August 31st, 2016

Me

Book Critique 2016 – 05/15/2016: Angel's Blood (#1)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.
For review of all books in the Guild Hunter series: Go here.

Stars: 3.5 / 5
Recommendation: Definitely a pick if you like fantasy fiction involving vampires, archangels, angels and humans.

Angel's Blood is the first installment in the Guild Hunter series by Nalini Singh and was published in March of 2009. The book introduces Archangels who rule the world that includes Vampires and Guild Hunters. Primarily the plot focuses on Archangel Raphael - who rules North America from his Tower in Manhattan, New York - and Elena Deveraux - the best Vampire Hunter from the Guild. I have read book numbers #3, #4, #5 and #7 in this series and now going back up to the first book - I have a rule when reading series: Always read from the first book. Hence going back to the beginning - to find the origin of Elena and Raphael and their lives that weave through these web of books. Nalini Singh has mentioned in her site (Link: http://nalinisingh.com/books/guild-hunter-series/) that all the books are written as stand-alone and one can pick them at any stage in the series and still follow-it. However, I always feel that on should read the first book in any series to get a better idea on the characters and plot. It holds true with this series as well - from my perspective.



The stories in this series are set in a world where it is ruled by Archangels with Vampires, Angels and Humans with extra-ordinary powers as their team serving them. The Cadre that is the council of Archangels seats 10 powerful archangels who share the world in ten different continents and rule them, hold sway over the immortals and mortals alike. Archangels are immortals who have lived thousands and thousands of centuries. Angels are born or made but have lived centuries. Vampires are almost-immortals and are Made mostly and some have lived as long as the Archangels. They serve the Archangels and have contracts with their angelic masters that they have to live by. They use humans as cattle for feeding on blood. Guild Hunters are humans with special powers who are tasked to capture Vampires who have gone rogue. They have psychic and physical powers which are extra-ordinaire. The plots primarily revolve around Archangel Raphael, his consort - Elena, his Seven and his people while he is ruling North America from The Tower in Manhattan, New York.

Elena Deveraux is one of the best Vampire Hunters in the Guild and she knows it. However her heart takes a jerk when she is called by the Archangel Raphael for a work. Except his note says "I would be pleased if you would join me for breakfast.  8 a.m. - Raphael." Taking it up as a challenge Elena meets with Raphael. But little does she know that the meeting has to do more than work that Raphael has for her. She wasn’t prepared for the sexual pull towards him - at times Raphael is manipulating and other times her heart is betraying. Famed for hus ruthless but just rule, Elena wasn’t ready to lose her heart to him when she would just be another toy to him. Archangel Raphael had been intrigued by Elena for a while, but as a Guild Hunter only, until he meets her for the appointment he had set. She not only intrigued him but also created feelings and emotions that rarely existed with immortals - especially with someone who had lived thousands of centuries like him. She invoked memories hidden inside him and also interested his brain like no one in a very long time. And he was not ready to let her be just a Guild Hunter for his work, but he wanted to make her his.

What will these feelings do to Raphael - will his immortality change? That is something Raphael have to go through with his quest to make her his before he knows the answer to that. Is Raphael willing to go that far? Elena has her own demons to fight that are nothing related to the work she is undertaking for Raphael. And now she has to fight Raphael's interest and advances towards her as well. Apart from that Dmitri had little trust in her, trying to use his scent of allure to trap her in so she wouldn’t cause any harm to Raphael - not that she would.  Elena has to fight off the pull towards Dmitri as well. How will Elena come out of this? Will she fight or succumb to Raphael? The work that Raphael wants her to do is no ordinary either. She is an expert at tracking down Vampires-gone-rogue but can she track an angel? This one being Archangel Uram - who rules part of Europe and all of Russia - tasked to Elena to hunt since he is believed to be gone rogue and delved into madness and bloodlust. Where will the hunt lead Raphael and Elena to? Where will the pursuit of Elena by Raphael land him into?

A sub-plot involving Elena's past and her distance with her father and his second family runs along the story. This ties in with the past that Elena is reluctant to share with Raphael and also have nightmares often. Though this is the sub-plot, it becomes key to many aspects of the primary story.  All of Raphael's Seven (Dmitri, Illium, Venom, Jason <See if all are introduced and update this line accordingly>) - powerful Vampires and Angels who guard the Archangel - along with his butler Montgomery are introduced too.

The first novel on the Archangels, Humans, Angels and Vampires is very well spun by Nalini Singh. Having read three future books now I know why her stories intrigued the population. A different view point on Vampires and how they are made, Angels and how they become and the Archangels who rule the world no similar to what humans do yet distinctively different. A definite read for any day to get lost in an alternate world with more reality than one can imagine.

Spoiler Alerts::


1) Although I have written about Dmitri's story ahead of this one, this book gives more insight to his basic nature, why he was chosen by Isis to be Made and why the bond between Dmitri and Raphael is so thick that it cannot be broken. If I hadnt read his book first I would have started to hate Dmitri but now I just understand him more, making me like him without guilt.
2) Ashwini - another guild hunter - is introduced here. Hers was the first story I read in the series (post link of my review here) so it was fun to see her character evolve gradually.
3) Raphael goes into The Quiet - a state of mind that he has only gone once before that pushes him to do the justice without reason, meaning he may be right in passing the judgment but he has less tolerance to reason on the method or think about consequences.
4) We also see that Archangels can be hurt very badly if they get their mortal feelings or emotions alive again. And that adds another layer of something unknown to the Archangels which is yet to be found - is it for advantage? Or for disadvantage?
5) We also get introduced to Holly Chang - about whom I already read in Archangel's Blade story - and get a first glimpse of Dmitri's tender heart (if he has any) towards innocents. This sub-plot continues in Dmitri's story later.
Me

Television Critique 2016 – 05/16/2016: Castle

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a TV Show review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 4.5 / 5
My Recommendation: If you are looking for mystery and humor, then this TV show is one perfect one to watch.

Castle is an American crime-comedy series that aired on ABC channel until recently. Its first season started on Mar 9 2009 and after eight seasons finally closed on 5/16/2016 with its last episode. Thus the reason for posting this for my blog for this day. :P The plot revolves around the lives of best-selling mystery writer Richard Castle (portrayed by Nathan Fillion) and an NYPD homicide detective Kate Beckett (portrayed by Stana Katic) who solve unusual crimes in NYC.



The series begins with Kate Beckett called into a murder scene that is based off a book written by Richard Castle. He is brought in for questioning but eventually ends up supporting Kate's team as a consultant in solving the crime. Richard is going through a writer's block after he had killed his lead character, Derrick Storm, from the latest series of his popular books. Meeting Kate and getting involved in a real-life crime case spurs his brain to write a brand-series using Kate as his muse for Nikki Heat - the main character in that series. Initially Kate doesn’t like him following her on a case or her being used as a muse, but later on she realizes his potential and his usefulness and warms up to him. Eventually they fall in love and get married through the subsequent series all the while solving crimes - some regular crimes, some related to Kate's past, some related to Castle, some related to the detectives and their captains.

They are supported by Detective Javier "Javi" Esposito - a former Army Special Forces soldier (portrayed by Jon Huertas), Detective Kevin Ryan - a former narcotics detective (portrayed by Seamus Dever), Dr. Lanie Parish - a medical examiner (portrayed by Tamala Jones), Captain Roy Montgomery (seasons 1–3) (portrayed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson), Alexis Castle - Castle's daughter by his first wife, Meredith (portrayed by Molly Quinn), Martha Rodgers - Castle's mother, an actress on and off Broadway (portrayed by  Susan Sullivan), Captain Victoria Gates (seasons 4–7) - Captain Montgomery's replacement (portrayed by Penny Johnson Jerald) and Hayley Shipton (season 8) - a former MPS cop and MI-6 operative (portrayed by Toks Olagundoye).

Although the series has been airing since past 8 years, the first time I got an opportunity to watch any episode was this past January. I had injured my back during a workout session and been bed-resting for two continuous weeks. Unable to move much I had taken time off from work as well. So there was nothing much to do then plop myself on sofa or a bed and binge watch television. I came across re-runs of Castle airing on TNT and a particular scene between Kate and Castle caught my attention, making me glued to the series and rest is history. **Wicked Grin**

The series has been gripping and very interesting, with giving viewers insight into the characters' lives making them part of our life. Castles' quirky and witty nature with his sharp senses and Kate's strict protocol and penchant to solve a crime are perfect complements to each other. Added to that Kate's wardrobe is super excellent - I would love to have her wardrobe, but I need to get to her size first. Her hairstyle also changes as the seasons progress each adding a definition to her character. Perhaps that could be another reason that I got hooked on the show too - Fashion and Styling. **Wicked Grin** Check a few here.







Also most of the original cast were still retained expanding their roles in the show - for instance one gets to see Alex grow from a teenager to a beautiful young woman going through phases of life like a real person, extending Kevin's life into wedding and having a baby, showing love-life of Javi - adding additional meat to the body of plot defined around Kate and Castle. So it was very surprising that the show was cancelled suddenly considering the steady ratings and the many awards it had been winning. It was very disappointing to see it gone, although reruns still keep coming on TNT for people like me who like to hog on them. **Wicked**

If you chance upon the reruns on TNT while browsing through your channels, do stop and watch for a fun-filled mystery plot.

Spoiler Alerts:
1) The books of Nikki Heat and Derrick Storm books shown on the show have been also released as actual books at the beginning of every season. Nathan Fillion appears as the face of Richard Castle on the books, on the website and also participates in book signings. I have myself got a few of them and yet to read. A topic for future blog post. :)
2) When I first saw Penny Johnson Jerald (as Captain Victoria Gates in Castle) I was sure I saw her somewhere before. It took a while to click it in my brain. I saw her before in an episode of Columbo titled "Caution: Murder Can Be Hazardous to Your Health", portraying as Maxine Jarrett - a producer of the show in the plot. She was so young there.



3) I also remember seeing Ruben Santiago-Hudson (as Captain Roy Montgomery in Castle) in several of Law & Order episodes albeit as rerun episodes.