For some book series I won’t be reviewing the individual books; at least not when I’ve read 3 books of the same series after each other. Then I can just as well review them in batch. 

This review is about Gena Showalter’s Lords of The Underworld series. I’ve read the first three books: The Darkest Night, The Darkest Kiss and The Darkest Pleasure. It’s set in our modern day world, but with a mythological twist. Do you know the myth about Pandora’s Box? The story’s real, but we humans don’t know the entire truth. Pandora was a warrior charged by the gods with protecting the box. Insulted because the gods chose Pandora as the box’s protector instead of any of them, a team of immortal warriors deceived Pandora and conspired to open the box. By doing so though they released powerful demons, whose only cage was now destroyed. The gods punished the warriors by using them as the demons’ new cages; each warrior was cursed with a demon. 

Each book in the Lord of The Underworld series is about one of these warriors and their heroine. The first book, The Darkest Night, features Maddox, the Keeper of Violence. Because of the demon locked inside of him, he’s prone to vicious, violent outbursts, lashing out at anyone who’s near him regardless whether they are friend or foe. But all that changes when Ashlyn Darrow enters his life, a psychic tormented by voices of the past.

I won’t reveal who the couples are in the following two books, cause that just spoils part of the story. Each heroine though is a perfect match for her hero, without being weak and helpless. Showalter knows how to write strong women, and each book delivers something different.

So far I’m loving this series just as much as Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter series and JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood. Like those books this series has a strong mythology, adapting “common” myths into a paranormal fantasy world. I love how not everything is revealed at the start and that you slowly start to discover there’s more to this world than initially seems.

From the three books, the third has the weakest main story, but it makes up for that with glimpses of what may come in the next couple of books. Hints of potential future heroines and plot lines are shining through that story and I’m really curious to see how the next book will unfold.

The Darkest Night: on for $6.99, on for £6.29
The Darkest Kiss: on for $6.99, not yet available on
The Darkest Pleasure: on for $6.99, not yet available on

When it comes to books, I’m much more into fantasy than into scifi (or should I say syfy now?). Still I was glad to win this book, Agent To The Stars, from the Fantasy and Scifi Lovin’ Blog

Agent To The Stars has a bit of a history. It was the first “book” written by John Scalzi in 1997 to prove to himself that he could write a novel. No publisher wanted to pick it up though, so in 1999 he released it online as a shareware novel; if people liked it, they could pay, but didn’t have to. Once his second novel got published, a limited run of 1000 copies of Agent To The Stars was released in 2005 and surprisingly to the publishers they got snapped up in no time. A year later Agent To The Stars finally got published the “proper” way.

The premise of Agent To The Stars is simple: Tom Stein is one of Hollywood’s upcoming young agents. He’s got a major movie star, Michelle Beck, as his main client and has just completed a multi-million deal for her. But then his boss introduces Tom to his new clients: the Yherajk, an alien race with an image problem. They’re big blobs of slime who communicate through horrible smells… and they want to be Earth’s new friend. Now Tom has to solve the problem of how to introduce these new “friends” to the rest of world, without causing panic and chaos.

This has to be one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long, long time. There are so many “laugh out loud” moments in here; it was just so fun reading it. It’s also one of those books that you don’t want to put down. I didn’t read it in one sitting, but every time I picked it up, I just flipped through the pages, and felt terrible when I had to stop and get on with some real work. 

I don’t often say this about books, but I could definitely see a movie based on this. Compared to other books it also wouldn’t require that much tweaking and cutting. The book is pretty short and a single movie could cover it all nicely.

Highly recommendable to everyone who wants a good laugh. And if you’re not convinced yet? You don’t have to buy the book; the entire story is also available on John Scalzi’s website.

Agent To The Stars by Joe Scalzi is available on for £6.29, on for $7.99 and on John Scalzi’s website for free.

My Blurb Photo Book

March 16th, 2009

Thanks to the wonderful Annie Mole from the Going Underground blog, I won a voucher to make my own book from Blurb. Blurb is a publishing company providing a print-on-demand book publishing service for the public. In other words: you can create your own books! Blurb offers a free downloadable book layout software client, BookSmart, with which you can create your own books with your own text and images. The completed book can then be uploaded to Blurb, and you can order any amount of copies. 

I decided on a photo book collecting all the photos I made in 2008. I first thought I wouldn’t have enough photos, but it’s amazing how many photos I actually made last year. I only went with the photos I thought were ‘worthy’ to be in such a book, but even then there were a fair amount. Later on I even realized I forgot to add all my photos from my Stonehenge trip; bit of a pity, cause there were some great ones in between them. Here’s how it turned out:

Blurb Photo Book 

I tried Blurb about one and a half year ago to create a photo book of my family’s summer holiday. It turned out to be a great book, but at the time I had a lot of trouble with Blurb’s BookSmart software for the Mac. It was just so slow, it wasn’t nice to use at all. Those are all problems of the past though, cause now BookSmart works like a charm. Plus not only was I able to import iPhoto albums, but also Flickr sets.

Unlike a lot of other photobook ‘makers’, Blurb’s BookSmart has a great selection of layouts and options. You can really play around with each page, choosing different types of layouts to suit the photos. I’m still missing certain layouts though (like one single vertical photo centered), which don’t seem to difficult to add. 

Blurb Photo Book

The only problem I had with Blurb this time was the delivery. You pay about £4 for the cheapest delivery option, with no tracking and 10-15 day delivery estimate. I ordered my book on January the 31st and it arrived on February 23rd: that’s more than 3 weeks! (to be fair though: it was 16 working days, so it’s not too bad, but I remember last time it was way quicker than that)

I’m really happy with the way this book turned out and I’m going to try to make one every year for all that year’s photos. I’d love to make some other type of books though, like a cook book with recipes from my Mum, or a book with all my blog posts. Those will take much more time to create though, but Blurb offers great tools to make them!

I stumbled on some hilarious photoshopped SciFi and Fantasy book covers via Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist. Check out the three posts (post 1, post 2, and post 3) to see the complete collection. Here are a couple of my favourites: 

Tags: Books

Movie Review: Watchmen

March 5th, 2009


I’ve been looking forward to Watchmen for months. Ever since seeing that first trailer, I’ve been psyched to watch this movie. I’ve never read the graphic novel, but every comic book geek I know has been declaring their love for Watchmen for ages. 

Here’s a bit of backstory first. I hadn’t read the graphic novel before watching the movie. I had bought it quite some time ago, but just never got around to picking it up and actually reading it. Eventually I just decided to go see the movie first and read it later. Then I got the invite to the bloggers screening, while I already had booked tickets to the IMAX. So I thought I’d go see the movie at the bloggers screening first, then read the novel and then see it again at the IMAX.

So this review is mainly written from the perspective of someone who hasn’t read the comic before the movie, but (because I’ve read a bit of it by now), can kind of compare how the two relate. I won’t be giving any spoilers at all about the plot, just general remarks of what I found of Watchmen.

Watchmen is set in 1985, in an alternative reality, where super heroes are real, America has won the Vietnam war, and Nixon has been elected to a third term. When a retired superhero is murdered, the members of his former team try to uncover why someone is targeting costumed heroes.

Now most of the time with the movies that I come to love, I get a sort of a high during the movie; your heart beat races, you’re holding your breath during key scenes, you get that roller-coaster ride, exhilarating feeling and the entire time you’re just amazed and awed at the things happening on the screen. Once out of the cinema, you’re just geeking out over the things you’ve just seen and keep replaying it over and over again in your mind. And you’re itching to jump right back into the cinema and see it all a second time. Depending on the movie, this “high” can last a couple of hours, or even a couple of days. Sometimes you only get them during a couple of scenes or key sounds (one that comes to mind for me was the transforming sound in Transformers). (sidenote: I really would like to know if other people get these type of highs too; most friends I’ve mentioned this too look at me as if I’m completely crazy)

So did I get this with Watchmen? During the movie itself not a single time. Heck, even during the discussion with the other bloggers afterwards that feeling was still missing. No, it came way later on the tube ride back, that I really started thinking about the movie and since then my mind keeps going back to it. I still can’t put my finger on what it is exactly, but since starting with the graphic novel I’m realizing it’s more about the concepts within the movie (and the graphic novel) than the actual movie experience. It’s not that it’s a bad movie (although some of the bloggers at the screening may disagree), not at all, but here it’s not about the visual effects, the acting, or even how the story unfolds on screen or how much you care about the characters. It’s about the questions and issues the story raises and how you start analyzing the movie and its characters.

That being said though, the visual effects, the acting and everything all do work in this movie. Yes, there is a lot of CGI, but from the start you’re transported to this other world and, just like with 300, there’s a surreal fantastical feel to this world you’re seeing. The actors are all perfectly cast, even more so after reading the start of the graphic novel; some of them are are eerily similar to their paper counterparts. From what I’ve seen of the graphic novel, the scenes too are uncannily lifted from the pages, with details such as background posters and graffiti being copied to a T. 

I think Watchmen is truly a movie you’ll have to see twice. Or you have to have read the comic book beforehand. For someone watching it for the first time, you do have a feeling you’re missing information and that you have to piece stuff together. It’s just simple things like realizing what the name is of each character, and what everyones relationship is. I think (although I haven’t gone a second time yet), a second viewing would help a lot. I can’t wait to see it again at the IMAX tomorrow.

This is a movie you have to see in the cinema. With all the different opinions about it already floating around, you’ve got to see to create your own. You might end up hating this movie, you might end up loving it. But however you end up feeling about it, Watchmen will make you think.

Sometimes I have no idea where, when or why I got a certain book. The Briar King was that type of book. I honestly have no freaking idea what led me to buying it. I’m glad I did though, cause it turned out to be a great read.

The Briar King is the first installment (from four) in The Kingdom of Thorn and Bone by Greg Keyes. The book opens with a prelude when the Born Queen and her followers used the sedos power to defeat the Skasloi, a powerful race, who had enslaved mankind. It was then foretold that by using that power they had cursed and doomed their future generations. Skip forward to 2000 years later to the kingdom of Crotheny and a couple of characters:

Aspar White is the holter of the King’s Forest, sworn to protect the forest from those who don’t belong there. But something is stirring within the forest and there are rumours that the Briar King, a legend from folklore, is waking.

Princess Anne is the youngest daughter of the king of Crotheny and not willing to accept her responsibilities. She doesn’t want to sit around all day, doing embroidery and looking dainty; she much rather prefers racing her horse and visiting the crypts of her ancestors. Little does she know though, that  the future of mankind might depend on her.

Neil MeqVren is a squire for a highly respected knight and is hoping to be knighted himself soon. But that is only an honour those of noble blood can obtain and Neil has no birth claim to knighthood.

Stephen Darige is the third son of a Virgenyan noble and has been promised to the church from childhood. He doesn’t mind though; he loves studying and decrypting ancient texts. But what if that what he’s deciphering wasn’t meant to be seen by human eyes?

There are a couple of other minor characters, like the king of Crotheny, whose viewpoint we also sometimes get to see. All together they form a great bunch of likable characters. At first they seem a bit stereotypish (the headstrong princess, the loyal knight), but the plot around it is intriguing enough and it doesn’t fall in too many obvious cliches. While the story isn’t exactly fresh (something evil waking up, will bring the end of mankind, etc etc) The Briar King doesn’t feel ‘been there, done that, got the T-shirt’. You get the idea that it’s not as straightforward as it seems and that the Briar King isn’t the evil it appears to be. The magic in particular felt quite unique even though we didn’t get to see much of it yet (I’m hoping this will be expanded in the next books though).

I’ve seen some other reviews complaining about the dialogue (uninspired and stilted) and the pacing, but I didn’t have any problems with those. To me, it was a quick and easy read, and with no lengthy descriptions about the scenery or surroundings (which can annoy me quite quickly). It’s not as political and complex as I would have liked it to be, but for a quick read it doesn’t demand for that.  

I did have a couple of minor problems with this book though. For starters, some of the weird words Keyes used. Now I’m not one to complain about ‘fantasy’ lingo; especially in fantasy books, authors create their own unique non English words to spice up the world a bit more and most of the time I actually quite like learning this new language. Here though it seemed a bit haphazard and not always clear what the word actually meant; it just didn’t feel as if it added anything. Another problem I had was with the chapter endings: almost every chapter (maybe even EVERY chapter) ended with a cliffhanger. Of course, the next time you got to that character it would be 2 or even 3 chapters later and the cliffhanger would be easily resolved. It’s a simple and often used plot device and normally I wouldn’t mind it that much, but here it just seemed overused (the Da Vinci Code gimmick).

I’m curious to the next books (I’ve ordered them already on Amazon and they should be here within the week), especially cause I know this is a series that won’t be dragged out. The fourth book has just been published and that will be the concluding one of this series.

If you want something easy to read and get stuck into, definitely try The Briar King. It’s not as sophisticated and complex as other series out there, but (depending on how the next books are) this is a series I could come to love.

The Briar King by Greg Keyes is available on for $7.99 and on for £5.49.

As I said in my New Year’s resolutions blog post, I want to do more book reviews. I’m going to try to review every book I’ve read this year in it’s own blog post, but here a couple of books still from last year. These aren’t all the books I read in those months, but there are a couple that deserve their own longer posts.

Sorceress of Faith (Robin D. Owens)

This is a much better book than the first of its series, Guardian of Honor. The mythology and world of these books are starting to feel more substantial and these characters are slightly more likable than the previous two. Plus the talking hamster helps a lot! It’s about Marian, who gets summoned to the world of Lladrana, where she’s destined to become a powerful sorceress. I’ve already ordered the next two parts of this series and its conclusion will be released in February.  

To Serve and To Submit (Susan Wright)

This book wasn’t completely what I expected; I thought it would be a bit like the Kushiel series or anything from Anne Bishop. The difference with those books was the setting. Unlike the other books I mentioned, this one doesn’t take place in a sort of Middle Ages or Renaissance type of era, but is much earlier than that. Think Roman or Viking. Everything just felt less sophisticated and more harsh, and for a story about a pleasure slave… it initially didn’t work for me. I will pick up the next in this series though, cause the story is intriguing enough.

Flesh and Stone (Vickie Taylor)

Grumble, grumble, grumble. Loved the book; this is the second in the Gargoyles series, where there is a race of shapeshifters who can turn into mythological animals. Problem is though that this book was from 2006 and checking the author’s website, she hasn’t done anything since 2006. Grumble! Where’s the next part of this series?

Cast in Shadow (Michelle Sagara)

Slightly difficult to get into at the start. It’s one of those fantasy books that drops you in the middle of a strange world and starts throwing around names which you’re supposed to know but of course don’t know. It’s not too bad (I’ve had waaay worse), but it did annoy me. For the rest though, this book was pretty interesting and I’m curious to see what happens in the next one.

Reap The Wind (Iris Johansen)

Sometimes you come across a book where you just can’t seem to get through; Reap The Wind was one of those books for me. It had an interesting enough plot, but I couldn’t get into the book and keep on reading. It also didn’t help that I thought this was the first in a series, while it turned out it was the last of the series, but the previous ones all happened in previous centuries.

It’s been more than two and half months since I posted about this challenge and there’s still one more month to go. So how am I faring?

Well, I haven’t bought any new books since then (not exactly true, I did buy one book, but that was a book I had read already and had no intention of reading now, and it was only £2 so I HAD to get it). I still haven’t gotten through the 20 books I had listed though, and there has even been some additions to those 20. Besides winning 1 book, my mum visited me here in London with a whole stack of interesting books for me to read. So add another 16 books to those original 20.

From the original 20, I’ve only read 3 (see strikethrough). I have started 5 of the others though (see italic).

Myrren’s Gift – Fiona McIntosh
Demon’s Kiss – Maggie Shayne
Lover’s Bite – Maggie Shayne
The Night Watch – Sergei Lukyanenko
The Day Watch – Sergei Lukyanenko
The Wind Dancer – Iris Johansen
Storm Winds – Iris Johansen
Reap The Wind – Iris Johansen
Magic’s Silken Snare – ElizaBeth Gilligan
The Rule of Four – Caldwell and Thomas
The Briar King – Greg Keyes
Fool’s Errand – Robin Hobb
The Golden Fool – Robin Hobb
Fool’s Fate – Robin Hobb
American Gods – Neil Gaiman
The Summoner – Gail Z. Martin
The Blood King – Gail Z. Martin
Doppelganger – Marie Brennan
The Draycott Legacy – Christina Skye
Cast in Shadow – Michelle Sagara

I haven’t been too slack; I’ve finished 6 of the 16 new books and started on 2 of them:

Agent to the Stars – John Scalzi
Jacob – Jacquelyn Frank
Gideon – Jacquelyn Frank
Elijah – Jacquelyn Frank
Damien – Jacquelyn Frank 
Flesh and Stone – Vickie Taylor
Darkfever – Karen Marie Moning
Bloodfever – Karen Marie Moning
Immortals: The Darkening – Robin T. Popp
Immortals: The Gathering – Jennifer Ashley
Immortals: The Calling – Jennifer Ashely
Immortals: The Awakening – Joy Nash
The Darkest Night – Gena Showalter
The Darkest Kiss – Gena Showalter
The Darkest Pleasure – Gena Showalter
Shifter – Anthology

It’s just so difficult to find the time to read. Lately I’ve been reading a bit before going to bed, but most of the time that means no more than one or two chapters. But only 9 books in 2.5 months? That’s way under my normal reading pace. 

I’ve decided to change the rules of the challenge a bit and drop the whole “till December 31st” part. I’m banning myself from buying any books until I’ve finished the entire To Be Read pile as listed above. Chances are high though that I will get books for Christmas or find some cool books at my parents place, but all those will also be added to the list. 

Anyone else willing to join me in this challenge?

Tags: Books

This is a cool meme I found on the Ramblings on Romance blog. The rules:

1. Comment on this post and ask for a letter. 
2. I will give you one. 
3. Think of 5 fictional characters whose names begin with that letter, and post their names and your comments on these characters on your blog. 

My letter, courtesy of Kristie (from the above blog) was M. The M for Miss Geeky, the M for Melinda. Shouldn’t be that difficult, right? Strangely enough though, it was. The moment I had to start thinking of characters my mind completely blanked. Finally though after a couple weeks of thinking I’ve got my 5 characters:

Mary-Lynette Carter from Daughters of Darkness

This was one of my favourite characters from LJ Smith’s young adult Night World series. Mary-Lynette is a 16 year old girl from a small town with dreams about becoming an astronomer. And then Ash Redfern comes to town. He’s got ash blonde hair, mysterious eyes, gorgeous features and he’s a vampire. Oh, and Mary-Lynette is his soulmate. Instead of succumbing completely to him though, Mary-Lynette refuses to become a vampire herself and give up her dreams for him. She’s one of the first real strong, sarcastic characters I came across in a vampire story without being something ‘paranormal’ herself and without the need to become something ‘paranormal’ either.

Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly

Sigh. Captain Reynolds. Mal. How could I not include you in this list? Malcolm Reynolds is the captain of the Firefly-class spaceship Serenity (from of course the TV series Firefly and the movie Serenity). He’s not your traditional type of hero, but that’s exactly what makes him so endearing. (sidenote: I first got acquainted to Nathan Fillion through 2 Guys, A Girl and A Pizza Place. After his roles in Firefly and Dr Horrible though, I forgive him for that.)

Morgan le Fay aka Morgaine aka Morgana

I love King Arthur and Camelot stories, but it’s difficult to keep track of all the various interpretations out there. Morgan le Fay’s character is especially one that is different every time. In the early works (pre 11th century) she only appears as a brief side character with magical powers. Later in the 13th century works her role is expanded, becoming Arthur’s half-sister and his antagonist.

Of course there are also modern interpretations of Morgan. While I still haven’t finished Mists of Avalon, I liked how her character (Morgaine) was portrayed there: as a priestess of Avalon, scared that Arthur will replace the native pagan religion with Christianity. Another different view is in Kinley McGregor’s Lord of Avalon series. Here Morgen has defeated Arthur and is Queen of Camelot and the demons that now inhabit it. Good or Evil, Morgan is always a great character to have around in an Arthurian story.

Melisande Shahrizai from Kushiel’s Legacy

The Kushiel books from Jacqueline Carey may be my favourite fantasy books. They’re often classified under erotic fiction, but as I’ve said before there’s less sex in here than your typical romance novel and are much more about political intrigue. Melisande Shahrizai is the main antagonist of the series: blue-black hair, sapphire eyes, alabaster skin and a direct descendant of Kushiel, the god of punishment, she manipulates everyone for her own advancement. She’s one of my fav villains, cause although she’s “evil”, you can see and understand the reasons behind everything she does.

Elena Morin’stal from The Banned and The Banished

This is one of the most under-appreciated book series I’ve read, mainly cause a lot of people don’t know it. Check out the first book Wit’ch Fire (Banned & the Banished) on Amazon; it’s one of my favourite “finished/rounded off” series. Elena is the main character; a 13-year old girl, who finds out she’s a wielder of blood magic, the first in 500 years and the only hope against the evil that’s claimed the land of Alasea.  

So those are my five characters with an M. Leave a comment behind if you want to play and I’ll give you a letter.

Tags: Books

Ban on Book Buying Challenge

September 12th, 2008

I’m not much of a shopper. I don’t like the busy high streets, popping in and out of every other store, dodging the tourists and other busy shoppers. The whole rigmarole is just too tiring and most of the time not even worth it. But book shopping? Now that’s a completely different experience.

I can spend hours in one bookshop, browsing through all the shelves, trying out new authors, hoping I’ll find some hidden gem. And when I’m tired with that store, I’ll hop on to the next one. And then the next one. Being a student, I already don’t spend that much on books, but there will always be that book that “I’ve been waiting for more than a year” or “is the final part of a series”. There are just certain books I’ll always have to get.

A couple of years ago I forced myself to a simple challenge for a year: I was not allowed to buy books from authors that I didn’t own yet. But having more than 500 books, means having a lot of authors I still could choose from. And after a time I just forgot about the challenge to myself. The main problem isn’t buying books though. It’s buying books, while still having a huge pile of books you’re supposed to read. And never reading all those books, because there’s always a “better” book.

So after seeing Shannon’s post about the Ban On Book Buying Challenge, I decided to step up to the challenge for the upcoming four months (until the end of this year). No buying of new books until I’ve finished the list of books I’ve setup. The rules are quite easy:

Guidelines for the 2008 Ban on Book Buying Challenge:

1. No purchasing books for yourself until all the books listed are gone. No purchasing books for other people with the intention of reading them after they are finished. Library or other borrowed books can’t be listed.

2. Any books won in a raffle or given to me as a gift will be added to this list.

3. Books to be reviewed for promo companies, other blogs, authors, etc. do not count and are not added to this list.

4. Start anytime and list as many or as few books as needed. Once all books are checked off from the list, the ban is lifted and the spending can begin again.

5. The ending date for each person can vary to a few weeks or months as long as it doesn’t exceed December 31, 2008. This ban can be lifted earlier if all books listed have been read or donated.

6. If you don’t have a blog and would like to still join, list your books in the comment section below.

Simple, right? So here’s my list of books I have to finish:


Myrren’s Gift – Fiona McIntosh
Demon’s Kiss – Maggie Shayne
Lover’s Bite – Maggie Shayne
The Night Watch – Sergei Lukyanenko
The Day Watch – Sergei Lukyanenko


The Wind Dancer – Iris Johansen
Storm Winds – Iris Johansen
Reap The Wind – Iris Johansen
Magic’s Silken Snare – ElizaBeth Gilligan
Cast in Shadow – Michelle Sagara


The Briar King – Greg Keyes
Fool’s Errand – Robin Hobb
The Golden Fool – Robin Hobb
Fool’s Fate – Robin Hobb
American Gods – Neil Gaiman


The Summoner – Gail Z. Martin
The Blood King – Gail Z. Martin
The Rule of Four – Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomas
Doppelganger – Marie Brennan
The Draycott Legacy – Christina Skye

It’s “only” 20 books, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to finish them all before Christmas. There are a couple of books in between them though, that I know will cost me some time to finish. Not because the books are so thick (there’s no such thing as “too many pages”), but because you have to invest so much time into the world and the story, it’s hard to get into.

I’ll try to give a monthly update, to show how I’m progressing with my list. Anybody else want to join me in this challenge?

Tags: Books