What do an innocent woman sentenced to burn for practicing witchcraft and a pulp crime novelist moonlighting as an...moreCourtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
What do an innocent woman sentenced to burn for practicing witchcraft and a pulp crime novelist moonlighting as an former assassin who now saves the lives she used to take have in common? The answer: nothing. And therein lies the problem with this book.
The main character starts out this book as Susannah Layhem, dutiful 17th century wife, herbalist healer, and expectant mother without a care in the world except how to fend off her overly amorous husband during the increasingly uncomfortable end of her pregnancy. When she is falsely accused of being a witch, abandoned by those closest to her, and then suffers a miscarriage due to maltreatment and harsh imprisonment, she willingly accepts a ‘deal with the devil’ (aka the Sumerian demon Rabishu) to escape a fiery death. She becomes an Ageless assassin, killing indiscriminately at Rabishu’s bidding. Fast forward about 300 years and Susannah wants out. She finds in the fine print of her demon contract a possible way out ; if she can save as many lives as she took she will be free. She starts her life over as Maliha (pronounced Ma-lie-hah), a 007 rip-off with all the expensive toys and boys a girl could want.
But Maliha is nothing like Susannah. When we first meet her, she is busy working on her tan a trying to think of new ways to pose in her bikini to attract a hottie a few feet away. She is unfortunately forced to ‘pose and run’ as a member of her network of saved lives calls in with a murder case for her to investigate. The rest of the book treats us to a confusing mash up of medical malpractice, drug smuggling, and corporate espionage . Sprinkled throughout all this, Maliha goes on a blind date, gossips with the boy crazy friend who set her up, works on her next hit book entitled, A Lust for Murder, and worries way too much that she might be in love with her blind date (while still engaging in casual sex with a local P. I.). In short she does everything except what you would expect: anguish over the insurmountable task in front of her. She is not the dark, brooding character she should be, given her history. She is not wracked with guilt over her past crimes nor is she consumed with desire to even the scales. She almost seems put out when she gets called away from all her fun.
What!?! Did I pick up the wrong book? Was there a mix-up at the printer? This was supposed to be an Urban Fantasy, not a Chic-Lit Mystery. And yet once Susannah becomes Maliha, the paranormal elements seem to die with her. There are a few passing references to the demon bargain, and a few mentions to Summerian mythology. But that’s about it.
This should have been a great book. The premise is one of the best I’ve heard in a long time. One I could easily imagine supporting a long series, and yet sadly, the author largely ignored the great opportunity she created and instead produced a generic thriller weighed down with chic-lit elements and bad dialog:
“What money? By now all records of your transaction have been wiped out. No one can follow the money trail because there isn’t any. What blackmail? The Black Ghost was never here.”
A warning is also appropriate because there is a sexual predator in this book and the author includes chapters from his perspective. One that includes him assaulting a woman while she sleeps, his running thoughts leading up to and throughout the assault , and his future plans of brutally raping her. I cannot emphasize enough how ugly this part was to read.
The bottom line is this: with Susannah, I cared; with Maliha, I didn’t.
Sexual Content: A couple brief sex scenes. A chapter written from the perspective of a sexual predator. (less)
My criteria for liking a book often comes down to liking the main character. After reading the first chapter of Red-headed Stepchild, I was ready to streak my hair red just so I could look like Sabina Kane.
“Digging graves is hell on a manicure, but I was taught good vampires clean up after every meal.”
When we first meet Sabina, she's in a graveyard digging a six foot hole for her latest meal (a kiddy drug pusher--Sabina gets a bite and cleans up the neighborhood in the process: everybody wins). An orphan raised by her mother's family, Sabina Kane is a vampire. Well half vampire, half mage. The product of a forbidden love affair, Sabina is forced to wear the stigma of her illegitimate birth literally on her head (the aforementioned red streaks).
In the world created by Jaye Wells, vampires (or Lilim, as they are called) are the offspring of Lilith and Cain and therefore they all have red hair (their inherited ‘biblical mark of Cain’). In fact all the dark races are in someway the descendents of Lilith: Demons, Fey etc. The world-building was definitely a strong point in this book: The politics of the various races are believably nuanced and have a real feeling of history behind them. There is the Dominae, a trio of female vampires (headed by Sabina’s grandmother) who govern over the vampiric race, and the Hecate Council that rules the Mages (or Mancies), and the Sellie Court of the Fey. The genesis of Vampires are also fully explained in a new and unique way. Along with a sense of mystery regarding Sabina’s mixed heritage which promises to be more fully explored in future books.
There is a lot to like about this book, but sadly with each increasing chapter, my affinity for Sabina,--and by extension this book--decreased. Chip nothing, Sabina had a boulder on her shoulder. I almost cheered when different characters called her out as a bitch. This is more of a personal pet peeve (but, hey, this is my blog): barely a hundred pages into the book Sabina had already commented twice that some guy made her panties/crotch get wet. I hate that phrasing; I just find it crass and vulgar. Big turn off. But the biggest obstacle I had with Sabina how she really skirted the TSTL [to stupid to live:] line throughout this book (especially the first half).
It is abundantly clear almost from page one the the Dominae have been using and lying to Sabina practically from birth, yet whenever someone tries to point this out to her, we get half a page of inner monologue where Sabina can't believe someone would expect her to believe such lies, because, of course, she's way too smart for anyone to deceive her. And even when she finally sees proof for herself of the Dominae’s duplicity, she still won’t believe that their lies extend to other extremely obvious areas. I understand that Sabina would be reluctant to cast her grandmother, the woman who raised her, in the role of villain, but there comes a point when reluctance must give way to reality. Sabina consistent refusal to acknowledge what was right in front of her was extremely frustrating.
The tone of the book was also problematic for me. Some chapters indicated that the author was going for a lighter, more humorous tone: like the scene with Gilguhl (Sabina's demon sidekick) dressed in a pink kimono and indulging in his infomercial addiction. But then basically on the next page, a darker more gritty tone has Sabina in a nightclub walking in on a guy giving oral sex to another guy. Back to the demon who can now turn into fuzzy kitty, then off to a creepy sexual cult. Light or dark; funny or gritty. Both have there place. I would have preferred consistency one way or the other. The author was clearly going for a hilarious meets horror blend, it just wasn’t entirely successful for me.
Sabina’s first outing, like her hair and nature, is a bit uneven to say the least. But I’m not giving up on this series. The premise and world Jaye has created is too intriguing for that. Ultimately, I think there is enough promise here to warrant checking out The Mage in Black when it comes out in March of 2010.
Sexual Content: Some crude language, a man performing a sex act on another man.
Review courtesy of AllThingsUrbanFantasy.blogspot.com
BLUE DIABLO is the first book in Ann Aguirre’s Corine Solomon series. The first half of this book...moreReview courtesy of AllThingsUrbanFantasy.blogspot.com
BLUE DIABLO is the first book in Ann Aguirre’s Corine Solomon series. The first half of this book is absolutely amazing. I loved Corine, with her vulnerable yet tough bravado. I loved the history between Corine and her ex Chance, who was not at all your typical alpha hero (though still every inch an alpha). But most of all I loved Ann Aguirre’s writing. It was earthy and smart, full of texture. Every one of my senses was engaged. If you’ve ever been to Mexico, you’ll appreciate the authentic flavor that will absolutely convince you that you’ve spend the weekend south of the border.
The second half of the was not quite as amazing. There were a few nearly pointless scenes (the séance) where a teeny tiny piece of evidence was gleaned that could have been obtained in other (much less complicated) ways. Also a bit too much procrastination when it came to the final showdown. Corine and Chance kept visiting the same locations over and over again when one visit would have sufficed.
Don’t get me wrong, BLUE DIABLO was still an excellent book and the start of what promises to be a topnotch urban fantasy series. Chance has a line early on in the book where he says he doesn’t believe in love at first sight, but he does believe in that ‘Click. Recognition.’ That’s kind of how I feel about BLUE DIABLO. There is something here that just clicked. Maybe it wasn’t love at first site, but I think I waited all of 5 minutes before pre-ordering Hell Fire (Corine Solomon, book 2) which releases on April 6, 2010.
Sexual Content: References to sex, vague descriptions of sex, a non graphic rape scene (extremely brief), references to rape and sex trafficking.
EVERMORE is sort of like TWILIGHT through the looking glass. Ever is the introverted mind reader who tries...moreReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
EVERMORE is sort of like TWILIGHT through the looking glass. Ever is the introverted mind reader who tries to stay away from the new student who she can’t read. And Damen is like a combination of TWILIGHT’s Edward and HUSH, HUSH’s Patch. He’s dangerously gorgeous with supernatural abilities and an inexplicable (at least to everyone else) attraction to the quiet freak aka Ever. He is also a shameless flirt, an occasional liar, and often a flat out jerk. But it all worked together in a really compelling way.
What didn’t work as well were Ever’s two best friends. It seems like they just banded together out of necessity at school without really liking each other or having anything in common. Haven is a pitiable disaster of a human being. Her desperation is choking at times, and she had enough wild mood swings to drive me nuts. And then there is Miles, the flamboyant, stereotypical gay friend who seems to be in scenes just so he can “pout” or “squeal” about how delicious a guy is: "Are you guys talking about Damen?" Miles whispers, sliding onto the bench and placing his elbows on the table, his brown eyes darting between us, his baby face curving into a grin. "Gorgeous! Did you see the boots? So Vogue. I think I'll invite him to be my next boyfriend."
The mystery of what happened to Ever and who/what Damon is, is the core of this story and it’s strong enough to balance out the annoying supporting cast. The writing is also thoughtful and emotionally evocative that I'm genuinely looking forward to catching up with this series. The sixth and final Immortal book, EVERLASTING, will be released on June 7, 2011.
Sexual Content: Kissing. References to sex. Reverences to homosexuality. A scene of sensuality.(less)
I’ve been bitten, and I’m ready for more. Author Jennifer Rardin does a nice job of combing the fun of a spy novel (think Jennifer Garner from Alias) with the paranormal elements that define the urban fantasy genre.
Jasmine (Jaz) Parks, a military brat turned vampire hunter (aka Helsinger as in Van Helsing), has spent most of her life honing her skills as an elite hunter of the undead--for the government no less. After surviving a devastating personal trauma that only intensified her foolhardy reckless streak (and gave her some unique abilities in the process), Jaz is given a new assignment as bodyguard/partner to a 300 year old vampire hitman named Vayl, who personally requested Jaz for reasons she can’t begin to fathom.
Together, the pair track down a terrorist cell whose leader has Nazi-like aspirations, the uber nasty head vampire Raptor, and the demon goddess someone's trying to unleash on the world, all the while fighting the growing attraction they have for each other. The plot gets a little confusing at times and certain scenes feel like filler. The big action at the end also seemed too long, but it was the character dynamics that make those minor complaints.
Jaz was a surprisingly likable character for me. She is self-deprecating without wallowing in self-pity; she is sarcastic and snarky without being in permanent PMS mode; and she is able to own up to her mistakes and actually apologize for them. I did wonder about Jaz’s lack of animosity towards vampires in general. Given her past, I would have expected—and enjoyed—reading about her struggle to work for, trust, and, maybe even love, a vampire. She has spend the majority of her life killing them after all, but she is oddly un-conflicted.
As far as real criticism goes, the world building was a bit scant and there isn’t any new territory explored in terms of vampire mythology. My biggest beef is about where the story begins: six months after Jaz and Vayl start working together. I hope Jennifer Rardin writes a prequel about when they first meet. There is already a level of comfort and intimacy when we meet them that I would have loved to watch develop.
I tend to respond more to the gritty, darker urban fantasy’s. And while Once Bitten, Twice Shy throws in a healthy does of humor and chic-lit like emotional examination, it worked for me. Next time I want a fun quick read, I’ll be picking up book 2 in the Jaz Parks series: Another One Bites The Dusk
Alpha and Omega is the novella that preceded Patricia Briggs’ Cry Wolf (Alpha and Omega, Book 1). Part of the On The Prowl anthology, A&O is less its own story and more the introduction to Cry Wolf. It almost feels like someone decided to cut the first few chapters of Cry Wolf and publish them separately. Having read Cry Wolf previously, I already knew the basic plot of this novella as most of it is rehashed in that book. But what makes A&O worth reading is the character insight revealed through the alternating POV of Anna and Charles. And I actually found Anna to be a much stronger character this time around, despite the ongoing abuse she is enduring in A&O. She shows some spine and resourcefulness that I was proud to see. In Cry Wolf she almost seemed to take a step backwards in that sense. As a heads up, there is a lot of romance in this story. I would say the vast majority involves exploring feelings and attraction. So in that sense, A&O is very much a romance with paranormal elements and not the other way around. But even though the romance is the focus here, because this is Patricia Briggs we're talking about, the paranormal elements are top notch. The werewolf pack dynamic is fascinating and I particularly enjoyed how the wolves in this world have there own distinct personality that is not always in agreement with their human counterparts. I just wish there was more of them, especially regarding the origin of the Omega wolf. Perhaps Briggs is planning on doling out more of those details in future books. If you are reading this story first, be sure to have Cry Wolf on hand as the story does not conclude in this novella.
Sexual Content: Sexual abuse and rape is alluded to in the past tense.
Inhuman by Eileen Wilks:
This is the third book set in the compelling World of the Lupi, but it was my first visit, and right off the bat this book struck a nerve with me when the author resorted to writing two of my pet peeves: In the first chapter alone Christians and Republicans are stereotypically dismissed as evil, ignorant hate mongers. I mean how cliché can you get? And the second pet peeve is the info dump. Instead of gradually drawing her audience in to a world unlike our own, we get an entire history crammed into the first chapter. Starting chapter two, I was prepared to groan through the rest of this book for the purpose of this review, but after those initial turn offs (and basically a worthless first chapter full of irrelevant characters), not to mention the whole power wind concept which I found clear as mud, I ended up really liking this book, more to the point, I liked Nathan. His chapters are by far the most interesting (as is the revelation of what he really is). Kai, on the other hand, was pretty vanilla. Yes, she is Gifted (in some undefined way that we only get hints about initially), and yes, she does become more interesting towards the end, but Nathan is why I kept reading and why I was so disappointed to learn that nothing further has been, or is going to be written about him. Eileen had this to say on her website: '’10-05-2009 08:02 am …when I wrote about Kai & nathan I hoped to continue their story in books or novellas. But for now, my editor wants Rule & Lily stories from me, so no Kai & Nathan books--yet. This may change.’ Maybe we should start a letter campaign to Eileen Wilks’ Editor to write more books about Nathan (and Kai if she wants to)? In the mean time, I’m already planning my next visit to the World of the Lupi.
Sexual Content: There is a sex scene that is not overly graphic
Buying Trouble by Karen Chance:
I liked this story from page one. Claire is a Null (or something more), someone who can nullify magic, a rarity that her 'family' wants to cash in on by selling her to the highest bidder. Heidar, a Light Elf, lends a hand in her rescue sending the two on the lam through the Faeire realm where, of course, romance and action ensue. There isn't any explanation for the world in this story (I didn’t even realize that I was in the same world as in the Cassandra Palmer series until afterwards, which, considering how I reviewed the first Cassie book is probably a good thing); its like ours in most respects, except that it is populated with fey, weres, vampires, mages, trolls and even dragons. Some hardcore UF lovers might not enjoy this story as much as I did as the majority of the story takes place in the decidedly un-urban faeire realm, and in that sense feels more like straight fantasy. The characters, however, are strong with very modern mindsets. Claire specifically was sharp and witty with just the right amount of cynicism for my taste. Another nice thing about this story is, that unlike a lot of anthology selections, this one actually has an ending. None of that, 'read the rest of the story in the next book...' And it feels like a complete story, something not all novellas do. I hope Ms. Chance plans on writing more about Claire and Heidar in the near future.
Sexual Content: One semi graphic sex scene. (less)
Wicked lovely was one of my favorite paranormal YA reads in recent years. I immediately connected with Aislinn and Seth, and was completely captivated by the Faerie world that Melissa Marr had created. So I fully expected to be equally enchanted by Ink Exchange. After all, it’s the same wonderful world, and some of the same wonderful characters. So why am I left feeling slightly disappointed?
A human girl is singled out by a faery ruler as the one who could save his court and slowly drawn into the invisible world of the Fey. Torn between two men, one of whom she is drawn to despite her better judgment, she struggles to maintain her sense of self, deal with past family issues, and perhaps find true love.
I just described the general plot of both WickedLovely AND InkExchange. Now do you see why I’m disappointed? Ink Exchange does tell a different story in the details: Leslie is the human in question this time (we met her briefly in Wicked), and Irial is of the Dark Court (as opposed to Keenan’s Summer Court). Leslie has spend her life oblivious of fey until she unwittingly chooses a tattoo that links her to Irial and allows him to siphon dark human emotions (fear, anger, lust, hate etc.) through her to feed all his fey and stave off starvation. The link is eventual fatal to humans and, in the meantime, Leslie lives as a junkie where her only fix is Irial’s touch. The love triangle is completed by Niall, Keenan’s guard who falls for Leslie while trying to protect her from all fey, including himself.
If I hadn’t read Wicked Lovely first, I probably wouldn’t be nit picking. The story is fascinating, but it is also familiar, too much so for me. And to be honest, Ink is not as strong as Wicked nor are the characters as compelling. The world of the fey even seems less vivid. Ink Exchange in not a bad book, quite the opposite. The only real criticism is that it doesn’t live up to its predecessor. And considering how lovely Wicked was, that is hardly a fault at all.
Caution: I had a difficult time reviewing Wicked Lovely as a YA book because of some of the subject matter. I’m faced with that same problem with Ink Exchange. There are a lot of subjects in this book that I would be cautious about introducing to a young audience: Rampant drug use and abuse; child abuse; gang rape, orgies, sex addiction, self-mutilation, etc. Some of these topics are only briefly touched on, while others are recurring features throughout the story. Something to think about before handing this book to a teen.
Several references to a past experience where a character was drugged and gang raped. The concept of sexual addiction is present. Sex is implied, but never described. Orgies are implied, but never described.
Review courtesy of AllThingsUrbanFantasy.blogspot.com
Persephone Alcmeda (aka Seph) is little like Rachel Morgan and Stephanie Plum rolled into one. Li...moreReview courtesy of AllThingsUrbanFantasy.blogspot.com
Persephone Alcmeda (aka Seph) is little like Rachel Morgan and Stephanie Plum rolled into one. Like Rachel, she's a powerful witch who can tap into ley lines and manipulate magic. And like Stephanie, she has to deal with her batty old grandmother making comments about her love life and random people moving in with her all the time.
In the back of my address book was a list of contact numbers for the wærewolves who kenneled in my basement during full moons. My finger ran down to the name Johnny. A last name wasn’t necessary to clarify this guy. There was only one Johnny.-VICIOUS CIRCLE
VICIOUS CIRCLE has a sudden revelation world building scenario. The world lived in blissful ignorance of Wære, Vampires, Witches, and Fey until recently. The human population has been struggling to adapt ever since. The Wære have endured the worst treatment by far. Police won't investigate crimes about them and hospitals will discharge them regardless of their condition the moment the Wær virus is detected.
Seph is instantly likeable as the witch with sympathies towards Wære and a strong, if often reckless sense of justice. She has a quirky love for Arthur Pendragan aka King Arthur that does a nice job of humanizing her. And the Wære/rock star Jonny as well as another romantic possibility who I won’t name keep things interesting and promise a bigger payoff in future books.
The biggest problem I had with VICIOUS CIRCLE is how small it seems. Nearly the entire book takes place in Seph's house. Plus it took a really long time before any action happened. I liked the character of Jonny as a playful and shameless flirt, but he didn’t have nearly enough scenes.
Overall, VICIOUS CIRCLE introduces us to a complex magical world, a likeable heroine still unsure of her powers, and the potential for lots of romantic tension. These all help compensate for a small, slightly slow story. Hallowed Circle (Persephone Alcmedi, Book 2) is available now, and Fatal Circle will be out June 29, 2010
Review courtesy of AllThingsUrbanFantasy.blogspot.com
I bought this book because Stephenie Meyer told me to. Or at least that’s how I translated her c...moreReview courtesy of AllThingsUrbanFantasy.blogspot.com
I bought this book because Stephenie Meyer told me to. Or at least that’s how I translated her cover endorsement, “A remarkable debut.” Stephenie is the reason I found out about the phenomenal Hunger Games, so I take her book recommendations seriously. And once again I’m glad I did.
Wings is a sweet love story about fifteen year old Laurel, who moves to a new town, meets the affable David, and finds out she is a fairy. When she seeks out answers about her fairy heritage, she meets the charismatic Tamani who offers her a tantalizing glimpse into the world of the fey.
The character of Laurel was believable from page one. Her reactions and emotions were completely in keeping with her age and background, they never once rang false. Her conflicting feelings for David and Tam were likewise genuine. She knew she wasn’t just choosing between two boys, she was choosing between two worlds, and the implications of that choice were never lost to her.
This book would be especially great for younger teens as this love story is appropriately chaste while still being deliciously romantic. The little floral twist on fairies was a fun unique element, as was the multiple love interests that Laurel faced (no wonder Stephenie Meyer liked it).
Wings is the first of four books. Book Two is titled Spells. It will be released May 4, 2010. The movie rights to Wings have been optioned by Disney and Miley Cyrus is set to star as Laurel. Here’s hoping they recast.
Sexual Content: (YA titles get a more thorough breakdown) One reference to sex leading to pregnancy, a few references to sex amongst teenagers. A few kissing scenes.
In the follow up to Magic Strikes, mercenary Kate Daniels is once again thrown into the path of The Pack (shapeshifters) and asked to retrieve some vital maps that were stolen by a mischievous man who has a tendency to vanish into mist (and steal a kiss or two). Professionally, Kate is saddled with protecting a lovesick teenage girl whose missing mother is involved with a Coven intent on ushering in a malevolent Celtic god to rain destruction on first Atlanta and then the world. Her personal life is no less harrowing as Kate must watch her ex almost-could-have-been boyfriend move on in a big way, and face the possibilities of a suitor that both terrifies and confuses her.
In addition to stellar storytelling, the world building in this series in phenomenal, and, no offense to Kim Harrison, quite possibly the best out there in urban fantasy. Every aspect of life in alternate Atlanta is colored with breathable –sometimes uncomfortably so--paranormal details. The concept of the magic/tech pendulum is a key feature of the Kate Daniels world:
The world has suffered a magic apocalypse. We pushed the technological progress too far, and now magic returned with a vengeance. It comes in waves, without warning, and vanishes as suddenly as it appears. When magic is up, planes drop out of the sky, cars stall, electricity dies. When magic is down, guns work and spells fail. It’s a volatile, screwed-up world. Magic feeds on technology, gnawing down on skyscrapers until most of them topple and fall, leaving only skeletal husks behind.-Ilona-Andrews.com
All the usual otherworldly creatures are present: weres, vamps, witches etc. but each is given fresh life and rules. Vampires, for example, are mindless starving fiends. Forever caught in a limbo between vitality and decay, they are monsters in every sense of the word. Lacking even a shred of humanity, those injected with the Immortuus pathogen are 'piloted' by The People, necromancers of extraordinary magical power. These are not your usual romantic heroes, in Kate’s world, they are the stuff of nightmares.
Shapshifters, on the other hand, are slightly more familiar but no less interesting. There is your standard pack hierarchy, dominants, and alphas. Fans of Laurel K. Hamilton will recognize some of the were dynamics between the wererats, werebears, werehyienas, etc. One pleasant distinction is the Beast Lord, Curren, the uncontested king of the shapshifterrs who is, what else, a werelion. He and Kate have somewhat of a tenuous relationship. Translation: Kate doesn't take kindly to orders and tends to speak first and think later; Curren, not being accustomed to anything but instant and total obedience, sometimes lets his temper get the better of him. Mutual respect is hard won with these two, and of course it is all the more valuable for it.
I’m left with one overriding thought as I finish this review: Kate Daniels is second only to Mercy Thompson in my opinion, and, as Magic Burns can attest, she is rapidly closing that gap.
Sexual Content: A woman explains sex to a teenage girl
“Kate's world is an interesting place…Magic comes and goes as it pleases, as if somewhere a child is playing with a switch. It's a very unpredictable, volatile world, full of dangerous people: shape shifters, necromancers, mages, knights... Everyone has an agenda and everyone is ready to rip the competition to shreds. In this world lives Kate. She was raised from birth by a man of extraordinary martial skill, who employed all of his expertise to make her into a lethal fighter. To this end, he took her all over the continent to let her train with different experts and he subjected her to grueling training. He made her into a living weapon and gave her a mission. And then he died. Now Kate is alone. She has her mission, but she is smart enough to recognize that she will need a lot more experience and power before she can embark on it. She didn't have much of a childhood. If you really think about it, she doesn't even know how to be a girl - her mother died when she was very young. For now she just tries to make sense of who she is and what she is doing. She is learning how to make friends. And she might be falling in love.” –Ilona Andrews (courtesy of AAR After Hours interview). (less)
Like my favorite urban fantasy author Patricia Briggs (who just happened to have blurbed for this book), Di...moreReview Courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
Like my favorite urban fantasy author Patricia Briggs (who just happened to have blurbed for this book), Diana Pharaoh Francis has a background as an established fantasy writer, and that background is certainly evident in Bitter Night.
“Max’s phone rang. It was set to a high-pitched tone that most humans couldn’t hear. But being human hadn’t been Max’s problem since 1979.” –Bitter Night
First up, the good: Diana’s fantasy background was a strength that she fully utilized in created the world of the Horngate Witches. Witches hold amazing power in Bitter Night. Shadowblades and Sunspears are human servants magically enhanced with superhuman abilities and senses. They are not that dissimilar from vampires: they can heal from most wounds, never grow old, and the sun (or moon depending on whether they are Sunspears or Shadowblades) is deadly to them. They even struggle with enlarged appetites (try 40 Big Macs at once).
Max (she adopted the name from the Mel Gibson character in The Road Warrior movies, though I think she is much more like Riggs from Lethal Weapon) is the Prime Shadowblade for the witch Giselle. Enslaved by the witch that made her, compelled to lay down her very life if necessary in order to keep Giselle safe, Max is not the grateful servant she’s expected to be. Rather she is consumed with one thought: Revenge. It is the one hope that keeps her from walking out in to the sunlight that would kill her. When forces greater than even the witches threaten everything that Max has come to care about, she must learn to ally with her enemy and accept the role she must play as savior.
The cover art is what first attracted me to this book. And I love that Max is actually described like the cover depicts her. She even wears the cover outfit during a pivotal scene in the book. In that scene Max is forced into a test of endurance against another witch’s Prime Shadowblade, Alexander (who I think deserved a spot on the cover as a significant number of chapters are written from his point of view).
The not-so good: Diana’s fantasy background is both her strength and her weakness. The fantasy Horngate world is well realized with its own unique mythology (especially her take on Angels), the urban elements, however, are less so. There is very little interaction with the modern (outside) world, and while the characters all have cell phones and drive cars etc., apart from those details, this story could easily have been set a millennium ago with minor changes. I’m not sure if those small additions will be enough for hardcore urban fantasy lovers.
I’ll also admit that it took me until about the midpoint to really get into this book. Max is a hard character and the circumstances of her life have made her very bitter (hence the title). At first, I struggled to see past that aspect of her. I understood her to a degree, I just didn’t especially like her. That changed when she risked her life for Alexander not knowing if he would turn around and kill her later. Her loyalty to the Shadowblades in her command was also a contributing factor. She consistently put their welfare over her own need for revenge. It's hard not to admire that kind of selflessness.
I never really did warm up to Alexander. He didn’t seem strong enough to be a realistic romantic lead for Max (the Angel on the other hand...). Nor did I ever believe the conflicting desire they supposedly felt for each other went beyond plain lust. Overall, I found his chapters to be the weakest in the book.
Bitter Night has its bitter moments, but strong world building and a heroine who proves herself by bravery and resourcefulness, even willingness to suffer in the stead of others make it worth reading. There is no cliffhanger ending, but Diana is far from finished with her Horngate Witches…and neither am I.
A Dhampir is a half vampire/half human, but what do you call a half vampire/half were? Well, if your Kaylana Price, you call her Kita, or as the men in her life call her, Kitten. Kita is a Shifter who can turn into a cat. Thinking herself and her alter ego calico too weak to take over for her father as the leader of the other Shifters of Firth, Kita escapes to the human world city of Haven and goes on the run from Hunters who would return her home. After a slow start, the story picks up when Kita eventually runs into her ex-boyfriend/Hunter Bobby, accidentally gets turned into a Vampire by the Hermit Nathaniel, and becomes the research subject for a student Mage named Gil. This motley crew then gets recruited by a Judge who threatens to turn Kita and her friends over to a bunch of demons if they don’t track down a rogue Shifter/rapist (who Kita may have a connection to) within 48 hours. Sound confusing? Well it is. Not in the sense that you won’t understand what is happening, but you won’t know why because the world building of Once Bitten is never fully built.
This lack of world building wasn’t as frustrating early on when we first meet Kita and learn that she can turn into a cat etc. because we expect all the details of her world to be explained later. And while some things are explained, like Kita’s history with Bobby, others like the world Kita comes from, never are. Is Firth a magically hidden world? Is it an alternate dimension? What about Haven? Is that a city on Earth or some other planet? Then there are the vampire, demon, and mages. Do they all come from the same world? What are their rules? We get a glimpse of the Vampire society towards the end of Once Bitten, (and it’s something of a cross between Kim Harrison’s vamps and the Volturi from Twilight) but it is all too brief and ends up raising more questions then it answers.
Kita herself is an interesting character and the conflict she felt over the romantic feelings she still harbored for her mated (married) ex along with the burgeoning feelings she was developing for Nathaniel were realistically portrayed and easily the most compelling aspects of Once Bitten. But the handful of other characters were fairly one dimensional. Gil, for example, was supposed to be the eager, goofy sidekick who I constantly forgot about the moment she left the page. I still don’t remember why she showed up in the first place (and I read the book today) and the reason she stuck around was pretty flimsy.
Normally it can be a good thing when a book leaves you asking questions because then you are motivated to pick up the next book. Not this time. I stopped being curious about this Kitten long before I reached the end of Once Bitten. I still have a lot of questions, but I have very little motivation to seek out the answers in future Haven novels.
Sexual Content: Character’s pass through a vampire sex club, but nothing is graphically described. References to a rapist. (less)
Review courtesy of AllThingsUrbanFantasy.blogspot.com
Kate Daniels blows me away every time. With each new book in this series I convince myself that...moreReview courtesy of AllThingsUrbanFantasy.blogspot.com
Kate Daniels blows me away every time. With each new book in this series I convince myself that it can’t possibly be as good as I remembered, and every time I’m thrilled to be wrong. And Magic Strikes (Kate Daniels, book 3) is the best one yet.
The alternate Atlanta that Kate lives in is one of the most fully realized in the genre. Every aspect of society is detailed and nuanced. The swinging pendulum of magic and tech, neither one existing while the other rules, is as fresh and wonderful as it was in the first book:
"It was called post-Shift resonance: magic drowned the world in a wave, snuffing out anything complex and technological, smothering car engines, jamming automatic weapons, and eroding tall buildings. Mages fired ice bolts, skyscrapers fell, and wards flared into life, keeping undesirables from my house. And then, just like that, the magic would vanish, leaving monsters in its wake. Nobody could predict when it would reappear and nobody could prevent it. All we could do was cope with an insane tarantella of magic and technology. That’s why I carried a sword. It always worked." –Magic Strikes
Kate Daniels is the epitome of the kick-butt urban fantasy heroine. A mercenary turned liaison for The Order of Merciful Aid, Kate storms sleeping lions and carries a sword. Raised from birth to kill or be killed she has managed to retain her humanity (along with a wicked sense of humor) and even has a small circle of friends that she’d die to protect. When one of those friends turns up savagely beaten and left for dead, all Kate can think about is vengeance. But vengeance has its price.
To further complicate matters, Curran, the Beast Lord of Atlanta, has recently declared himself to Kate, and while he is equal parts terrifying and irresistible, Kate is too independent to submit. But that doesn’t stop Curran from enjoying the pursuit or backing off. And if its a fight he wants, Kate is more than willing to give him one. But going against Curran on a personal level is nothing compared to violating The Beast Lord. The Beast Lord has laid down certain rules for the shapeshifters under his command. And if Kate wants to save Derek, she’ll have to break every single one.
We get to learn a lot about not just Kate in this book, but also Curran, Derek, and Jim too. Oh and did I mention we finally learn what Saiman is? In previous books, we’ve gotten a general sketch of Kate’s backstory, but in Magic Strikes that sketch is much more detailed and filled in. The ultimate goal in Kate’s life, the one she has spend a lifetime preparing for is much more a part of this story, instead of being a problem for ‘future Kate.’ Magic Bleeds will no doubt bring that showdown to the forefront even more. I can’t wait.
Sexual Content: References to rape, some crude dialogue, a brief scene of semi-graphic sensuality.(less)
Review ourtesy of AllThingsUrbanFantasy.blogspot.com
“The Britlingens Go To Hell” by Charlaine Harris. This story is a bit hard to classify. The story...moreReview ourtesy of AllThingsUrbanFantasy.blogspot.com
“The Britlingens Go To Hell” by Charlaine Harris. This story is a bit hard to classify. The story involves two female members of an elite Britlingens guard (who appeared briefly as bodyguards in All Together Dead, Sookie Stackhouse book 7) for hire who accept a contract with a thief on a recovery mission to Hell. The setting is a planet in a futuristic alternate dimension. Translation: hovercrafts and time travel portals.
There are a couple historical cameos that pop up inexplicably in an attempt at comic relief; attempt being the operative word there. And Lucifer himself as the villain is more interested in sadomasochism then anything else. The obligatory hellhounds serve as prison guard dogs.
If I hadn't read Charlaine Harris before, this story would probably have kept me from seeking out her other books. This just feels like she phoned it in. The writing is not good, the characters underdeveloped (even for a novella), and the world convoluted and poorly explained. Since I know that Charlaine Harris is a good author, I'm going to dismiss this effort as a fluke.
Sexual Content: references to sadomasochism and male rape. Anatomical sexual incompatibilities.
2 out 5
"Magic Mourns" by Ilona Andrews takes place in the same world as the Kate Daniels series. While Kate is in a few scenes, “Magic Mourns” focuses on Kate’s best friend and fellow Knight in the Order of Merciful Aid, Andrea Nash. If you want to read the series chronologically, the order would be:
Magic Bites Magic Burns Magic Strikes Magic Mourns (novella in Must Love Hellhounds Anthology) I’ll admit it up front: I bought this anthology solely to read this story. The Kate Daniels series is hands down one of the best urban fantasy series today. I was a little disappointed when I realized that Kate (and Curran) wouldn’t be front and center in this story, but my disappointment didn’t make it past the first page.
Of all the stories in this anthology, “Magic Mourns” makes the best use of the hellhound concept using Greek mythology and the most famous hellhound of all: Cerberus. Familiar characters abound here, most notably the werehyena Rafael. He had been pursing Andrea since the previous Kate Daniels book and I loved getting to focus more on that relationship.
I also loved how thoroughly and quickly the complex world of this series and those that inhabit it (Masters of the Dead, The Pack etc) were explained and incorporated into the narrative. Longtime fans and new readers alike should love this edgy, and deeply magical story. And a BIG thank you to Gordon and Ilona for the pretty significant reveal regarding Curran at the end. Magic Bleeds (Kate Daniels, book 5) is due May 25, 2010, and for me, the wait just got worse.
*”Magic Mourns” is my pick for best story of the anthology*
Sexual Content: References to rape. Implied sex.
"Angels' Judgment" by Nalini Singh continues her Guild Hunter Series following Angels’ Blood. If your interested in reading this series chronologically the order would be:
Angels' Pawn (e-release, early 2009; this novella is written to stand alone, so it can be read at any stage in the series. Angels' Blood is the first book in the series.) Angels' Blood "Angels' Judgment" in the Must Love Hell Hounds anthology Archangel's Kiss In her Guild Hunter Series, Nalini Singh capitalizes on the two hottest trends in the urban fantasy genre today: vampires and angels. I know I don’t normally associate the two, but Nalini makes it work.
Sara wasn’t used to feeling sorry for vampires. Her job, after all, was to bag, tag and transport them back to their masters, the angels. –Angels’ Judgment
If you’re new to this series, the world building here spins traditional angel mythology completely on its head. Forget everything you learned in Sunday school, these angels are lethal beings of unimaginable power as well as the creators (and masters) of vampires. When a vampire tries to buck the system and go AWOL, Guild Hunters are called in to bag & tag them and drag them back to their angelic masters.
“Angels’ Judgment” is a prequel to Angel’s Blood and focuses on Elena’s best friend, Sara. While on the hunt for a rogue Hunter who has been butchering vampires, Sara teams up with smokin’ hot Deacon (aka The Slayer) to stop the killer and survive the ‘angel sanctioned tests’ long enough to become the new Guild Director.
I loved the original angels in this world and the strong, yet still feminine, character of Sara. I’m not usually a fan of a lot of romance in short stories or novellas simply because there aren’t a lot of pages available to develop a love story with any credibility. That being said, I thought the relationship between Sara and Deacon had more substance than most. I especially liked the scene where she ‘protected’ him at the club.
For me, anthologies are a great way to try out new authors and possibly get hooked on their writing style. From there, good characters and unique world building will always reel me in, and with “Angels’ Judgment,” Nalini Singh has caught herself another happy reader.
Sexual Content: One brief non-graphic sex scene, one long semi-graphic sex scene, a scene takes place in a gay club without any description.
"Blind Spot” by Meljean Brook takes place in the world of her Guardian Series. It is not necessary to have read all the previous books in this series to enjoy “Blind Spot” as each story focuses primarily on a different couple. However, if you want to read the series chronologically, the order would be:
HOT SPELL (anthology) – The Guardians, Prequel Novella DEMON ANGEL – The Guardians, Book 1 WILD THING (anthology) – The Guardians, Book 1.5 DEMON MOON – The Guardians, Book 2 DEMON NIGHT – The Guardians, Book 3 FIRST BLOOD (anthology) – The Guardians, Book 3.5 DEMON BOUND – The Guardians, Book 4 DEMON FORGED – The Guardians, Book 5 MUST LOVE HELLHOUNDS (anthology) – The Guardians, Book 5.5 Note to my readers: Although MUST LOVE HELLHOUNDS will be published a month before DEMON FORGED, the story in the anthology takes place after the events of DEMON FORGED, and “Blind Spot” contains minor spoilers for Irena and Alejandro’s story. I have done my best to keep those spoilers to a minimum, however… –Meljean Brook
Ex CIA operative Maggie Wren (who appeared briefly in Demon Forged) has been working as a ‘butler’ for the vampire Colin Ames-Beaumont (from Demon Moon) when she is sent to rescue his kidnapped niece, Katherine, along with the aid of his nephew, Blake. While not a vampire like his uncle, Blake, though blind, has his own talents that include being able to see through anyone else's eyes. Given the title of this anthology, I’ll give you one guess what kind of breed his seeing eye dog is.
Despite having roughly the same amount of pages as the other authors in this anthology, Meljean delivers the best romance of the bunch in “Blind Spot.” It drives me nuts in a story when character’s stop for ‘sex breaks’ during life or death situations (for example rescuing your sister from her demon kidnapper). Fortunately, while there is a satisfying amount of romantic tension here, both characters have enough self control to put Katherine’s life ahead of their own attraction.
I really only had one problem with this story. I would imagine that growing up together, Katherine and Blake would have learned the most effective ways of communicating with each other, given their unique abilities. And I have to think that sign language would have occurred to someone by now. I mean how hard would it be to look at your own hands and even just spell out a message alphabetically?
This was my first time reading Meljean Brooks and I’m now going to have to add myself to her throngs of fans. Her writing, pacing, characters, and world are simply delicious. The next Guardian book, Demon Blood is due out July 6, 2010.
Review courtesy of AllThingsUrbanFantasy.blogspot.com Seeing Eye is a very short story. It clocks in at only 38 pages, and in the hands of a lesser aut...moreReview courtesy of AllThingsUrbanFantasy.blogspot.com Seeing Eye is a very short story. It clocks in at only 38 pages, and in the hands of a lesser author, it could have been a disaster trying to build a world, create compelling characters, and tell a satisfying story in so few pages. Fortunately for us, Patricia Briggs was more than equal to the task.The story is simple enough, Wendy Moira Keller (yep, named after the Peter Pan character), a blind witch, agrees to help a desperate werewolf, Tom Franklin, search for his abducted brother. If you’ve read Brigg’s Hunting Ground already, then these characters will be familiar to you. If you haven’t read it yet, start with Seeing Eye first as it explains how Moira and Tom met. Even though we spend such a brief time with Moira and Tom, Brigg’s writes them as fully fleshed out characters. Moira specifically is appealing as she provides us with a firsthand look at what Witches are like in the world of Mercy Thompson. Mercy deals with all kinds of paranormal creatures: vamps, fey, weres, but she only rarely interacts with witches. In Seeing Eye, Brigg’s gets to explore that world a little more. The result is that I, for one, have two more reason’s to look forward to Hunting Ground. Sexual Content: None
Jim Butcher’s story continues his popular Dresden Files Series. In Last Call, which occurs chronologically between Small Favor, book 10 and Turn Coat, book 11, wizard Harry Dresden is on the hunt for the mastermind behind some bewitched beer. I’ve only read the first book in Butcher’s Dresden Files, and despite the gap in my Harry knowledge, this was an easy story to slip into and I never felt disoriented like I had missed a lot in the interim. Harry and Murphy play off each other in just the way I remembered. Harry was, if anything, more enjoyable for me. He is a perfect anti-hero with his sarcasm and humorous non-alpha acts of self-preservation. I’m seriously going to have to pick up Full Moon after thoroughly enjoying this funny paranormal romp. Sexual Content: None
I’ve read several books in Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden series (I’m looking forward to starting her Morganville Vampire series soon too), so I expected something good from this talented writer and that’s exactly what I got with Death Warmed Over. Witch Holly Caldwell is not that dissimilar to early Anita Blake: both occasionally work with the police to raise the dead. This time, the case intimately affects Holly in more ways than one because the dead man they want her to raise has been raised before, and when Holly lost Andrew last time, she lost her heart as well. My only disappointment with Death Warmed Over is that it appears to be the only Holly and Andrew story that Rachel has written (please let me know if I’m wrong). I thought for sure reading it that it was the second story featuring these characters. I hope Rachel does write more about Holly because she does have that early Anita vibe that I love so much. There is more of a romantic focus in this story but it doesn’t overshadow the paranormal elements. Death is easily one of the best in this anthology. Sexual Content: None
The longest story in Strange Brew is Karen Chance’s Vegas Odds coming in at 56 pages. The tale opens with a scene straight out of Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Half-Were Lia and her boyfriend Were Cyrus destroy her house while under attack from a group of War Mages. From there, author Karen Chance does a wonderful job of creating a world full of magic and a strong instantly likeable heroine while never letting up on the non-stop action. This is probably my favorite story that Ms. Chance has written and I would love to spend more time in this world. Sexual Content: A woman performs oral sex on a man in a brief scene that in not overly graphic.
P. N. Elrod is a new author for me. This story continues her Vampire Files series with vampire P.I. Jack Fleming and his partner Escott in 1930’s Chicago. I would categorize this story as a noir mystery that just happens to have an undead lead. Not a lot of paranormal. Jack is described as a vampire much in the same way another character is described as being tall. Not a bad story, just not what I look for in urban fantasy. But if you like Raymond Charles with a dash of Tanya Huff…Sexual Content: None
Bacon takes place in the same Sookie Stackhouse world from the Southern Vampire series but minus Sookie. If you read Harris’ story Tacky in the anthology My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding then these characters will already be familiar to you. If your planning on reading both, start with Tacky and STOP READING THIS REVIEW because it will spoil aspects of that story. In Bacon, newly widowed vampire Dahlia seeks out the aid of a witch descendent of Circe to get revenge on the werewolf pack that killed her were husband. So far, this is my least favorite story in this anthology: It’s predictable, feels small because it fails to take advantage of the Sookieverse, and lacks even one likable character. At only 32 pages, it went on way too long. Sexual Content: None
Faith Hunter kicked off her Jane Yellowrock series in July ‘09 with Skinwalker (book two, Blood Cross is due out in Jan ‘10) , but we get an earlier peak at this shapeshifting vampire hunter in Signature of the Dead. Earth witch Molly is the main character who Jane helps track down a feral pack of new vampires. I didn’t even realize that Jane was the main character in Skinwalker (which I’m now adding to the top of my wishlist), but I’m thrilled we’ll get to read more about her. She reminded me of a cross between Mercy Thompson and Kate Daniels which means I may have just found a favorite new series. Sexual Content: The rape of a woman and her two little girls is referenced but not described.
Like Faith Hunter’s story, Caitlin Kittredge’s Ginger (41 pages) takes the main character from her Nocturne City series, werewolf detective Luna Wilder, and relegates her to the sidelines. Instead, Ginger focuses on Luna’s self-proclaimed wus witch cousin Sunny who agrees to go undercover investigating a blood magic coven. The world building was good here, but Sunny was a bit too prone to crying for my taste. The ‘villain’ in the story is pretty comic book evil too which added a level of corniness that I hope doesn’t extend to the whole Nocturne City series because for the world building alone I plan on picking up Night Life to see what Luna does in her own story. Sexual Content: None
Dark Sins picks up after Wages of Sins but before Grave Sins in Jenna Maclaine’s Cin Craven series. In 1818 Italy, witch turned vampire Cin and her lover Michael along with another vamp couple travel throughout Europe doling out justice on the criminal vampire population. When the four are abducted by an evil wizard and his followers in an attempt to add Cin to his coven, she must finally learn to use her magic before her friends are killed. If you are a fan of Colleen Gleason's Gardella Vampire Chronicles, you’ll probably love this. Me not so much. There are no major faults in these 33 pages, but I like my fantasy urban, without gowns and carriages etc. The idea of a vampire who uniquely retained her human magical abilities make for an interesting character in Cin, and if she survives into the 21st century I’ll be sure to look her up. Sexual Content: A man performs oral sex on a woman without graphic description. (less)
Review courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy If I hadn’t been sent this book for review, I would not have finished it and that was before reaching the f...more Review courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy If I hadn’t been sent this book for review, I would not have finished it and that was before reaching the first of two horribly disturbing and graphic rape scenes. I don’t know why there is a trend in urban fantasy to have main characters suffer through rape, but I can think of three other series that have done so (some tastefully, others less so), but this was by far the worst in terms of sheer vileness.
Livia Belane was only a little girl when her grandmother informed her that she was a Soul Catcher who can see demons, draw/paint them, and then burn the pictures to vanquish them. After her loving mother, possessed by a demon, killed her brother and Livia was forced to draw/burn her mother, she spends the next several years in an insane asylum. When she is released as a ridiculously foulmouthed adult (she manages to use the f-word in almost every sentence she speaks) she is befriended by a group of ‘good’ souls whom she has known, but forgotten about, in her many past lives. This is about the time when Livia dreams about an uber ugly demon whom she calls Pig Face. When Pig Face escapes from her drawing, possesses a human, and viciously beats and rapes her, she recovers only to learn that Ian, her true love through all her lives, has now possessed the body of her rapist. Livia has forgotten, but she, Pig Face, and Ian have all faced each other in previous lives with similar outcomes: savage rape, torture, and then death (we get to relive these past lives with Livia).
The only aspect of Soul Catcher that I found remotely compelling was how Livia struggled throughout the book to see past the physical appearance of the demon/man who raped her to the soul of Ian inside. The rest was a convoluted mess. The premise was intriguing and the prologue featuring Lavia and Ian more so. But from page 1 and on it was every bit as tortuous as an encounter with the ridiculously named Pig Face. I never understood why any one of the many characters did anything; Lavia, while a sad character given her life experiences, was supremely unlikable; her true love Ian a jerk for being offended by that fact that Lavia didn’t want to ‘feck’ as he called it soon after his body raped her (she still had stitches down under); and the whole endless cycle of life, fight, torture, rape, die was never justified: the villain was just evil, that’s it.
Wow, I really didn’t like this book. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I disliked a book so much.
Sexual Content: Graphic rape scene followed by graphic sex scene, then a demon orgy, followed by another graphic rape scene and another graphic sex scene.(less)
Book Review courtesy of AllThingsUrbanFantasy.blogspot.com
I'd heard other readers make the Bones/Spike comparison but I didn't dare hope they could be...moreBook Review courtesy of AllThingsUrbanFantasy.blogspot.com
I'd heard other readers make the Bones/Spike comparison but I didn't dare hope they could be right. But Spike was my absolute favorite thing about the excellent Buffy the Vampire Slayer show, so even the small chance that a Spike-like character lived within these pages was enough to have me eagerly looking forward to Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress series. And wonder of wonders, (and despite Ms. Frost's denial) Bones is Spike.
I didn’t have a particular person in mind when I described Bones. He’s a blend of (younger versions of) Jude Law, Ethan Hawke, Christian Bale, Viggo Mortensen, Billy Idol, Bruce Campbell (younger, like when he was in Army of Darkness), and James Franco, with a healthy dose of my own imagination to boot. I’ve loved vampires since I was a child, and as as a teen, I had a Billy Idol crush, so that probably explains my love of English accents and blond hair. Although I understand the Spike comparisons (I wrote a blond English vampire, I knew they’d be coming), Spike isn’t the image of how I see Bones. If another person sees him that way, however, it’s fine by me. Whatever makes a reader happy when they flip pages. - Jeaniene Frost
Cat Crawford hunts vampires. It's the only way she can reconcile the illegitimacy of her birth to both herself and her mother. In addition to deep seeded hatred for his kind, the vampire who assaulted Cat's mother also left her part of his supernatural abilities. But Cat gets more than she bargained for when she hunts the wrong vampire. Bones is nothing like the monsters her mother has taught her about, and when he captures her she expects to be killed. Instead, he offers her the chance to improve her skills and knowledge about the undead if she'll agree to work with him. Cat soon finds herself allied with a vampire who hunts his own kind and wrestling with her long held beliefs about herself and what she thought she knew about true evil.
If like many of us, you long ago succumbed to the charms of Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you will love the character of Bones. Spike, I mean Bones, is a platinum blond British vampire with chiseled cheekbones and an insulting sarcasm that drips with sexuality. And like Spike, Bones is man enough to admit he's "love's bitch" when it comes to Cat.
My only complaint about this book is the high sexual content. The main sex scene is anything but brief and it's quite graphic. Also the 'training' that Cat undergoes to become the most irresistible vampire bait half alive includes being able to not only withstand the crudest of crude sexual dialogue but also to reply in kind. And then after being outfitted from Sluts-R-Us, Bones tells Cat that she needs to go out sans panties so that the vampires can scent her. Yeah. It's pretty over the top. And in a story with weaker characters or a lackluster plot it would be enough to dissuade me from continuing the series, but...there is so much to like in this book that I'll be back for more.
Sexual Content: References to sex trafficking and date rape. Crude sexual dialogue. One very graphic sex scene, one brief mildly graphic sex scene, several implied sex scenes. (less)
Review courtesy of AllThingsUrbanFantasy.blogspot.com
ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE picks up four years after the events in Halfway to the Grave. After accepti...moreReview courtesy of AllThingsUrbanFantasy.blogspot.com
ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE picks up four years after the events in Halfway to the Grave. After accepting a deal from the FBI that would ensure the safety of her vampire lover Bones, Cat is now leading a team of agents working as a branch of Homeland Security specializing in hunting down vampires. She’s worked hard to try and forget Bones, and its a constant battle to remind herself that running away from him was the only way to save him. But when a hit gets taken out for the Little Red Reaper (aka Cat), Bones is the only one who can help save her.
Jeaniene Frost skirts the PNR/UF line beautifully in ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE. There is a strong romantic theme throughout with Cat and Bones, but that doesn’t diminish the solid urban fantasy plot either. Cat fully has her own story here involving chasing down her own personal history and finding out more about both her human and vampire halves. Also balancing the openly hostile humans in her life with the vampires and ghouls she’s come to depend on.
This is the one time where I’m afraid that the sexual content breakdown of a story could possibly be longer than the actual review. I mean this is the book that contains the infamous Chapter 32. And if you’re familiar with my reviews, you know I typically don’t love to read extremely graphic sex scenes, but at least I was prepared this time (On a side note if you don’t want to read super graphic sex described, you can easily skip over Ch. 32 without missing any plot developments). Prepared or not, Ch. 32 deserves its fame (or infamy, depending on your perspective). I will say that about halfway through the chapter, for me it took a decidedly unsexy turn.
Aside from Ch. 32, I enjoyed the story of ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE. I appreciated the maturity of Cat and the time the author gave her between books to acquire skills and friendships apart from Bones. And of course Bones is still the walking, talking personification of sex. He still is Spike (from Buffy) for me, so of course every scene he’s in makes my heart go pitter pat. There is something so sexy about how fiercely he wants Cat, and not just sexually. His love for her is completely believable. And for me, that’s more than enough to keep me reading this series.
Sexual Content: A scene of sensuality. A brief non-graphic sex scene. References to sex, rape, oral sex, bisexuality, ménage à trois +. *Chapter 32* one long, extremely graphic sex scene (including graphic oral & anal sex).(less)
Review courtesy of AllThingsUrbanFantasy.blogspot.com
FRAGILE ETERNITY is the true sequel to Wicked Lovely that Ink Exchange wasn't. Ashlinn, Seth, and...moreReview courtesy of AllThingsUrbanFantasy.blogspot.com
FRAGILE ETERNITY is the true sequel to Wicked Lovely that Ink Exchange wasn't. Ashlinn, Seth, and Keenan are once again the main characters picking up not long after the events in Wicked Lovely. I had some issues with Ink Exchange because I felt like it was much too similar to the story in Wicked Lovely. FRAGILE ETERNITY is completely its own story.
Seth was so cool in Wicked Lovely, it was easy to see why Ash fell for him. Unfortunately, I think he lost some of his cool this time out. Playing the long suffering boyfriend essentially neutered him in a lot of ways. The role he was reduced to in light of Ash’s new role of Summer Queen to Keenan’s King was pretty emasculating. He just sat in on meetings and watched the two of them fight against the bond that draws them together, and later consoled Ash when she confessed how much she is drawn to Keenan. Rinse, latter, repeat. If he had stayed in that docile position, I think it would have ruined the book for me. ‘If’ being the operative word: he didn’t.
I also think it took a little to long to get into the plot. It hadn’t been that long since I’d read the first two books, but in the beginning, I had difficulty trying to remember who everyone was. After the first 60 pages or so, everything started to click again, and the plot took off. From then on, I couldn't put it down.
I can’t really say anything about the plot without giving too much away, but just make sure you read Wicked Lovely first, or you'll have a hard time following the story. If you haven't read Ink Exchange yet, you'll mostly be okay (though you should still check it out).
Overall, Melissa Marr's writing is enchanting and her ability to create empathy with her characters is masterful. Of all the faeries in YA right now, Melissa's are easily my favorite. Now out in paperback, pick this one up and get ready for Radiant Shadows due out April 20, 2010.
YA Warning: FRAGILE ETERNITY is the most YA friendly in the series to date. The sexual content is very low and there isn't any drug use.
Sexual Content: References to sex. References to homosexuality.(less)
Review courtesy of AllThingsUrbanFantasy.blogspot.com
After Wicked Lovely, RADIANT SHADOWS is my favorite book in the series to date. Like a modern com...moreReview courtesy of AllThingsUrbanFantasy.blogspot.com
After Wicked Lovely, RADIANT SHADOWS is my favorite book in the series to date. Like a modern combination of A Mid Summer's Night Dream and Romeo and Juliet. The tone of story is deeply romantic and tragic at the same time, with every page more enchanting than the last.
Main Characters/POVs: (courtesy of WickedLovely.com)
* Ani: The central character of the book, Ani is a Halfling. She is the daughter of Gabe, and has recently come to live with the Dark Court as a result of her ability to "feed" off humans, using their negative feelings for sustenance. Up until that time, she lived with Rabbit and Tish, her half-siblings, in Rabbit's tattoo shop. She is 16 years old and known to be a bit of a wild child. * Devlin: Devlin was created by Sorcha and Bananach. He is a balance of their opposing forces, and is currently working for Sorcha in Faerie as brother, confidant, and assassin. * Rae: Rae is a mystery. She is not a faery or a mortal, or anything Melissa Marr has written about before. Devlin is the only person in the faery world who knows her.
RADIANT SHADOWS is a love story between Devlin and Ani. From the first moment these two met, I knew I was hooked in a way that I haven’t been since Ash and Seth (I was disappointed when I realized that Ash and Seth wouldn't be the focus of RADIANT SHADOWS, but that disappointment didn't last). There was a raw desire that pulsed from every scene and every stolen kiss Ani and Devlin shared. Their union was forbidden by every conceivable authority; Devlin knew it and struggled to keep his distance. Ani saw the illicitness of their relationship and craved it the more for it.
There are a few missteps in RADIANT SHADOWS. Ani's dialogue often comes across too juvenile and desperate when she talks with Devlin. I much preferred her internal thoughts. And then there's Ani's Steed. In the human world is takes the form of basically any vehicle she wants, but talks telepathically with her like some annoying kind of Kit from Knight Rider.
Fans of the entire Wicked Lovely series will appreciate the various storylines from each previous book that Melissa Marr picks up and weaves together in this latest installment. New readers, however will probably be confused by the numerous characters and intricate back stories.
My Final Say: Mixing folklore, faerie mythology, and sweeping romance, Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely series continues to be a must read. RADIANT SHADOWS has set the stage for an showdown of epic proportions in the next book. Already I can empathize with Ani’s insatiable hunger while waiting for Darkest Mercy (the working title for book 5 in the Wicked Lovely series).
Sexual Content: (YA titles receive a more thorough breakdown) Kissing, implied sex. References to sex. Vague references to homosexuality.(less)