Review: Heartmate by Robin D. Owens

From the blurb: All his life, Rand T’Ash has looked forward to meeting his HeartMate, with whom he could begin a family. Once a street tough, now a respected nobleman and artisan, he has crafted the perfect HeartGift, which, in the custom of the psychically gifted population of the planet Celta, is the way a man finds—and attracts—his wife…Danith Mallow is irresistibly drawn to the magnificent necklace on display in T’Ash’s shop, but she is wary of its creator, despite an overpowering attraction. In a world where everyone is defined by their psychic ability, Danith has little, placing her at the opposite end of the social spectrum from T’Ash. But T’Ash refuses to accept her rejection and sees it as a challenge instead. They are HeartMates, but can T’Ash persuade his beloved to accept her destiny by his side?

My thoughts: A slight disclaimer, I have read this book over 10 times now, as each new book comes out I refresh my feelings of wonder with this series and renew my acquaintance with the wonderful world of Celta.  This first one started all the love for me, with wonderful settings, an awkward hero and a heroine just looking for the love of a big family.

The author starts us off by throwing us directly into this wonderfully imagined world.  Celta is a human colony, settled for many hundreds of years but the humans are not doing so well here, and many families have low birth rates, and some have died out.  On the opposite spectrum, humans can live for over 150 years and have ‘Flair’ the author’s word for psy powers.  The society is extremely class driven, but although most of the character’s points of view are from the higher classes we do get the occasional viewpoint of the lower classes and to them, the ‘GreatLords and GreatLadies’ are just plain weird with all their unusually strong Flair.

Confused already?  Don’t be.  The author throws you in headfirst but if you keep kicking you will find your way, and the rewards are worth it.  If this wasn’t a romance, then this world would have great opportunities for adventure stories, murder mysteries, the list goes on.  *in fact I feel some fan fiction gurgling away as we speak*

The basic premise of this story, and indeed most of the other books in the series, is that some lucky people discover during their ‘Passage’ (bouts during childhood, adolescence and young adulthood where a person’s flair finally breaks free and is fully controlled) that they have a Heartmate.  A Heartmate is the more visceral version of a soulmate.  They literally die without the other once they are bonded.  (While I think the idea of a heartmate is romantic – I think it would be scary to know that once your partner died that was it for you)

T’Ash, our hero of this book, is the last of his line.  His family was destroyed by an enemy when he was a child and he grew up on the streets.  He eventually clawed his way out of the gutter and got his revenge.  He is now an established jewellery designer and craftsman and his dream of finally meeting his heart mate are about to be realised.  But Danith, his heart mate, has other ideas as she is hoping for a marriage proposal from her current boyfriend who is from a large and boisterous family, which is exactly what she wants, she being an orphan.

There are many obstacles to this relationship which should have been smooth sailing, but T’Ash bungles things and Danith lets fear rule her, and it is not until they admit to themselves what they really want that things work out.  (I hope I didn’t ruin the ending for you, but you know if it is a romance then there is a happy ending)

The romance itself was competently done, although soul mate romances can be a little trite, and the tension is a bit lower as you know nothing will keep them apart forever, but I think what did it for me, was the setting, the intense amount of research that has gone into the religious practices of this world as well as the telepathic cats!!  Zanth was a highlight of this book for me, an ugly tomcat who speaks in short sentences and is supremely selfish, as all cats are, while being a very loveable creature as well.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough but I must warn some readers.  It hasn’t appealed to a lot of romance readers because of the highly complex nature of the setting, and it hasn’t appealed to some SF readers because of the romance focussed storyline, so if sf romance is your thing then this is the book for you.  Lucky SF romance is my thing.

The Unleashing by Shelly Laurenston: A review

From the blurb:

Kera Watson never expected to face death behind a Los Angeles coffee shop. Not after surviving two tours lugging an M16 around the Middle East. If it wasn’t for her hot Viking customer showing up too late to help, nobody would even see her die.

In uncountable years of service to the Allfather Odin, Ludvig “Vig” Rundstrom has never seen anyone kick ass with quite as much style as Kera. He knows one way to save her life—but she might not like it. Signing up with the Crows will get Kera a new set of battle buddies: cackling, gossiping, squabbling, party-hearty women. With wings. So not the Marines.

But Vig can’t give up on someone as special as Kera. With a storm of oh-crap magic speeding straight for L.A., survival will depend on combining their strengths: Kera’s discipline, Vig’s loyalty… and the Crows’ sheer love of battle. Boy, are they in trouble.

My thoughts:

The author starts off the book with a quick note to say, no, this book is not a rewrite of a previous book Hunting Season which she wrote a few years ago and is suspiciously similar, but it is set in the same world with new characters and the world a little more complex and realised.  I’m not sure then why she didn’t just call it book 2 but, hey, I’m not one to quibble.  Before I get into what I thought of the book, I will say this disclaimer.  I luuuuuurve Shelly Laurenston’s shifter books.  They are hilarious, the girls are kick-ass, the boys are cute, alpha males who although they are full of a lot of testosteronish posturing, really they’re just sweeties at heart.  They are, in short, great paranormal romances.

This book?  Much as I loved the world the author created, the characters, the kick-ass heroine (ex-marine), the dangerous but shy hero (descended from Vikings), the gaggle of fellow gal-pal Crows Kera meets, her dog, and everything else about the world, what I didn’t really like about this book was the romance.  I would have to categorise this book as an urban fantasy rather than paranormal romance because quite frankly, without the romance, this book still would have made sense.  It felt rushed, slipped in amongst all the other cool stuff the author needed to shove in there for the world building, and, quite frankly, even though the hero played a part in getting Kera turned into a Crow in the first place, if they had just stayed friends it wouldn’t have impacted the story in any way.  There was no tension in the romance, no obstacles (besides some physical ones where their lives were at stake) so I couldn’t feel connected to it, I didn’t care.  I liked both characters but there were too many other things going on for me to be too invested.  There were too many other characters, too many points of view.

Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy this book, but I think the blurb should have been different, it should have been marketed as an urban fantasy rather than the typical paranormal romance, because that’s where my expectations were, and they were disappointed because of it.  But as an urban fantasy, it is quite enjoyable.

Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood – Review for #AWW2012

Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood is the first in a very long series of books (I think they are up to number 19 now) about the fabulous Phryne (pron frynee) Fisher, lady detective.  Phryne was orginally born in Australia but moved to England as a girl when her father became heir to a title and a fortune.  She has spent her formative years as a wealthy socialite, learning to dance the tango in Paris with a gigolo, learning to drive from a race car driver and learning to fly planes.  She is certainly accomplished and handles every situation with aplomb.

When we start this book, Phryne solves a mystery of missing jewelry almost without getting up from her dinner table and when he witnesses this, another guest engages her to find out if his daughter’s husband is poisoning her.  To do this she must head off to Melbourne.

When Phryne arrives she settles in at the Windsor hotel, engages a maid and settles in to solve crime and socialise, all in the best of frocks.  She also finds time to fraternise with a Russian dancer, solve an international drug ring and make the police look stupid for not being able to find an illegal abortionist.

In fact Phryne is a little too perfect.  But she is wonderful all the same.  I fell in love with her wittiness, her dry sense of humour and her willingness to chip in and help out those of lower class than her.  She was a fun character to listen to.  But I think what I loved the most about this book was the descriptions of Melbourne in the 20’s.  As a Melbournite, I love my city, and to hear it so lovingly described made me want to go back there, to experience it for myself.  Greenwood obviously did a lot of research about Melbourne in the 20’s to sound so convincing, and it is obvious she loves this city as well.

I am glad I got to experience this book before the television series starts on the ABC this year.  I think I am definitely going to enjoy it.

I read this book for the AWW2012 Challenge.  You can find the challenge at the following link http://www.australianwomenwriters.com/p/australian-women-writers-book-challenge_25.html 2 down – 8 to go 🙂

The Reformed Vampires Support Group by Catherine Jinks

Before I say anything about this book, let me just say this, what a cool title for a book.  This was what originally attracted me to this series, although I must be honest, the cover of the original one I saw was much sexier than this one, which was the cover of the audiobook that I listened to.

When I first tried to read this, about a year ago, the book didn’t really appeal to me.  As a great fan of vampire romances, the idea of sickly vampires, who didn’t really do much of anything and whinged and complained a lot, really didn’t appeal to me.  So I put it back on the TBR pile where it languished for months (don’t worry, some books languish there for years).

The other cover really made the vampires seem way cooler than they really were

I rest my case.  To me this cover was quite misleading, this cover says to me the heroine is a kickass vampire with an attitude that no-one is going to diss.  In reality Nina, the aforementioned heroine, is in fact, a sickly, weak reformed vampire who has been living in her mother’s basement since 1973 when she was turned at the age of 15.  She is a skinny pale girl with a bad haircut and a can’t do attitude.  Does this cover portray that at all?  Whereas the cover of the audiobook accurately portrays the whimsical nature of this book.  Anyway, enough about the covers, what did I think of this book.  In a word (or two), I liked it, but didn’t love it.

There is something quite special about this book (indeed the sequel The Abused Werewolves Rescue Group has a similar quality to it as well).  I did enjoy the originality of the premise, that Vampirism is a disease and that Vampires are basically very unwell forever.  They talk in terms of science rather than the supernatural, they scoff at the vampire legends, they laugh about the super strength, and they vomit a lot.  Plus I liked the Australian setting as well, you don’t get many vampire/werewolf tales set in the outback or Sydney (unless you read Keri Arthur but if you like her you won’t be reading this I don’t think – not enough sex – none in fact)

The support group to which the title of the book refers, is where the vampires meet every Tuesday night to bitch and moan about life as a vampire and what it entails.  This is where we meet out intrepid heroine Nina, who is about to head off to yet another interminable meeting when they find out that one of their number has been staked by a slayer.

What ensues is definitely a comedy of errors and misunderstandings as the usually apathetic (I can relate) vampires must motivate themselves to save the group from discovery and a young werewolf from slavery.

I found it to be an almost uplifting story, that the most unlikely of people can be heroes, but there were a few things that annoyed me about the story.

One – the author’s use of ‘never the less’ and ‘needless to say’ were by far too prevalent throughout the book.  It may have been because I was listening to it, but I found it to be quite annoying.  This is also the case in the sequel, even more so.

Two – the lack of romance.  Although this is not a vampire romance per se, I still felt a bit cheated.  Even though Nina does find someone (I won’t say who but it is obvious from the very start) we don’t even get to listen in on a kiss or a cuddle at all.  I understand this is written as a diary perspective but the main character is in her fifties for god’s sake, surely there could have been some nookie?

Three – the first person point of view.  I normally quite like a first person point of view but considering that this first person is unconscious for all the daylight hours I felt this could have been better with third person.  Again, I realise this was supposed to be a diary format kind of book but sometimes first person gets my goat, and way too many YA books are written in first person.

Aside from these few things, I did quite enjoy this book, I thought it was better than the sequel, easier to relate to a sickly vampire than a stupid 13 year old werewolf.  I recommend it for lovers of the out of the ordinary and teens.

This is my first book review for the AWW2012 challenge – http://www.australianwomenwriters.com/p/australian-women-writers-book-challenge_25.html which I will post there as well.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

I didn’t think I could read any more chaste love stories between teenagers and supernatural creatures, but a Borders Sale beckoned and I bought two werewolf books.  One, called ‘The Last Werewolf’ which I will be reading next and this one, ‘Shiver’ by Maggie Stiefvater.

Shiver is not your average everyday love story between a teen and the mysterious boy who could be a wolf.  In this one, when they meet, he actually is a wolf, and remains one through most of the early interaction.

I was intrigued by the author’s take on the Werewolf mythology.  In her world, a wolf bite does indeed turn one into a werewolf but the moon is not in charge of the change here.  Instead, the change is affected by the temperature.  When it gets cold enough you turn into a wolf and you stay that way until Spring or even Summer.  When you have been a wolf a long time, your time as a human decreases until at the last, you never change back and end your days as a wolf.  I loved that idea, that it wasn’t a supernatural thing, but could perhaps be explained by science (although good luck explaining morphing into a totally different species scientifically).

At the start of the story we meet Grace.  A not so typical teen who has been forced to grow responsible fairly early due to the total fickleness of her parents.  She is obsessed by the wolves in the woods out the back of her house.  She was attacked by them when she was nine and ever since she can’t get them out of her head.  Especially ‘her’ wolf.  He of the beautiful yellow eyes.

She has her suspicions about the wolves being not quite normal, but can’t articulate that suspicion until a boy at school is attacked by the pack.  He dies but his body disappears and later she sees a new wolf in the forest with his eyes.  Feelings amongst the townfolk have moved against the wolves and they organise a posse to go out and shoot them.

Grace is horrified and tries to stop the shooting but has no luck, dejected she goes home and finds a wounded boy on her doorstep with beautiful yellow eyes….

This truly is a love story with a difference.  I was totally entranced with both Sam and Grace.  The writing style is first person POV with mostly alternating chapters between Sam’s and Grace’s POV.  While the love story is mostly chaste, to keep it to a YA rating so that schools will buy it, it is also a beautiful tale with a quiet desperation to it when you learn that Sam hasn’t long left as a human.

I will admit that this book made me cry.  While it is very hard to read print when there are tears in your eyes, I do admire an author that can make me care enough about a character that I will weep for them.  It is a perfect love story, with the two protagonists made for each other without being too sickly about it.  They are both misfits and nobody glows here.  Neither is the most attractive in class and indeed, because of his condition, Sam cannot even attend school.

My only complaint was the first person perspective.  It was written well, but that style of writing is quite limiting and I found myself wanting to know what else was going on outside of the main characters’ purview.  Besides this there wasn’t much here I could fault.  I would recommend this to readers who enjoy teen love stories, or those with wolves in it.  If you are looking for supernatural romance similar to Vampire Diaries or Twilight then don’t look here.