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AUTHOR SEARCH lists all authors reviewed on this Blog. CREATURE SEARCH groups all of the titles/series by their creature types. The RATINGS page explains the violence, sensuality, and humor (V-S-H) ratings codes found at the beginning of each Blog review and groups all titles/series by their Ratings. The PLOT TYPES page explains the SMR-UF-CH-HIS codes found at the beginning of each Blog review and groups all titles/series by their plot types. On this Blog, when you see a title, an author's name, or a word or phrase in pink type, this is a link. Just click on the pink to go to more information about that topic.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

UPDATE! Mur Lafferty's SHAMBLING GUIDES SERIES

UPDATE!

I have just updated a previous post for Mur Lafferty with a review of Ghost Train to New Orleans, the second novel in her SHAMBLING GUIDES SERIES.

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

UPDATE! Seanan McGuire's INCRYPTID SERIES


UPDATE!

I have just updated a previous post for Seanan McGuire with a review of Half-Off Ragnarok, the third novel in her InCryptid Series.


Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Monday, April 14, 2014

UPDATE! Carie Vaughn's GOLDEN AGE SERIES


UPDATE!


I have just updated a previous post for Carrie Vaughn with a review of Dreams of the Golden Age, the second novel in her GOLDEN AGE SERIES.

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Lauren M. Roy: NIGHT OWLS SERIES

Author:  Lauren M. Roy
Series:  NIGHT OWLS   
Plot Type:  Urban Fantasy (UF) with elements of Horror
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality1; Humor—2-3 
Publisher and Titles:  Ace
          Night Owls (3/2014)  
          Ghost Town (due in early 2015; title may change)

            WORLD-BUILDING            
     Roy has created a fresh and inventive world built around some familiar supernatural types, but with the addition of a very non-traditional group. Instead of using a single leading character or even a pair, she begins by giving us four (two women and two men) and then adds a fifth (another man) at the end of book 1. Some reviewers are calling this a read-alike for Anne Bishop, Patricia Briggs, and Seanan McGuire. I would agree that this is the type of story that those authors write, but Roy is not by any means in the ballpark with them (at least not yet) as far as quality of writing. The series definitely has potential, but based on book 1, it has some rough edges that need tending to in future books.

     In this world, the supernatural population includes vampires, demons, and Jackals (aka Creeps). The vampires keep a low profile, drinking only donated blood and keeping their true identities hidden from the mortal world. These vamps have supersonic speed and strength, are extremely sensitive to sunlight and holy water, and sleep during the day. The method by which a human is changed into a vampire is much more gory than the traditional process. (It is described in detail in the first novel, so I won't discuss it here.)

     The demons also live among humans without showing their true natures. In the first novel, we meet a pair of lesbian succubi who live in a lovely suburban home and mind their own business, helping out their vampire friend when necessary. 

     The Creeps are the villains of this world because they prey openly on humans, giving the rest of the supernaturals a bad name. The Creeps are carnivorous and are particularly fond of chowing down on virgins of either gender. They also smell really bad ("Blood and rot and crawling things," Night Owls, p. 18) In general, they travel in small groups and live in "nests." They have their own guttural language; use runes as part of their magic; and are extremely sensitive to sun, holy water, rowan wood, and silver. Here, one character explains what is known about them: "We're not quite certain what the Creeps are, at heart. They take the bodies of their victims, usually after death, but not always. They've been able to turn the living as well, Whether the original personality remains seems to depend on the circumstances of their turning. Some retain pieces of themselves, some don't….We don't know precisely what it is that enters the bodies. Some kind of wraith, perhaps, or lesser demons too weak to have forms of their own. But once it's done, the change is permanent. They'll go around, killing indiscriminately, feasting on flesh and causing a panic." (Night Owls, p. 40) Creeps can make themselves look human or they can go completely animalistic: "heads completely canine, covered in short black fur, their bodies bulging with muscles and twisted as they [lope]...on all fours." (Night Owls, p. 214) Generally though, they walk on two feet, but allow their heads to turn into fanged muzzles with furry, pointy earsall covered up by nondescript hoodies.

     The main enemy of the Creeps is the Brotherhood, an ancient cult-like organization that has, for centuries, battled the Creeps and other Monsters in an attempt to eliminate them entirely. Lately, the Creeps have not been having much luck turning humans, so with that problem and with the Brotherhood constantly on their trail, their numbers have dropped considerably over the past few decades. Members of the Brotherhood are well-trained Hunters who use a variety of weapons, tools, and magic to defeat the Creeps. In general, the Brotherhood doesn't bother the vamps or the demons unless one of them goes rogue and harms humans. 

     The series is set in the town of Edgewood, which appears to be on the East Coast within a few hours driving time of Boston. Instead of a single hero or heroine, Roy has put together an ensemble cast. The point of view switches back and forth among three of them: Val, Chaz, and Ellie. Here are the main characters who are introduced in book 1:

    > Valerie (Val) McTeague: A vampire born in the 1940s, she spent much of her life as a Hunter, but left after a battle with a nest of Creeps from which she emerged as the only survivor. Currently, she owns Night Owls, a book store in Edgewood.

    > Charles (Chaz): He is Val's sardonic, slacker Renfield and is also secretly in love with her. Chaz is not like the original Renfield in Bram Stoker's novel. He is Val's personal assistant, works as the manager of Night Owls, and handles all of her daytime affairs. She does not drink his blood, and he does not want to become a vampire (at least not in book 1). Most of the humor comes in the verbal interaction between Chaz and Val and between Chaz and various book-store patrons and workers.

    > Eleanor (Ellie) Garrett: She is a teenager who was raised by Father Value, a renegade Brother who was thrown out of the Brotherhood after he tried to use fighting methods that they didn't condone. Ellie always thought that she was an orphan, but she learns differently in book 1. She learned all sorts of magical skills during her years with Father Value, and consequently, she is a skilled fighter, both with her weapons and her magic.

    > Cavale: He is a powerful warlock, also raised by Father Value and is a few years older than Ellie. He walked away from Father Value and Ellie when he couldn't stomach Father Value's indifference to sacrificing the lives of innocents if those deaths meant that he could kill more Monsters.

    > Sunny and Lia: Lesbian succubi pair who can change their appearance at will. Their natural demonic appearance is traditionally demonic and fierce. They own a bakery next door to Night Owls.

    > Justin: He starts off as a human college student but then becomes something else after his adventures in book 1.  

     There is also a group of vampires in Boston who turn up in book 1. Their second in commandKatyaplays a minor role in book 1 and will no doubt be back to annoy Val and torture Chaz in future books.

            NOVEL 1:  Night Owls              
     As in all series, the opening novel must carry a heavy expositional load. Mostly, we meet the large cast of characters and learn enough about their back stories to differentiate among them. Additionally, the author doles out information about the Creeps: their abilities and weaknesses, their history, and their physical appearance. All of this world-building slows down the pace a bit, making the build-up of dramatic tension spotty, at best. At the beginning, the story line follows two courses: Val's adventures and Ellie's adventures. Soon, though, they converge and remain together for the rest of the book.  

     As the story opens, Val is living a contented, peaceful life as a bookstore owner in a college town when she gets a whiff of a Creep. When she tracks down the Creep (a woman), Val learns that she has brought some of her Creepy friends to Edgewood. Meanwhile, Ellie is on the run from a Creep who is determined to steal an ancient book from her. Ellie's mentor, Father Value, has just been murdered trying to keep the Creeps from getting the book, and Ellie is determined that he won't have died in vain. Eventually, Val and Ellie and the book all wind up in the rare books room at Night Owls, where Val determines that the book is written in Creepscrawlthe name she gives to the written language of the Creeps.

     The Creeps soon come for the book, and there are several bloody battles between the Creeps and the assorted good guys as the story line advances. Just after Val acquires the book, one of her employees (Justin) opens the book  and sets off a ward that takes some of the crucial parts of the book and plants them in his brain. Now, Val and her team must figure out how to deal with Justin, the missing parts of the book, and the Creeps who want it all.

     Along with this primary story line, each character has his or her own personal story thread running alongside. Val has her horrible memories of her final Hunter battle and the loss of her friends. Chaz has his hidden love for Val and his feelings of inadequacies as her human protector/advisor/friend. Ellie has lost her mentor and also her purpose in life. Father Value raised her to be a survivor, not a savior, but now that she has these new friends, she doesn't think that she can go back to being so cold-hearted. Cavale is seemingly content with his new life, but obviously has feelings for Ellie. Justin is a wild card at this point. He is a nerdy virgin who gets mixed up in magical affairs that are far beyond his understanding, but by the end of the book, he finds himself on the side of the supernaturals for the long term. One strong point about the book is that it doesn't just go from battle to battle. In between the inevitable conflicts, we watch these people leading their "normal" lives: dealing with prickly interpersonal relationships, engaging in verbal sparring, and just trying to get along the best they can in a very complicated world. One of my favorite scenes involves Val working desperately to neaten up her living room before the big, bad vamps from Boston drop in for an unannounced visit while Chaz pulls out the dainty porcelain tea set and fills the teapot with fresh pig blood for their guests. Like I said…just trying to live a normal life.

     The story ends with the requisite showdown battle, but this one is just a bit too neat—especially because it hinges on a handy deus ex machina inserted by the author so that Val and Ellie and their friends live to fight another day (and in another book).  

     The mythology has some rough spots. For example, even though Ellie has been fighting the Creeps for years alongside a highly knowledgeable member of the Brotherhood, the two succubi tell her things about the Creeps that she never knew beforean improbability. In another scene, the succubi assure Val and her allies that their demonic wards will hold back the Creeps with no assistance needed from Ellie and Cavale. Then, on the next page, one of the succubi tells them that the wards will hold for awhile, but not for the whole night. Sounds like a direct contradiction to me. Here's another contradiction: in an early chapter, Val has trouble taking down a single Creep, but later in the book, she rampages through hordes of Creeps with no trouble whatsoever.

     The fact that there are so many main characters means that we get only bits and pieces of their back stories, motivations, and personalities, although Roy does a decent job with the characterization given the limits of plot time and line space. Basically, this novel introduces us to everyone and sets up the series. In the epilogue, we get the catalyst for the second book.

     Even though this first book had a few draggy spots and several bumpy parts, I do look forward to reading the next book to see where Roy will go with her story now that all of the world-building is in place. Click HERE to read an excerpt.

Friday, April 11, 2014

UPDATE! Kira Brady's DEADGLASS TRILOGY

UPDATE!


I have just updated a previous post for Kira Brady with a review of Hearts of Chaos, the third and FINAL novel in her DEADGLASS TRILOGY.

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mary Behre: TIDEWATER SERIES

Author:  Mary Behre
Series:  TIDEWATER SERIES   
Plot Type:  Soul Mate Romance (SMR)     
Ratings:  Violence3; Sensuality3; Humor—2 
Publisher and Titles:  Berkley Sensation
          Spirited (3/2014)
          Guarded (8/2014)  

            WORLD-BUILDING            

     The heroines of the series are three sisters who were separated in childhood after the death of their parents. Each sister has a different psychic talent: Juliana can communicate with the dead; Shelley can communicate with animals; and Hannah can do something else (which is not explained in the first book). The series story arc centers on the reunion of the three siblings, who are now in their twenties. In each book, one of the sisters finds her soul mate and solves a mystery that puts both her and her lover in danger.  

            NOVEL 1:  Spirited              
     Juliana (Jules) Scott has just moved back to Tidewater, Virginia, to run her adopted parents' flower shop. One night, she goes to her college reunion, loses her keys and her cell phone, and tries to reach her parents' apartment by sneaking in through the open window of a neighbor. That neighbor is Seth English, a police detective, who nearly arrests Jules for breaking and entering. 

     Seth is investigating a series of jewelry heists and two related murders, and as the story struggles along, Jules is drawn into the investigation through a mishmash of improbable events. Predictably, Jules and Seth fall quickly in love, although she is afraid to tell him that she can talk to ghosts, particularly since the ghost of a murdered woman has implicated her in the robberies that Seth is investigating. Jules refers to her ability to see and talk to ghosts as her "crift," which we eventually learn is a cross between a curse and a gift.  

     This mediocre romantic mystery is full of plot holes, awkward dialogue (particularly in the love scenes), unbelievable coincidences, and melodramatic interior monologues. In addition to the plot problems, the characters are cardboard flat, and the lovers lack any spark of chemistry between them. I would rate the quality of the writing to the category romances published by Harlequin. I'm surprised that Berkeley Sensation is publishing something so unpolished and amateurish. 

Here are a few of the plot problems:
     When Juliana loses her keys and can't get into her apartment, why does she go into the next-door neighbor's window when she could just pound on her parents' window and wake them up? Here is an example of a major continuity error that is related to that scene: In the first scene of the book, the two apartments are adjacent to one another (making the windows of each apartment available to Jules from her position on the fire escape), but in a later scene (p. 254), the apartments are across the hall from one other (forcing Jules to run stealthily back and forth across the hall from one apartment to the other). 

     Almost from the first time they meet, Seth calls Jules "precious": "Use your key next time, precious." (p. 14) First, he's using the word as a nickname, so it should be capitalized. Second, it's kind of creepy.

     The Prada purse that is the key to the mystery was a gift from Jules' ex-husband. She has never before taken the purse out of its delivery box until tonight, but it turns out to be the exact same purse of a woman she bumps into at the reunion. Then, after never carrying the purse before, she continues to carry it all during this story. Why?…No particular reason except that the author needs it as an on-going plot device.

     The purpose of the side story of Sam, the homeless man, is obvious from the start. We know that he will die saving Jules. It's just a matter of seeing just how he does it. (Really, this is not a spoiler. I promise that you will predict Sam's fate as soon as you read his first scene.)

     Inexplicably, the primary ghost changes her clothes (and her hair color and style) for every scene, and we get a full description each time.

     When Jules suggests that they have dinner at her favorite Greek restaurant, Seth doesn't tell her that it is his family's restaurant and instead tries to sneak them in without being seen by any family members. Gee…I wonder why that doesn't work.

     The love scenes (mostly passionate kissing scenes) are stereotypically Harlequin all the way: He ravages her mouth; he plunders her mouth; he nibbles; they hiss in pleasure; she was "a throbbing mass of aching need and desire." The dialogue in these scenes is consistently forced and unnatural.

     After spending the entire story shrieking unintelligibly at Jules, the primary ghost waits until the very end to acquire the ability to explain to Jules (and to the reader) just what happened to her. Then, she voices her clues to Jules in the form of a Medieval riddle…again, for no apparent reason. There is no Medieval connection to the crimes or the characters, so why does the author throw in this ridiculously archaic plot element?  

     At one point, Jules sees a dead person being dragged off by Death Bearers, who supposedly chase after evil souls, but the person they are dragging off turns out not to be very evil, so why are the Death Bearers after him? And why introduce the Death Bearers when we never see or hear from them again?

     I have eaten lots of moussaka in various traditional Greek restaurants, and none of them had peppers as an ingredient. (I know--that's a petty nit-pick, but still…)

     The details of Jules' sad story about her ex-husband having her arrested just don't ring true. I found the entire story impossible to believe.

     At a crucial point in the story, Jules dials 9-1-1 and gets put on hold. Really?

     For all of these reasons, I can't recommend this novel. Perhaps the author will do a better job on the second one, which will feature the second sister, Shelley, and Seth's partner, Devon (Dev) Jones.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Jennifer Harlow: MIDNIGHT MAGIC MYSTERIES

Author:  Jennifer Harlow
Series:  MIDNIGHT MAGIC MYSTERIES   
Plot Type:  Soul-Mate Romance (SMR) with a dose of Paranormal Chick Lit (CH)    
Ratings:  Violence3; Sensuality4; Humor—3 
Publisher and Titles:  Midnight Ink (Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd.)
          What's a Witch to Do (3/2013)
          Werewolf Sings the Blues  (3/2014)
          
            WORLD-BUILDING            
     Apparently, this series is set in the same world as Harlow's F.R.E.A.K.S. SQUAD INVESTIGATION SERIES, which I have not read. In any case, this world has witches, werewolves, and vampires living among mundane humans but hiding their true natures. The F.R.E.A.K.S. squad is the preternatural law enforcement agency: the Federal Response to Extra-Sensory and Kindred Supernaturals.   

     According to the author's note at the beginning of Werewolf Sings the Blues, the action in that novel takes place eight years before the events in What's a Witch to Do? and seven tears before the events in F.R.E.A.K. SQUAD's Mind Over Monsters. It's difficult to recommend which order to read What's a Witch… and Werewolf Sings…. On the one hand, I generally prefer to read novels in chronological order, rather than publishing order. But the author has written the romance story line (between Adam and Mona) in What's a Witch… in such a way that knowing some of the details from Werewolf Sings… might spoil it for you if you read it first. Nevertheless, I'm still going with my gut instinct here by recommending that you begin reading this series with Werewolf Sings…. Meeting Adam in that book and learning more about Adam and Jason's personal history will give you a deeper understanding of some of the difficult decisions Adam has to make in What's a Witch….  

     According to the author's note at the beginning of Werewolf Sings the Blues, the action in that novel takes place eight years before the events in What's a Witch to Do? and seven tears before the events in F.R.E.A.K. SQUAD's Mind Over Monsters. It's difficult to advise you which order to read What's a Witch and Werewolf Sings. On the one hand, I generally prefer to read novels in chronological order, rather than publishing order. But the author has written the romance story line (between Adam and Mona) in What's a Witch… in such a way that knowing some of the details from Werewolf Sings… might spoil it for you if you read it first. Nevertheless, I'm still going with my gut instinct here by recommending that you begin reading this series with Werewolf Sings…. Knowing more about Adam and Jason's history will give you a deeper understanding of some of the difficult decisions Adam has to make in What's a Witch….

     The novels in the MIDNIGHT MAGIC MYSTERIES SERIES are set in or near the village of Goodnight, Virginia, near the Maryland border, where everyone knows everyone else and most are related to one another in a distant-cousin sort of way.

     The witches have about fifty official covens in the United States. They conceal their true powers behind the label of "Wiccan." They do practice the Wiccan religion, but they are much more powerful than the Wiccan wannabes who come to their shops and use their websites. These modern-day witches are so up to date that they buy and sell charms and potions through the Internet. 

     The werewolves in this world have the usual allergic reaction to silver and always change into their animal forms at the full moon. Their Changes take about half an hour to complete and are extremely painful. There are two types of werewolves: those who are born of werewolf parents and those who began as humans but were then bitten by a werewolf in its animal form. The werewolf population of America is relatively small: approximately 150 werewolves. 

            NOVEL 1:  What's a Witch to Do?                
     Ramona (Mona) McGregor is a 35-year-old with too much on her plate and too many pounds on her hips. For the past five years, Mona has been the High Priestess of the local coven of 150 witches; she is raising her sister's two young daughters; she runs her own occult shop (Midnight Magic); she serves on the local supernatural council; and she is heavily involved in most of the activities that take place in the village of Goodnight, Virginia. The chapters in this novel take place on succeeding days of the week, and each is prefaced by one of Mona's extensive to-do lists. Within each chapter, the scenes are sub-headed by the various tasks for that daya literary device that gets old very quickly. (By chapter 3, I had stopped reading the lists.)   

     One of Mona's major flaws is that she never says "No" to anyone who asks for help. Then, after she adds each new duty to her to-do list, she indulges in endless interior monologues griping about how overworked she is and how much she hates her life. Oddly, none of her friends ever steps up to help her out. They just keep asking for more favors without any reciprocation. At one point, she rants, "My entire life has been about others since I was a kid. Their wants, their needs. I am a good friend, a good sister, a good aunt, and a good spiritual leader….I am raising children that are not my own by myself. I help women reach their full potential, and I'm happy to do it, I really am. I'm good at it….But what about me? It's never been about me. I don't get what I want, hell I barely get what I need…I need to believe that something good can happen to me. Because if it can't…then why the hell am I fighting so hard to stay alive?" (p. 95)

     Mona also spends a great deal of time moaning about how fat, unattractive, and unlovable she is, and most of her friends reinforce her pathetic self-image. Mona's constant self-flagellation and her friends' total absence of support are the two elements of the story that turned me off the most.

     On Sunday, the second day of the book, Mona is awakened in the middle of the night by a badly injured werewolf. Adam Blue tells Mona that someone has put a hit out on her and that he was captured while he was trying to determine who and why. Mona can't believe it. Who would want to kill her? After all, she has given her entire life over to the people of Goodnight, and she has tried hard to be a good and helpful High Priestess. Adam and Mona decide that he will stay with her and the two girls while they work together to figure out what's going on. Unfortunately, the plot is so transparent that I was able to figure out the villain's identity very early on—all you have to do is pay attention to the half-hidden clues. Needless to say, the villain is eventually unmasked, but not without a few violent scenes, one of which puts Adam at the brink of death. 

     As Mona and Adam investigate the threat on her life, they begin to fall for one another, although Mona is so romantically and socially naive that she doesn't pick up on the signals until nearly the end of the book. A complication in their blossoming relationship is that he is a werewolf sworn to his pack, and if he stays with her he can never return to that pack. To complicate matters even further, the handsome new doctor in town has suddenly and inexplicably become romantically interested in Mona. Dr. Sutcliffe has been in town for several months and has never shown any interest in Mona, but all of a sudden he's sending her flowers and dropping by her house and her occult shop for conversations filled with sexual innuendo. Why does every romance have to start off as a love triangle?  

     Harlow begins the book with a multi-generational family tree that indicates which are major characters, which are minor characters, and which are eligible for the position of high priestess. That last designation is important to the plot of the novel because Mona realizes that one of those women could be the one who wants her dead so that she can take over as High Priestess.

     Harlow has Mona tell her story in the first-person voice using the simple present tense (one of my least-favorite story-telling tenses): "I roll down the car window…," "I glance back at the girls…," "Her lips purse with disapproval…," "I roll my eyes…."

     Parts of this story held my interest (i.e., much of the plot, some of the quirky characters), but much of it did not (i.e., Mona's endless, dreary litany of self-loathing; her friends' selfish attitudes toward her). Also a problem is the fact that although Adam is supposed to be her protector, he never really fulfills that role, mostly because Mona has quite a few TSTL scenes that end badly because she goes off on her own, leaving Adam behind. Click HERE to read a lengthy excerpt from What's a Witch to Do?    

            NOVEL 2:  Werewolf Sings the Blues              
     As noted in the "World-Building" section above, this novel takes place seven years before What's a Witch to Do? The novel is divided into two parts. In Part 1 ("The Road"), the lead soul-mate couple meets for the first time and immediately takes off on a danger-filled road trip from Southern California to Maryland. In Part 2 ("Home"), the gang of thuggish rogue werewolves who have been pursuing the lovers attacks the Maryland compound of the good-guy werewolves.

     The soul mates are Vivian (Vivi) Dahl (human) and Jason Dahl, werewolf Beta of the Eastern Pack, which has 32 werewolves as the novel begins.  Both have had the requisite tragic childhoods. Vivi never knew her biological father, who left the family when she was just a young child. Her mother and step-father doted on their own daughter and either ignored Vivi or subjected her to constant criticism. Naturally enough, Vivi rebelled in the usual ways when she became a teenager. By the time she was sixteen, she had turned her life into a melange of sex, drugs, and music. Currently, Vivi has her own band: Vivian and the Dolls. Mostly they play for weddings, with Vivi as the singer. Just days away from her 30th birthday, Vivi is hitting the alcohol and cocaine pretty hard, realizing that she will never have the singing career she always hoped for. 

     One night after a wedding gig, two men claiming to be U.S. Marshals attempt to kidnap Vivi. When she is rescued by a tall, blond, and handsome man, she can't help but notice that one of his hands is actually a furry, clawed paw. Jason has been sent by Vivi's father to get her safely back to Maryland until the werewolf war is over. How can Vivi be human if her father is a werewolf, you ask? Sorry, you'll have to find that out by reading the novel. Of course, this whole werewolf business is news to Vivi, but she has to believe it because she can see Jason's hand/paw with her own two eyes. Jason spent his childhood in the grip of his cruel father, who killed his mother and abused him. After Jason's biological father killed some innocents, he was captured and executed by the F.R.E.A.K.s, who found Jason cowering in the closet. Frank Dahl (Vivi's biological father) adopted him, and when Frank became pack Alpha, Jason became his Beta. On page 55, Vivi sums up the events of her first few few hours in Jason's company: "I settle into the seat of our stolen car. I may have just committed a felony, I may be on the run from both police and homicidal werewolves, I may be riding shotgun with a killer, but damned if I'm not enjoying myself a little. Just hope this walk on the wild side doesn't end at a cemetery." 

     Although Vivi has hardened her heart to emotions like love and trust, she is increasingly attracted to Jason, and as they keep saving each other's lives on their road trip from hell, the two become closer and closer. But each time Vivi believes that they are making a break-through, Jason suddenly withdraws and turns into the dark and silent warrior that he was when they first met. She doesn't understand what's going on, but the reader can figure it out very early in the story.

     Also easy for the reader to discern is the identity of the traitor within the Pack, the one who is tipping off the enemy to Vivi and Jason's location while they are on the road. At the end of Part 2, the inevitable showdown scene is almost anticlimactic (although extremely violent and bloody) because it is over so quickly and because it doesn't have much dramatic tension. 

     Once again, Harlow writes in the first-person voice and in the simple present tense. As Vivi tells her story, she does a better job than Mona did in the previous book. Perhaps that's because the story has more drama, suspense, and action. 

     Although Vivi is constantly saying that she avoids self-reflection at all costs, she certainly indulges in lots of it. She has a terrible self-image, believing herself to be a total loser at just about everything. At one point, Jason asks her, "Why do you hate yourself?…You don't eat, you drink too much, you engage in reckless behavior, you…give yourself freely to strangers. In my experience only people who have little regard for their life engage in such activity. Even when you sing, the majority of the time there is no joy in it." (p, 87) At first, Vivi tries to deflect: "I don't hate myself….I don't eat because I have to stay thin. No one…hires fat singers….I drink because I work in a bar and the tips are better if I drink with the customers. And I give my body freely to strangers, as you so judgmentally put it, because I enjoy sex… (p. 87) Then, she gets to the heart of her problem: "I turn thirty in a few days. In show business if you haven't been discovered by then, you have a better chance of winning the lotto while being struck by lightning than getting signed....You can only live on hope for so long before real hunger finds you.…I'm stuck on a damn treadmill with no stop button….I have nothing else. No husband, no kids, no college education….all that surrounds me is uncertainty, desolation, and the fact I just wasn't good enough." (p. 88) Both of the romantic leads are interesting, but Jason's character is underdeveloped and somewhat flat. Vivi has more charisma than Jason, but she vacillates between being a smart, streetwise survivor and an impulsive idiot who causes one crisis after another with her TSTL actions. For example, she knows exactly how to steal a car, but she isn't smart enough to know that phone calls can be traced. She knows how to plan a route that will avoid the police, but she thoughtlessly makes an enemy of a hotel manager who hits on her (and then takes out his anger at Vivi by notifying the police of their whereabouts). 

     The quality of the copy proofing of this novel is poor, with quite a few fragmented words and incorrect usage of apostrophes and other punctuation. Unfortunately, that's a big problem in most mass-market publishing these days. Click HERE to read a lengthy excerpt from Werewolf Sings the Blues.