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Only the most recent posts pop up on the HOME page. For searchable lists of titles/series reviewed on this Blog, click on one of the Page Tabs above. On each Page, click on the series name to go directly to my review.

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.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

UPDATE! Alex Hughes: MINDSPACE INVESTIGATIONS SERIES



UPDATE!

I have just updated a previous post for Alex Hughes with a review of "Rabbit Trick," the prequel novella, and Marked, the third novel, in her MINDSPACE INVESTIGATIONS SERIES.  

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

Monday, April 21, 2014

UPDATE! J. D. Tyler's ALPHA PACK SERIES

UPDATE!

I have just updated a previous post for J. D. Tyler with a review of Cole's Redemption, the fourth novel in her ALPHA PACK SERIES.


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

Saturday, April 19, 2014

UPDATE! Sarah McCarty's SHADOW REAPERS SERIES

UPDATE!


I have just updated a previous post for Sarah McCarty with a review of Reaper's Vow, the second novel in her SHADOW REAPERS SERIES.


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

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.