Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Review: The Shattered Dark by Sandy Williams

THE SHATTERED DARK (A Shadow Reader Novel)
by Sandy Williams


RELEASE DATE: 21 February 2013

GENRE: Fiction - Fantasy

McKenzie Lewis has a gift. It allows her access to a world few have seen and even fewer can comprehend. It's her secret. And it exists in the shadows ...

Mckenzie was a normal college student, save for one little twist: she's a shadow reader, someone who can both see the fae and track their movements between our world and the Realm. It's a gift for which she has been called insane, one for which she has risked family and friends - and one that has now plunged her into a brutal civil war among the fae.

With the reign of the king and his vicious general at an end, McKenzie hoped to live a more normal life while exploring her new relationship with Aren, the rebel fae who has captured her heart. But when her best friend, Paige, disappears, McKenzie knows her wish is, for now, just a dream. McKenzie is the only one who can rescue her friend, but if she's not careful, her decisions could cost the lives of everyone she's tried so hard to save.
My thoughts: 

The Shattered Dark is the second book in the Shadow Reader series. I haven't actually read the first, The Shadow Reader, and although that didn't place me at a disadvantage in terms of getting to grips with the World, the characters and the backstory, I really, really wish I had, as I think it would have affected how I felt about this book.

The biggest problem this book faces is it's too fast-paced; the action starts straight away and doesn't let up at all. I know that probably sounds weird but it feels like the author chose action over developing the characters and their relationships and as a result, I didn't feel particularly invested in any of their missions.
About half way through the book, I noticed the plot started to feel a bit awkward and lumpy. This wasn't helped by the use of short, choppy sentences and a lot of repeated words. Plot twists are introduced, which I won't go into detail about as I don't want to spoil the book for anyone, but to be honest, several of them didn't sit right with me and it felt like they'd been thrown in for the sake of it, to pad the book out a bit.  
Saying that, there is one very, VERY significant event that occurs quite late in the book, which I think will rescue it for a lot of readers and encourage you to carry on with the series. There are also a few other loose ends, which will carry on through to the next book, but to be honest, they're much less interesting!

To be clear though, I didn't dislike this book but I didn't love it either. It reminds me of The Lord of The Rings : The Two Towers - an in-between story, a stop gap until the main event kicks off. I think if I'd read The Shadow Reader first then I'd probably hang on in with the series to see what happens next but as I didn't, I won't be jumping to read book 3 once it's released.

Read this if ... you loved The Shadow Reader, you're a fan of fantasy involving the fae, and you like stories which include a love triangle

Don't read this if ... you haven't read The Shadow Reader, and you like your fantasy to include a good helping of sex

Friday, 12 April 2013

The Great British Sewing Bee : Are you up for a challenge?

About 4 or 5 years ago now, I started to think I may in fact be a sewing genius. There was absolutely no reason for me to think this, and no evidence either, but that didn't stop me! I started to daydream about all the beautiful little bits and pieces I would be able to quickly stitch together, and the creations I could fill my wardrobe with, and I thought that if I just had a sewing machine, I would soon discover a hidden talent for sewing.

My lovely husband, brother-in-law and parents-in-law surprised me with a sewing machine one Christmas and I was so excited. I treated myself to a subscription to Sew magazine, bought (quite) a few sewing books - ranging from how to sew sock animals to clothes - and a variety of other accessories and since then, I've made the grand total of, ooooh, 2 tote bags? Turns out I have a not so hidden talent for procrastination along with a big old streak of perfectionism instead.

In the last few months, I had started to feel that it was time to pack everything away and accept that I was probably never going to pursue this interest, and it seemed like the right decision to make. But then The Great British Sewing Bee burst onto our screens and all of a sudden, I started to think that maybe, just maybe, I could actually sew something. I mean, look at Tilly, she started sewing 3 years ago and she's only a few years younger than me.

Jump forwards to Tuesday just gone and there I was, watching episode 2 of TGBSB and live tweeting away with some of the usual suspects when I find myself saying "shall we give it a go? challenge ourselves to make one thing each?" and that, dear reader, is how what I am now calling The Great Twitter Sewing Bee Challenge began.

If you're like me, and many others, who dream about being able to sew but for whatever reason - lack of time/a fear you'll be rubbish at it/a worry you don't really know what you're doing -  you've never really given it a go then this is the challenge for you. It's all about popping your sewing cherry and the "rules" are very simple:

1. You have until 8 May 2013 to make and sew 1 item of your choice

2. You can sew anything - an item of clothing, a toy, a bag - whatever takes your fancy

To keep motivated, I will be checking into twitter between 8pm and 9pm on 16 April 2013, 23 April 2013 and 30 April 2013 and chatting about my progress using the hashtag #gbsb. I'll probably then do a big reveal of the finished item here on my blog on 8 May 2013 - if I'm organised enough that is!

If you do fancy getting involved, leave me a comment and let me know how I can keep in touch with you. I'm generally around on twitter most days and you can find me here so if you want to send me a tweet about how you're finding the challenge, I will be more than happy to provide words of support and encouragement.

Let's get sewing!

Friday, 5 April 2013

Actors you fancy ... but only in one particular role

Inspired by this thread on Mumsnet, I started thinking about the actors I fancy but only in one particular role. I was actually quite surprised at some of the people that made my list as at the time, I was absolutely devoted to them. Fast forward quite a few years and I can see it was the character they played that attracted me to them rather than their actual looks, if that makes sense?

Here are my top 10 - in no particular order - I wonder how my list compares to yours?

Top Left:  Charles Dance as Twyin Lannister in Game of Thrones 
Top Right: Hugh Laurie as Dr Gregory House in House  
Bottom Left: Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Bottom Right:  Alexis Denisof as Wesley Wyndam-Pryce in Angel 

Top Left: Jason Dohring as Logan Echolls in Veronica Mars
Top Right: James Marsters as Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Bottom Left: Sean Bean as Ned Stark in Game of Thrones 
Bottom Right: Michael Rooker as Merle Dixon in The Walking Dead

Left: Daniel Craig as James Bond
Right: David Boreanaz as Special Agent Seeley Booth in Bones

I imagine there's a couple of names on there that may have surprised you. I was certainly shocked to realise I didn't actually fancy David Boreanaz as Angel! I think he's matured really well though and has definitely grown into his looks. 

I also can't quite believe Charles Dance is on my list but it's not so much that I fancy him - honest! Before Game of Thrones, I never could take him seriously, as I always felt his acting was over the top and his characters like caricatures. However, as Tywin Lannister, he exudes power, authority and intellect and I realise I've underestimated his abilities. I do look at him quite differently now.

So who is on your list? Is there anyone in common with mine?  Please say I'm not alone in some of my choices!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Review: Revelation by Erica Hayes

REVELATION (A Novel of the Seven Signs)
by Erica Hayes


RELEASE DATE: 14 February 2013

GENRE: Paranormal Romance

A fallen angel with a mission and a medical examiner who's lost her faith are fighting for their souls in a glittering, near future Manhattan ...

Blind faith is for fools.  That's what Dr Morgan Sterling believes.  And she's going to prove it by curing the zombie plague ravaging here city's slums. She's certain it's not a sign of the End of Days, but a nasty disease - until an angel appears in her morgue in a flash of glory.

Luniel is not just a fallen angel.  He's a powerful warrior sworn to fight evil in hopes of a chance at redemption. He's after the demon princes who are stealing the seven vials of holy wrath that, when perverted, will unleash eternal hell on earth. 

To stop the plague, Luniel needs Morgan's help, and her faith.  But Morgan believes science is their salvation. If the zombie plague is a demonic curse - and if Luniel is true - he'll have to prove it. Even if he loses his heart to love or his soul to hell ...

My thoughts:

In an alternate - and somewhat futuristic - Manhattan, we meet the Tainted Host; a group of fallen angels who were cast out of Heaven by the Archangel Michael and who continue to carry out Heaven's bidding in the hope of redemption and a chance to return home. 

Naturally, we're talking hard-drinking, hard-loving, hard-slaying and hard-sinning fallen angels here (apart from Japheth who's trying way too hard to be way too pure). They're a group of bad boys - and women - all flawed and each with a story to share; someone for everyone.

I was excited to start reading this book, as I was interested to see how well the angel and zombie themes would merge together but I found the first few chapters heavy going and nearly gave up on a couple of occasions. 

There's a lot of swearing and in my opinion, it's completely unnecessary. It's obvious that the characters aren't pure, angelic types and it's also obvious there's a lot of banter between them so the swearing doesn't add anything, it just feels over-the-top and after the millionth time of a demon being referred to as a "hellshit", it was incredibly irritating. 

The chapter in which we're introduced to the Archangel Michael and his hedonistic lifestyle also felt too much; although I am looking forward to finding out why Michael is doing what he is doing and whether he will get his comeuppance at any point.

However, as the book progressed, I found myself easing into the story more and more. 

The characters are tried and tested types that we've all met before. 

Luniel is a man of faith who's terrified to get close to a human woman because he failed to protect the last woman he loved and he can't take any chance that the same thing will happen again. Dr Morgan Sterling is a woman of science who's terrified to put her trust in a man of God - let alone an Angel - after she saw how so-called religion stripped her mum of everything, including her life. They're immediately attracted to each other and we all know they'll have found their way to each other by the end of the book. That knowledge doesn't make you want to stop reading though - you want to see how the story will play out.

Talking of the plot, I really like the idea behind these novels. Basically, there are seven vials, each filled with God's Wrath,and each looked after by an Angelic guardian. It's not known what has happened to one of the guardians but another has been murdered and both of their vials have been emptied, releasing the first 2 "plagues" and beginning the countdown to the apocalypse. I wonder how the author will interpret the other 5 signs?

The main storyline obviously belongs to Luniel and Morgan. It's relatively strong and very fast-paced, even if it is slightly predictable. I mean, as soon as you hear about Luniel's past, you know that at some point he's going to have to go up against the demon prince that stole his last human lover's soul. They do have great sex though and it's well-written!

We also start to see the beginning of some of the other character's stories; particularly Jadzia's and her infatuation with the demon, Shax. I liked the fact that the book wove the start of these storylines in as I felt it gave the supporting characters more substance and the book felt like it was "more" than just a romance novel.

There were some descriptive passages that caught my attention, like this one:
She expected him to take the chair in the corner, but when she laid her head on the pillow he lighted on the dark wooden bed end, wings flaring. He crouched there on his toes, perfectly balanced, wrists crossed on his knees. His black hair tangled, windswept. His feathers twitched, black and silky, a golden spark or two dancing, and his deep blue gaze settled on her. 
And serious heart felt moments like this:
"Screw you okay?" Sweat trickled from Jae's hair, and he shook it away angrily. "If it's so damned simple, why don't you just flit back off to heaven whenever you f--"
"Because I'll never forgive myself!"
 Japheth's breath drained cold.
 "Okay?" Dash's dark eyes flamed scarlet with shame. "I can't forgive the things I've done, or the way I feel. I've drowned my soul in blood and screams, and it felt so fucking good that I deserve to burn in hell. Forever".
And there are enough loose ends left dangling to make you want to read the next books in the series and find out what will happen. 

One final gripe though, the dark-haired warrior with the blue flaming sword on the cover of the book is NOT Luniel. His hair isn't long enough, his breastplate should have buckled leather straps and those leather trousers are ill-fitting and quite appalling. Shame on whoever designed it for not paying enough attention to the author's writing!

Okay, so I know it probably sounds like I've mainly complained about it but I actually think this book will appeal to a lot of readers. Certainly, if you love paranormal romance, long-haired angst-ridden heroes, sizzling sex scenes and you fancy a change from vampires and werewolves, then this is one for you!

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