Review: Secrets of the Demon by Diana Rowland

Secrets of the Demon

Kara Gillian #3

Written: Diana Rowland [website]

Published: DAW

When: January 4, 2011

ISBN: 0756406528

Cover blurb: Homicide detective Kara Gillian has a special talent: she can sense the “arcane” in our world, and there’s quite a bit of it, even in Beaulac, Louisiana. She’s also a summoner of demons, and works on a task force that deals with supernatural crimes. Her partners are attractive and smart FBI agents, but they’re not summoners, and they’re not telling Kara why they are on this special force with her.

To make things worse, Kara has pledged herself to one of the most powerful of demons-a Demon Lord-who helped save her partner’s life, but now expects things in return. Meanwhile, she’s trying to solve a string of murders that are somehow tied together by money, sex, rock music and…mud. But how can she concentrate on the case when she’s not even sure who-or what-her partners are?

My Review:

It’s not a secret that I love pretty much everything Diana Rowland writes, including most of her tweets. This is an author whose writing grabs you by the hair and drags you bodily into the story. The mysteries haven’t been so complex that you can’t follow them, and she’s certainly surprised me a time or two, but this series isn’t one that’s going to cause you to think overly much. This is a perfect book for a rainy Saturday — or a sick Wednesday, in my case.

This is the third in the series, so I won’t go too much into the plot details. I wouldn’t want to ruin anything, and believe me when I tell you that this book has the best surprises in the series so far. Suffice to say that Kara and her FBI task force partners Zach and Ryan end up investigating several strange murders, one or two of which appear at first glance to be accidents – except for the strange mud and arcane resonance at the scenes.

The author has vast prior experience with both law enforcement and dead bodies (and I don’t) so her procedures and work-related character interactions are believably real. Kara’s behavior with Rhyzkahl is annoying as hell, but since I have beef with any heroine who magically jumps into bed with people she doesn’t know (which pretty much keeps every romance novel in existence off my book shelves), I’m not going to hold that against her. Especially since, to my great relief, the sex does actually further the storyline instead of just being a distracting interlude from it. This is a talent of Rowland’s, and one I’m pleased to see. I am taking a quarter star off my rating, only because Rhyzkahl’s “I’m going to bone you in every room of your house” line made me roll my eyes. Otherwise, this would be a 5 star book.

The cover art has changed, disappointingly – as it was gorgeous before. However, it’s understandable that this would happen, since the author had to change publishing houses in order to sell more books in the series. They could put abstract art of squishy deer farts on the cover of the next one, for all I care, as long as we get a next book. And really, the art on this one isn’t hideous, it just doesn’t pop quite like the first two did. I’m easy to please, really. As long as the cover doesn’t involve any form of man-boobs, I’m good to go.

Now, as to the surprises in this book – there were two fairly big ones. Okay, REALLY BIG ones. No, I’m not going to tell you what they are. The first one I didn’t see coming at all. I should have, in retrospect. The clues were subtle, but they were there. On the other hand, I enjoy novels that make me yell things that would look like “WTF?!?!” if they were done on the internet.  I figured out the second reveal — which occurs on the VERY LAST PAGE (no peeking!) – based on the first one. I’m pleased that I got to have both a “WTF” moment and a smug “I knew that was going to happen” in the same book. It’s like a Reese’s – chocolate and peanut butter are best when they’re together.

I don’t know what else I can say. I read both this book and Faith Hunter’s Mercy Blade a couple of weeks ago when I had to stay home for a day due to an illness. They’re a perfect combination, so I encourage you to go catch some sort of bug so you can stay home and read them both. (Okay, not really. I suppose you don’t have to actually make yourself ill to do this.) If you like urban fantasy and you’re not reading this series, I’m not entirely sure that we can stay friends in the future. So what are you waiting for?

[xrr rating=4.75/5 imageset=default]

Review: The Heir of Night by Helen Lowe

The Wall of Night Book 1 The Heir of Night

The Wall of Night #1

Written: Helen Lowe [website]

Published: Eos

When: September 28,2010

ISBN: 0061734047

Obtained via: Publisher (ARC)

Back Cover Blurb:

If Night falls, all fall . . .

In the far north of the world of Haarth lies the bitter mountain range known as the Wall of Night. Garrisoned by the Nine Houses of the Derai, the Wall is the final bastion between the peoples of Haarth and the Swarm of Dark—which the Derai have been fighting across worlds and time.

Malian, Heir to the House of Night, knows the history of her people: the unending war with the Darkswarm; the legendary heroes, blazing with long-lost power; the internal strife that has fractured the Derai’s former strength. But now the Darkswarm is rising again, and Malian’s destiny as Heir of Night is bound inextricably to both ancient legend and any future the Derai—or Haarth—may have.

My Review:

I’m pretty late in this review, since the book came out in September, but I really wanted to talk about it. I finished this book awhile ago but life has kept me from my review. This book, though, deserves to be talked about and so here I am, late to the party, but with a case of wine in hand (figuratively speaking anyway).

When Eos offered up advance reader copies of this book, I jumped at the chance even though I knew nothing about the book. I’ve had good luck with Eos’ fantasy offerings as a whole, so I figured even if I’d never heard of the author before that I probably wouldn’t be disappointed. Man, am I glad that not only did I make that jump but that I actually managed to snag a copy.

I have to admit to a few misconceptions going into it. The cover art, though beautiful, is pretty misleading. I mean, we have a huge dark castle looming out of a creepy-looking forest and a cloaked figure in the foreground holding aloft a lantern. I thought for sure that this was a vampire book. I couldn’t have been more wrong!

Make no mistake that this is a fantasy novel – and if you don’t believe me, one look at the blurb will prove it. It has a very slight science fiction flavor, in that the history of the Derai seems to be that they came to Haarth from a distant world. But it’s a science fiction flavor the way the first couple of Pern books were science fiction — only by the most remote of the world’s origins and (for this book, at least) that seems to have little bearing on the story.

In point of fact, we don’t learn much about the Darkswarm who are the sworn enemies of the Derai, or of the Derai people themselves. This novel focuses mostly on Malian, Heir to the House of Night, daughter of the leader of the foremost of Derai houses; and on her new-found friend, the young Kalan, who is a sort of apprentice priest at the local temple. They are separated from those who care for them, lost in the mountain-sized warren of the House while the treacherous and mysterious Darkswarm attack the House and Temple both.

This is another volume with more questions than answers, though I think not on the scale of Brandon Sanderson’s. The compelling portrayals of the main characters are comparable though. Both Malian and Kalan are young and naive but brave and they both live in a harsh world and culture. Their characters are vivid and both make choices believable for their age and experience.

The Derai seem to be a brutal people, one who put much stock in war and in physical might. There is also an undercurrent of treachery that sours their fearlessness into something dark and sort of bitter. I wanted to know more about the Derai, but I was also relieved when Malian begins the fantasy-series-required “hero’s journey” at the end of the book. The Derai and the Wall of Night they protect are just the tip of the enigmatic iceberg. The reader is given many teasing hints of more – and just as strange – cultures and peoples of Haarth.

I’m sold on this world, and on the characters. I want to know more. I think Helen Lowe has given us a unique new twist on the old “coming of age” fantasy trope and I can’t wait to see what else she’s going to do with it. Not only that, but now that I know from her website that she’s also a poet, I understand the beautiful imagery of this novel. The language here is gorgeous and unobtrusive. You’ll only notice how musically the words go together if you’re looking for it, otherwise you’ll just see the beautifully painted pictures of the scenes described. (Unless, of course, you don’t see pictures in your head**. Which boggles my mind, but is possible. Doubtless even if so, you’ll be able to appreciate this book anyway.)

The good news – at least for my overseas readers – is that I delayed in my review enough that now those in the United Kingdom can look forward to their local Heir of Night debut. The book is set to be released in March 2011, per the sidebar on the author’s website. Don’t feel bummed, US readers – you can pick up The Heir of Night now and still look forward to the sequel, coming out this fall. If you’re not convinced, then hear it from the author’s own lips over at John Scalzi’s Whatever feature: The Big Idea

Buy it at Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

[xrr rating=4.25/5 imageset=default]

**I was going to link, here, to an article I read by (I think) CE Murphy about how she doesn’t see images in her head when she writes and had no idea that anyone could even do that until she’d met someone who’d explained it to her. Except that I can’t find it. Oh, well.

Review: Mercy Blade by Faith Hunter

Mercy Blade

Jane Yellowrock #3

Written: Faith Hunter [website]

Published: Penguin

When: January 4, 2011

ISBN: 978-0451463722

Obtained via: Purchase

Cover blurb:

Jane, a shapeshifting vampire-hunter-for-hire, crosses paths with a stranger who has arrived in New Orleans, enlisted to hunt vampires who have gone insane-or so he says…

My Review:

I love the Jane Yellowrock novels because of the themes they explore. One of the big, big themes in this series is that of two equal but opposing sides and exploring how those two sides can live and work together. Vampire and human; human and witch; vampire and werewolf; woman and panther; Christian and Cherokee; warrior and woman. There are probably more that I’ve missed.

I like the fact that Jane isn’t a perfect character. She has flaws, she messes up, she makes bad choices – she is REAL. I wish she’d chosen anyone other than Rick, but I get why she did. It’s easy to stand outside of a relationship and say, “This man is bad for you.” It’s not so easy to be one of the involved parties and do that. I don’t think there are a lot of women out there who haven’t made that mistake a time or two. One doesn’t have to like or agree with the main character’s motivations or actions in order to realize that the story is well-crafted.

In the end, MERCY BLADE is very well-crafted. For myself, I wish Jane could feel less guilt over her out-of-wedlock activities, but I understand the motivation behind it. Some other reviews have taken an issue with her guilt over unmarried sex and said that it is at odds with her vampire killer career, but I disagree. Jane does not see vampires (or werewolves, I think) as human. As a matter of fact, I think it’s reasonable to assume that her Christian upbringing, at least, may view her career as destroying evil — and thus, not a bad thing at all. Religion gets freaky and hypocritical sometimes, and this book shows that really well.

The mystery is solid and not one of those throw away UF or paranormal “mysteries” where you can figure out the bad guy within the first 10 pages. The characters are conflicted, make bad choices, and have to deal with their own mistakes (A LOT of mistakes). Jane’s world doesn’t pull it’s punches and doesn’t keep its characters wrapped in plastic. And Jane doesn’t always come out ahead by herself (or at all)– a woman can be strong and still need to ask for help. (Note to self: going up against an entire biker bar of werewolves is a time to ask for help.)

This is a dark world and really explores some not too bright and cheery themes. If you’re afraid of that, you might want to seek your stories elsewhere. If you want stale, formulaic mysteries and too-strong-for-their-own-good heroines, there are plenty of other places to look. If you want a peek into the world of an extraordinary, supernatural woman with real flaws, then I’d urge you to give Jane a chance.

[xrr rating=4.0/5 imageset=default]

[Adapted from my Amazon review, which I posted there first because some people there who didn’t seem to “get it” and it kind of ticked me off. 🙂 ]

Buy it at Amazon.

Not Another Year End Post

Not Another Teen Movie One of Those Year-End Posts

Well, yes – this is one, but it’s me, so we’ll all hope together that it’s at least entertaining.

So, 2010 is drawing to a close and, according to the Mayan Calendar Fruitcakes, we’re all going to die in less than 2 years. So everyone had better get their TBR shelves cleaned up pretty damned soon, right? That is what comes to YOUR mind when you hear the end of the world is coming, right? That you’d better get all those books you’ve been meaning to read off the shelf and read?

Seriously, though – the end of the year is a good time to look both backward and forward. In fact, our calendar instructs us to do this. January is named after Janus, the two-faced Roman god of gateways, doorways, and beginnings and endings. His two faces looked both backward and ahead (presumably so he could see his enemies coming – he was Roman, after all!)

So put on your Janus-face, we’re going to hit the time machine.

Looking Back – Some highlights from 2010:

There was my favorite series of posts this year – the Kiaras Festivus celebration (also known as – my birthday!) in February. My birthday is always my favorite time of year, so that’s no surprise.

March brought the short but thought-provoking Brains: A Zombie Memoir by Robin Becker. My review was linked on Twitter by Janet Reid, a literary agent I greatly admire, and so I spent the rest of the month sort of starry-eyed. I’d link to the tweet, but Twitter ditches them after so long, so other than my personal archive, I don’t think it exists anymore.

There were several awesome reviews in April, including Blood of the Demon by Diana Rowland, Demon Bound by Caitlin Kittredge, and Gail Carriger’s Changeless.

We saw Waiting for Fairies’ second ever guest post in May by the estimable Jessica. The review was Kristin Cashore’s Fire. This is a book I’m STILL trying to find the time to read, based on Jessica’s recommendation.

Another personal achievement was my first-ever published book blurb quote. The quote is inside the front of Shades of Gray by Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge. The blurb is for the first book in the series, Black and White. [Link is to my review.]

There were some more awesome reviews throughout the summer, but in order to keep this short, I’ll skip over them. Check the archives if you’re interested.

On the writing side of things, I participated in National Novel Writing Month (and failed spectacularly to meet my goal). Right now, we’re in the middle of DéJàWriMo, my own original NaNoWriMo “do-over”. I’m not doing all that great at that one, either, but we’ve still got a month to go, so we’ll see.

Looking Ahead – Forward into 2011:

To repeat myself, we’ve still got one more month of DéJàWriMo. (There’s still time to join, if you’re feeling spunky!) Look for a check-in post next week (hopefully).

I’ll also be doing Kiaras Festivus again this February – and I’ve got some tentative plans that will be bigger, badder, & better than last year! (P.S – I’m looking for guest posters and if anyone would like to sponsor a giveaway, give me a ring at kiara@thisdomainname.com.)

I have plans to very soon do a review of the brand-new-shiny Nook Color that I bought myself for the holidays, so look for that within the next couple of weeks. I also have about 50 reviews (okay, exaggeration – but A LOT) of recently read books to post for you and there’s a few dozen more on my shelves waiting.

2011 is looking to be a busy and productive year. There’s a landslide of new and awesome books coming out this year, and – along with the ones I’ve already got – I may be buried under an avalanche of new stuff to read pretty soon. That’s not a bad way to go.

To all my readers out there – may your new year be filled with things you love and may you want for none of the things that make you happy. I’m wishing you all a shady spot beneath a sunny window, curled under a blanket with a cup of your favorite brew and a new favorite tome to read, and – stuffed in your pockets – all the spare minutes you need with which to read it. Happy New Year.

Review: Married with Zombies

Married With Zombies

Living with the Dead #1

Written: Jesse Petersen [website]

Published: Orbit, Mass Market

When: September 1, 2010

ISBN: 0316102865

Obtained via: Purchase

Cover blurb:

A heartwarming tale of terror in the middle of the zombie apocalypse.

Meet Sarah and David.

Once upon a time they met and fell in love. But now they’re on the verge of divorce and going to couples’ counseling. On a routine trip to their counselor, they notice a few odd things – the lack of cars on the highway, the missing security guard, and the fact that their counselor, Dr. Kelly, is ripping out her previous client’s throat.

Meet the Zombies.

Now, Sarah and David are fighting for survival in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. But, just because there are zombies, doesn’t mean your other problems go away. If the zombies don’t eat their brains, they might just kill each other.

My Review:

If I had to describe this book in one word, it would be: delicious. This book makes me want to use non-words, like “ZOMG!” I found out today that the sequel, Flip this Zombie, is now being found on shelves and I have been overcome with WANT. I will be scrambling to get my hands on it.

Imagine you are married – unhappily. Imagine that you and your spouse have been going to weekly therapy sessions that have been doing more hindering than helping and you’ve both been googling “divorce lawyers”. You’re feeling busy, tired, unhappy, unfulfilled, and all the things you used to find endearing about your lover have been outweighed by the zillion and one other annoying damned things s/he does. It’s been a long day. You’re tired, stressed, and on your way to your appointment for marriage counseling.

Now, imagine that when you get there, your therapist tries to eat your face off.

Congratulations! You’ve now found your way into the world of Married With Zombies!

This book isn’t afraid of anything: not of letting the main couple’s marital problems hang out, not of giving loving details of rotting flesh and bashed-in zombie heads, and not of poking gentle fun at itself. The plot is fairly predictable. (Although that thing there in the middle with the evangelists? Yeah, that surprised me. In a “Wow, that’s so weird that I could totally see it happening in real life,” kind of way.) But the whole thing is written with such… zest, that you won’t mind knowing where the characters are headed.

How well would your relationship do in the midst of the Zombiepocalypse? No, really, I’m asking. There’s a quiz and everything.

Happily, I think I can finally quit bitching about the lack of married couples in urban fantasy, because this series fits the bill nicely. If you loved Shaun of the Dead the same way I did, then Married With Zombies is just the Christmas read you need. (And if you have a friend who enjoyed Shaun? Buy it for them, too!)

[xrr rating=4.5/5 imageset=default]

Buy it at Amazon or B&N.

BzzAgent Product Reviews for May/June

I’ve never done this before at Waiting for Fairies, but I figure – Hey, it’s my blog! I can do what I want!

Some of my readers already know that I participate in a website known as BzzAgent.

What is BzzAgent?

From the BzzAgent About Page:

BzzAgent creates a deep connection between consumers and brands to activate word of mouth across social and offline media. Through the engagement of our network of passionate, vocal and connected consumers, we provide companies the ability activate large-scale discussions, uncover hidden value, and drive measurable results. We believe in unpaid, unscripted ethical and authentic conversations (only!).

So what does that mean?

It means I sign up at the above website to get free products & coupons to try. I tell people about my experiences & review the products. I’m not obliged to like the product or to post a good review if I don’t honestly believe in it (kind of like with books! 🙂 )

I’ve never posted any of those product reviews at WFF before. Mostly because I had structured this site to be all about books. With the merging of Waiting for Fairies with the Moonlit Glade – and, thus, more personal posts – I feel freer to share these things with you.

I’m currently participating in three different BzzCampaigns. I have tried 3 separate & very different products recently, and now I share my experiences with you.

Cover Girl & Olay Simply Ageless

I received this product line free to try (foundation, concealer, the eye cover up and blush). The foundation container was incredibly hard to figure out how to open the first time (the Cover Girl website has instructions – I wish I’d received them!).

This makeup promises that the color will “float on top” of your fine lines & wrinkles. Well, I am only 30 and don’t have many of those, but I didn’t notice much of a difference – it doesn’t “minimize” so much as it just doesn’t “emphasize” fine lines. Which is probably about the best effect one can expect from makeup.

The Soft Honey shade that I was sent was a bit too dark for me (I am very, very fair); but since I wore it at an outdoor wedding, I have since darkened to match. (Haha.) I recommend (just as I would for ANY makeup) that you apply & blend somewhere with natural light. I applied it under florescent light at first and it blended horribly & didn’t look good at all. So get in a nice light where you can see what you’re doing. (This part may have been affected by the fact that the shade was too dark for me. Your results may vary.)

On the plus side, a little bit of foundation seemed to go a very long way, so while the container looks pretty small, I think it could actually last quite awhile. On the negative – the eye concealer didn’t seem to do much, so I had no use for it, and the blush was really dark (but blended well and I did use it). The correcter, on the other hand, was great!

I was pleased with the moisturizer in the foundation, as my skin is also very dry. My skin felt better after a couple of days wearing this foundation. Overall, I think the product is certainly worth the money and I will be purchasing it to use again (perhaps in a shade lighter this time).

Scrubbing Bubbles Extend-A-Clean Power Sprayer

I have to admit that I don’t do much cleaning around the house. Most of that is done by my husband, who is proud to be a house”wife”.  With that said, we both tried out the power sprayer part of it on the shower, because the automatic trigger was pretty cool. It was simple and easy to use – just pull back on the trigger & you get a continuous spray of cleaning product. No more wearing out your finger just spraying the bottle!

I didn’t stick around for the wiping down part of things, though. I’m not that kind of a wife. *laugh* But I quizzed J most thoroughly on the subject and he said that it was very easy to wipe off and cleaned the shower just as well as any other product on the market. He was extra impressed with the way the product cleaned the sink area – so impressed he even used it on the floor! And it did an excellent job on that, too.

What I liked most about it, though, was the smell. I’m sensitive to the scents of most chemicals, so the bleach-and-Pine Sol combination that J usually uses in the bathroom gives me headaches. I was thrilled at the pleasant, not-chemical-y scent of this. In my opinion, that’s worth purchasing it for alone.

göt2b smooth operator

I received a free coupon for a container of mousse for this campaign – which I have to admit that I haven’t picked up yet. However, I was also sent something they call a “Lustre Lotion“, which I have used.

This lotion is supposed to:

  • Shape, Smooth and Control Fly-aways.
  • Impart an Amazing Weightless Lustre and Softness.
  • Protect against Damage from Heat Styling and Contains a UV Protectant.
  • Control, Silken and Splurge with this Smoothing Lotion.

And I’d have to say it did everything admirably except the “lustre and softness” part. My hair doesn’t feel any softer or look any shinier after using it (and perhaps it might feel a tiny bit less soft than it did).

However, it did tame the fly-aways in my very fine hair on an extremely hot and humid day. And it did that without weighing down my hair or making it look greasy or like I was using “product”. With that and the UV protection (I don’t heat style), I’d say it’s worth using. Especially since it smells pretty amazing, too!

Wrap-Up

So those are the products I’ve tried lately and my thoughts on each of them. As I mentioned earlier, I do have several really good coupons for each of these products. If you’d like to try them, leave me a comment and a contact email so I can get your mailing address. I’ll send the coupons anywhere a US 1st class stamp will take them (so, US addresses only). First come, first serve and I’ll close the comments on this post at the end of the week.

4.0 out of 5 stars Overall, worth the $., June 2, 2010

I’m another BzzAgent and received this product line free to try (foundation, concealer, the eye cover up and blush). The foundation container was incredibly hard to figure out how to open the first time (the Cover Girl website has instructions – I wish I’d received them!).

This makeup promises that the color will “float on top” of your fine lines & wrinkles. Well, I am only 30 and don’t have many of those, but I didn’t notice much of a difference – it doesn’t “minimize” so much as it just doesn’t “emphasize” fine lines. Which is probably about the best effect one can expect from makeup.

The Soft Honey shade that I was sent was a bit too dark for me (I am very, very fair); but since I wore it at an outdoor wedding, I have since darkened to match. (Haha.) I recommend (just as I would for ANY makeup) that you apply & blend somewhere with natural light. I applied it under florescent light at first and it blended horribly & didn’t look good at all. So get in a nice light where you can see what you’re doing. (This part may have been affected by the fact that the shade was too dark for me. Your results may vary.)

On the plus side, a little bit of foundation seemed to go a very long way, so while the container looks pretty small, I think it could actually last quite awhile.

I was pleased with the moisturizer in this, as my skin is also very dry. My skin felt better after a couple of days wearing this foundation. Overall, I think the product is certainly worth the money and I will be purchasing it to use again (perhaps in a shade lighter this time).

Writer’s Resources for October 5th through October 8th

These are writers’ resource links I’ve found helpful and/or interesting for October 5th through October 8th:

Writer's Resources for October 5th through October 8th

These are writers’ resource links I’ve found helpful and/or interesting for October 5th through October 8th: