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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, July 31, 2014

UPDATE! Victoria Laurie: GHOST HUNTER MYSTERIES

UPDATE!

I have just updated a previous post for Victoria Laurie with a review of The Ghoul Next Door, the eighth book in her GHOST HUNTER MYSTERIES.

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

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

NEW SERIES! Keri Arthur: SOULS OF FIRE SERIES

Author:  Keri Arthur
Series:  SOULS OF FIRE
Plot Type:  Urban Fantasy (UF)     
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality4; Humor—2 
Publisher:  Signet     
          Fireborn (7/2014)
   
            WORLD-BUILDING            
     Like most of Arthur's fiction, this series is set in the present in an alternate Melbourne, Australiathe same universe of her RILEY JENSON and DARK ANGELS series. In this world, vampires and werewolves have come out to the public, but the rest of the supernatural groups are keeping their magical sides hidden.

     The series heroine, Emberly (Em) Pearson, is a centuries-old phoenix"a spirit born from the ashes of flame." (p. 2) A phoenix has three forms: flesh, fire, and bird. Em lives in an apartment with her bonded mate, Rory, who is a fireman. In this mythology, a male and female phoenix are paired at age 16 during their first lives, a bond that lasts forever. The pair can only have children with each other. Em and Rory have had five children together over the centuries, but they are long gone, having paired up and moved on to other parts of the world. A phoenix has a life span of 100 years, at which time he or she is painlessly reborn as an adult. A phoenix who is killed before achieving 100 years of life is forced to undergo an extremely painful rebirth. If a phoenix pair dies at the same moment, they can never be reborn and move on into eternity in spirit form.

     Unfortunately, all phoenixes are affected by a vindictive witch's curse, which prevents them from falling in love with their bonded mates or with any other phoenix. They can be friends and lovers, but never true sweethearts. The witch "cursed us with the inability to love…another [phoenix], forcing us to forever seekbut never findemotional completion outside our own race, thus ensuring that we would forever be left with little more than love's bitter ashes." (p. 26) As part of the curse, these inter-species love affairs always end very badly. Phoenix pairs have a unique relationship. They "needed to regularly merge flames, or face diminishingin some cases, even death." (p. 42) This is why their other romantic relationships always fail: because they must maintain their fiery connection (which includes sex) with their other halftheir bonded phoenix mateor they will die. "No matter how much we might love someone else, we could never remain faithful to them Not if we wanted to live." (p. 43)

As the series opens, Emberly has three handsome, sexy men in her life: 
     > Rory: Em's bonded phoenix matethe other half of her soula friend and lover for centuries 
     > Sam Turner: Em's former lover who cannot accept the fact that Em must maintain a sexual relationship with Rory; the break-up was five years ago
     > Jackson Miller: a fire Fae with whom Em begins a partnershipfor the dual purposes of pleasure and business; a private investigator who owns Hellfire Investigations

     Sam, a former policeman, now works for a covert agency called the Paranormal Investigations Team (PIT), which employs a variety of supernatural and human agents. While PIT works with the police department, it has its own way of dealing with bad guys and isn't required to follow the rule of law. PIT has wide-ranging powers and deals with "any activity involving paranormal beings that sits either within or without the law and provides a potential threat to humanity." (p. 122)

     Vampires in this world can disappear into the shadows, but they cannot fly. They are sun sensitive and immortal. The local vampire gangster organization is called the sindicati and is comparable to the mafia.

     Click HERE to go to Arthur's "Aussie Speak" page, which translates Aussie idioms used in the novels.

     If you haven't read Arthur's terrific RILEY JENSON, GUARDIAN urban fantasy series, you might want to give it a try. Riley is a tough but sexy dhampire: half werewolf and half vampire. She is an enforcer, or Guardian, who lives in Melbourne, Australia (where Arthur also lives). This series is not included on my blog because I read all of the books before the blog was up and running. Click on the series title above to go to the Riley Jenson page on Arthur's web site.

     Arthur has also written two other (less successful) paranormal series: MYTH AND MAGIC (paranormal romance) and DARK ANGELS (urban fantasy). Click on either of the two series titles to read my reviews.

            NOVEL 1:  Fireborn             
     Once I got all the bad guys and good guys straightened out in my mind, I had to skim through the book a second time just to be sure I remembered who did what and why they did itespecially the bad guys. For that reason, I'm providing this list that groups the characters into three categories:  

SCIENTISTS:  
   > Professor Mark Baltimore: the research biologist at Chase Medical Research Institute for whom Em works; rival of Wilson  
   > Professor James Wilson: the research biologist at Rosen Pharmaceuticals for whom Jackson works; rival of Baltimore  
   > Harriet Chase: founder and head of the Chase Medical Research Institute; ex-wife of Rosen  
   > Denny Rosen: owner and president of Rosen Pharmaceuticals; ex-husband of Harriet; has a heavy load of gambling debts and ties to Marcas Radcliffe 

PIT AGENTS:  
   > Adam:  Sam's vampire partner  
   > Rochelle:  fire Fae; possibly Sam's lover

BAD GUYS:  
   > Marcus Radcliffe the third: were-rat who trades in black-market goods and information
   > Sherman Jones:  a thug for hire and petty thief who has some type of connection with Baltimore's death; has worked for Radcliffe   
   > Professor Heaton:  probably a fake name; a vampire hit man masquerading as a professor in order to gain access to Em and to Baltimore's laboratory  
   > Lee Rawlings:  a vampire who hires Jones to kidnap Em
   > Henry Morretti:  another mob-connected vampire who is after Em and also tries to kill Amanda Wilson
   > Amanda Wilson:  Wilson's human wife; a telepath and long-time grifter with ties to the sindicati       

    As the story opens, Em has had a prophetic dream in which Sam is brutally murdered, so even though they are no longer a couple, she goes off into a rough part of Melbourne to save his life. After Em snatches Sam out of range of the guns aimed at him by a carload of red-cloaked monstrous men, he tells her that the men are called Red Cloaks and that they have been infected by the Crimson Death, a powerful virus transmitted through scratches or bites that either kill humans and vamps or drive them insane. The virus was created in a government laboratory as a by-product of an experimental attempt to identify the enzymes that make vampires immortal.  (Note: At a later point in the book, the enzymes are described as being the ones that "are apparently responsible for a human becoming a vampire.") (p. 253) Why on earth do all of the Red Cloaks wear those red cloaks? Em never asks, and Sam never explains. I can't imagine why Arthur doesn't deal with this oh-so-obvious question.

     Em is currently working as Professor Baltimore's secretary, mostly keeping his papers in order and transcribing his notes into computer files. When Baltimore is murdered, Em finds his body and almost immediately gets involved with discovering who killed him and why they stole his research notes. Meanwhile, Em begins a friends-with-benefits flirtation with Jackson, whom she meets on the front steps of Baltimore's building, only to learn that he began the flirtation because of her connection to Baltimore. It seems that Jackson is a private detective who has been hired to retrieve Professor Wilson's research notes, which were stolen when he was recently murdered. Obviously, it cannot be a coincidence that two prominent research biologists, both working on the same virus-related enzyme, are murdered and their research stolen. Coincidentally, both enzyme studies are related to the Crimson Death.

     Very soon, Em and Jackson instigate one investigation, and Sam and PIT begin another. Sam is furious that Em and Jackson have involved themselves in the two murders, and he goes to extreme lengths to stop them, including kidnapping them, temporarily imprisoning them, and drugging them (twice). Throughout the book, Em continues to engage in lots of angst-filled interior monologues about how much she still loves and yearns for Sam, despite the fact that Sam spends most of his time snarling and scowling at her, having her followed, and constantly berating her. Late in the story, when Em chides Sam for using a drug on her that drained away all her powers and left her defenseless, he tells her that he has no qualms about using the drug on her even if he and PIT had no idea what it would do to a phoenix. 

     Em is certain that something has happened to Sam that has turned him into a brooding, dark, mean-spirited man with a steak of violence simmering just under the surface. There are lots of sentences like these: "The darkness within him seemed to explode, and the sheer force of it had me stepping back." (p. 87) "The darkness in him sharpened, even as his control seemed a little more tenuous. Fear skipped lightly into my heart." (p. 199) At one point, Sam plans to sacrifice Jackson's life for a key piece of evidence, considering it to be a case of unavoidable collateral damage. Em keeps asking Sam how and why he has changed so much, but he never answers her. I liked Em as a heroine except for her continued devotion to Sam, which is not at all understandable. I mean, even if they once had a loving relationship, he is obviously not the same man he was then, and he treats her worse than dirtnever a kind word or action. Em's acceptance of all this emotional and physical abuse makes her a weak and irrational heroine. I'm sure that we will eventually learn that some heartbreaking personal tragedy has caused the changes in Sam, so maybe his character will be redeemed in a future book. It would have been helpful if Arthur had included some tender, loving flashback scenes that showed Sam as he was five years ago during his romance with Em, but as it is, we see only this rude, arrogant jerk who has absolutely no redeeming personal qualities. I already have my suspicions about what has happened to Sam, based on a number of clues that Arthur scatters throughout the book, but I'm not sure that I could ever accept him as Em's true love. 

     Throughout the book, Em is followed, attacked by both vampires and Red Cloaks, and stalked by Sam's PIT agents. The rest of the plot plays out in a bewildering convolution of various bad guys who want to capture and/or kill Em, bad guys who want Baltimore's missing research notebook, PIT agents (mostly Sam) who want any information Em and Jackson collect, and a mysterious supernatural man who just wants to get his hands on Em. 

     Unfortunately, very little of the conflict is resolved by the end of the book. SOULS OF FIRE is definitely being written as a series of interdependent books that are not designed to be read as stand-alones, and that is not my favorite kind of series. Many series have over-arching series plots, but the best of those are planned so that the series plot advances a few steps in each book while a separate conflict is fully resolved.

     I'm not sure how I feel about this first novel. Certainly, it suffers from the world-building information dumping that is necessary in all novels that introduce a series. But I do like two of the three male leads: Rory and Jackson, both of whom are funny, sexy, and supportive. The concept of having a phoenix as the lead character is fresh and inventive, but sometimes I wondered why Em didn't use her fire power to get out of some sticky situations. I plan to read the second novel when it appears on the market and make further judgments at that point.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

UPDATE! Scott Snyder's AMERICAN VAMPIRE SERIES (Cycle #1)

UPDATE!

I have just updated a previous post for Scott Snyder's AMERICAN VAMPIRE graphic novel series with a review of Volume 6, which includes "The Long Road to Hell" and "American Vampire Anthology."  

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

Monday, July 28, 2014

UPDATE! Christine Feehan: SEA HAVEN: SISTERS OF THE HEART

UPDATE!

I have just updated a previous post for Christine Feehan with a review of Air Bound, the third novel in her SEA HAVEN: SISTERS OF THE HEART SERIES.

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

Saturday, July 26, 2014

UPDATE! Delphine Dryden: STEAM AND SEDUCTION SERIES


UPDATE!

I have just updated a previous post for Delphine Dryden with a review of Gilded Lily, the third novel in her STEAM AND SEDUCTION SERIES.

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

Friday, July 25, 2014

UPDATE! Caris Roane: MEN IN CHAINS SERIES

UPDATE!

I have just updated a previous post for Caris Roane with a review of Chains of Darkness, the second novel in her MEN IN CHAINS SERIES.

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

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

UPDATE! Lilith Saintcrow: BANNON & CLARE AFFAIRS SERIES


UPDATE!

I have just updated a previous post for Lilith Saintcrow with reviews of two novels in her BANNON & CLARE AFFAIRS SERIES: 
     The Red Plague Affair (novel 2)
     The Damnation Affair (novel set in this world)

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