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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.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Back from the Undead (The Bloodhound Files, Book 5) by DD Barant

It's taken me a while to get around to reading Back from the Undead, and I wish I'd gotten to it sooner. Of course, it ends in a cliffhanger, so perhaps it's a good thing there's only around three months until Undead to the World comes out. Here's the blurb for Back from the Undead:

Another work day, another case for the Bloodhound Files. But this time, Jace is truly stumped: How is she, a mere human, supposed to penetrate the dark heart of a child-trafficking ring of pire orphans—one that turns out to be part of a blood-farm operation, in the crime-ridden border city of Vancouver, British Columbia? Jace is in over her head. But with the help of her former lover, Tanaka—whose family is one of the last samurai clans left in Japan—she stands a chance at seeking justice for the condemned children… Until the Yakuza tries to put an end to Jace’s investigation. Jace risks more than death—this time, it’s the fate of her very soul that’s in danger . . .

I both enjoyed and didn't enjoy Back from the Undead. It was another wild ride, but there were some pacing issues this time that had me pushing forward, hoping things got better. Also, I expected some things to be answered from the previous book, and those things were put on hold, so we'll have to wait for another book (or longer, perhaps never) to get those answers. As for the writing elements:
  • The plot was once again original and thought provoking.
  • Pacing had some serious issues in a few places, but was fine for the most of the book.
  • Prose and dialogue were very well done. Love the humor in this series, as well as the off-the-wall descriptions. Well done.
  • Character development continues to be well done.
  • World-building continues to be exceptional.
I'm back and forth on giving this one an 8 or a 9, but because of the cliffhanger, I'm settling at an 8. I'll leave the series at a 9 of 10, though.
  • Book Rating: Back from the Undead: 8 of 10
  • Series Rating: 9 of 10
The books in this series are:
  1. Dying Bites
  2. Death Blows
  3. Killing Rocks
  4. Better Off Undead
  5. Back from the Undead
  6. Undead to the World  (Nov 27, 2012)


Friday, March 23, 2012

By a Thread (Elemental Assassin Book 6) by Jennifer Estep

I assumed Ms. Estep was ready to head into the next story arc, having wrapped up the previous story arc in book five. However, as it turned out, there were still a few things to wrap up, and she manages to wrap them up nicely in By a Thread. She wraps them up so nicely, in fact, that I would worry this was the last book in the series... except we get an excerpt of the next book at the end. Here's the blurb for By a Thread:

When killing people is your job, there’s no such thing as a vacation. 

Then again, how often does an assassin live long enough to enjoy her retirement? In this line of work, you either get lucky or you get dead. And since I destroyed my nemesis Mab Monroe a few weeks ago, all of Ashland’s lowlifes are gunning to make a name for themselves by taking out the lethal Spider—me, Gin Blanco. So I’m leaving behind my beloved barbecue joint and heading south with my baby sister, Bria, to cool my heels in a swanky beach town. Call it a weekend of fun in the sun. But when a powerful vampire with deadly elemental magic threatens an old friend of Bria’s, it looks like I’ll have to dig my silverstone knives out of my suitcase after all. Complicating matters further is the reappearance of Detective Donovan Caine, my old lover. But Donovan is the least of my problems. Because this time, the danger is hot on my trail, and not even my elemental Ice and Stone magic may be enough to save me from getting buried in the sand—permanently.

If I'd been asked to rate By a Thread at the halfway point, I'd have likely been forced to give it a 5 or 6, which would have hurt because I adore this series. Sometimes a road trip story works, sometimes it doesn't... and the beginning of this one didn't work for me. However, it does get better, and had mostly redeemed itself by the end.

As for the writing elements:
  • The plot was okay, but not as good as I've come to expect from this author. Still, for the things she wanted to tie up, it was a nice way to do it.
  • Pacing had problems. I put the book down for three days before picking it back up at one point.
  • Prose and dialogue were exceptionally well done.
  • Character development is always good with this author.
  • World-building was consistent with previous books in the series.
As I said, the last half of the book redeems most of the first half of the book. I'm giving By a Thread a 7 of 10. The series will remain a 10 of 10. I adore Gin Blanco and her eclectic friends.
  • Book Rating: By a Thread: 7 of 10
  • Series Rating: 10 of 10

1. Spider's Bite
2. Web of Lies (May 25, 2010)
3. Venom (September 28, 2010) 
4. Tangled Threads  (April 26, 2011)
5. Spider's Revenge  (September 27, 2011)
6. By a Thread (Feb 28, 2012)
7. Widow's Web (Aug 21, 2012)


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Virtual Virgin (Delilah Street Bk 5) by Carole Nelson Davis


I wasn't sure where Virtual Virgin was going to go, as the last book in this series left so many things up in the air.

To be honest, I'm not sure what keeps drawing me back to Delilah Street. The first two books in the series were a 5 of 10 for me, and the third and fourth were a 7 of 10. And yet, there is something so bizarre about the settings, so intriguing about the idea of the silver in old films being used as a supernatural / metaphysical medium, I just keep reading.

There were a few rewards in Virtual Virgin -- we finally learn a bit about Delilah's mom. However, as these things so often do in books, the answers we get just give us even more questions. Yes, I think it's probably enough that I'll be reading the next book, too.

Here's the blurb:

She’s Like a Virgin . . . Simulated for the Very First Time

For a red-blooded male, Las Vegas offers a virtual smorgasbord of temptation: sexy showgirls, vampy vampires, zombie starlets, you name it. But paranormal investigator Delilah Street isn’t worried about losing her man to these vixens. Especially when the one woman with a soft spot for the guy also has a hard-shelled exterior. . . .

She’s a robot—or a CinSim, to be exact—a near-perfect simulation of the silver-metal robot Maria from the classic science fiction movie Metropolis. Part innocent teenage actress, part depraved sex goddess, the new Maria is hooked on Delilah’s partner, Ric, who raised her from the dead. She also happens to be the perfect secret weapon for a demonic drug lord. Which could be one hell of a problem. Delilah’s not the jealous type, but this tin-can temptress must be stopped—even if it forces Delilah to forge a dangerous alliance with her wicked mirror-twin, Lilith. If robo-girl goes ballistic, every player in Vegas loses. . . .

As for the writing elements:
  • The plot was one part predictable and two parts surprise.
  • Pacing was better than in previous books, but still not great.
  • Prose and dialogue were well done.
  • Character development is a bit spotty and I'm not sure stays all that consistent between books. Some of that is because of the whole change and growth thing, but not all of it.
  • World-building is imaginative and unique and I love it most of the time -- but occasionally it can be just a tad bit confusing. 
Virtual Virgin gets the highest rating I've given a book in this series,  but the series rating will remain a 7 of 10.

If you are looking for something different, and if you can handle a large cast of characters and some very complex world building, this series is a unique take on Urban Fantasy.
    • Book Rating: Virtual Virgin: 8 of 10
    • Series Rating: 7 of 10

    1. Dancing with Werewolves
    2. Brimstone Kiss
    3. Vampire Sunrise
    4. Silver Zombie
    5. Virtual Virgin


    Saturday, January 14, 2012

    Shiver Trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater


    I read the Shiver Trilogy because my nine year old daughter asked me if she could read it, and I thought it might be a bit too old for her.

    I expected to like the story, as it seems fairly popular. However, I wasn't really all that impressed.

    As I was reading Shiver, I kept wanting her to get on with the story. It rambles and swerves and goes off on side tangents and it just didn't work for me. At the end of the book, there is a good chance I'd have not gone onto the second if I weren't reading this for my daughter. Though, to be honest, by the end of the book I'd already decided that I would rather she wait a few years to read it.

    Linger was a much better book, and I began to get more involved in the characters.  It still had slow moments, but all in all, I enjoyed Linger.

    And then comes Forever. I mostly enjoyed Forever, right up until the last twenty percent or so.  It was predictable, I knew how the author was going to play it, almost exactly.  It felt like a cheap way for her to create as much drama around the final events as possible, to be honest.

    But I didn't expect her to weasel out of an ending the way she did. She didn't give us a satisfactory ending. At all. She left pretty much everything up in the air, which made me wish I hadn't started the series at all.

    What did I tell me daughter? I don't believe in censoring books (with exceptions, she's not reading my erotica books, but she doesn't have access to them, so she doesn't realize she's being censored). Hmmm, let me try this again: If my daughter's friends are reading a book then I have a choice of letting her read it and keeping the conversation open so I can get my two cents worth in about the sensitive bits, or censoring it and letting her friends tell her about it (and there is no telling which parts they will feel are the juicy bits), or risking that she'll borrow it from a friend and read it and then won't be able to ask me questions because she wasn't supposed to have read it. So I told her the truth -- it's not that great of a series, it moves slow, and I didn't like the way it ended at all. I told her she can read it if she wants, but that I don't really think she'll like it. I warned her that if she decides to read it, that the girl and the boy sleep together and do a lot more than just kiss, but I also assured her that it doesn't detail more than the kisses, it just lets us know they do more. She's chosen not to read it, for now.

    For the other parents deciding if they want their child to read this, here are some details -- minor spoilers, but they won't spoil the basic plot.  Her parents aren't around much, they seem to be the flighty creative sort, so she's left to her own devices much of the time. The boy sleeps with her, in her bed, every night for more than a month, but nothing much happens for a long time. He is ultra careful around her, and we find out later it's because he doesn't want her to see him as an "animal", so he doesn't want to give in to those urges. They do have sex in the first book though, and then they have an argument about it the next day, where he accuses her of having sex with him just to get even with her parents. She didn't, and she is hurt by the accusation.  Throughout the series we are only told when they have sex a few times, the rest of the time their sleeping together is more about intimacy and closeness than about sexual energy. However, when they can't sleep together, they often can't sleep without the other. Protection is only mentioned when they get caught and her mother asks if they used protection and she says they did. On the good side, education and school and learning is given high marks. Both kids are responsible about where their life is heading, and responsible for taking care of their friends.  The sex and kissing isn't a huge part of it, and for the most part it shows kids who are making plans for the rest of their life, and being very responsible as they attempt to maneuver their way through the challenges thrown at them in the books.

    She is seventeen and he is eighteen, so I'm not sure how they got away with allowing a minor to have sex.

    As for the writing elements:
    • The plot had so much potential, but sadly wasn't really actualized.
    • Pacing was horrible.
    • Prose and dialogue were mostly okay.
    • Character development was very well done. Perhaps too much in places.
    • World-building was exceptionally well done.
    • Book Rating: Shiver: 5 of 10
    • Book Rating: Linger: 9 of 10
    • Book Rating: Forever: 6 of 10
    • Series Rating: 6 of 10
    I would feel comfortable with my daughter reading this around 13 or after, I think. Before then, I will allow it, since at least two of her friends have read (or are reading) it, but I don't think it's a good book for her age. Still, my mom censoring my books didn't work, and I doubt it will work for my daughter, either. So I prefer to keep communication open, and that means allowing it and talking about it as she reads it. I am thankful she chose not to read it, though.