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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.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Review: Kitty Goes to War (Kitty Norville, Book 8) by Carrie Vaughn


I am constantly amazed at how Carrie Vaughn manages to create plots that keep this series hopping. The Kitty Norville books are not "different book, same stuff". Each book heads off in a unique direction, each is a surprise. 

I complain in some series about the lack of character growth. There are no such complaints in Kitty Goes to War. And it isn't just Kitty growing - Ben has spent a couple of books growing into a confident werewolf, Cormac is out of prison now and we get to see how the experience has changed him and how he is going to deal with a life where he can't walk around armed all of the time. And Kitty's pack continues to evolve into a healthy pack. Oh, and Kitty keeps making friends, in some cases powerful friends, which I think someday is going to be a really big deal.

Kitty Goes to War has two major plots - one that is also part of the ongoing series arc, and one that is probably mostly restricted to this book.

Here's the blurb:

Kitty Norville, Alpha werewolf and host of The Midnight Hour, a radio call-in show, is contacted by a friend at the NIH's Center for the Study of Paranatural Biology. Three Army soldiers recently returned from the war in Afghanistan are being held at Ft. Carson in Colorado Springs. They're killer werewolves—and post traumatic stress has left them unable to control their shape-shifting and unable to interact with people. Kitty agrees to see them, hoping to help by bringing them into her pack.

Meanwhile, Kitty gets sued for libel by CEO Harold Franklin after featuring Speedy Mart--his nationwide chain of 24-hour convenience stores with a reputation for attracting supernatural unpleasantness--on her show.

Very bad weather is on the horizon.

The blurb gives a decent idea of the two plots - the out-of-control special forces highly trained bad-ass werewolves, and a disagreement with the CEO of Speedy Mart.

But there is also the human part... Kitty and Ben's relationship, Cormac fitting back into society, Kitty and Ben as Alpha couple over the pack. And.. more. Maybe human wasn't the right word... but calling it the 'touchy feelie' parts didn't work, either. Also, I don't want to give spoilers.

As for my usual rundown: both of the major plots are excellent, pacing is exceptionally well done, prose and dialogue are always beautifully done with Ms. Vaughn. I can't say enough good things about the character development in this series or in this book. Seriously, character building is incredible for every character who gets more than a few paragraph's mention. And finally, while the world-building may not be terribly unique (it's basic werewolf and vampire rules with some wizards and such thrown in), it's very well done, and draws on mythologies and legends enough to give it that hint of believability.

I can easily give Kitty Goes to War a 10 of 10, and I'm moving the series from a 9 of 10 to a 10 of 10.

Book Rating: Kitty Goes to War: 10 of 10
Series Rating: Kitty Norville: 10 of 10

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)
8. Kitty Goes to War (2010)
9. Kitty's Big Trouble

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Slave to Sensation (Psy-Changelings, Book 1) by Nalini Singh


As I re-read this series, I realize that Nalini Singh had planned well into the future of the series as she wrote the first book. Things I didn't remember being in the first book, people and events that set us up for things that happen several books away, are in the first book. I wouldn't have known that on a first reading, but now, as I'm re-reading the series, it's quite obvious.

With all of the paranormal romances floating around these days, the Psy-Changelings series is a truly unique series, with fantastic and unique world building.

In the first book of the series, Slave to Sensation, we first meet the psy, and the changelings. We start the series with the leopard Alpha's story. Most series would build us up to the Alpha, but starting with Lucas was perfect, what a great way to meet and understand the Changelings.

There are several threads running through Slave to Sensation, two major threads are resolved by the end of the book, but other threads last through multiple books.

Here's the blurb:

Dive into a world torn apart by a powerful race with phenomenal powers of the mind—and none of the heart…

In a world that denies emotions, where the ruling Psy punish any sign of desire, Sascha Duncan must conceal the feelings that brand her as flawed. To reveal them would be to sentence herself to the horror of “rehabilitation”— the complete psychic erasure of everything she ever was….

Both human and animal, Lucas Hunter is a Changeling hungry for the very sensations the Psy disdain. After centuries of uneasy co-existence, these two races are now on the verge of war over the brutal murders of several Changeling women. Lucas is determined to find the Psy killer who butchered his packmate, and Sascha is his ticket into their closely guarded society. But he soon discovers that this ice-cold Psy is very capable of passion—and that the animal in him is fascinated by her. Caught between their conflicting worlds, Lucas and Sascha must remain bound to their identities—or sacrifice everything for a taste of darkest temptation…

As for my usual rundown: plot is excellent, pacing is well done. Prose is beyond beautiful and dialogue is natural and flows well with the story. Character development is a 12 on a scale of 1 to 10, and I've already talked about how great the world building is in this story.

I can easily give Slave to Sensation a 10 of 10. The series is at a 10 of 10 after book 7, so I'll keep it there as I re-read each of the books in the series.

Book Rating: Slave to Sensation: 10 of 10
Series Rating: Psy-Changelings: 10 of 10

Here are the books in the series:

  1. Slave to Sensation
  2. Visions of Heat
  3. Caressed By Ice
  4. Mine to Possess
  5. Hostage to Pleasure
  6. Branded by Fire
  7. Blaze of Memory
  8. Bonds of Justice
  9. Play of Passion (11/2/10)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum) by Janet Evanovich


Where do I start? I suppose I should start by saying that I once loved the Stephanie Plum series, and I think I'm only hanging on because I so want Stephanie to get together with Ranger, and I'm afraid I'll miss it.

But I'm beginning to face the fact that Ms. Evanovich is just going to keep Stephanie in stasis, as is, forever. She's as much as told us this, there was once a question on her site about how much Stephanie has aged, and she says Stephanie is like Homer Simpson, she stays the same age forever.

I want characters in a series to grow and learn and change, and that's not happening here. Sizzling Sixteen was slightly different than previous books, as the main plot in this book was in saving Vinnie, and there wasn't a lot of bounty hunting. And Connie got involved, which should have given us lots of laughs (remember when they kidnapped the bad guy and took him to the coast to 'rough him up' and none of them could do it?). Unfortunately, even bringing Connie in didn't help. I laughed one time in Sizzling Sixteen, and it was more of a chuckle than a laugh.

There were a few good moments, all involving Ranger, and I'll put them behind spoiler text for those who don't want to be spoiled.

Ranger admits he loves Stephanie, he's a little more touchy feely with her than he has been in the past, and there are a few kisses. But I seriously think this is just teaser fare, designed to get us to buy the next book. We end the book with even more ambivalence than usual between which guy she may end up choosing. (Select the spoiler text to view it.)

Here's the blurb:

Trenton, New Jersey, bounty hunter Stephanie Plum has inherited a “lucky” bottle from her Uncle Pip. Problem is, Uncle Pip didn’t specify if the bottle brought good luck or bad luck....

Vinnie, of Vincent Plum Bail Bonds, has run up a gambling debt of $786,000 with mobster
Bobby Sunflower and is being held until the cash can be produced. Nobody else will pay to get Vinnie back, leaving it up to Stephanie, office manager Connie, and file clerk Lula to raise the money if they want to save their jobs.

Being in the business of tracking down people, Stephanie, Lula, and Connie have an advantage in finding Vinnie. If they can rescue him, it will buy them some time to raise the cash.

Finding a safe place to hide Vinnie turns out to be harder than raising $786,000. Vinnie’s messing up local stoner Walter “Moon Man” Dunphy's vibe and making Stephanie question genetics.

Between a bonds office yard sale that has the entire Burg turning out, a plan that makes Mooner’s Hobbit-Con look sane, and Uncle Pip’s mysterious bottle, they just might raise enough money to save Vinnie and the business from ruin.

Saving Vincent Plum Bail Bonds means Stephanie can keep being a bounty hunter. In Trenton, this involves hunting down a man wanted for polygamy, a Turnpike toilet paper bandit, and a drug dealer with a pet alligator named Mr. Jingles.

The job of bounty hunter comes with perks in the guise of Trenton’s hottest cop, Joe Morelli, and the dark and dangerous, Ranger. With any luck at all, Uncle Pip’s lucky bottle will have Stephanie getting lucky---the only question is . . . with whom?

Sizzling Sixteen . . . so hot, the pages might spontaneously combust!

Oh, the lucky bottle thing? That part was just silly.

As for my usual rundown... the plot is shaky at best, the dialogue is good, pacing has some problems, and there is no character development because we've known these characters a long time.The characters don't grow, they don't change, there is no further development. Nada. Zilch.

It takes a lot of skill to create a book that makes you laugh out loud until you cry - one that makes you lightheaded from lack of oxygen because you're laughing too hard to pull enough oxygen into your body. Janet Evanovich has that talent and that skill. She did it for a long time and I fell in love with her writing, and with her characters. But it's been a long time since I've seen it in the Plum series. There is a fine line between funny and silly, and a few of the last four or five books have gone past silly and into ridiculous. Sizzling Sixteen didn't head completely into ridiculous, so it was a little better than some of the more recent books, but it's still a far cry from the early books. And that's too bad.

I'm giving Sizzing Sixteen a 6 of 10, and I'm dropping the series down to 6 of 10.

One For the Money (1994)
Two For the Dough (1996)
Three to Get Deadly (1997)
Four to Score (1998)
High Five (1999)
Hot Six (2000)
Seven Up (2001)
Hard Eight (2002)
Visions of Sugar Plums (2003) (don't bother)
To the Nines (2003)
Ten Big Ones (2004)
Eleven on Top (2005)
Twelve Sharp (2006)
Plum Lovin' (2007) (don't bother)
Lean Mean Thirteen (2007)
Plum Lucky (January 2008) (don't bother)
Fearless Fourteen (June 2008)
Plum Spooky (January 2009)
Finger Lickin' Fifteen (June 2009)
Sizzling Sixteen (June 2010)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

* Anxiously Awaiting as of late June 2010

The next Harry Dresden book will be titled Ghost Story. I guess that gives us a clue about what happened to Harry. Not what I was hoping for. I guess we'll find out more when Side Jobs is released in October, since there is supposed to be a short story from Karrin's perspective that will give us an idea of what happens next.

I've marked the other new finds in red, in case you're just looking for the new stuff. I've also put an (e) next to the books that have an excerpt out, clicking the (e) will take you to my listing of excerpts.

06/22/10 Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum 16), by Janet Evanovich (e)
06/29/10 Kitty Goes to War (Kitty Norville, Book 8) by Carrie Vaughn (e)
06/29/10 Tracking the Tempest (Jane True book 2) by Nicole Peeler
07/06/10 A Glimpse of Evil (Abby Cooper / Psychic Eye Bk 8) by Victoria Laurie 
07/06/10 Bonds of Justice (Psy/Changeling #8) (Max's Book) by Nalini Singh (e)
07/06/10 Undead and Unfinished (Queen Betsy book 9) by MaryJanice Davidson (e)
07/06/10 Discord's Apple by Carrie Vaughn (e)
07/20/10 Dark and Stormy Knights (Anthology) by PN Elrod, Ilona Andrews, Jim Butcher, Carrie Vaughn, etc.
07/27/10 Shadow Chase (Shadowchasers Bk 2) by Seressia Glass
07/27/10 Eternal Kiss of Darkness, Mencheres' book (Night Huntress World, #2) Jeaniene Frost (e)
07/27/10 Waking the Witch (Savannah) (Women/Otherworld Bk 11) Kelley Armstrong (e)
08/03/10 Death's Excellent Vacation (Anth) by Charlaine Harris, Jeaniene Frost, etc.
08/03/10 Burning Up (Anth)
Nalini Singh, Angela Knight, Virginia Kantra, Meljean Brook (e)
08/03/10 No Mercy (Dark Hunters #19) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
08/24/10 Demon from the Dark (Immortals After Dark Bk 10) by Kresley Cole
08/24/10 Kisses from Hell (Anth) by Kristin Cast, Richelle Mead, Kelley Armstrong, etc.
08/31/10 Sparks (Anya Kalinczyk / Embers book 2) by Laura Bickle
09/07/10 Dexter Is Delicious (Book 5 of the Dexter series) by Jeff Lindsay
09/07/10 Vampire Trinity (Vampire Queen Book 6) by Joey W. Hill (e)
09/07/10 An Artificial Night (October Daye book 3) by Seanan McGuire
09/14/10 Wicked Appetite (Diesel, Book 1) by Janet Evanovich (e)
09/28/10 Venom (Elemental Assassin Bk 3) by Jennifer Estep (e)
09/28/10 Naked Heat (Nikki Heat Bk 2) by Richard Castle (e)
09/28/10 Bayou Moon (The Edge series Book 2), by Ilona Andrews (e)
09/28/10 Double Cross (Justine Jones Disillusionist Book 1) by Carolyn Crane
10/05/10 Never After (Anth) by Laurell K. Hamilton, Yasmine Galenorn, Marjorie M. Liu, etc.
10/26/10 Haunted by Your Touch (Anth) by Shayla Black, Jeaniene Frost, Sharie Kohler, etc.
10/26/10 Side Jobs (Anthology of Dresden short stories) by Jim Butcher
Fall/2010  Blood Rock (Dakota Frost / Skindancer series book two) by Anthony Francis (e)
11/02/10 Marked By The Moon (Nightcreatures #9) by Lori Handeland 
11/02/10 Play of Passion (Psy/Changeling #9, Indigo's Book) by Nalini Singh
11/02/10 Magic at the Gate (Allie Beckstrom Book 5) by Devon Monk (e)
11/30/10 Vicious Grace (Black Sun's Daughter Book 3) by M.L.N. Hanover
11/30/10 Silver Zombie (Delilah Street #4) by Carole Nelson Douglas
11/30/10 Counterfeit Magic (Women of the Otherworld Novella) by Kelley Armstrong
11/30/10 Killing the Cobra-Chinatown Trollop (Felix Gomez-Comic), Mario Acevedo, Alberto Dose
12/28/10 My Fair Succubi (Succubus Diaries Bk 3) by Jill Myles (e)
12/28/10 Deep Kiss of Winter by Kresley Cole and Gena Showalter
12/29/10 Tempest's Legacy (Jane True book 3) by Nicole Peeler
01/04/11 Mercy Blade (Jane Yellowrock, Book 3) by Faith Hunter (e)
01/25/11 River Marked (Mercy Thompson, Book 6) by Patricia Briggs
??/??/11 Dark Angels (Risa Book 1) by Keri Arthur (e)
??/??/?? Eye of the Tempest (Jane True Book Four) by Nicole Peeler
02/01/11 Invincible (Chronicles of Nick Volume 2) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
02/22/11 Archangel's Consort (Guild Hunter Book 3) Nalini Singh
02/22/11 This Side of the Grave (Cat and Bones #5, Night Huntress series) by Jeaniene Frost
02/22/11 Pale Demon (The Hollows Rachel Morgan, Book 9) by Kim Harrison
03/01/11 Blackout (Cal Leandros, Book 6) by Rob Thurman
03/29/11 Ghost Story (Dresden Files, Book 13) by Jim Butcher
03/??/11 Demons at the Gates (Phoenix Chronicles, Book 5) by Lori Handeland
03/??/11 Moon Cursed (Nightcreature Novels, Book 10) by Lori Handeland
Spring/11 Magic Sucks (Kate Daniels, Book 5) by Ilona Andrews (e)
??/??/11 Psy/Changeling #10 (Hawke's book) by Nalini Singh
04/04/11 Unnamed, Caillen's Story (Dark Hunters) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
04/26/11 Mercy Burns (Myth & Magic Bk 2) by Keri Arthur
0/??/11 Dead Letters (Sookie Stackhouse Bk 11) by Charlaine Harris
07/??/11 Eye Spy (Abby Cooper #9) by Victoria Laurie
FALL/11 Alpha and Omega series, Book 3 Patricia Briggs
10/01/11 Alpha (Dark Hunters, Daria's story) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
??/??/12 Unnamed Jaime story (Women/Otherworld Bk 13) Kelley Armstrong
09/01/12 Daemon's Angel (Dark Hunters) by Sherrilyn Kenyon 
??/??/?? Virtual Virgin (Delilah Street #5) by Carole Nelson Douglas
??/??/11 Supernaturals on Vacation (Anthology)

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 to my knowledge they haven't said when, or given a title name. I've listed those series below.

* Caruthers Sisters series by Candace Havens
* Meredith Gentry series by
Laurell K Hamilton
* Daughters of Arianne series by Joey W. Hill
* Bewitching Mysteries series by Madelyn Alt
* Anita Blake series by Laurell K Hamilton 

Below are series I follow, but it is unclear whether there will be more books in the series:
* Bronwyn the Witch series by Candace Havens
* Nadia Stafford series by Kelley Armstrong
* Nature of Desire series by Joey W. Hill

* Felix Gomez series Mario Acevedo
* Spellman series by Lisa Lutz

You can read an excerpt of many of these books, to see my list of excerpts please go here

If someone wants to send me an ARC of one of the books on my Anxiously Awaiting list, 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 send me a digital version at chained lightning at g mail dot com, or to send a hard copy you may contact me at that email address to ask for a shipping address. If you have an ARC you would like to send that is not on my Anxiously Awaiting list I will attempt to read and review it in a timely manner but it may not be placed topmost in my TBR pile. Feel free to email me to see if I'd be interested in reading something, as well. I've found a few authors this way that I may not have read had I not received a review copy from the publisher. And now I'm hooked on a few of those series, just waiting for the next book.