~ WTAF, Hawaii 50 writers? That season finale was a hot mess. Steve arrested and broken hearted? Danno maybe going back to New Jersey with his pregnant ex? Kono arrested and Chin off being disloyal, which is totally contrary to his Hufflepuffish character? The only thing that might explain this is an opening sequence next season a la Dallas in which it turns out that the entire episode was just a dream or nightmare induced by too many malasadas and Longboards.
~ Another romance blogger has posted a review of an urban fantasy novel that confuses me. It's urban fantasy: the relationship is not the focus, and complaining about the protagonist getting her HFN midway through the series arc implies (to me) a lack of understanding of genre differences. The series arc isn't about the relationship, it's about the larger conflict. Asking what more can happen between them and lamenting the lack of tension now that the question of their relationship has been resolved makes me wonder what genre the reader/reviewer thought the book/series was.
~ It's months off, but I'm torturing myself, trying to decide if I want to go stay in Barcelona for a week, or if I want to rent a car and drive around the south, maybe stay in Granada and do day trips or just do a big, looping, coastal tour. As much as I want to go north and do the camino de Santiago, that's a spring/summer trip, not a middle of winter trip.
Over the weekend I read Sean Kennedy's novella,I Fell in Love with a Zombie.
Jay didn't expect to be one of the very few survivors of the virus that decimated the country, leaving shambling, ravenous zombies behind. Fighting for his life amongst the dead, he keeps moving until the day he’s surrounded and facing his bloody end—and shockingly, another zombie saves him. But not just any zombie... it's Dave, the first man Jay ever loved, and there's something special about him even now, in the midst of the horror around them.
At some point in the near future, a pandemic strikes, rather like the swine flu. Except after burying those who succumb, which is a great deal of the population, some of the dead rise again.
For the better want of a name, they were called "zombies". That only contributed to the panic, even though they were really nothing like movie zombies. They didn't want to eat our brains; they tended to raid garbage cans, homes and stores. That's why nowhere was safe: the zombies would break in anywhere, and if you got in their way, you likely wouldn't survive.
With the population reduced first by illness and then by the violence of the zombies, the country (Australia) falls into chaos. The narrative begins with Jay determining that it is time for him to escape the city; even though he's been holed up, sooner or later he'll be found, he figures, and it's safer to be on the move. Jay's lover, Mike, died early in the epidemic but is not one of the unfortunate undead, because Jay had him cremated. What follows is Jay's narration of his escape from the city and trek out. His plan is to avoid urban areas, because by avoiding places that used to be populated, he'll avoid potential zombie hot spots. He doesn't have a specific destination in mind, it seems, other than away from zombies and danger. Along the way, Jay becomes a bit of an opportunist and survivalist, doing things that he would never have dreamed of in his earlier life. During the journey, Jay breaks down in Drake, where The One Who Got Away was living at the time of the outbreak.
The title and blurb make it fairly clear what happens next: Jay falls in love with a zombie. Or rather, someone he already loved has become a zombie. In Dave's case, though, the zombie-fication has not been complete: he is capable of recognizing Jay and of speaking with great efforts. What follows very briefly is the two of them struggling with Dave's work back to humanity (or at least to not become a complete zombie), and also working their way toward whatever remnants of civilization may remain, uncertain of their welcome. You could say that they are HFN with each other (really, how long with a zombie and non-zombie be able to work things out) and in the broader scheme of things.
What did I think of the book?
I enjoyed the writing style and narration. The language is rather spare, not particularly descriptive, which suits the POV and content. Would a narrator struggling for his life spend a lot of time describing details or look at the big picture? I also liked the way Kennedy shows Jay's isolation and longing for human company, even company that he normally would not care for.
Although I appreciated the different take on zombies, the underlying rules or reasons for the zombie illness seemed vague. A bit more world building there would be nice. The story also suffered because of its brevity, which is a general complaint of mine for nearly every novella I read.
Keep or pass on?
It's an ebook, and thus non-transferrable, so I'll be keeping it.
Recommend to other readers?
I'd recommend it to readers who are interested in a slightly different take on zombies, yes.
Read other work by this author?
Absolutely. Although I'd prefer no zombies, please.
Firstly, Josh Lanyon's A Vintage Affair. The cover art is full of man-titty, but also kind of fits the story. Well, but for the bowtie and tuxedo shirt, which never appear....okay, maybe not. But, hey, there's a bottle of wine at least!
Somewhere in the cobwebbed cellar of the decrepit antebellum mansion known as Ballineen are the legendary Lee bottles -- and Austin Gillespie is there to find them. The last thing on his mind is a hot and heavy romance with handsome bad boy Jeff Brady. But Jeff has other ideas and, after one intoxicating night, so does Austin.
The only problem is they have different ideas. Jeff doesn’t believe in love at first sight, and even if he did, he’s buried more deeply in the closet than those famous missing bottles of vintage Madeira. Popping a cork or two is one thing. Popping the question? No way. No how.
Unless Austin is ready to give up on another dream, he’s going to have to figure out how to make sure the lights go on -- and stay on -- in Georgia.
A pun about lights going out in Georgia. How very original. /sarcasm
Having a narrator/hero who is a wine auctioneer is original -- forget doctors and cops! Tasting wine for a living seems like it would be awesome...except for the whole spitting-it-out, which is just a waste IMO. Anyway, Austin arrives in Georgia intent on cataloging the cellar at Ballineen and perhaps finding the Lee Madeira. He's worried professionally because the boss's fiancee wants his job, and personally because he feels like he's not living up to his father's expectations. Not long into the cataloging he finds a body in the cellar. Given Lanyon's mystery writing history, I expected Austin to become involved in the sleuthing here, helping to figure out who the dead man was and why he was killed. But the dead body didn't really serve much purpose, plot wise. Readers are told who he is and then the mystery drops off the page. We're told whodunnit at the very end in a lackluster way.
Much more time is spent on the one night interlude between Austin and Jeff, the closet case. That doesn't sound sympathetic toward Jeff, intentionally so. Actually, I was very sympathetic to him and how he handled the one night with Austin: he was honest about himself and how he dealt with living in a small, conservative community. But he lost my sympathy through his behavior on Austin's return to Georgia; to avoid spoilers, I'll just say that he ignored Austin's opinions and objections, and there is a scene that skirts close to dubious consent for me. His grovel at the end sort of softens me up and makes me think maybe the HFN will be an HEA eventually.
It felt like this book wasn't sure what it wanted to be: romance? mysery? romantic suspense? It read quickly and was a pleasant beach read (Hairball the Kindle on the beach!) but is not Lanyon's best work. If you like Lanyon's voice, you'll probably enjoy it, but it isn't as memorable as the Adrien English mysteries.
Second, Meljean Brook's Demon Forged. Am about half way through it. Love her world building and the plotting. What I'm realizing, though, is that I have little patience with internally driven separations. Irena and Alejandro are In Love but have been separated for four hundred years. Why? Because of pride and a Failure to Communicate. When I say separated, I mean that they work together and see each other regularly...but they aren't lovers anymore and talk only of superficial things, the way you do with a colleague at the office rather than The Love of Your Life. Which makes the failure to communicate even more frustrating for me. Have I always felt this way? I don't know. Maybe. Brook does a good job of showing why they are this way and it works with the plot, it's just frustrating for my reading tastes.
Actually, now that I think about it, this was the same problem I had with the beginning of Ilona Andrews' Magic Bleeds, although it was slightly less frustrating there since the not talking only went on for three week and was grounded in characters/behaviors established in earlier books.
Um, also, the cover art for Demon Forged is very pretty, but the woman is missing something -- where are the tattoos? I know, art department and marketing completely separate from writing.
Author: Nicole Peeler
(c) 2009 and 2010, respectively
Other pertinent information: Tempest Rising is Peeler's debut, and a third book in the series, Tempest's Legacy, will be released early in 2011. After that, three more books are planned.
Living in small town Rockabill, Maine, Jane True always knew she didn't quite fit in with so-called normal society.
During her nightly, clandestine swim in the freezing winter ocean, a grisly find leads Jane to startling revelations about her heritage: she is only half-human.
Now, Jane must enter a world filled with supernatural creatures that are terrifying, beautiful, and deadly -- all of which perfectly describe her new "friend," Ryu, a gorgeous and powerful vampire.
It is a world where nothing can be taken for granted: a dog can heal with a lick; spritis bag your grocieries; and whatever you do, never -- ever-- rub the genie's lamp.
Why this book? Well, I walked by it several times on an endcap at Barnes & Noble but couldn't be arsed to pick it up because the cover art screamed juvenile fiction to me, as I mentioned over at Readers Gab. But when I found a copy blurb out, the summary caught my imagination. Imagine my surprise when I saw the cover art that I did not care for attached to the interesting blurb ;)
What did I think of Tempest Rising? Well, after I got past the heinous cover art, I enjoyed the book. The concept felt fairly original in terms of what's out there in urban fantasy with romance threads: Jane's half selkie, although she doesn't know it; all she knows is that she needs to swim in the ocean regularly, and can swim through ridiculously strong currents. But one day her swim is disturbed by a dead body...and the body is that of another halfling, another half magical creature. Jane's involvement in the mystery introduces her to the paranormal world all around her, including gnomes, kelpies, goblins, and -of course- vampires.
I appreciated Jane's voice, which is important since she narrates the tale in first person. The internal dialogue felt true to Jane's age, or what I think a 26 year old sounds like. She's full of snark, she loves her dad and she's extremely well-read, which suits her job at the local bookstore.
The romance interest felt a little abrupt, TBH. I'm interested in seeing how it works out, since to a large degree, it felt entirely driven by convenience, exposure and hormones. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I'm curious to see if reality will set in down the road.
What didn't feel original or unique to the story was the looming love triangle. Please can we just not go there? [Apparently not, based on how the second book ends. But that's getting ahead of things.]
Jane True has almost come to terms with her supernatural heritage . . . almost.
Valentine's Day is fast approaching, and Ryu -- Jane's bloodsucking boyfriend -- can't let a major holiday go by without getting all gratuitous. An overwhelming dose of boyfriend interference and a last-minute ticket to Boston later and Jane's life is thrown off course.
Ryu's well-interntioned plans create mayhem, and Jane winds up embroiled in an investigation involving a spree of gruesome killings. All the evidence points toward another Halfling, much to Jane's surprise...
What did I think of Tracking the Tempest? It suffered by being read too soon after the first book. Jane's snark and me-centeredness was entertaining in the first book, but was wearing by the end of the second book. In some ways, she reminded me of Betsy Taylor of MaryJanice Davidson's Undead series, which I loved for a couple of books then eventually stopped reading because Betsy was so shallow and unchanging.
The pacing and plotting needed some editing IMO. Jane and cohort wandered around Boston, ran into the bad guy, got their asses handed to them, then escaped. Lather, rinse, repeat. And the sex between Jane and her boyfriend seemed like too much -- here, we're on the trail of a torture-murderer, let's have sex. The distance between Jane and Ryu, her vampire boyfriend, was very much in evidence in the plot, as well, especially at the end. [And I called it! Love triangle of sorts!]
Keep or give away? Eh, if anyone wants my copies, drop a comment and I'll mail them to you. I enjoyed the books, but they aren't keepers.
Would I read more by this author? Sure, I'll probably read the third book of the series, although I'll probably borrow it from the library rather than buy a copy.
Yesterday I spent a couple hours at Barnes & Noble. It's been a while since I've gone to the megastore near me and wandered, plucking books at random, then paging through the first few pages while drinking iced tea, deciding which to buy. Most of my book purchases lately have been ebooks or pre-orders via Amazon. Anyway, yesterday the remainder table was awesome: I got three hardbacks for $2.98 each: Sue Grafton's T is for Trespass, plus two Linda Fairstein books.
Right by the front door there was a display with many shiny, new copies of the new Stephanie Plum hardback book. Number fifteen? Sixteen? And, of course, paperback editions of the one before. I stopped to check them out...because I always stop. But then I resumed my browsing without even considering buying a copy. Or even taking a copy with me to the cafe to skim the first twenty pages and then maybe buy. Because that is one series that I broke up with successfully.
I know there are a lot of readers who still love Stephanie and her antics and the Burg and her man dilemma, but I felt like the series jumped the shark after book five or six. It took me several more books to actually break up with the series, though. And like my struggles with a couple other series (BDB/Ward, I'm looking at you), I fell off the wagon a couple times before being done with the series entirely. But it seems to have taken; I didn't realize a new Plum book was out until I saw the display.
Also on the book front, I tried a new author: Matters of the Blood by Maria Lima. Urban fantasy. I'm not sure what to think of it. It was different, I guess, if not particularly gripping or engaging.
Read Carolyn Crane's debut, Mind Games. Also original and different; also urban fantasy. I'm not sure about the raison d'etre of the disillustionists: yes, they are reforming criminals, but they are essentially engaging in criminal activity themselves. So two wrongs make a right? That sort of moral ambiguity can be interesting, though. The heroine kinda irritated me: not her hypochondria but her "have my cake and eat it too" attitude. Take what you want and pay for it. She took what she wanted without asking the price and then complained about it and didn't want to pay up. Enjoyed the book enough that I might read the next book of the series, although I probably won't go out of my way to find a copy.
In non-book news, I bought a pair of these flip flops. I LOVE them. They were on an end cap at CVS when I was stocking up on Ricola Lemon Mint cough drops, DayQuil and Mucinex.
In health related news: my sinus cavities must be deformed. It's the only explanation. This much mucus is not normal. Well, to be honest, the nasal congestion doesn't bother me, but I'm a little worried about the sore throat, which has been hanging around for two weeks now.
Lastly, today is my favorite day of Wimbledon: the second Monday, when all sixteen of the men and women play matches. There were huge upsets (Roddick's out! Jankovic, too.) and predictable results (Federer and the Williams sisters) plus at least one nail biter (poor David Ferrer, so close to knocking out Robin Soderling, and yet so far). I listened Radio Wimbledon while running errands, then watched some on ESPN. As usual, ESPN's coverage concentrated on the Americans in the draw, so little of the Soderling/Ferrer match was seen, and only a few games of the Nadal/Mathieu match. So much for their "world wide coverage". Ugh.
Apparently that wasn't the last thing. Anything I did last Wednesday? Probably complete trash. I should not have been at work. I was completely incoherent and incapable of logic, as I discovered when I returned to the office on Friday. Really, I should've stayed home Friday, but there was a project due and never would have heard the end of it if I had missed the deadline.
From the back of the book:
As a handler, Corine Solomon can touch an object and know its history. Its' too bad she can't seem to forget her own. With her ex-boyfriend Chance in tow lending his particularly supernatural brand of luck, Corine journeys back home to Kilmer, Georgia, in order to discover the truth behind her mother's death and the origins of her "gift."
But while trying to uncover the secrets of her past, Corine and Chance find that something is rotten in the state of Georgia. Just a few miles away, no one seems to know Kilmer exists. And inside the town borders, there are signs of a dark curse affecting the town and all its residents -- and it can be satisfied only by death.
This is the second Corine Solomon book, the first being Blue Diablo, which I mentioned a little here. Corine is a handler -- she can tell the history of an object by touching it. In exchange for the information, though, she is burned. In DB, Corine (and readers) learned from her newly acquired mentor that this is unnatural, a function of how she acquired her gift -- as her mother died. She also wangled a promise from Chance that he would use his luck to help her find out who killed her mother. Hell Fire picks up just where Blue Diablo left off, with the two of them heading to Kilmer, Georgia. Of course, what they find there is not what they (or I as a reader) expected. Corine learns who killed her mother, which was a surprise, and ultimately learns why as the secrets of the town are gradually revealed.
I loved the idea of Kilmer as a Bermuda Triangle of sorts in small town America. Also found it rather ironic and entertaining -- in genre romance, rural, small town life is the beau ideal and urban is evil. Except Hell Fire isn't genre romance -- it's fantasy, not romance, and the Ace Fantasy logo on the spine makes that very clear. In fact, the relationship between Corine and Chance feels very melancholy because it doesn't seem possible for there to be any sort of HEA, although a HFN might be possible in the short term, in the longer term, Chance's good luck has to be balanced by bad luck, and Corine might not survive how his power rebounds on her (or anyone who is close to him).
I've been trying to figure out why the Corine Solomon books appeal to me so much, while the Sirantha Jax books are kind of ~meh~ and the romance published under the name Ava Gray was DNF. The Jax question I haven't entirely figured out yet, but it may have to do with the Jax/March dynamic that doesn't work much for me, along with Jax-as-savior. On the other hand, I think the genre differences make a difference. Corine and Chance's moral ambiguity is acceptable to me because 1) they are aware of karma, and 2) I don't expect redemption of any sort in urban fantasy. Meanwhile, the assassin and grifter romance couple...I wasn't interested in their HEA, because it was going to include ongoing killing/cons. [Yes, bad people fall in love every day, but in the fantasy of genre romance, I'd rather read about people redeemed by love, not killers in love. Killers in love belong in other genres for me. YMMV.]
Anyway, the next book of the series, Shady Lady, will be out next year, and I'll be sure to pick a copy up.
Two minor editing quibbles: either "Linoleum" or "linoleum", but not both, especially not within two or three pages of each other; and one use of "Jess" when all other uses were "Jesse". Like I said, minor, but they caught my eye.
I reviewed the last book, Deathwish, here.
First, let me warn you that Roadkill does not stand on its own particularly well. The action/adventure does – roadtrip! chasing a bad guy! – but the rest of the book? Not so much. In order to grasp what’s going on, you need to understand the background and the cast of characters who have accumulated around Cal & Niko, as well as the backstory of their lives to date.
Niko & Cal Leandros are preternatural private detectives, living in a world that seems just like yours and mine . . . except the population includes boggles, vampires, revenants, werewolves, pucks and peris. Any fairytale that you may have heard? Is a corruption of an actual creature…who is probably not as kind or gentle as the fairytale would have you believe. The elves in fiction have little in common with the Auphe, except perhaps skin color and shape of their ears. Gentle and kind the Auphe were not: they were the Earth’s top predator . . . until Cal & Niko managed to rid the world of them in Deathwish. Except not really, because there’s still one Auphe left, a half-Auphe: Cal.
The rest of the preternatural world hate and fear Cal because they can smell the Auphe in him. His circle of friends and family is small. There’s Robin Goodfellow, the ageless puck with the voracious sexual appetite, and … that’s about it. Delilah, his Wolf-with-benefits, does as she pleases; at the moment it pleases her to keep Cal company, but killing him may please her later. As always, the core of Cal’s world is Nik, the human brother who raised him, who believes in him absolutely, who refuses to accept that Cal is anything other than human and good (or at least not evil) at his core.
The external conflict of Roadkill is the chase of a Very Bad Dude across the country: an anti-healer, trapped for centuries in a coffin to prevent the outbreak of plagues, has been stolen. Cal & Nik go on the road to catch up with his thief, bringing Robin Goodfellow and his mummy-cat along for assistance. On the way, they meet up with Rafferty, a healer, and Catcher, his cousin, who join the hunt for reasons of their own. The internal conflict is, unsurprisingly, the struggle between Cal’s humanity and his Auphe-half.
The tale is narrated by Cal primarily, with a few chapters narrated by Catcher. I like Cal as narrator – he’s a sarcastic, funny, glass-half-empty kind of guy. But a little bit of comic relief is always appreciated. Catcher is (by his own admission) more than a glass-half-full guy – he’s interminably cheerful, a joker, always looking on the bright side.
Things I liked about the book:
- Salome, the mummy-cat who can kick the ass of a full grown werewolf
- Robin Goodfellow’s struggle with the idea of monogamy
- the Nik/Cal dynamic – organic s’mores, meditation, etc.
- the use of Rafferty and Catcher as parallels or foils for the Cal/Niko dynamic. (Except I don’t think it will end as easily or happily for Nik and Cal.) Oh, Catcher. And Rafferty. They broke my heart. The epilogue, which is all about Catcher, actually works and does not feel superfluous.
Think this is my stopping place in the series, because it feels like the larger struggle now is going to always be internal for Cal: human vs. Auphe halves, and there is no happy ending there.
Also, I’m a little disgusted by the behavior of the author, berating readers who didn’t buy when, how and where she wanted in order to make sure she made the NYT Best Seller list. I’m not linking to it, but you can probably find info about it if you google or check out Fandom_Wank.
It's time to lock, load, and hit the road...
Once, while half-human Cal Leandros and his brother Niko were working on a case, an ancient gypsy queen gave them a good old-fashioned backstabbing. Now, just as their P.I. business hits a slow patch, the old crone shows up with a job.
She wants them to find a stolen coffin that contains a blight that makes the Black Death seem like a fond memory. But the thief has already left town, so the Leandros brothers are going on the road. And if they're very, very lucky, there might even be a return trip...
I bought Must Love Hellhounds for two reasons: Meljean Brook and Ilona Andrews. The other stories? Eh. Haven’t been impressed with Charlaine Harris’s novella offerings in the past, and I haven’t read Nalini Singh’s Psy series. But I read that the Brook story works better if you’ve read her next book, Demon Forged, already, so I’m holding it until them. So, that leaves "Magic Mourns".
I love the Kate Daniel series, and am impatient to see what happens next. With Curran a little bit, but more with the Big Bad and the Confrontation that is on the far horizon. This interim installment was a nice tidbit while fans wait for Magic Bleeds (tentative title) next spring/summer.
Andrea, a Knight of the Order, is essentially Kate’s first friend, introduced in Magic Burns. Andrea is a beastkin, child of a werehyena and hyenawere, an abomination usually killed upon birth. Somehow, she has survived and hidden her magical (secret) self…until now. But even now only a few know her secret: Kate, the Beast Lord, and the werehyena clan AKA the boudas. One bouda in particular knows her secret and has been courting her despite it, Raphael. But he’s been a hound. To date, Raphael has been pursuing and Andrea resisting because she does not want to be That Weird Thing I Haven’t Fucked Before. More than that, Andrea’s history with the clan she was born into makes her wary of trusting any of the boudas, let alone one with a reputation like Raphael’s.
Which brings us to "Magic Mourns". While holding Kate’s desk down during he medical leave, Andrea is alerted to a shapeshifter in distress, being chased by a dog the size of house. The shifter turns out to be Raphael, and the dog is Cerberus, familiar of Hades. At first it is unclear why he’s giving chase, but further adventures and investigation reveals the theft of a body and a plot by a rogue magic user (don’t want to spoil it by saying what type of magic) to find immortality.
Ilona Andrews has a talent for storytelling and world building. Little details of the post-tech magical Atlanta just add to the ambience and the story being told…without being glaringly obvious infodumping or worldbuilding.
The action was evenly paced: action -> rest and information gathering -> action -> rest and recuperate and information gathering -> action. The relationship development was balanced in among the rest and the action. My only knock is about the brevity of its development: I don’t mean that there needed to be sex on the page but that the admission of feelings and acting on them seemed abrupt after so much resistance on Andrea’s part. The lack felt like a function of limited space, though, because Andrea acknowledged that they needed work as a couple. Which is pretty cool, because usually once the h/h have hooked up, there is no acknowledgement that all won’t always be smooth sailing on calm seas. Getting Rafael’s POV might’ve helped a little, but Andrews’s has stuck to singular POVs so far…until the very end of this book, when a minor character has a brief POV spot.
This story is clearly set within the Kate Daniels world – there are hints and connections to the past and coming book(s). [Hint: after reading the very last bit of "Magic Mourns", go read the snippet posted on Andrews’s website that shows what happened to that pie.]
( SPOILERY question behind the cut )
One of my favorite passages:
The flames surged, engulfing the head. As it crashed down, bouncing once on the hard dirt, Raphael leapt to the ground. Behind him the last head shuddered and fell, catching the flames. Raphael straightened, a dark demonic figure silhouetted against the orange fire, his eyes two points of red light.
If I weren't a trained professional, I'd have fainted from the sheer overload of his badassness.
I pointed my rifle straight up, resting the butt against my hip, and put on my Order face. Move along, nothing to see here, I do this every day. I thought of blowing imaginary smoke from the rifle barrel, but the Weatherby was long and I'm barely five feet four, so I'd look pretty stupid.
Raphael strode to me. His voice was a ragged growl torn to tatters by his fangs. "Are you alright?"
We walked away, slowly, trying to maintain our coolness. A greasy stench of charred flesh tainted the air currents.
"That was a hell of a shot," Raphael said.
"Thank you. That was a stunning display of hand-to-hand."
We killed a damn Cerberus. Kate would turn green with envy.
First, MotO had an edge from the start. I'd read all but the last story when they were available for free on Armstrong's website, so reading the compilation was like visiting with old friends. (The scoop on these stories can be found here.)
Second, LWtD's multiple POVs seemed busier and scattered to me. The cabal and council and conspiracies among the Otherworld don't engage me. More than that, though, is the fact that I don't feel as attached or engaged by Hope as a narrator, or by Robyn, the new character, a non-supernatural character whose POV is shared. When I look back over the Otherworld books I've liked best, they are dominated by Elena, Clay and Jeremy (to a lesser extent).
Afterthought: knowing that the next book is going to be narrated by Elena and Clay, and is set in Alaska, I took note of the mention of the Pacific Northwest in one of the stories in MotO, and am wondering if that is an early hint about what's coming in Frostbitten.
Unrelated: Armstrong has a great website, IMO. Book lists, excerpts, release dates, series explanations, etc. Easy to navigate.
Happy news: the next Temeraire book is tentatively titled Tongues of Serpents, and is due out next year.
I read S.L. Day's Eve of Darkness over the weekend. I've read a couple of historicals written by Day published under a slightly different name (Sylvia Day). The urban fantasy worked better for me, although I wasn't thrilled with the way the book opened in the present, creating a Problem, then jumped backward and worked back to the present and then ENDED without ever freaking addressing the problem. I get that it is supposed to be a hook to get readers to pick up the next book, but if an author creates a Big Problem that early, I expect it to be addressed within the book, not to have to read the whole freaking book only to learn, hey, wait, oops, not enough page space in this book, go get the next book.
The conversion of the heroine from Regular Girl to Kick Ass Heroine made me stop and think, though. SBSarah and Candy wrote briefly about the forced vampiric change on a heroine as the equivalent of forced seduction or rape in paranormal romance in Beyond Heaving Bosoms, and in this series, the conversion of the heroine into an urban fantasy warrior struck me as the equivalent. There was no consent; she wasn't born a warrior, and did not choose to become one. Two guys literally and figuratively screwed her, and she's caught between their sibling rivalry and a bunch of political bull, working with a variety of people with their own agendas, dealing with a situation that no one seems willing to actually discuss with her. [At least, not on the page for the reader to see.] On one hand, this is urban fantasy, not romance, and UF tends to be darker, so okay, fine. On the other hand, it makes the other characters seem like utter jerks, and makes me as a reader less inclined to trust their narration or to root for them as characters.
Yesterday's Moment of Stupidity: Arriving at B&S's yesterday for a bbq, I locked my keys in my car...along with the potato salad. I even thought as I was getting out, put the keys in your pocket, you're not taking your bag inside. But did I? No. I felt like an idiot admitting this when I went inside, but the minute the words were out of my mouth, B was getting a hanger in order to try to get the door open -- that potato salad was important, you know. Fortunately, one of the neighbors is a LEO and had the equipment to pop the lock.
Also, dear whoever broke my driver's side mirror off: you couldn't be arsed to leave a note? Jerk. Now I get to have it repaired/replaced, which will probably require that the entire door panel come off and the wiring be redone in part.
Magic Strikes: Kate Daniels Book #3
Drafted into working for the Order of Merciful Aid, mercenary Kate Daniels has more paranormal problems than she knows what to do with these days. And in Atlanta, where magic comes and goes like the tide, that’s saying a lot.
But when Kate’s werewolf friend Derek is discovered nearly dead, she must confront her greatest challenge yet. As her investigation leads her to the Midnight Games - an invitation only, no holds barred, ultimate preternatural fighting tournament - she and Curran, the Lord of the Beasts, uncover a dark plot that may forever alter the face of Atlanta’s shapeshifting community…
When MS was first released, I tore through it like a kid on a candy binge. My immediate reaction was a joyful squee – magic, modern gladiatorial contests, more dribbles of Kate’s backstory, and mmm Curran. Second and third readings quickly followed.
When readers last saw Kate, she had just survived a magic flare in which gods tried to walk the earth again. Her new niece, a street rat orphaned by the flare, was settled in school, and she was home, hiding from the future and from Curran, the Beast Lord who had covertly declared his interest in her despite the fact that she regularly enrages him.
MS opens with Kate dealing with three seemingly unrelated problems: her sidekick, Derek, is breaking a big, big rule of the Pack, risking serious punishment; a business contact wants her help assessing a team of fighters in the Midnight Games; and, someone or something has killed a member of the Pack. Plus, Kate’s doing her best to avoid Curran (short term) and ride under the radar (larger issue that is part of the overall story arc). Of course, the three story lines are not as distinct as they appear at the outset, and all the questions lead back to the Midnight Games, the highly illegal gladiatorial games being held in Atlanta.
I love Kate’s voice -- her combination of pop culture references, snark, and practicality.
“What kind of shapeshifter has orange fur anyway?”
Now I’d seen everything. Well, at least he didn’t steal my baby.
She called me “ma’am”. I waited for the sky to split and belch forth the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, but for some reason they failed to appear.
Book Three seems (to me) to be a book in which characters become more fully fleshed. Motivations, histories and backstories that were hinted at in the first two books are move fully revealed. Jim, Kate’s erstwhile mercenary partner, becomes more than just a mysterious secondary character who comes and goes in this book; Derek, Kate’s teenaged werewolf sidekick, gets into trouble not only because of his teenaged hormones but because of his own troubled history. And a little bit more is revealed about Curran and his burdens as Beast Lord.
“I’ve had lots of practice [at getting people to do things they don’t want to do]. The Pack contains thirty-two species in seven tribes, each with their own hang-up. Jackals and coyotes pick fights with wolves, because they have an inferiority complex and think they’ve got something to prove. Wolves believe themselves to be superior, marry the wrong people, and then refuse to divorce them because they cling to their 'mating for life’ idiocy. Hyenas listen to nobody, screw everything, and break out in berserk rages at some perceived slight against one of their own. Cats randomly refuse to follow orders to prove they can. That’s my life. I’ve been at this for fifteen years now. You’re easy by comparison.”
Kate herself reveals more of her own history, and the future confrontation that begins to appear inevitable. One of my concerns about Kate as a heroine at the outset of the series was that she was so utterly alone – as an urban fantasy or paranormal convention, the aloneness of the heroine is problematic because the lack of community is so often a weakness or vulnerability for her later on. In this case, though, Andrews has gradually been building Kate’s circle of friends and family – her reasons for isolation were reasonable, but now that she has made a conscious decision to abandon them, she is building an actual life, rather than just waiting for an opportunity to strike. Having said that, she’s still wary about who she lets in her life and how much of herself she shares with them; and she’s running as fast as she can from her attraction to Curran, because it can only end badly as far as she’s concerned.
I read a comment online (at AAR maybe?) in which the poster was concerned about Kate going the Anita Blake route, sprouting a new power at will. I’m not worried about that with Kate – mostly because it feels like there is a lot about her that readers still don’t know, that Kate herself doesn’t know and will only learn about as she grows stronger.
Despite the increased character development, this was not a slowly paced book. There was action and plotting all over the place. Who are these mysterious gladiators who appear to be human fight and heal as if they aren’t? What is their interest in the Wolf Diamond, a topaz the size of a baby’s head? Who is killing Pack members, and how did Derek get involved? Who is the Sultan of Death and why is he plotting to weaken the Pack? [Read the book and find out!]
I do have some questions about world building:
*What’s up with the engine and propellers of the zimana? It was perplexing to think of something that mechanical/technical working in the Unicorn, so they must be magic in some way, yes? Rather like the feylanterns, some combination of magic that masquerades as a sort of tech?
*Some things from before the magic rose are still remembered/retained: Terminator 2; Agatha Christie novels, The Princess Bride. But Bono was a long dead and forgotten singer (in 2039?)? Pop culture is fickle, but that seems extremely fickle.
*How quickly did society break down when tech fell? Is there a unified government still in the US, or are there divisions? [Since Roland seems to have claimed a swath of what had been states.]
*Why was MSDU from Atlanta called in when Roland tried to raise another tower in Book Two? Distant travel seems arduous, would they be called that far?
Quibbles: normally don’t question an author’s stylistic choices, but there were two word choices that seemed to be used incorrectly. First, in one scene: “He put the chair next to me, back first, and saddled it like a horse…” Uh, no. Unless he actually had a saddle, what he did was straddle the chair like a horse. Second, “I’ve taken your food, under duress, but I did take it.” Duress denotes force or coercion, and there was none; trickery and ignorance, yes, but no force.
Second: the make up of electrum is 55% gold, 45% silver, 3% copper, and “the rest is random crap” adding up to more than 103% -- is there An Even Newer Math in this post-shift world?
“A white tiger stood in my living room.” Is this a pop culture reference that I’m missing? They weren’t in Kate’s living room but a safe house’s living room.
The power word hessaad has changed spelling – it was hesaad earlier.
A- from me.
“Magic Mourns”, a story with secondary characters from this world, will be part of the Must Love Hellhounds anthology due out in September. Information here.
And the currently unnamed Kate Daniels Book 4 will likely be out next spring; a rough draft of the intro is available here.
Deathwish is Rob Thurman’s fourth Cal & Niko Leandros book.
To set the stage: Caliban Leandros is a monster…or at least half monster. Although if you ask his older brother, Niko, both Cal’s parents were monsters: their mother, Sophia, was a lying, scamming whore who bore the child of an Auphe for gold. Niko is fully human, although he has an almost inhuman intelligence and skill with swords, knives and other weapons. The two brothers are fanatically, almost pathologically devoted to each other. Cal and Niko are preternatural detectives. They live in NYC, but it isn’t the NYC you or I might know. Or maybe it is, if only we actually paid attention to what was going on around us. Boggles eat unwary tourists in Central Park. Vampires live among us. A puck uses his talent as lies and seduction to sell used cars. And the Auphe, who hunted dinosaurs (for sport) into extinction, want something from Cal.
The Auphe could be the basis of tall tales about elves, but the reality of them is much, much uglier than Tolkein would have people believe. Why did an Auphe lay with a human woman in order to get a half-human child? What do they want from Cal? The original mystery was solved in the very first book of the series, Nightlife, but the Auphe just don’t quit, and they are back in Deathwish, trying to get what they want – Cal as their prisoner and his friends and family dead.
The earlier books of the series were narrated primarily by Cal; this book is narrated by both Cal and Niko in alternating chapters, and their voices are quite distinct. A graduate of the School of Hard Knocks, Cal is a very glass-half-empty kind of guy, a pessimist. A graduate of that same school, Niko is a much more Zen kind of guy. Cal’s sarcasm and pessimism cover a huge amount of guilt and fear and a period of time spent among the Auphe that he can’t or won’t remember – in some ways, he is almost crazy glued together, and the base of the crazy glue is Niko.
The surface “mystery” of the book is relatively straight-forward: Seamus, a vampire, hires them because he’s being followed. But of course nothing is simple and nothing is what it is appears. Seamus has an agenda of his own; nothing is simple and nothing is as it appears. Learning the identity of Seamus’s “stalker” is relatively easy, but it doesn’t keep Seamus alive…or undead. Detecting who killed Seamus and why becomes a secondary problem when a Latin American hunter appears, chasing a thief who asks for their protection, preying on the family/friend connection. Mix in the Auphe and their desire to first toy with Cal, and then bend him to their will.
The external conflicts are well-drawn, but it is the internal conflict and the underlying theme of familial trust and loyalty that interest me most. Thurman has built the relationship between Cal and Niko over the three previous books; there is absolutely nothing that Cal and Niko won’t do for one another – whether it is kill others, or sacrifice themselves. As devoted as they are to each other, they don’t have perfect perspectives on each other, and they both have big blind spots. One of the biggest blind spots that was hammered home in this book is that Cal is not human; other supernatural creatures know it, smell the Auphe on him, but he has always been Niko’s little brother. Despite “knowing” that Cal is not entirely human, the part of him that is a monster doesn’t seem entirely real – Niko is utterly certain that the humanity in him will always win the struggle for control in Cal. Cal, on the other hand, is not so sure about how the human/monster struggle will turn out.
This fourth book has opened up some new story lines and closed out some old ones. I haven’t checked Thurman’s website, so I don’t know if this is the end of the Cal & Niko, if readers are leaving them behind in a relatively good spot: the Auphe seemingly destroyed, their business in relatively good shape, both able to go back to their day jobs and try to pursue half-way normal relationships. Or if more preternatural adventures await. I wouldn’t mind reading The Further Adventures of Cal and Niko. But if Thurman has wrapped this series up in order to start a new one, that’s okay too.
A- from me.
From the back cover:
How I felt the mental stirrings of a bloodthirsty heritage when I passed through the gray light wasn’t my favorite topic….The Auphe nature wasn’t mine. I wouldn’t let it be. And if I said that to myself over and over and sprinkled around enough frigging fairy dust, maybe it would be true.
Half-human Cal Leandros and his brother, Niko, are barely getting by with their preternatural detective agency when the vampire Seamus hires them. He’s being followed, and he wants to know by whom. But the Leandros brothers have to do more than they had planned when Seamus turns up dead (or un-undead).
Worse still is the return of Cal’s nightmarish family, the Auphe. The last time Cal and Niko faced them, the Auphe were almost wiped out. Now they want revenge. Cal knows that before the Auphe get to him, they will try to destroy everything and everyone he holds dear. Because for the Auphe, Cal’s pain is a pleasure.
And they’re feeling good.
Afterthought: In some ways, the Cal/Niko relationship reminds me of the Dean/Sam relationship from Supernatural – except there is no equivalent to John Winchester, making Niko promise that he’ll kill Cal if he ever turns into a monster. And even if there was, I’m not sure that Niko could or would do it – he believes so absolutely in Cal’s humanity.
Since Deanna Raybourn’s Silent in the Grave won a RiTA (TM), I thought I would dig out the notes I wrote back when I read the follow up to SitG, Silent in the Sanctuary. SitS was released back in January, so a bit of time has passed. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find those notes, so I'll have to reread and then reconstruct. I did, however, find several paragraphs of notes about Ilona Andrews’ Magic Bites and Magic Burns. They don’t comprise a review per se, but I’m posting them anyway, since I’ve been quiet on the book front lately.
Warning: my spoiler speculations are included.
I read Magic Bites and liked it but didn’t love it. Not that there was anything wrong with it, I was just urban fantasy-ed out. I liked the world building, which seemed very distinct from other urban fantasy/vampire hunter series I’d read recently. What I appreciated most, though, was how it was being marketed – clearly marked as urban fantasy, so there were not romance genre expectations. At the time, I had just read several paranormal romances that were not romances. That is, there was no HEA; maybe there would be one eventually, but not for several books, at least, which felt like false advertising. Genre romance = HEA. Killing off a lover or spouse? No HEA. Anyway, at the time that I first read Magic Bites, I enjoyed the world building and Kate and the adventure, but mostly I appreciated that the book was marketed and labeled properly.
There was a bit of hype preceding Magic Burns, which prompted me to reread Magic Bites. Upon rereading, I enjoyed the book even more and began to look forward to the second book (and further books of the series, of course). But I had some questions, too.
Kate Daniels is an interesting narrator and protagonist. I wasn't entirely sure about her as character. The overarching impression I got was of anger and aggression, a barely restrained belligerence. These qualities in a heroine do not bother me; in fact, these qualities in some ways define my favorite protagonist, Eve Dallas. But for Kate, context for the violence was missing. Eve Dallas is a cop, an abuse survivor, and her aggression is a response to her life experiences, which have been revealed to the reader. Kate’s violent tendencies may be a result of her life experiences, but her backstory had not revealed that yet. She seemed like a child whistling through a cemetery in a lot of ways, wearing her anger and violence on the outside to intimidate others.
Spring forward to Magic Burns, and a chunk of that context has been provided. Spoiler: I’m assuming Roland is her biological father. It’s all rather like a Greek tragedy, that he kills his children for fear of their power, and that she’s biding her time and nurturing her power for the day when she can confront him. I’d say it was Oedipal, except she’s not a he.
But even as some information was revealed, I find more questions. How did her parents know Greg? Where is this Roland, geographically speaking? How did her father manage to hide from Roland, who seems all-powerful? How did her father die?
After reading Magic Burns, I wondered if Kate was going to be the next Anita Blake in the sense of gaining power and being a man-magnet. Except the power gains are through power words only, which was introduced in the first book. So no, okay there. The men? Mmm, still a little worried about that, but less so when I reason it out this way: Big Bad #1 was interested in her power; Crane was an aberration due to grief; Saiman is interested because she isn’t (this was obvious based on their very first encounter on the page in Magic Bites -- a subsequent snippet posted by IA on KristieJ’s blog make this even more clear); Morrigan's hound is a hound; and Curran…who is abrasive and adversarial, but listens to her. I’m kind of interesting to see where this goes. Given that Kate will eventually have to confront Roland (I assume), I’m not expecting an HEA with anyone, but I am interested in seeing how Kate has to negotiate personal relationships going forward.
Which brings me to the next thing: personal relationships generally. Kate is a very alone protagonist at the beginning. Yeah, yeah, traditional hero journeys are all about a lone boy going off and slaying the Big Bad and becoming a man, so Kate’s essential aloneness shouldn’t be a surprise or a big deal. But she’s set up in such a way that her aloneness isn’t going to work. First there’s Derek, who makes a fascinating sidekick. I’m hoping we get to see more of him, and hoping that the hints about his alpha potential are realized at some point in the future. Then there’s Andrea: Kate says that she has no friends when describing her life, but at the same time she calls Andrea her friend when defending her. And Julie is “my kid” in less than 24 hours. Kate has been drilled not to trust anyone, but she seems to be ignoring that training, drawing about her a family of sorts. Will she ultimately regret this, when her confrontation draws near and they are weaknesses or liabilities, or will it be the thing that saves her?
Other random questions: why is Curran striped? And why did a character in Magic Bites call him a half-breed?
In book #1, the use of power words exhausted Kate. How did she use them in book #2, then go on to fight a battle? Was it a result of the magic flare?
Other observations: there’s some clunky language and some copy/typesetting errors. For example, using emphatic when empathic makes more sense in context; jutted vs. jotted. And one continuity thing (pet peeve, sorry): at the pack meeting in book #1, Kate was wearing a leather jacket and tank top when she left for the meeting, but once at the meeting, she pushes up her sweatshirt.
All in all, I’m interesting in seeing where Ilona Andrews takes Kate and her version of Atlanta, post-magical flare.
I keep meaning to email Ilona Andrews, author of Magic Burns, to ask if the naming of the molly (Ninny) in that book was an homage to Fat Ninny, Miles Vorkosigan's horse, or just a coincidence.
Have managed to start From Dead to Worse. The fairy part of the story feels awkward and forced, as does the mention of Hadley and her ex, as well as one almost throw-away mention of Alcide's thoughts about Sookie in the aftermath of a Big Bad Thing.
The Scorpion and the Frog
A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream and the scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The frog asks, "How do I know you won't sting me?" The scorpion says, "Because if I do, I will die too."
The frog is satisfied, and they set out, but in midstream, the scorpion stings the frog. The frog feels the onset of paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown, but has just enough time to gasp "Why?"
Replies the scorpion: "It's my nature..."
From this website. The fable is often attributed to Aesop, but may be older.
To see a cartoon-illustrated version, go here.
How’s this relevant to SBD? And what could it possibly have to do with an urban fantasy novel with a part-demon psion as protagonist? Well, in some ways, Japhrimel was the scorpion and Danny was the frog. But then again, not so much.
The third book of the Dante Valentine series, The Devil’s Right Hand, includes “extra” materials that address the different attitudes toward truth and lying that humans and demons have. At one point, Danny herself mentions that she feels as if she and Japhrimel speak different languages and struggle to communicate. In the end, for me, their conflict comes down to their essentially different natures. For all that Dante becomes part demon in Working for the Devil (Book 1), her sense of truth and justice remains based in her original humanity. And for all that he has Fallen, Japhrimel’s concept of truth is based on his millennia-long existence as a demon.
One could argue that Dante’s expectations and treatment with Japhrimel are always consistent – he falls in love with her and Falls because she treats him as a human. Shouldn’t he then expect her to treat him as human on all levels? But that doesn’t work for me on a basic level – treating him as human is a one-way transaction that Dante undertakes on her own; expecting human reactions from him would require consent/agreement to that behavior that he clearly never gives, for all that he Falls.
In the end, I abandoned the series because Dante seems utterly incapable of accepting their different natures, ignoring what Japh is (demon) in preference for what she wants him to be...and then feeling betrayed when he doesn't live up to her expectations of humanity from him. There’s the old chestnut about marrying a man and wanting to change him, which is what I felt like Danny does in the third and fourth books. She is constantly trying to impose her worldview on him, without understanding that for him, “truth” is negotiable, and the most important thing is survival.
Plus, there’s the whole “I trusted you” whine, which is constantly belied by her behavior. His first concern, however patriarchal and patronizing, is Danny’s safety; hers is never him.
Having said all of that, I do think Lilith Saintcrow is a fantastic writer and builds an excellent alternate reality. This narrator just didn’t work for me.
I finally got around to reading Lilith Saintcrow's Working for the Devil this past weekend. And I liked it a lot. But I have reservations about Danny as narrator. I don't have any problem with her as protagonist, but I am not sure how much I am willing to rely on her perspective -- I felt like she was not paying attention to a lot of hints and details during WftD.
Iron Kissed is not a romance novel, but it strikes a chord for me because power and control are the resounding themes not only of this third book but the entire series. Who has it? How do they use it? Uncle Mike controls the flow of information to Mercy, even as he manipulates her. Zee has financial power over Mercy, which he tries to use to protect her and his community. On a larger scale, the Alpha wolves have power over their packs, but the power is in some ways reciprocal; the Alpha has an accompanying obligation to his subordinates. On a personal level, Adam has the ability to influence not only the members of his pack but Mercy. The fae have a certain amount of power -- more than they want humans to know -- and they intend to use it to protect the larger community via the sacrifice of a single member of their community. And they will use threats or violence to control Mercy's investigations on Zee's behalf. The Bad Guy uses objects which give him power and the ability to control others. His unfettered exercise of thie power (plus killing) is what makes him Bad.
Mercy is the outsider; different enough to not quite belong yet not so different that she can ignore the rules. In some ways she's exempt from control...but she's also vulnerable and has the least power. Most of her internal conflict and some of her external conflict through the series is a struggle against being controlled, even when it is done with the best of intentions. Controlled by the Marrok? She tends to ignore his orders but only once she's at a safe distance. Controlled by Samuel? The damage done by his attempt to exercise power over her in her youth is what made her who she is today. Controlled by Adam? He respects her judgment but also declared her his mate in a protective, political move without consulting her. Controlled by the vampire seethe? They have an ability to call anyone foolish enough to look them in the eye. And then the fae again: they want to keep the public under the impression that they are weak and harmless; Mercy's interference on Zee's behalf threatens that.
Mercy's struggle against control or being under the power of anyone else reminds me of Miles Vorkosigan; in Memory (I think) he and Simon Illyan discuss what they want and what motivates people. For Miles, it isn't that he wants power as much as he wants not to be subject to anyone else's power.
Which reminds me in turn of Mercy as walker -- she's a coyote. And Coyote is a trickster god. Which reminds me again of Miles Vorkosigan, and Megan Whalen Turner's Eugenides the Thief, and Tamora Pierce's Kyprioth. None of them are interested in exercising control over others, but are allergic to control by others.
Afterthought: framing the series (and Mercy) as being concerned with power, its exercise, and Mercy's struggle for independence, makes Mercy's choice downright predictable, especially based on the events of the second book, Blood Bound. I think.