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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 29, 2011

Kitty's Big Trouble (Kitty Norville, Book 9) by Carrie Vaughn


Kitty's Big Trouble gets a bit of a slow start, but once the action begins it's one of those can't-put-the-book-down-for-any-reason reads.

Here is the blurb:

Kitty Norville is back and in more trouble than ever. Her recent run-in with werewolves traumatized by the horrors of war has made her start wondering how long the US government might have been covertly using werewolves in combat. Have any famous names in our own history might have actually been supernatural? She's got suspicions about William Tecumseh Sherman. Then an interview with the right vampire puts her on the trail of Wyatt Earp, vampire hunter.

But her investigations lead her to a clue about enigmatic vampire Roman and the mysterious Long Game played by vampires through the millennia. That, plus a call for help from a powerful vampire ally in San Francisco, suddenly puts Kitty and her friends on the supernatural chessboard, pieces in dangerously active play. And Kitty Norville is never content to be a pawn. . . .

I adore The Monkey King, and I'm very familiar with most of his legends. I also speak a little Chinese, and I've spent a decent amount of time in China. So the legends Kitty is learning about in the story, I already know. And I loved the way Carrie Vaughn captured the essence of Monkey. His mischievousness, his love of the fight for the sake of the fight -- the dance of it, and yet his reticence at striking a fatal wound.

Oh, and Cormac is back. I love that he's got their back again. I can't wait to read his story, it's supposed to be in Kitty's Greatest Hits, due out in August.

Kitty and Ben are still a solid couple. I had concerns about how Cormac was going to adjust to them when he came back, but it's fine. I'm glad for that -- it's great to have the three of them together again, even if Cormac has changed a great deal.

I have no idea why anyone would sign off on this title, though. Kitty's Big Trouble makes no sense for the contents of the book. We've had Kitty goes to Washington... this could have been Kitty goes to San Fran Chinatown. Or Kitty goes Underground. Or Kitty makes even more friends and allies.  But Kitty's Big Trouble? Ack.

As for the writing elements:
  • The plot was great and did a lot to further various plot arcs running through the series.
  • Pacing had issues in the beginning but then went full blast once things get moving.
  • Prose and dialogue were fine.
  • Character development was great - especially what Ms. Vaughn did with the various legends she brought into the picture.
  • World building was also well done.

I wavered between a 9 and 10, and I'm settling on a 10. If I weren't so familiar with the legends I think the story would have been an 8 or possibly a 9, but being familiar with them really brought things to life for me. The series has been a 10 of 10 in the past and will remain there.
  • Book Rating: Kitty's Big Trouble: 10 of 10
  • Series Rating: 10 of 10
The books in this series are:

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 (2011)
-. Kitty's Greatest Hits (Aug 2011)
10. Kitty Steals the Show (2012)


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Review: Smokin' Seventeen (Stephanie Plum series) by Janet Evanovich


I've rated the last couple of books in the Stephanie Plum series down in the six and seven range, which is a shame since books one through nine in the series were rated up in the nines and tens. Some of those first books had me laughing so hard I almost peed myself.

There are a few laugh out loud moments in Smokin' Seventeen, but it doesn't really compare to the earlier books that way, as none of them had me rushing for the bathroom while laughing... but there is a plot in this book that is not totally ludicrous. And there is plenty of Ranger and plenty of Morelli. I had this whole theory about the insertion of a third guy that was totally wrong, but that's okay. It was a good story, so much better than the last half dozen or so offerings in this series.

Here's the blurb:

Where there’s smoke there’s fire, and no one knows this better than New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum.

Dead bodies are showing up in shallow graves on the empty construction lot of Vincent Plum Bail Bonds. No one is sure who the killer is, or why the victims have been offed, but what is clear is that Stephanie’s name is on the killer’s list.

Short on time to find evidence proving the killer’s identity, Stephanie faces further complications when her family and friends decide that it’s time for her to choose between her longtime off-again-on-again boyfriend, Trenton cop Joe Morelli, and the bad boy in her life, security expert Ranger. Stephanie’s mom is encouraging Stephanie to dump them both and choose a former high school football star who’s just returned to town. Stephanie’s sidekick, Lula, is encouraging Stephanie to have a red-hot boudoir “bake-off.” And Grandma Bella, Morelli’s old-world grandmother, is encouraging Stephanie to move to a new state when she puts “the eye” on Stephanie.

With a cold-blooded killer after her, a handful of hot men, and a capture list that includes a dancing bear and a senior citizen vampire, Stephanie’s life looks like it’s about to go up in smoke.

Unfortunately, I guessed who the killer was early on in the book, but I wasn't terribly annoyed that Stephanie didn't figure it out. As readers we have a smaller pool of people to choose from than Stephanie does, so it was okay that I knew and she didn't.

I'm going to use spoiler text to discuss where the series might be going... Janet Evanovich seems to be trying to wind Stephanie up to some sort of decision in the whole Morelli versus Ranger thing. It almost sounds like Stephanie was saying a few times in this book that if Ranger were really an option, she'd choose Ranger. But we know that since he has made it clear he's not relationship material in the past, he's not actually an option other than fun time in the sack. Morelli isn't as much on my nerves as he used to be - he's not trying to change who she is anymore, and he's more accepting of her choices. She and Morelli seemed to be having a conversation towards the end that would be the first stepping stone towards them becoming exclusive again, and if that happens then no more fun sex with Ranger. The books with Morelli supposedly don't sell as well, so is JE really going to put the two of them back together? And just who does Stephanie think is going to go on a trip with her? Odds are it's neither of the guys at all, based on previous cliffhangers. (Select the spoiler text to view it.)

We only have five months to wait for Explosive Eighteen. I originally thought perhaps there was a specific reason the books needed to be almost back to back, but after reading Smokin' Seventeen I'm betting the marketing department decided they should shift the yearly schedule to the fall.

As for the writing elements:
  • There is an actual plot, and a few subplots, that aren't totally rediculous.
  • Pacing was well done.
  • Prose and dialog were fine.
  • There was also some character development this time around, with Stephanie learning from a few past mistakes, and realizing she is a better bounty hunter now than she was a year ago.
 All in all, Smokin' Seventeen was an enjoyable read. I was pleasantly surprised.

  • Book Rating: Smokin' Seventeen: 9 of 10
  • Series Rating: 7 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) 
Smokin' Seventeen (July 2011)
Explosive Eighteen (November 2011)

Explosive Eighteen out in five months?

Apparently, Janet Evanovich has already written Explosive Eighteen and it is due to be released November 22.

I'm just diving into Smokin' Seventeen, but if I had to guess, I'd say that we're probably going to have some sort of cliffhanger ending so the decision was made to put the second one out sooner rather than later.

Or, I could be wrong and they might just be shifting the yearly releases to the fall instead of the summer. I'll probably have a better idea once I've finished Seventeen. I've had an idea all along that the addition of a third guy will force Ranger to make a decision. We'll see...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

* Anxiously Awaiting as of mid June 2011

I've marked the new finds in red, in case you're just looking for the new stuff. If there is new information - a link to Amazon, a release date, an excerpt, or something has changed, then it's red.  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.

I'm really looking forward to Kitty's Big Trouble. My most exciting find when I put together the list was the title of the next Rachel Morgan book - A Perfect Blood. You can read Kim Harrison's announcement here. I was also pleased to hear there will be a Kate and Curran (Kate Daniels, Ilona Andrews) novella out this fall.

06/21/11 Smokin' Seventeen (Stephanie Plum #17) by Janet Evanovich (e)
06/28/11 Kitty's Big Trouble (Kitty Norville Book Nine) by Carrie Vaughn (e)
06/28/11 Crave The Moon (Nightcreature Novels, Book 11) by Lori Handeland (e)
07/05/11 Vampire Instinct (Vampire Queen Book 7) by Joey W. Hill (e)
07/05/11 Naked City: Tales of Urban Fantasy by Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs, Melissa Marr, etc
07/05/11 Vision Impossible (Psychic Eye Mystery Book 9) by Victoria Laurie
07/12/11 Blood Work: An Original Hollows Graphic Novel by Kim Harrison
07/26/11 Ghost Story (Dresden Files, Book 13) by Jim Butcher (e)
07/26/11 Spell Bound (Savannah) (Women/Otherworld Bk 12) Kelley Armstrong (e)
07/26/11 Shadow Fall (Shadowchaser book 3) by Seressia Glass (e)
07/26/11 Eye of the Tempest (Jane True Book 4) by Nicole Peeler
08/02/11 Home Improvement: Undead Edition by Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs, Melissa Marr, etc.
08/02/11 Retribution (Dark Hunters #20) by Sherrilyn Kenyon (e)
08/16/11 Kitty's Greatest Hits (Kitty Norville series) by by Carrie Vaughn
08/23/11 The Renfield Syndrom (Rhiannon's Law series book 2) by J.A. Saare (e)
08/30/11 One Grave at a Time  (Cat & Bones #6, Night Huntress) by Jeaniene Frost
??/??/11 Demons at the Gates (Phoenix Chronicles, Book 5) by Lori Handeland
09/06/11 One Salt Sea (October Daye, Book 5) by Seanan McGuire
09/06/11 Archangel's Blade (Guild Hunter series) by Nalini Singh (e)
09/20/11 Heat Rises (Nikki Heat book 3) by Richard Castle (e)
??/??/11 Blood Rock (Dakota Frost / Skindancer series book two) by Anthony Francis (e)
09/27/11 Spider's Revenge (Elemental Assassin, Book 5) by Jennifer Estep (e)
09/27/11 Darkness Unbound (Dark Angel series - new Risa books) by Keri Arthur (e)
10/04/11 Better Off Undead (The Bloodhound Files book 4) by DD Barant 
10/04/11 In Charm's Way (A Bewitching Mystery #8) by Madelyn Alt
10/04/11 Angels of Darkness by Ilona Andrews, Nalini Singh, Meljean Brook, Sharon Shinn
10/04/11 Down These Strange Streets by Patricia Briggs, Carrie Vaughn, Charlaine Harris, Diana Gabaldon, etc.
10/18/11 Double Dexter (Dexter book 6) by Jeff Lindsay (e)
10/25/11 Darkness Rising (Dark Angel/Risa book 2) by Keri Arthur
10/25/11 The Bite Before Christmas Cat and Bones short by Jeaniene Frost and Argeneau short Lynsay Sands
10/??/11 The Mam­moth Book of Ghost Romance (Anth) with an Elemental Assassin story by Jennifer Estep (e)
Fall/11 Unnamed Kate and Curran Novella from the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews (e)
11/01/11 Magic on the Line (Allie Beckstrom Book 7) by Devon Monk
11/22/11 Explosive Eighteen (Stephanie Plum) by Janet Evanovich
11/29/11 Killing Rites (Black Sun's Daughter Book 1) by M.L.N. Hanover (e)
11/29/11 Virtual Virgin (Delilah Street #5) by Carole Nelson Douglas
11/29/11 Fate's Edge (The Edge series) by Ilona Andrews
12/06/11 Bound by the Vampire Queen (Vampire Queen Book 8) by Joey W. Hill
12/??/11 Unnamed (Justine Jones Disillusionist Book 3) by Carolyn Crane
01/03/12 Raven Cursed (Jane Yellowrock, Book 4) by Faith Hunter  
01/10/12 Lothaire (Immortals After Dark book 12) by Kresley Cole
01/31/12 By a Thread (Elemental Assassin book 6) by Jennifer Estep
02/07/12  Fair Game (Alpha and Omega Book 3) by Patricia Briggs
03/??/12 A Perfect Blood (Rachel Morgan / Hollows book 16) by Kim Harrison
03/??/12 Unnamed Cal book #7 by Rob Thurman
SPRING/12 Unnamed Vlad and Leila book (Night Prince series #1) by Jeaniene Frost
??/??/12 Liquid Fire (Dakota Frost / Skindancer series book3 ) by Anthony Francis (e)
??/??/12 Tempest’s Fury (Jane True Book 5) by Nicole Peeler 
??/??/12 Unnamed Jaime story (Women/Otherworld Bk 13) Kelley Armstrong
??/??/12 Kitty Steals the Show (Kitty Norville Book 10) by Carrie Vaughn
09/01/12 Daemon's Angel (Dark Hunters) by Sherrilyn Kenyon 
09/01/12 Ashes of Honor (October Daye, Book 6) by Seanan McGuire 
Spring/13  Unnamed Mercy Thompson Book 7 by Patricia Briggs
09/01/13 The Chimes at Midnight (October Daye, Book 7) by Seanan McGuire
10/01/13 Alpha (Dark Hunters, Daria's story) by Sherrilyn Kenyon

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.
* Meredith Gentry series by Laurell K Hamilton (taking a few years off)

* Cal Leandros series by Rob Thurman
* Bronwyn the Witch series by Candace Havens (teaser in email about upcoming news)
* Caruthers Sisters series by Candace Havens (teaser in email about upcoming news)
* Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris
* Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews
* Psy/Changeling series by Nalini Singh
* 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:

* Nadia Stafford series by Kelley Armstrong
* Nature of Desire series by Joey W. Hill

* Daughters of Arianne series by Joey W. Hill
* Felix Gomez series Mario Acevedo
* Spellman series by Lisa Lutz (Spring 2012?)
* Anya Kalinczyk / Embers series by Laura Bickle
* Succubus Diaries by Jill Myles
* Master of None series by Sonya Bateman

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 -- and now I'm hooked on a few of those series, just waiting for the next book.

Monday, June 13, 2011

* Excerpts, First Chapters, and Sneak Peeks

Some of the books on my Anxiously Awaiting list have excerpts available at the author's or publisher's websites. I've listed the excerpts and snippets below, as well as a link to my review where I've had access to an ARC.

I'm pretty excited about some of the excerpts I found this time around - they may be teasers, but they are good teasers.

I would love to have an ARC for any of the books on this list, or on my Anxiously Awaiting list. See my Review Policy for more information about sending books for review.
In case you haven't read them yet, there are also some excerpts up for books released in 2010, and 2011 to date: