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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.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Darker Angels (Book 2 of The Black Sun's Daughter) by M.L.N. Hanover

I loved Darker Angels. I can't wait for the next book, Vicious Grace, which apparently isn't due out until late summer or fall.

Darker Angels picks up two or three months after the end of Unclean Spirits. Jayné, Ex, Aubrey, and Chogyi Jake have been traveling to see what is stored at each of Jayné's recently inherited properties around the world. Let me put the blurb in here, then I'll talk about it more:

In the battle between good and evil, there's no such thing as a fair fight.

When Jayné Heller's uncle Eric died, she inherited a fortune beyond all her expectations -- and a dangerous mission in a world she never knew existed. Reining in demons and supernatural foes is a formidable task, but thankfully Jayné has vast resources and loyal allies to rely on. She'll need both to tackle a bodyswitching serial killer who's taken up residence in New Orleans, a city rich in voodoo lore and dark magic.

Working alongside Karen Black, a highly confident and enigmatic ex-FBI agent, Jayné races to track down the demon's next intended host. But the closer she gets, the more convinced she becomes that nothing in this beautiful, wounded city is exactly as it seems. When shocking secrets come to light, and jealousy and betrayal turn trusted friends into adversaries, Jayné will soon come face-to-face with an enemy that knows her all too well, and won't rest until it has destroyed everything she loves most....

So you can see from the blurb that they go to New Orleans. The author brilliantly weaves loa and riders together and creates a very engaging story with great worldbuilding. And I love the way this author writes, the way we can see and feel and smell what is going on. I love that the tension is interspersed with laugh-out-loud moments, and I genuinely like Jayné.

What else good can I say about the book? Pacing is great, dialogue kicks ass, storytelling is very well done... I'll cut myself short and say it's a great book and I'm giving it a 10 of 10. And since that's what I gave the first book too, then I guess the series gets a 10 of 10 while I'm at it.

Book Rating: Darker Angels: 10 of 10
Series Rating: Black Sun's Daughter: 10 of 10

1. Unclean Spirits
2. Darker Angels
3. Vicious Grace (summer or fall 2010)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Heat Wave (Nikki Heat) by Richard Castle

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Heat Wave, the fictional book written by the fictional character Richard Castle, actually exists. Which, I guess means it's no longer a fictional book. Sort of.

Being that Richard Castle is a superstar author in the show, I was hoping for a book we'd expect to see from a superstar author. Unfortunately, while it was a good book and an entertaining read, it wasn't that good.

As an adjunct to the show, it's a good book. But if it were a book on it's own without the show? Not so much.

I don't want to make it sound like a bad book... the prose and the dialogue were great, the plot was nicely done, and the pacing was perfect. Richard Castle's character is funny on the show, and we get that in the book as well.

I wasn't expecting the book to follow the show quite so closely. Same characters, different names. It was almost a biography, and I was hoping to read the fiction that Richard Castle would write. Also, I was hoping to get more of the kind of thing you can only get in a book - the stuff you don't see on TV. More of what people are thinking and feeling and hoping for, and while there was some of that, there wasn't enough for me.

Richard Castle doesn't really exist, and I'm assuming this was a collaborative effort, probably of the writers who write the show. Big kudos go to the writers for not making Nikki Heat a sex object - I was a bit worried about that. She's a strong, professional, talented, goal driven woman. And when she takes down a huge guy in hand to hand combat, it's not treated as if she's superwoman. We see her taking the time to practice her martial arts skills, we know that she works to stay at the top of her game so she can take down the bad guys when she has to.

I honestly don't know how to rate Heat Wave. If it weren't for the TV show, I doubt I would purchase the second book in the series. But with the TV thing? Yes, I will buy the next book as well. I'll split the difference and give it an 8 of 10.

Book Rating: Nikki Heat: 8 of 10

If the TV series continues then I'm sure there will be more books. Once we get at least two books I'll rate the series.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Unclean Spirits: Book One of the Black Sun's Daughter by M.L.N. Hanover

Unclean Spirits is the first book in a new series, and it is by an author I've not read before. And I loved it. The worldbuilding is different, but good. The protagonist, Jayné Heller, is very likable. The pacing is excellent, and the conversation and the prose are very well done. As an example, Jayné's first real motorcycle ride is "like an amusement park ride, without the amusement".

Jayné (pronounced zha nay) arrives in Denver to settle her dead Uncle's estate, only to discover he was rich (as in, properties and accounts all over the world - an empire), and he was killed by something that isn't human.

The blurb describes the general plot pretty good, so I'll post it and then some of my thoughts.

In a world where magic walks and demons ride, you can't always play by the rules.

Jayné Heller thinks of herself as a realist, until she discovers reality isn't quite what she thought it was. When her uncle Eric is murdered, Jayné travels to Denver to settle his estate, only to learn that it's all hers -- and vaster than she ever imagined. And along with properties across the world and an inexhaustible fortune, Eric left her a legacy of a different kind: his unfinished business with a cabal of wizards known as the Invisible College.

Led by the ruthless Randolph Coin, the Invisible College harnesses demon spirits for their own ends of power and domination. Jayné finds it difficult to believe magic and demons can even exist, let alone be responsible for the death of her uncle. But Coin sees Eric's heir as a threat to be eliminated by any means -- magical or mundane -- so Jayné had better start believing in something to save her own life.

Aided in her mission by a group of unlikely companions -- Aubrey, Eric's devastatingly attractive assistant; Ex, a former Jesuit with a lethal agenda; Midian, a two-hundred-year-old man who claims to be under a curse from Randolph Coin himself; and Chogyi Jake, a self-styled Buddhist with mystical abilities -- Jayné finds that her new reality is not only unexpected, but often unexplainable. And if she hopes to survive, she'll have to learn the new rules fast -- or break them completely....

Unclean Spirits is a great book all on it's own, but I can easily see it setting things up for an entire series of plots. The series is "The Black Sun's Daughter", and I think we can assume that Jayné is the Black Sun's Daughter. At one point one of the bad guys asks her what she is and she replies she is her mother's daughter. But, we also aren't given any reason to believe that her mother (the person who raised her, anyway) is in any way supernatural. We do know that Jayné seems to have some supernatural powers, and the assumption at this point is that her uncle gave her some kind of protection that did that. But, could it be that she has these abilities for some other reason? There is also the tattoo she doesn't remember getting - is it possible her uncle did that, and that the tattoo is the protection? So many questions, and we'll have to wait for future books for the answers.

In a nutshell, Unclean Spirits is a bit of a different take on Urban Fantasy, it has a cast of characters interesting and different enough to keep things interesting, and the writing is just good. It's a fast, entertaining, and well paced read; and while I was happy with the ending, I wasn't happy that it ended.

Fortunately, book two is already out, and that's my next book to read. I'm giving Unclean Spirits a 10 of 10. I can't give a series rating until I've read at least two books.

Book Review: Unclean Spirits: 10 of 10

1. Unclean Spirits
2. Darker Angels
3. Vicious Grace

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Book Covers: Tales of the Otherworld, Vampire Mistress, Dead in the Family

I wasn't terribly excited about the Men of the Otherworld book when it came out, and then I was pleasantly surprised by it. For that reason, I'm looking forward to Tales of the Otherworld when it is released on April 13.

The cover doesn't really tell us anything. It kind of looks like a younger girl, maybe a teen? Possibly Savannah? With that necklace it's likely one of the witches.

Here's the blurb for Tales of the Otherworld:
Have you ever wondered how lone wolf Clayton Danvers finally got bitten by the last thing he ever expected: love? Or how the hot-blooded bad-girl witch Eve Levine managed to ensnare the cold, ruthless corporate sorcerer, Kristof Nast in one of the Otherworld’s most unlikely pairings? Would you like to be a fly on the wall at the wedding of Lucas Cortez and Paige Winterbourne, as their eminently practical plans are gradually upended by their well-meaning friends? Or tag along with Lucas and Paige as they investigate a rather gruesome case that looks to be the result of a rogue vampire?

Now, Otherworld reader can share these moments with some of their favorite characters—as well as catching welcome glimpses into the minds of some of the lesser-known players. But even readers new to the Otherworld universe will find much to love in these seven tales of friendship, adventure, and enduring romance.

Anthology contains: Birthright, Beginnings, Ghosts, Expectations, Wedding Bell Hell, The Case of El Chupacabra and a new story narrated by Eve.

Vampire Mistress, the next Vampire Queen book by Joey W. Hill, is set to be released on May 4.

Here is the blurb for Vampire Mistress:

Sometimes desire works three ways...

Joey W. Hill returns to the dark and seductive landscape of her Vampire Queen novels as a desperate woman finds herself trapped between the desires of two men, each with his own mission of the night.

Gideon Green is a hardcore vampire hunter. But in the past year, his only family, his little brother, became a vampire queen’s servant – and then a vampire himself, giving Gideon a different view of the vampire world. Since Gideon’s sole purpose for over a decade has been killing vampires, the violence that has scarred his soul now haunts his conscience.

Then he crosses paths with sexy BDSM night club owner, Mistress Anwyn. Their connection is immediate and intense, but she has a silent partner--the vampire Daegan Rei. When Anwyn is viciously attacked and turned by a rogue vampire, Gideon and Daegan join to protect her through a dangerous transition. As the bonds between the three of them draw tighter, Gideon faces an unbelievable truth...that the path to meaning in his life may be found in surrendering to the desires and needs of two vampires.

Do I think I'll be reading Vampire Mistress as soon as it comes out? Ummm, yeah. I'm pretty sure I will. I first discovered Joey W. Hill with her Nature of Desire series, and I have to admit I've been a bit disappointed that she's chosen to be a bit more mainstream with her BDSM since then. This blurb sounds like she's returning to her roots. Maybe. You can read an excerpt of this book here. The excerpt just convinces me that much more of how much I'm going to want to read Vampire Mistress.

The 10th Sookie Stackhouse book will be called Dead in the Family and there is already a very nice blurb to give us an idea of what to expect:

Sookie Stackhouse has finally settled into a relationship with the Viking vampire Eric, and her errant brother Jason seems to have his life in order, too. But all the other people in Sookie’s life – Eric himself, her former lover Bill, her friend and boss Sam – are having family problems. Eric’s maker shows up with Eric’s ‘brother’ in tow, the ailing Bill can only be healed by a blood sibling, and Sam’s brother’s marriage is about to take place . . . or will it? The furor raised by the coming out of the two-natured has yet to settle; some people are just not ready to sit down to dinner with a man who turns into a dog. And Sookie herself is still recovering from her last ordeal. She’s definitely improving, physically and mentally, but she’s always going to have some dark moments now. The werewolves tell her that there have been strange and ominous passers-by in the Stackhouse woods; now Sookie is about to come face-to-face with one of her more distant relatives...

Sookie and Eric in a relationship? At last? Dead in the Family is due to be released May 4th, and that's way too long to wait for this one.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Book Covers: Black Magic Sanction, Silver Borne, and Changes

I'm still looking at some upcoming covers of books I'm really really anticipating:

Is this an awesome cover, or what? Black Magic Sanction, the next Rachel Morgan / Hollows book by Kim Harrison is due out February 29th. This is one of my top five favorite series. I haven't found a blurb for Black Magic Sanction yet, but there is a tag line: Apparently wicked witches do come from the west.

I guess that's a bit of a clue to what/who Rachel will be battling in Black Magic Sanction.

On March 30th we get Silver Borne, the fifth Mercy Thompson book by Patricia Briggs. The blurb for this one is:

When mechanic and shapeshifter Mercy Thompson attempts to return a powerful Fae book she'd previously borrowed in an act of desperation, she finds the bookstore locked up and closed down.

It seems the book contains secret knowledge-and the Fae will do just about anything to keep it out of the wrong hands. And if that doesn't take enough of Mercy's attention, her friend Samuel is struggling with his wolf side-leaving Mercy to cover for him, lest his own father declare Sam's life forfeit.

All in all, Mercy has had better days. And if she isn't careful, she might not have many more to live...

I love the Mercy Thompson series, but that blurb doesn't get me all that excited. I haven't really enjoyed the "Samuel angst because he's so old" storyline, and it appears that's going to be a big part of Silver Borne. Still, I really like Mercy, and I want to see what is going on with Adam, and with the rest of her menagerie of friends, so I'll get this book as soon as it's released and I'll hope the Samuel stuff isn't too annoying.

For a while I got kind of ambivalent about the Dresden Files series, but now I'm once again anxious about the next book, Changes, wanting to read it to find out what will happen next. The Dresden series is not one of my top ten, but I'll still be getting my hands on this book as soon as it is released on April 6. And the blurb for Changes makes me that much more anxious to see what happens:

Long ago, Susan Rodriguez was Harry Dresden's lover-until she was attacked by his enemies, leaving her torn between her own humanity and the bloodlust of the vampiric Red Court. Susan then disappeared to South America, where she could fight both her savage gift and those who cursed her with it.

Now Arianna Ortega, Duchess of the Red Court, has discovered a secret Susan has long kept, and she plans to use it-against Harry. To prevail this time, he may have no choice but to embrace the raging fury of his own untapped dark power. Because Harry's not fighting to save the world...

He's fighting to save his child.

Harry Dresden as a father? On the one hand, it's a really scary thought. On the other hand, he'd make a great father if he put his mind to it. And changed his living arrangements. And realized he needs to make some money while he's busy saving the world.

I'm guessing (from the book cover) that Harry's going to take a trip to South America in this book. I also think that I'm going to need to re-read some of this series before Changes comes out. Probably starting with the book that Harry and Susan got romantic with each other.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Divine Misdemeanors (Meredith Gentry, Bk 8) by Laurell K. Hamilton

I love the Meredith Gentry books. And I love that Meredith seems to finally be getting her "Happily Ever After".

I mean, sure... real life isn't actually happily ever after, but what she's got now is about as close as anyone could come, I think.

She's got her men around her, she's pregnant, and people aren't trying to kill her from every direction imaginable anymore.

I like Merry, and I'm really happy for her.

That's not to say that there will be no more change, because I have a feeling that in future books things are going to get crazy again. But Swallowing Darkness tied up a whole bunch of story arcs, and this one's job was to get more story arcs started, I think. And it was nice to see Merry enjoying herself a bit, getting her bearings in her new life, while that happened.

I'm also really interested in seeing where LKH takes things with the Goddess doing things for humans now, since Faery apparently wasn't all that interested in the fact that she re-appeared. There are so many things that can happen next, and while I admit I'm a bit disappointed that we didn't see some of that in this book, I'm perfectly happy with the things that did happen in this book, and with the plot arcs that I saw starting.

There were a few things I didn't like about the book. A few times I heard Anita talking, not Merry, and it was disconcerting - it jarred me out of the story. Also, Galen and Nathaniel sometimes seem the same to me, and that bugs me... "But this was Galen, and he usually makes my life easier, not harder". That's Nathaniel, please don't turn Galen into Nathaniel. They both have the long hair, they are both a bit shorter than the others, etc.

Okay, with all of that, here's the blurb for Divine Misdemeanors:

You may know me best as Meredith Nic Essus, princess of faerie. Or perhaps as Merry Gentry, Los Angeles private eye. In the fey and mortal realms alike, my life is the stuff of royal intrigue and celebrity drama. Among my own, I have confronted horrendous enemies, endured my noble kin’s treachery and malevolence, and honored my duty to conceive a royal heir—all for the right to claim the throne. But I turned my back on court and crown, choosing exile in the human world—and in the arms of my beloved Frost and Darkness.

While I may have rejected the monarchy, I cannot abandon my people. Someone is killing the fey, which has left the LAPD baffled and my guardsmen and me deeply disturbed. My kind are not easily captured or killed. At least not by mortals. I must get to the bottom of these horrendous murders, even if that means going up against Gilda, the Fairy Godmother, my rival for fey loyalties in Los Angeles.

But even stranger things are happening. Mortals I once healed with magic are suddenly performing miracles, a shocking phenomenon wreaking havoc on human/faerie relations. Though I am innocent, dark suspicions of banned magical activities swirl around me.

I thought I’d left the blood and politics behind in my own turbulent realm. I had dreamed of an idyllic life in sunny L.A. with my beloved ones beside me. But it becomes time to wake up and realize that evil knows no borders, and that nobody lives forever—even if they’re magical.

Honestly, the plot in this book takes a bit of a backseat - mostly we get to see Merry living with her men and trying to get them settled into LA while she figures out how to be pregnant and work while her men are being overprotective of her.

Book Rating, Divine Misdemeanors: 7 of 10
Series Rating, Meredith Gentry: 10 of 10

I'm giving Divine Misdemeanors an 8 of 10, and I'm leaving the series at a 10 of 10.

1. A Kiss of Shadows (2000)
2. A Caress of Twilight (2002)
3. Seduced by Moonlight (2004)
4. A Stroke of Midnight (2005)
5. Mistral's Kiss (2006)
6. A Lick of Frost (2007)
7. Swallowing Darkness (2008)
8. Divine Misdemeanors (2009)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Book Covers: Archangel's Kiss, Flirt, and First Drop of Crimson

I started looking at upcoming covers yesterday, and I'll continue that today.

First today is Archangel's Kiss, the next Guild Hunter book by Nalini Singh - due to be released February second. Here's the blurb:

Vampire hunter Elena Deveraux wakes from a year-long coma to find that she has become an angel-and that her lover, the stunningly dangerous archangel Raphael, likes having her under his control. But almost immediately, Raphael must ready Elena for a flight to Beijing, to attend a ball thrown by the archangel Lijuan. Ancient and without conscience, Lijuan's power lies with the dead. And she has organized the most perfect and most vicious of welcomes for Elena...

I love this cover. You can see her wings, and you can see her on a rooftop in China, probably in The Forbidden City or The Summer Palace - but there are numerous other places in Beijing with rooftops that look like that as well. But then we look at the rooftops in the distance and it looks more like The Forbidden City, except with the mountains in the distance instead of a cityscape, it's most likely outside of town somewhere. I am really excited that this will be taking place in and around Beijing.

You can read the first chapter of Archange's Kiss here.

I do not like the new covers for the Anita Blake series. Some think they are artistic, but I think they are boring and not very creative at all. I also think that they do not tell us anything about what is in the book. It's a good thing we aren't supposed to judge a book by the cover, because these covers just don't fit the books, in my opinion. I like the books, don't like the covers.

What do we know about Flirt? We know that Flirt is a novella, and that LKH has compared it to Micah, saying it's not really a part of the series. Since Micah is the only book in the Anita Blake series that I disliked, I'm finding it hard to get excited about Flirt.

And now to First Drop of Crimson, an offshoot of my favorite series: the Night Huntress Series, and I have high hopes for this offshoot series. I love Jeaniene Frost's writing, and I'm really excited about reading Spade's story (though I'm actually even more excited about Mencheres' story). Here is the blurb for this one:

The night is not safe for mortals. Denise MacGregor knows all too well what lurks in the shadows—her best friend is half-vampire Cat Crawfield—and she has already lost more than the average human could bear. But her family's past is wrapped in secrets and shrouded in darkness—and a demon shapeshifter has marked Denise as prey. Now her survival depends on an immortal who lusts for a taste of her.

He is Spade, a powerful, mysterious vampire who has walked the earth for centuries and is now duty-bound to protect this endangered, alluring human—even if it means destroying his own kind. Denise may arouse his deepest hungers, but Spade knows he must fight his urge to have her as they face the nightmare together . . .

Because once the first crimson drop falls, they will both be lost.

What does the cover tell us? It tells us that Spade's face is a bit scary, and it's easy to understand why Cat thought he was a bad guy when she first met him. It also tells us the rest of him is, ummm, hot. We also see him about to have dinner on the lady in red, and that she's moving her hair out of the way, so she's obviously okay with that. But, according to the blurb, he apparently isn't supposed to do that? So, is the lady in red Denise?

Questions questions questions. And since this book doesn't come out until February 9th, it looks like we've got two months until we find out the answers. Until then, there is a teaser, and (even better) the first chapter up at Jeanine Frost's site.

Oh, and another picture that is on the author's site:

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Book Covers: Divine Misdemeanors and Kitty's House of Horrors

I thought I'd go looking for the covers for the books I'm most Anxiously Awaiting.
First comes Divine Misdemeanors (Meredith Gentry, Book 8) by Laurell K. Hamilton. Yes, I know, it's being released today, but it will be later tonight before I can get started on it, so I'm still anxiously awaiting it. I had intended to re-read Swallowing Darkness, but it hasn't worked out for me to do so. I love this series though, so I'm sure I'll be fine without the re-read.

We saw the first chapter of Kitty's House of Horrors in the previous book, Kitty Raises Hell, and there was just enough there to make me want more. The blurb for this one is:
Talk radio host and werewolf Kitty Norville has agreed to appear on TV's first all-supernatural reality show. She's expecting cheesy competitions and manufactured drama starring shapeshifters, vampires, and psychics. But what begins as a publicity stunt will turn into a fight for her life. The cast members, including Kitty, arrive at the remote mountain lodge where the show is set. As soon as filming starts, violence erupts and Kitty suspects that the show is a cover for a nefarious plot. Then the cameras stop rolling, cast members start dying, and Kitty realizes she and her monster housemates are ironically the ultimate prize in a very different game. Stranded with no power, no phones, and no way to know who can be trusted, she must find a way to defeat the evil closing in . . . before it kills them all.

We have less than a month before Kitty's House of Horrors is released. I don't think I will re-read any books before this book's release, but I'll probably do a 20 minute skim of Kitty Raises Hell (Kitty Norville, Book 6)

I plan to do a cover or two (or three) a day for a while. Some covers actually tell us about what is in the book, some just remind us of what is in the series, and some have nothing to do with the book(s). I think these two covers fall into the second category. We are reminded of Merry's men who can feel pain but can't be killed in the first cover, and in the second cover we are reminded that Kitty is a strong and independent woman, who happens to turn into a werewolf occasionally.

Tomorrow I'll do the covers for two books that actually tell us something about what is in the book, and one book's cover that tells us nothing about anything.

Scarpetta series Books 9-14 by Patricia Cornwell

I try to always say something positive about a book, even if it is one I didn't really care for. Most of the time it's easy to say something positive amongst the negative, but with these five books I'm going to have to stretch.

To be honest, I'm not convinced that these books are being written by the same author who wrote the first four books of the series. The voice is different, the dialogue is different, the plots aren't anywhere near as well thought out, the procedures aren't being handled the same way within the text... they don't feel like the same series.

I have three books left to go in this series, and quite frankly I am only sticking with the series because the ratings for the latter books seem to be back up and I'm hoping to see something along the same caliber of the first four books. Oh, and because I've already bought the books.

Book Rating: Point of Origin: 7 of 10
Book Rating: Black Notice: 5 of 10
Book Rating: The Last Precinct: 5 of 10
Book Rating: Blow Fly: 5 of 10
Book Rating: Trace: 4 of 10
Book Rating: Predator : 4 of 10

Series Rating: Kay Scarpetta Series: 6 of 10

1 and 2. The Scarpetta Collection Volume I: Postmortem and Body of Evidence
3 and 4. Scarpetta Collection Volume II: All That Remains and Cruel & Unusual
5. The Body Farm
6. From Potter's Field
7. Cause of Death
8. Unnatural Exposure
9. Point of Origin
10.Black Notice
11.The Last Precinct
12.Blow Fly
15.Book of the Dead
17.The Scarpetta Factor

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sizzling Sixteen

Janet Evanovich has announced that book 16 of the Stephanie Plum series will be called Sizzling Sixteen. The book is scheduled to be released in June of 2010.

Janet Evanovich has also announced that the next Diesel book (which should be a between the numbers book, but she didn't say that) will be out in August of 2010.

Related Posts:
Sizzling Sixteen Excerpt
Wicked Appetite (Diesel, Book 1) by Janet Evanovich