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Reviews of books in a series, with a focus on urban fantasy.
Other genres include mystery, paranormal romance, and crime thrillers.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Review: Kitty Raises Hell (Kitty Norville, Book 6) by Carrie Vaughn

To all of those authors who think you can't have a happily married heroine and keep things interesting - you need to read this book to see how it is done.

I admit, I was a bit disappointed that it took Cormac out of the running when Kitty officially married Ben in Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand. But she's happy, and they are there for each other, and they love each other. And they make a good Alpha pair too, apparently. And that added to the book, it didn't take away from it. They don't get along perfectly all of the time, but they are working towards making their marriage work, so when they fight they fight with the purpose of finding a way to make up. They aren't just tearing each other down, they are trying to resolve the reason they are fighting. And they don't get mad at each other over silly things. And they don't do silly things to provoke the other. They are two grown and rational adults trying to make a relationship work. How refreshing.

But, on to the plot of this book. Wow. I mean, really. Wow. But I'll start with the blurb:

Sometimes what happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas.

Kitty and Ben flee The City That Never Sleeps, thinking they were finished with the dangers there, but the sadistic cult of lycanthropes and their vampire priestess have laid a curse on Kitty in revenge for her disrupting their rituals. Starting at the next full moon, danger and destruction the form of fire strikes Kitty and the pack of werewolves she's sworn to protect.

She enlists the help of a group of TV paranormal investigators - one of whom has real psychic abilities - to help her get to the bottom of the curse that's been laid on her. Rick, the Master vampire of Denver, believes a deeper plot lies behind the curse, and he and Kitty argue about whether or not to accept the help of a professional demon hunter - and vampire - named Roman, who arrives a little too conveniently in the nick of time.

Unable to rely on Rick, and unwilling to accept Roman's offer of help for a price, Kitty and her band of allies, including Vegas magician Odysseus Grant and Kitty's own radio audience, mount a trap for the supernatural being behind the curse, a destructive force summoned by the vengeful cult, a supernatural being that none of them ever thought to face.

Can I just say that the blurb does not begin to do justice to what happens? There is a lot going on in this book, but it works. It's a lot, but not too much. And Kitty makes some new friends, again. She's good at that. It seems just about everywhere she goes she meets people and forms a bond of friendship with them. I guess fighting off supernatural stuff together is a good way to form strong bonds, but still, Kitty seems to just draw friends to her.

Kitty Raises Hell has a lot of Kitty and Ben (obviously), a decent amount of Rick, a little bit of Sean (who is now the manager of New Moon), and two visits with Cormac. There isn't much of Kitty's family, just a few phone calls and a quick conversation with her sister. Oh, and one of the friends she met in the most recent book, Odysseus Grant, makes an appearance as well. (What would she do without all of these friends she's managed to collect?)

The plot is good, the subplots are good, the supernatural bad guy is one that I don't believe I've seen pop up in other urban fantasy books yet, the conversations are engaging, and there is a bit of humor here and there amongst the drama.

In the past I've given this a series rating of 8 of 10. I'm going to raise it to a 9. And I'm going to give this book the same rating:

Book Rating: 7 of 10
Series Rating: 8 of 10

There was an excerpt of book 7, Kitty's House of Horrors, included at the back of Kitty Raises Hell. It looks like in the next book Kitty is going to be in a house with a dozen or so other supernaturals... kind of like Big Brother, maybe? Remember Jeffrey Miles, the "talks to dead people" guy? It sounds like he's going to be there, and maybe someone she met in this book as well, so at least she'll have friends.

1. Kitty and the Midnight Hour (2005)
2. Kitty Goes to Washington (2006)
3. Kitty Takes a Holiday (2007)
4. Kitty and the Silver Bullet (2008)
5. Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand (January 2009)
6. Kitty Raises Hell (February 2009)
7. Kitty's House of Horrors (2010)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Made to Be Broken (Nadia Stafford, Book 2) by Kelley Armstrong

I was excited about the release of Made to be Broken because I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Exit Strategy.

And I wasn't disappointed. The characters are still three dimensional, there is wit and humor, and the mystery keeps you in suspense until almost the very end. And the bit of a love triangle is enough to make it interesting without being annoying.

Kelley Armstrong is best known for her urban fantasy series Women of the Otherworld. In those books she has created a world where supernatural creatures exist.

In the Nadia Armstrong books there are no supernatural anythings. But we still get a world that is not familiar to us - the world of the contract killer. I'm sure that the reality of the hitman-underground is nothing like the books, but that's okay. Because the world the author creates is still believable, and she manages to give us hitmen that we can identify with. Sort of. I mean, I can't see myself ever killing someone for money, but she humanizes them in a way that makes us not hate them for their job. If I'd grown up in Nadia's shoes, would I have made the choices she has made? I honestly don't know. With her background, the things that have happened to her, you can understand a little bit why she's made the choices she has made.

This isn't the first time an author has given us a hitman we can like. There is Edward in the Anita Blake series, and Cormac in the Kitty Norville series. And now we have Nadia and Jack and Quinn and Felix in this series. (The jury is still out on how I feel about Evelyn at this point.)

The plot in this book was... disturbing. But I think it was that way for a reason. People who are worse (morally speaking) than the contract killers. We are supposed to like these hitmen, what better way to help us do that then to have us comparing them to people who do things so much more reprehensible than a simple contract killer.

And that's probably all I can say without using spoiler text. Made to be Broken is good, and I enjoyed it. I like Nadia (and Jack, and Quinn) and I want to know what happens next.

I don't believe the author has stated whether there will be more books or not, but she certainly ended this book with a way to make the next book pretty interesting.

Book Rating: 9 of 10
Series Rating: 9 of 10

Nadia Stafford Series
1. Exit Strategy
2. Made to Be Broken (February 2009)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Review: White Witch, Black Curse (The Hollows Rachel Morgan, Book 7) by Kim Harrison

Sometimes you wait a year for the next book in the series and you are disappointed. Other times, you wait a year and when you finish it you are pretty happy, until you realize that now you have to wait a whole 'nother year for the next one. In this case, I was happy with the book, and can't believe I have to wait another year for the next one.

There are a number of reasons to read a series as opposed to individual books. One of the great things about a series is that you can watch a character grow over time. And Rachel seems to be in the process of finally trying to grow up.

Sure, she's all grown up when it comes to taking care of herself. She can fight with the best of them now. Literally. Between her brains and her abilities she's a force to be reckoned with. But as far as making good life decisions? Well, she's working on it. She no longer just does whatever strikes her fancy, she actually stops to think it through now. And while we may laugh at her when she declares "it wasn't my fault", much of the time it isn't her fault. She reacts to bad situations the best way she knows how. In the past perhaps she created those bad situation she had to react to, but now they just kind of land in her lap.

The last book, The Outlaw Demon Wails, answered a whole lot of questions. I think that we're now in the "forming new questions" and "creating new plotlines" phase of the series, but that is perfectly okay. Kim Harrison is a master, and I can't wait to see where she takes us with these new questions and new plotlines. We did have at least one big question answered in this book. This is out there so much that I don't think it's a spoiler to say that we finally find out who killed Kisten. And why.

There is one thing about this book that I have mixed feelings about: There are three short stories, printed in three anthologies, that are pretty critical to the main plot of this story. If you haven't read the short story "Undead in the Garden of Good and Evil" included in the anthology Dates From Hell, then you'll be pretty much lost through a good portion of the book. The same goes for the short in Holidays Are Hell - without reading that story then much in this story won't make sense. It's helpful to have read the story in Hotter Than Hell as well, but probably not as critical. I've read some reviews from a few people who obviously have not read these short stories. A few of them are pretty lost when it comes to trying to understand White Witch Black Curse. In general, I don't like anthologies. I don't like paying full price for a book when there are only one or two short stories in each book that interest me. I don't mind spending money on books so an author can keep writing. But if I'm going to spend money I want to get a full story. Not a short story or two. And being forced to buy five or more short stories when there is only one or two I'm interested in, bothers me. So I'm conflicted that these shorts are this important to the series. It feels like a marketing trick. But, that is the subject for another blog post, for now I'll just say I have conflicted feelings around it.

All in all, I enjoyed White Witch, Black Curse. There were more than a few LOL moments, there were a few teary eyed moments, and there was some stuff designed for deep thought. I had looked forward to seeing Rachel in the ever-after getting her lessons and was a bit disappointed that we didn't really get to see that, but not so disappointed that it took away from the book.

One of the things this series does is make you think about that whole villain thing. We are introduced to a villain, we see them do really bad things, and it is easy to hate them. But then we are introduced to their reasons, we get to know them a bit, see them as people. And suddenly it's hard to hate them. I think we've gotten to know Trent enough that we understand what makes him do the things he does. There may yet be some surprises, but at this point I think we know him pretty well. I'm very curious to know what else we are going to learn about Al. He was the uber-villain for so long that it's hard to get used to this new truce that he and Rachel seem to have formed. It's a shaky truce, but with a few tweaks here and there it seems to be holding. Mostly.

The series is most definitely not stagnating - characters are still growing and learning, and there are still dozens of plot lines heading in all directions with no clue of how they may all come together at some point. And we got a new character in this book. I'm really curious to see how that plays out.

I'll give this book a 9 of 10. It probably would have received a 10 of 10 if it wasn't so heavily dependent on three anthologies. The series remains a 10 of 10, and it remains as one of my top five favorite series.

Book Rating: 9 of 10
Series Rating: 10 of 10


* Dead Witch Walking (April 2004)
* The Good, The Bad, And The Undead (January 2005)
* Every Which Way But Dead (June 2005)
* A Fistful of Charms (June 2006)
* For a Few Demons More (March 2007)
* The Outlaw Demon Wails (February 2008)
* White Witch, Black Curse (February 2009)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Anxiously Awaiting (Early February 2009)

The following are books in a series I am Anxiously Awaiting. They are either part of a series I am already reading, or they are the first book in a new series by an author I already like.

If someone wants to send me an ARC of one of these books, I will read it within a day or two of it arriving (assuming I'm home and I'm not sick or anything), and will get a blog post up of it as soon as I've finished reading it. You may contact me for a shipping address at chained lightning at g mail dot com (remove all of the spaces, of course).

02/24/09 Kitty Raises Hell (Kitty Norville, Book 6) Carrie Vaughn
02/24/09 Made to Be Broken (Nadia Stafford, Bk 2) Kelley Armstrong
02/24/09 White Witch, Black Curse (Rachel Morgan, Bk 7) Kim Harrison
02/24/09 Jailbait Zombie (Felix Gomez) Mario Acevedo
03/03/09 A Vampire's Claim (Vampire Queen Series) Joey W. Hill
03/03/09 Deathwish (Cal Leandros Bk 4) Rob Thurman
03/03/09 Angels' Blood (Guild Hunter, Bk 1) Nalini Singh
03/24/09 Deadly Desire (Riley Jensen, Guardian, Bk 7) by Keri Arthur
03/31/09 Magic Strikes (Kate Daniels, Book 3) Ilona Andrews
04/07/09 Curse the Dawn (Cassandra Palmer, Bk 4) Karen Chance
04/07/09 Turn Coat (Dresden Files, Bk 11) Jim Butcher
04/28/09 Doomsday Can Wait (Phoenix Chronicles, Bk 2) Lori Handeland
05/05/09 Dead and Gone (Sookie Stackhouse, Book 9) by Charlaine Harris
06/02/09 Skin Trade, Anita Blake Series, Laurel K Hamilton
06/02/09 Undead and Unwelcome (Queen Betsy, Bk 8) MaryJanice Davidson
06/23/09 Finger Lickin' Fifteen (Stephanie Plum), Janet Evanovich
07/07/09 Branded by Fire (Psy-Changelings), Nalini Singh
07/21/09 Not That Innocent (Anthlgy) Sherrilyn Kenyon, Kresley Cole...
07/21/09 Mercy Thompson Homecoming (Comic) Patricia Briggs, Francis Tsai
07/28/09 An Early Grave (Night Huntress, Bk 4) Jeaniene Frost
07/28/09 Hunting Ground (Alpha & Omega, Book 2) by Patricia Briggs
07/31/09 A Fantasy Medley (Anthology) Kelley Armstrong, Kate Elliott, C.E. Murphy
08/04/09 Bad Moon Rising (Dark Hunter Series) Sherrilyn Kenyon
08/04/09 Beloved Vampire (Vampire Queen Series) Joey W. Hill
09/29/09 Bound to Shadows (Riley Jensen, Guardian, Bk 8) Keri Arthur
09/??/09 Apocalypse Happens (Phoenix Chronicles, Bk 3) Lori Handeland
09/??/09 Doom with a View (Psychic Eye Mystery) Victoria Laurie
10/27/09 Bound to Shadows (Riley Jensen, Guardian, Book 8) Keri Arthur
10/27/09 Frostbitten (Elena & Clay) (Women/Otherworld) Kelley Armstrong
11/??/09 Blaze of Memory, Dev's book, (Psy-Changelings), Nalini Singh

Not all of the series I keep up with have another book listed as coming out. The authors have stated there will be more, but they haven't said when, or given a title name. I've listed those series below.

* Meredith Gentry Series by Laurel K Hamilton
* Bronwyn the Witch series by Candace Havens
* Immortals After Dark series by Kresley Cole
* Mercy Thomspon series by Patricia Briggs
* Immortals after Dark series by Kresley Cole

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Bone Crossed (Mercy Thompson Book 4) by Patricia Briggs

The fourth book in the series, Bone Crossed, was everything I was hoping it would be. There was lots of Stefan, lots of Adam, and even a little bit of Bran. Pretty much everyone made at least one appearance in this book. Even Mercy's mom.

We see Mercy dealing with the after effects of the rape, and we see Adam being very nurturing and patient. He's more patient with her than she is of herself, actually.

There was a resolution to the Adam or Samuel question in the last book, and in this book we watch the three of them get comfortable in their new role as boyfriend and friend.

And Mercy finally has to deal with the consequences of killing Andre. She knew Marsilia would find out eventually, now it's time to pay up. Mercy has some protection in the supernatural world, being that she is loved by three very powerful werewolves and is very good friends with some influential fae and a stronger than average vampire. But when the mistress of the local vampire seethe wants you dead, you should pay attention. And she does. As does Adam, Bran, Samuel, Stefan, Zee, and Uncle Mike.

You know what I want to see? I want Wulff's story, the vampire wizard guy. I hope Patricia Briggs gives us his story at some point.

But back to the review, I loved the scene in Mercy's martial arts class. And I really loved that Adam lets Mercy take care of herself so much in this book. He doesn't come rushing in to save the day. If he sees she can handle something, he lets her. And the opposite is true, too. When he does come rushing in to save the day, Mercy lets him. And instead of getting angry, actually thanks him. How nice to see two people capable of growing up and working towards making a relationship work. Thank you, Patricia Briggs.

I am going to give this book a 10 of 10, and will move the series up to a 10 of 10 as well.

Book Rating: 10 of 10
Series Rating: 10 of 10

The author hasn't given us a title for the next book in the series, nor an idea of when it might be out. The sister series, Alpha and Omega, has a book due to be released July 28. From what I can tell, that book is going to give us the story of how Bran makes the "werewolves are real" announcement to the humans. We already know a little bit of it, since the Mercy Series seems to be slightly ahead of the Alpha and Omega series as far as the timeline goes. The first Alpha and Omega book takes place during the first Mercy book, I wonder if the second Alpha and Omega will take place during the time frame of the second Mercy book. If so then we are a few books away from seeing Charles awakened to look up information on Amber.

Here are the books in both series:

Mercedes Thompson Series

Alpha and Omega Series:

Mercedes Thompson Series
1. Moon Called (2006)
2. Blood Bound (2007)
3. Iron Kissed (2008)
4. Bone Crossed (2009)
5. Silver Borne (2010?)

Alpha and Omega Series:
 . On the Prowl (Anthology)
1. Cry Wolf (2008)
2. Hunting Ground (July 2009)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Spellman Files: A Novel (Izzy Spellman Book 1) by Lisa Lutz

A few people who knew I liked the Stephanie Plum series recommended this series to me.

After reading the first book I'm willing to give the second book a chance, but I'm not fully convinced just yet. I liked it, I didn't love it.

Isabel (Izzy) Spellman is a 28 year old woman who is still growing up. She led a very wild childhood and young adulthood (as in drugs and indiscriminate sex and various irresponsible behaviors). We learn the things that happened to make her stop doing things that made other people have to clean up the messes left in the wake of her irresponsible behavior. It didn't completely change her, but it did make her think twice before creating messes that affected other people. So, a little growing up happened there.

Izzy is a PI, as are her parents. She started as a child and was doing surveillance before she could drive. Her little sister was doing surveillance before she could read. This is a family with deadbolts on bedroom doors because, since they are all professional snoops, they don't trust anyone. Not even family.

The family is... functionally dysfunctional? Maybe dysfunctional is too strong of a word. We'll just say they love each other, but they are not normal.

Does it compare to Stephanie Plum? In some ways, probably. Izzy has lots of problems, just as Stephanie does. Izzy's family loves her even if they bug the bejeebers out of her, also similar to Stephanie even if they bug her for different reasons. There were a few laugh out loud moments in The Spellman Files, but I wouldn't compare them to the laugh out loud moments in the Plum series. Izzy is a PI to Stephanie's bounter hunter job, also similar enough.

After one book I probably shouldn't comment on relationship stuff, but I'll say that Izzy and Stephanie's idea of what is and isn't acceptable in a relationship are worlds apart.

I'll give The Spellman Files a 7 of 10, though the decision was whether to give it a 6 or a 7. Part of that is the annoyance I felt at the writing style during the first third or maybe half of the book. It felt more like a history lesson than a novel, and I wasn't sure where she was going with things. Having finished it, I liked it good enough to give the next book a try. We know everyone's history, so the next book shouldn't feel like a history lesson. I won't rate the series until I've read the second book.

Book Rating: 7 of 10

1. The Spellman Files: A Novel (2007)
2. Curse of the Spellmans: A Novel (2008)
3. Revenge of the Spellmans: A Novel (Mar 10, 2009)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Men of the Otherworld by Kelley Armstrong

This book is part of the Women of the Otherworld series. It was billed as a collection of stories giving us some of the history of the men. But it's not what I expected. I expected it to jump around, but instead if focuses on Jeremy and Clay.

I don't normally like "collections" of stories. I like to get started on a book and then follow it through. The stopping and starting of a collection of smaller stories doesn't work for me. But I didn't have that problem with this book. This book holds a theme: we see Jeremy's conception and birth, we see when Clayton was bitten and hear his story from being bitten until he is in college. We see first person accounts through Clay's eyes of Jeremy's relationship with his father. Clayton tells us his story, from being bitten until college. We get to watch Clay grow up. And then the final story, a present day one with Jeremy and Jaime as told by Jeremy, is probably leading up to a plot line in a future book.

Men of the Otherworld makes me want to pick up Bitten and read it again. I enjoyed hearing Jeremy's voice. I was a bit afraid of hearing Clayton's voice. Curious, but still wary. I needn't have worried. I loved hearing Clayton tell the stories that we've heard about in the form of legend. Like the story of getting kicked out of school for dissecting the classroom's pet guinea pig. And of course, the stunt he pulled that made every mutt on the planet terrified of him. I won't tell you whether hearing him tell the tale makes him appear more or less psychotic, you'll have to read it for yourself.

I'm giving Men of the Otherworld a 10 of 10. I'll keep the series at a 9 of 10.

And I've got a few days before Bone Crossed arrives, so I do think that I'll pick up Bitten again while I'm waiting. It will be a new experience, knowing more of the backstory as I read it.

Book Rating: 10 of 10
Series Rating: 9 of 10

1. Bitten (2001)
2. Stolen (2002)
3. Dime Store Magic (2004)
4. Industrial Magic (2004)
5. Haunted (2005)
6. Broken (2006)
7. No Humans Involved (2007)
8. Personal Demon (2008)
9. Living with the Dead (2008)
. Men of the Otherworld (2009)
. A Fantasy Medley (anthology 2009)
10. Frostbitten (Nov 2009)