O is for Otherworld Series

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‘The Otherworld Series’


There are few authors that I love as much as I love Kelley Armstrong. I want to read all of her books, and unlike most times I say that, with Armstrong, I actually will. I’ve got most of her Otherworld series in either physical or ebook form, and every time I clear a big enough space in my reading schedule, I’ll be settling in to one.

I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to read several of her more recent books as reviews, and it’s been enough to tide me over. But I want to get back into reading the back catalogue of the Otherworld series, as every time I read one, I remember what it was that drew me to the series so much in the first place.

bitten

I can’t even really remember what made me read Bitten – the first book in the Otherworld series. I think it was suggested by someone during a University module on fantasy writing. I wasn’t familiar with ‘Urban Fantasy’ as a genre, thinking of all fantasy as Tolkein-esque old worldy adventures with elves and dwarves. Bitten opened my eyes to the joys of fantasy in a modern world setting, the juxtaposition of magic and smart phones.

It’s been a huge influence on my writing too. Armstrong writes sexy, sassy female characters who have the strength of their supernatural abilities while still retaining human foibles and flaws. I wanted to write characters like that in worlds like the Otherworld – the fantasy world just beneath the surface of the world we know.

Review: Twisted Dark Volume 1 by Neil Gibson

twisted darkTitle: Twisted Dark Volume 1

Author: Neil Gibson

Series: Twisted Dark #1

Genre: Horror Graphic Novel

Received for review from the author

Summary (from Goodreads)

The first volume in Neil Gibson’s acclaimed series of twisted tales. This 200 page book contains 12 individual and unique stories which are all related. The stories vary from 10 year old girls to Colombian drug lords and everything in between. It is left to the reader to find the connections between the stories – some connections are immediately clear whilst other connection only become clear in later volumes. This series is designed for re-reading. The author describes the genre as psychological thriller, but the books contains horror, dark (at times demented) stories incorporating every human emotion, illegal activity, and brutal reality. Using various illustrators allows each story and character to develop their own form. Twisted Dark has been embraced by the comic book world receiving critical acclaim and a cult following. If you haven’t read one yet, you don’t know what you’re missing.

Review

After reading and really enjoying Volume 2, I’m was really pleased to get the opportunity to review Volume 1. I remember Neil saying that Volume 2 was the weakest of the series, and I enjoyed it so much, I didn’t see how it could be possible that Volume 1 could be better. But it was.

I don’t want to just rehash everything I enjoy about this series – if you want that, check out my review of Volume 2. Needless to say everything that’s good about Volume 2 is in Volume 1. But what makes Volume 1 stronger is a couple of absolutely standout stories that deal with some touchy and serious themes.

The first story is the two part one about Rajeev – a migrant worker who goes to great lengths to gain power. Gibson takes the story to a brave place by having Rajeev convert to Islam. It’s a potentially touchy issue, with such a lot of negative press about the Muslim faith at the moment. It would be easy to come across as crude or racist, but what the story actually does is brilliantly demonstrate how people can use the ‘brand’ of religion to further their own twisted desires. It reminds that the terrorists are not representative, that they are perverting what should be an enlightening and uplifting thing to serve their own needs. And the horror the story plays with is how twisted and evil the sort of person that can do this is, and how they can be such an influence on others.

My second favourite story is the one featuring a mother with Munchausen’s syndrome. Again, the standout thing about this was it really managed to get inside her head and take what could have been another touchy subject and turn it into a sensitive, but still horrific exploration of a terrible illness. The horror, once again, isn’t simple gory shocks – its the dichotomy of the character – the inner conflict between the part of her that loves her son and the part that loves the attention of medical professionals. It’s clever that I never doubted that she loved her son, even as the story takes a very dark turn towards the end, and the fact that the character was so human, so relatable, made it even more frightening.

A really clever set of stories that has been a pleasure to read.

Review: 5/5

Weekly Round Up #38

Weekly Round Up #38 (13/04-19/04)

I can’t believe how quickly April is flying by. At this rate, I’m definitely not going to finish my challenge, as I haven’t even started on it yet. The time keeps slipping away from me as new and exciting things happen.

I’m back on the training for the triathlon. I’ve done lots of different things this week, ad I’m looking forwards to finally getting back out for a run on Monday, now my leg is finally feeling sturdy again. The Boyfriend has been coaching me both in swimming and some strength exercises in the gym, which has been very kind and supportive of him. Right when I needed a bit of extra motivation as well.

The Boyfriend and I are settling in to the new shift pattern, getting used to working round each other. It’s a bit weird to have him away effectively for four nights a week, but a lot of the routine is actually working pretty well. I even managed to do a bit of extra cooking so he had some nice food for the days when he’s not on a schedule that matches mine.

It was a local spring festival at a farm this weekend, and unfortunately the glorious weather we’ve been having didn’t hold out. We went along, but didn’t last very long, as the cold got to us pretty quickly. The Boyfriend did manage to have a nice pork bap, and it was good to support the local business with our entry fee, even if we didn’t hang around for long.

Next week is the London Marathon and I’m so excited to be going down to see it again. We booked our train tickets today, making it all feel very real and imminent. I’m nervous for all the friends and acquaintances running it – hoping they get a restful week ahead of the big day!

Review: Love After All by Jaci Burton

love after allTitle: Love After All

Author: Jaci Burton

Series: Hope #4

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Received for review from BookBridgr

Summary (from Goodreads)

High school math teacher Chelsea Gardner has the perfect plan. She’s tired of dating all the wrong men, and after years of frustration, she’s developed a foolproof list of requirements for finding “The One.”

Bar owner Sebastian “Bash” Palmer finds Chelsea beautiful, smart and fun, but he thinks her list is ridiculous and unnecessary. Intent on proving Chelsea is looking for love in all the wrong ways, he offers to help her find the “perfect” man.

Chelsea knows Bash isn’t the right guy for her—he barely meets one of her criteria—but there’s something about the charismatic man that has her yearning for things that are most definitely not list approved.

Because sometimes, a relationship that looks totally wrong on paper can turn out incredibly right…

Review

I had a craving for a book like this. An itch, if you will, that needed scratching. And Love After All perfectly satisfied that part of me that loves cheesy romance novels with a good dollop of sex in them.

I haven’t read Hope books 1 through 3, which wasn’t exactly an issue, but I felt there were certain points when I would have been more invested in knowing what minor characters were up to if I knew their stories. There were a few listy ‘catch up’ moments, and a few ‘they shared a tender look’ bits where my honest feelings were ‘I don’t really care, I don’t know who these people are’ but I understand it’s fan service to those who’ve read the previous books and want to know how those character are getting on. There did seem to be a lot of it in this, though.

Perhaps because the story was as thin as a story can get without falling apart. Not really an issue, because these books aren’t read for their thought provoking storylines – you want good characters with lots of chemistry.

And Bash and Chelsea had that in spades. They were both feisty, strong and sexy, playing nicely off each other while retaining independent thought. I did want to bash their fictional heads together at times (again, storyline a little stretched thin, but not annoyingly so) but they were endearing enough that I wanted to see them achieve a happily ever after.

I won’t be rushing out to buy the rest of the Hope series, but I would definitely pick up something by Burton again if I had the opportunity. And felt that need.

Read into that what you will!

Rating: 3.5/5

Cover Lust #58 – Data Runner

Cover Lust #58 – Data Runner by Sam A. Patel

data runner

I really like the Matrixy feel of this cover, with the binary running down the image. I also like how the central character is falling backwards into the data stream. There’s a definite sense of peril coming across. I’m also a sucker for anything Matrix, so I think this is likely to be a winner for me!

What covers are you lusting over this week?

Review: Alienated by Melissa Landers

alienatedTitle: Alienated

Author: Melissa Landers

Series: Alienated #1

Genre: YA Sci Fi/Romance

Summary (from Goodreads)

Two years ago, the aliens made contact. Now Cara Sweeney is going to be sharing a bathroom with one of them.

Handpicked to host the first-ever L’eihr exchange student, Cara thinks her future is set. Not only does she get a free ride to her dream college, she’ll have inside information about the mysterious L’eihrs that every journalist would kill for. Cara’s blog following is about to skyrocket.

Still, Cara isn’t sure what to think when she meets Aelyx. Humans and L’eihrs have nearly identical DNA, but cold, infuriatingly brilliant Aelyx couldn’t seem more alien. She’s certain about one thing, though: no human boy is this good-looking.

But when Cara’s classmates get swept up by anti-L’eihr paranoia, Midtown High School suddenly isn’t safe anymore. Threatening notes appear in Cara’s locker, and a police officer has to escort her and Aelyx to class.

Cara finds support in the last person she expected. She realizes that Aelyx isn’t just her only friend; she’s fallen hard for him. But Aelyx has been hiding the truth about the purpose of his exchange, and its potentially deadly consequences. Soon Cara will be in for the fight of her life—not just for herself and the boy she loves, but for the future of her planet.

Review

It’s been a while since I read a book in a single day. Like, sat down and got totally sucked in to the world, the characters, the story so much so that I couldn’t put it down. This book had me in a paragraph or two, and I just had to know what happened next.

This is just a simple forbidden love story in many ways – two literally star-crossed lovers who have to fight cultural differences, expectations and prejudices to be together. But Landers uses the world around this love story to make it something even more compelling.

The human response to the L’eihr exchange students is frighteningly familiar – the fear at the unknown translated into anger and hatred. The way the behaviour escalates from picketing the school fence to outright attacks on Cara and Aelyx’s supporters is just so convincing. The way everyone initially follows Cara’s blog with interest before succumbing to troll comments is an echo of so many recent situations. The setting might be fantastical with aliens and futuristic technology, but the response is the same vitriol often aimed at people of different backgrounds and situations today.

As the reader, we can see both sides of the story – the narrative alternates between Cara and Aelyx’s perspectives – so we know what each is keeping from the other. It’s tense reading to watch them eventually find their way towards each other (tempered a little by the fact that we know that’s going to be the eventual outcome) with the stakes high. There’s a moment where you just want to shout at the characters to tell each other what they know, but at the same time there isn’t any moment where the characters are hiding stuff simply for the sake of the plot. Every character motivation makes sense.

I’m really pleased I’ve got book two to move on to, as I really really want to know what happens next in Aelyx and Cara’s story. Now I just need to finish everything else on my reading list to get round to it!

Rating: 5/5

5 Essential Shoes

A while ago I had to get rid of almost all of my shoes due to my feet growing half a size. It was painful, and because of limited funds, I had to think really carefully about what I bought to replace them. I’ve since built up a little bit, though I’m nowhere close to what I used to have. These are my five essential shoes that I had to have:

azz16347_black_default_xl1. Work Shoes

Boring, but essential. I got a pair of black pumps from New Look that were in the sale for £6. They were horrible, and didn’t fit well (too big as opposed to too small) but they were smart enough to do for work, and with an office job, I didn’t have to do a lot of walking so the inconvenience of them not fitting wasn’t enormous. I now have a pair of more sturdy boots I bought from BooHoo (click image for link.)

2. Comfortable Flatsazz38940_baby blue_default_xl

I think I got mine from Tesco, but they’re not dissimilar to this pair (also from BooHoo, click image to go to page). These are the sorts of shoes that are comfortable to wear, versatile, and match almost anything. Mine are already trashed I’ve worn them that much, but that just goes to show how essential they are!

0530104064863. A pair of dress up/dress down flats

I got mine from Faith. They’re not really anything like the picture, but they’re similar in what you can use them for – flashy enough to dress up, but not uncomfortable, so you can go casual too. When you only have a few pairs of shoes, that versatility is a huge help! Mine are zebra striped, a similar shape to those in the picture, but a bit more summery. I love them. (click picture for link)

HW05172-201 MIMI RUSTIQUE ANGLE4. Boots

A good pair of boots is definitely one of my shoe essentials, and I was fortunate in that the boots I owned already still fit. I can get away with wide fit size 5s, but everything else has to be 5.5 or a 6 now… These boots are similar if not the same as mine – Hush Puppies. They’re more expensive as shoes go, though not exorbitant, and absolutely worth every penny. Comfortable and hard wearing, I’m so glad I’ll be able to keep wearing these! (Again, picture is the link)

5. TrainersWMNS-NIKE-FLEX-2014-RN-MSL-642780_016_A_PREM

Mine are nothing like these, but are Nike, so close enough. You need your trainers for your fitness, whatever your sport is (unless it’s swimming or some dance, I guess!) so having a decent pair was definitely top of my list. Fortunately, you’re meant to buy trainers a little big, so I was fine for this one. Which, of course, freed up my budget for some non-essential shoe purchases! (picture is the link!)