time to build a cushion back up and that won’t be possible until at least around Labor Day when I have my next vacation. In the mean time, I’m going to try aiming for twice a week, on some combination of Monday/Wednesday/Friday.

That out of the way, let’s get to it.

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Summary:

Seven years ago, the Veil that separates humanity from what lies beyond was torn apart, and New Orleans was engulfed in a supernatural war. Now, those with paranormal powers have been confined in a walled community that humans call the District. Those who live there call it Devil’s Isle.

Claire Connolly is a good girl with a dangerous secret: she’s a Sensitive, a human endowed with magic that seeped through the Veil. Claire knows that revealing her skills would mean being confined to Devil’s Isle. Unfortunately, hiding her power has left her untrained and unfocused.

Liam Quinn knows from experience that magic makes monsters of the weak, and he has no time for a Sensitive with no control of her own strength. But when he sees Claire using her powers to save a human under attack—in full view of the French Quarter—Liam decides to bring her to Devil’s Isle and the teacher she needs, even though getting her out of his way isn’t the same as keeping her out of his head.

But when the Veil threatens to shatter completely, Claire and Liam must work together to stop it, or else New Orleans will burn…

Review:

Having to write reviews like this are one of the most frustrating things I ever do. My desire to like this book wound up being stronger than my actual liking of this book, and worst still, I can’t quite put my finger on why exactly that is.

The plot is solid enough, and a nice little twist on the usual Urban Fantasy. Beings with magic tried to kill us, we tried to kill them, and when that all failed the government said eff it and just more or less abandoned New Orleans and most of the surrounding country side. New Orleans is now a husk of its former self and the inhabitants are just trying to cope. It’s different enough to be a bit of fresh air in the genre, so no fault there. I will say though that as much as she incorporated New Orleans into the story, it didn’t feel like a deep seated need to be there. It didn’t add a lot of flavor to the story is all I’m saying.

The magic is okay, I guess, though maybe a bit underdeveloped. The idea of Sensitives and Paras and Wraiths do make sense, but the actual usage of said magic just seems to be a thing that you just accept because. How else do you explain Claire, someone who has deliberately used her magic like three or four times in her whole life, being able to save the day at the very end? It kind of works, but also kind of leaves you looking side-eye at the book.

The characters are okay. I like Claire enough, despite the ending, it’s not like she’s some genius practitioner who gets it all right on the first attempt (which makes her ability to work under such extreme pressure a bit hard to swallow), she has a solid friend circle, and Liam seems okay. I’m not sold on a certain betrayal in the book. I’m not sure what the character who did that actually got in exchange, since her end goal was still the same the main bad guy. Just a general bitch? Extra plot to help round out the story? I didn’t really feel the chemistry between Claire and Liam either. I don’t think they’d be bad together, but I’m not emotionally invested in them either.

Ultimately, I had enough fun while reading the book that I didn’t have any particular urge to set the book down. I also didn’t have the urge to binge-read it either. It was just kind of there for me. Those who love urban fantasy might still want to give this a look because it is just that much different as to feel a bit fresh, but those who just dabble can safely move along.

Finally, how does it hold up to her Chicagoland books? I honestly can’t say. It’s a series that I’ve been mildly curious to try, but never actually have. After this publishes, I’d love to hear from people who have read both and find out if you think it’s worth giving her other series a chance!

Verdict: Borrow It

Available: August 4th