Tag Archives: TBR challenge 2015

Review of An Airship Named Desire, by Katherine McIntyre

An Airship Named DesireQuite some times ago, Katherine McIntyre sent me a copy of her novel An Airship Named Desire for review. I’ve also seen it on the Amazon free list.

Description from Goodreads:
Ever since their last botched smuggling job, First Mate Bea and the crew of her airship can barely afford fuel, let alone a barrel of grog. So, when a gentleman from Old Germany offers them a fortune to steal a locked box from a British merchant airship, they jump at the opportunity. Somehow, though, their employer forgot to mention the box’s military escort, and the Morlock mercenaries who would kill to get their hands on it. Oh, and that if made public, the contents could engulf Europe in another devastating war. 

Stealing the box was the easy part. Now, with a target on their back, and some of the toughest characters in the sky after them, they have to find a way to survive. If the crew of the Desire don’t polish their pistols and prepare for a hell of a fight, they’ll end up worse than grounded. After all, everyone from the Brits to the Morlocks will kill for the contents of that box, and no one survives an airship crash.

This was basically all right, but not overly satisfying. As action packed as it was it tended toward simplistic solutions to problems. For example, the time the crew managed to guess the three-digit combination to a box they knew nothing about (on the first try even). Hell, half the time I can’t even figure out my own locker combination, let alone a combination set by an unknown person, for an unknown purpose. So, yeah, sometimes things worked out a little too easily, but it was also a fun romp.

However, all that action comes at a price. This book starts with it and it never abates. And while that’s exciting it leaves no time to slow down and get to know the characters or the world. I really felt this lack of depth. I also thought it was a bit predictable and the open ending (not a cliffhanger per se, but not all questions answered) chaffed a bit.

All in all, if you’re looking for some airship fluff that doesn’t require much mental participation this will do the trick. It’s a fun but shallow read.

Review of Spell Struck (The Witchblood Dossiers, #1), by Nicole J. Fawcett

Spell StruckIn December of 2012, I downloaded Nicole J. Fawcett‘s Spell Struck from the Amazon free list. I read it as part of me TBR reading challenge (reading books I’ve own 2+ years).

Description from Goodreads:
Rhiannon Grey is a detective in a hectic police headquarters. She’s also a witch, in a society that’s learned not to think too highly of the supernatural, and her boss is a two thousand-year-old vampire. Rian has discovered the hard way that trouble is always just around the corner.

This time, trouble is called Griffin King, a fifteen year old runaway whose strangled corpse is found floating in the river. He’s not the first street-kid to vanish recently, or to turn up later, very dead. When Rian starts to suspect he was a witch, too, and that his magic led to his death, her investigation turns into a personal crusade. 

No one seems terribly concerned about the fate of a few disappeared urchins, though. And when a series of brutal murders starts panicked speculation about a nest of vampires, Rian’s boss has other things on his mind.

But Rian won’t be distracted. Not by bureaucracy, not by murder, and certainly not by her dysfunctional private life. Her family think she’s going to end up dead; her friends think she’s going to end up dead lonely; and her lovers are dead frustrated . . .

This is a perfectly passable, but basically uninspiring PNR. Rian wavered between being strong and smart and being the child-like joker of the detective team (certainly never quite as slick, together and leader-like as any of the men who were ostensibly her equals).

She went back and forward between kicking butt in a fight and tripping over her own feet, especially when scantily dressed such that the UST was artificially amped up. (Because she forgot to put a robe over her panties and crop top pyjamas while self-consciously sharing a hotel suite with a man she’s attracted to. Sure, that kind of thing happens all the time, right?)

She also oddly needed a two thousand-year-old vampire to teach her how to use magic, despite coming from and being raised in a long-standing, powerful family of witches with Fae connections, had a tendency to run off and do TSL stuff when she was unhappy, suffered a minor mental break-down out of nowhere and instigated what will obviously be a love-triangle in future books. So, there were definitely parts of this book I distinctly disliked but for the most part, I enjoyed it. I was especially fond of Cato, Safi and Marco.

The writing and editing was fine. Though there was a habit of putting a space between the beginning quotation mark and the first word of a quote (like this, ” bla, bla, bla”). I’ve seen people do that before, so maybe it’s a standard somewhere but it drove me crazy. Otherwise, I have no real complaints about the writing/editing. (Oh, except that the title makes no sense when, not once in the whole book, did ANYONE sling, craft, chant, speak or even get struck by a spell. In fact, we’re kind of told magic doesn’t work like that. Maybe I missed something.)

I enjoyed the book enough to pick up a sequel if I saw it on sale, but not enough to buy it at full price. (That’s a legitimate way to rank a book right?)

Review of Tortured Skin (Paul Isaac – Vampire #1), by James C. Gillen

Tortured SkinIn January of 2013 I downloaded a copy of Tortured Skin, by James C. Gillen, from the Amazon free list. I read it now as part of a TBR reading challenge in which I’m making an effort to read books I’ve owed more than two years.

Description from Goodreads:
When Paul Isaac, vampire executioner, is confronted by the master vampire of the city and poisoned with a virus that will not only kill him, but cause him to rise as one of the undead, he must decide whether to do the bidding of the powerful vampire to save his own life, or stop the sadistic killer that threatens to leave the city with more unfortunate victims. Packed with crucifixes, stakes, and a Magnum filled with ultra-violet bullets, Paul uncovers a sinister club that caters to the dark side of pleasure and pain that might not only be the key to his survival, but also push him closer to the killer’s identity. In order to stay alive, he must learn to face his inner darkness and trust in things that just might be less monstrous than himself.

While reading this book I went back and forwards about whether I was enjoying it or not. The writing was fine, as was the editing. My problem was that I chose it because another reviewer said, “Interesting series – fans of Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series and Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan series will find similar elements and should like this one.”

But over and over I thought, “What the hell, this is nothing like Laurell K. Hamilton or Kim Harrison. They both write Urban Fantasy that borders on and sometimes overlaps with PNR. This is Urban Fantasy that borders on and sometimes overlaps with Horror. Not the same AT ALL!”

But then it hit me. Tortured Skin is LKH and KH-like fiction for men! What it lacks in any romantic subplot it makes up for in violent bravado. I think a third of the book is just Paul making threats at people or people threatening him and AT LEAST half the book is him enacting those threats or surviving other’s violence toward his person.

Did I like it? Not particularly, but then I’m not a man. I went in expecting a male version of Anita Blake or Rachel Morgan and got a vampire hunting Dirty Harry instead.

The thing is that a lot of the trash talk, violence and cold-heartedness that I appreciate in female characters, as a twisting of gender norms, just comes across as asshole-like on a man. Paul is not a likeable guy. He doesn’t even pretend to try to be and I disliked him as a result.

I also discovered a whole new pet peeve in reading this book, books that don’t give you a description of a character and then drop things in willy-nilly. This book never gave a single, solid description of Paul (though I know what every outfit and woman’s figure looks like) but at ~10% tattoos were mentions. At ~20% a goatee was mentioned. Then, at ~45% his bald head was mentioned, by which point it was far too late to try and alter the image I had created in my head for the character and I found myself jerked out of the story.

The same could be said for the world building. It’s pretty sketchy. Religious icons worked against vampires, but they didn’t have to ask permission to enter homes. I never came to terms with which myths were being used and which discarded. For example, after the werewolves and vampires being enemies for the whole book, the author introduced a vampire’s ability to call on and control werewolves at the 90% mark. What?

Lastly, I never quite understood the point of the coverup that led to the events of the book. Vampires killed people left and right, so why the individual deaths in question were so important was a mystery to me. It left me skeptical of everything.

All in all, while this wasn’t a winner for me, I think guys (who are more prone to appreciate an overly macho, emotionless hero) will probably quite enjoy the book.