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review: Dying Bites

 Dying Bites (The Bloodhound Files #1) -by- DD Barant
(Published by St. Martin’s) 

My grade: 4 1/2 stars

GoodReads Blurb:  A Her job description is the “tracking and apprehension of mentally-fractured killers.” What this really means in FBI profiler Jace Valchek’s brave new world—one in which only one percent of the population is human—is that a woman’s work is never done. And real is getting stranger every day….

 I FOUND AN INTERVIEW WITH D.D. BARANT on from April 2010 on Amberkatze’s Book Blog, where he (I understand that D.D. is one of three pseudonyms used by this author) talks about this book and the world it is set in:

The Bloodhound Files is about a world where the supernatural races—vampires, werewolves and golems—are the dominant civilization. Human beings make up just one percent of the population and are considered a federally protected endangered species. The main character, Jace Valchek, is an FBI profiler from our world, specializing in deranged killers. She gets yanked into this parallel universe for her skills—the supernaturals are immune to mental diseases as well as physical ones, so they have no experience with craziness.

We meet Jace in bed, nursing a hangover after yet another social faux pas – drinking tends to make her somewhat inhibited when it comes to sharing details about her work, most of which is not suitable for cocktail party small talk. She falls back asleep and has a weird dream that turns out to be no dream at all; she is being pulled into a parallell universe in order to assist the National Security Agency, NSA, profile and apprehend a serial killer.

World building can be tricky – you don’t want to infodump your reader, but at the same time enough details must be provided to make the story believable. I prefer the kind of books where details about the surroundings – especially if they are new to the main character – are provided where it fits the story best. And I think it is done in that manner in Dying Bites. Jace’s reaction to the information about her whereabouts, the existense of (go)lems, (lycan)thropes and (vam)pires – the short versions used regularly in the book – feels natural, as does her curiosity and acceptance of things that are different compared to our/her real world.

Jace is a tough cookie, after all she is one of FBI’s best profilers. And even though she is extremely unhappy about the situation she finds herself in, she is a professional and gets to work to solve the murder case/s – it is, after all, her only way to make sure she will be transported back again.
She is chasing a human, perceived to be psychotic. The thrope and two pires who are the victims by the time Jace is forced to take on the case, have been killed in extremely gruesome manners, meant to send a message both to the dominant species and to the remaining human population. A monster is a monster, but Jace cannot help contemplating the crimes that humanity have be subject to – especially during this world’s version of world war II. I won’t go in to details here, but as the story progresses, Jace finds out more and more, information kept from her by her new boss Cassius.

Every detective needs a partner, and Jace’s is Charlie Aleph – a golem. Thropes and pires look mostly human, but lems… not so much. Cassius first describes golems to Jace thus: ”… a golem is an artificial person, usually man-shaped but sexless. Basic animist magic: shape a humanoid form and charge it with life force”. This makes Jace expect Charlie to basically look like a sack of sand. But this is her first impression:

…a broad-shouldered figure a little over six feet tall, wearing a very sharp pin-striped suit of dark blue, matching fedora, and polished black leather oxfords. His skin is darker than his shoes, and just as glossy; his features seem sculpted out of black chrome. His tie appears to be alligator skin.. He stops in front of our table and looks at me. At least, I think that’s what he’s doing; he doesn’t seem to have actual irises or pupils, just eye-shaped indentations. It’s like looking at a mask, one with strong, angular features: square chin, heavy brow, Roman nose with a pronounced hump to it.

Jace also works closely with Damon Eisfanger, a lab thrope, and Gretchen Petra, a pire who works with intel. All the characters introduced feel three dimensional. Their individual traits and quirks become apparent as Jace gets to know them better and they grow on her (and the reader).
As mentioned, Jace is tough and in the beginning she comes across as a little too angry. But then, as you get to know her, you understand where it is coming from. She has a sense of humour and does realize quickly when she has made an error of judgement – she can be very hasty at times. One thing that is frustrating to her is that her gun (until it is somewhat modified) neither scares nor affects the pires or thropes significantly. In a showdown with a Japanese oyabun, this is very apparent:

I’ve got the drop on Isamu, but of course that doesn’t mean anything to a target who isn’t afraid of guns. He leaps straight at me, probably intending to rip my arms off and beat me to death with them, and I shoot him many times. Many, many times. He refuses to explode in a disgusting display of gore and instead is merely propelled backward to his starting point. This produces a look of intense irritation on his face, which just doesn’t work for me. I was hoping for something a little more satisfying—fear, horror, maybe the dawning realization that he is well and truly hooped.
Oh, well. You take what you can get.

If you like Ilona Andrews’s books about Kate Daniels, there is a very good chance you’ll enjoy Dying Bites. I am already reading book #2 in this series!

(read in December 2011)

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review: The Winter Sea

The Winter Sea -by- Susanna Kearsley
(Published by Sourcebooks Landmark) 

My grade: 4 stars

GoodReads Blurb:  History has all but forgotten…

In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.

Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel.

***

THIS BOOK HAS A LOT OF MY FAVOURITE INGREDIENTS: Scottish history mixed with the present day and it is told from first person’s pov. At least part of it. The author has done her research very, very thoroughly and I could definitely see very clearly all the details from both the past and the present day surroundings.

Carrie is a successful author. She is Canadian of Scottish/Irish heritage currently residing in France and writing a book set in the time of the first Jacobite uprising in 1708. But she has writer’s block.
During a visit to her agent in the north of Scotland (she is the godmother of her agent’s baby boy), she gets fascinated by the castle of Slains, is drawn to it so much that she nearly gets lost and misses the christening. She meets a man who – despite it being a very quick meeting where he points her in the right direction – makes a lasting impression on her.

She gets inspired to continue writing in Scotland, packs up her stuff in France and rents a little cottage near the castle of Slains.
While she is writing her book, featuring her ancestor Sophia, she discovers that she has inherited – there is no other explanation – Sophias memories. And Sophia’s story and her part in the failed expedition in 1708 unfolds while in present day Carrie meets the the sons of her landlord who both take an interest in her.

I found the switching back and forth in time a bit irritating – just as I was getting involved in Sophia’s life we switch back to Carrie and so forth. Sophia’s episodes gets longer and longer, though.
She is a bit pale and quiet in the beginning and we find out why this is so. But she grows and fills out and becomes more and more interesting. Carrie, however, I can’t get a grip on. Maybe I missed something (I read too quickly at times), but I cannot tell you what she looks like. Unfortunately (for me) she started looking a bit like Diana Bishop from “A Discovery of Witches” in my head. I guess I felt that they were equally disinterested in their looks and clothes.

If you are into history and liked Outlander, this is a book for you. Be prepared to miss out on the detailed sex, however, you have to use your own imagination!.

(read in April 2011)

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review: Making Waves

Making Waves -by- Tawna Fenske
(Published by Sourcebooks) 

My grade: 4 stars

GoodReads Blurb:  When Alex Bradshaw’s unscrupulous boss kicks him to the curb after 20 faithful years as an executive with the world’s largest shipping company, he sets out to reclaim his dignity and his pension. Assembling a team of fellow corporate castoffs, he sails to the Caribbean to intercept an illegal diamond shipment. None of them counted on quirky blonde stowaway Juli Flynn, who has a perplexing array of talents, a few big secrets, and an intoxicating romantic chemistry with Alex… 

THIS WAS VERY DIFFERENT. A 37-year-old job-hopping heroine looking to bring her wacky uncle’s ashes to their last resting place in the ocean outside a Caribbean island. a 42-year-old former VP looking for revenge on his old employer as well as getting his nest-egg back.

The setting is wonderful, it really made me want to go on a Caribbean vacation. The sidekicks are also unusual and interesting. It is a bit of slapstick to this comical romance, but it is done with such a deft hand that I really don’t mind.

I wasn’t entirely sure of how things were going to play out until the end, at one point I actually thought their was a traitor in the good pirates’ midst.
Now that I think about it, this book would actually make a really fun, romantic comedy.!

(read in August 2011)

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