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Friday, December 31, 2010


Author:  David Wellington
Plot Type:  Post-Apocalyptic Horror Fantasy
Ratings:  Violence5; Sensuality1; Humor1
Publisher and Titles:
     Monster Nation (prequel, Thunder's Mouth Press, 2006)
      Monster Island (Thunder's Mouth Press, 2004)
     Monster Planet (Running Press, 2007)

     In Wellington's zombie horror trilogy, the explanation of the source of the zombie plague comes in the second book, so you might want to start reading there and then go to book one.  In this world, a horrific plague is sweeping the world, beginning on the U.S. west coast and moving quickly across the globe.  In the usual zombie way, once you are bitten, you die and then quickly rise again—very hungry, of course.

     Wellington's twist is to include a handful of sentient zombies with psychic abilities who can control and draw power from other zombies. The series becomes increasingly supernatural and somewhat muddled as a mad Druid sorcerer, ghosts, animated mummies, and an evil zombie master seeking world domination get pulled into the plots.

     You really feel their pain. If you are addicted to AMC's The Walking Dead and can't wait until next fall for some more zombie gore, this series will get you through the winter. 

               PREQUEL NOVEL: Monster Nation               
Publisher's Blurb
     "In the heart of America, in the world's most secure prison, something horrible is growing in the dark. A wave of cannibalism and fear is sweeping across the heartland, spreading carnage and infection in its wake. Captain Bannerman Clark of the National Guard has been tasked with an impossible mission: discover what is happening—and then stop it before it annihilates Los Angeles. In California, he discovers a woman trapped in a hospital overrun with violent madmen. She may hold the secret to the Epidemic but she has lost everything—even her name. David Wellington's first novel, Monster Island, explored a world overcome by horror and the few people strong enough to survive. Now he takes us back in time to where it all began—to the day the dead began to rise."

My Summary and Comments:
     Monster Nation traces the initial outbreak and spread of the zombie plague and follows three characters: Nilla, a sentient zombie (although she has lost her memory of her human life); Richard, an armless zombie who operates like a killer automaton; and Bannerman Clark, a straight-laced National Guard officer who lays his life on the line to stop the zombie plague. This story is interrupted regularly by news bulletins and diary entries. The reader should pay particular attention to the Lab Notes from 2004 and 2005.  

     Here's an example of the dark humor sprinkled sparsely throughout the series. In this scene from Monster Nation, Bannerman Clark has been battling zombies for weeks. Now he is forced to meet with Special Agent Purslane Dunnstreet, an eccentric national security expert who has spent years in her cluttered office planning how the U.S. should retaliate against every apocalyptic threat she can imagine:

     "An aged woman in an immaculate business suit rose from behind a desk and hurried toward them. Her face was a white porcelain mask, unmoving, so slack and bloodless that Clark reached for [his] sidearm....

     'I'm not dead yet, Captain,' the woman said, her mouth an unmoving slot in the middle of her face.
     'Botox,' the Civilian whispered behind his hand." (page 178)

               NOVEL 2: Monster Island               
Publisher's Blurb:
     "It's one month after a global disaster. The most "developed" nations of the world have fallen to the shambling zombie masses. Only a few pockets of humanity survive—in places rife with high-powered weaponry, such as Somalia. In New York City, the dead walk the streets, driven by an insatiable hunger for all things living. One amongst them is different; though he shares their appetites he has retained his human intelligence. Alone among the mindless zombies, Gary Fleck is an eyewitness to the end of the world—and perhaps the evil genius behind it all. From the other side of the planet, a small but heavily-armed group of schoolgirls-turned-soldiers has come in search of desperately needed medicine. Dekalb, a former United Nations weapons inspector, leads them as their local guide. Ayaan, a crack shot at the age of sixteen, will stop at nothing to complete her mission. They think they are prepared for anything. On Monster Island they will find that there is something worse even than being undead, as Gary learns the true price of survival."

My Summary and Comments:
     In Monster Island, a group of survivors crosses the Atlantic from Africa to New York City in search of medicines. The story follows two characters: Dekalb, a survivor who has left his young daughter in Somalia while he travels to New York, and Gary, a sentient zombie who chose to go the undead route when he thought there was no other way out. Gary was a medical student who figured out that most of the zombies lost their ability to think because of oxygen loss, so he hooked himself up to a dialysis machine and an oxygen mask just before he became undead. Gary has retained his ability to speak and think and also discovers that he can draw power from the undead. Wellington continues to invent fresh new twists for his zombie mythology, putting this series this several steps above the run-of-the-mill books that are currently on the market.

               NOVEL 3: Monster Planet               
Publisher's Blurb:
     "Set twelve years after the shambling zombie masses have overrun Manhattan, America, and the world, Monster Planet is the mind-blowing conclusion to what must be the scariest trilogy ever. Oceans of blood, scattered limbs, wanton violence, and general mayhem abound, along with revivified mummies, a Welsh sorcerer, and Wellington's signature brand of cool high-tech weaponry and sly humor—zombies, after all, are the ultimate consumers. What do the undead want, aside from fresh meat? Do the steadily diminishing number of humans who have somehow managed to survive over a decade of living hell stand a chance on a planet where they've been reduced to the status of prey? It all ends here, on Monster Planet."

My Summary and Comments:
     Monster Planet continues the story with Dekalb's daughter, Sarah, who is still fighting the zombies. This book ends with an apocalyptic battle for the future of humankind. The zombie attacks are as gruesome and bloody as you would expect in horror fiction. The survivors and the sentient zombies are presented in a sympathetic manner.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Author:  Carole Nelson Douglas 
Plot Type: Urban Fantasy (UF)
Publisher and Titles:
     Dancing with Werewolves (Juno, 2007)
    Brimstone Kiss (Juno, 2008)
    Vampire Sunrise (Pocket, 2009)
    Silver Zombie (Pocket, 2010)
    Virtual Virgin (Pocket, 2011)       

     This blog entry was revised and updated on 1/3/12 to include a review of the fifth book in the series: Virtual Virgin. That review is located at the very end of the entry immediately following this summary of the series so far:

     In this series, the heroine combines the strength and sassiness of Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake with the magical mirror walking of Alice (the one from Wonderland).  She is also a bit headstrong and doesn't think things through very well. Paranormal investigator (and former television reporter) Delilah faces supernatural bad guys (including vamps, werewolves, demons, and zombies) and solves paranormal mysteries in 2013 Las Vegas, more than a decade after the Millennium Revelationwhen the world learned that supernatural creatures are real. 
     Delilah begins the series mostly human, but she soon begins to develop powers related to silver (thus, the mirror walking, since mirrors are backed with silver). As Delilah says, "Reflective surfaces had been my friend since I'd come to las Vegas in search of my roots. If it shone, glittered, and reflected, I'd always been able to pass through, even if I'd reach the other side bleary and confused. And Vegas had been built on shine, glitter, and glitz." (Virtual Virgin, p. 70)
     Delilah Moves to Las Vegas primarily to find a woman (Lilith Quince) who seemingly is her identical twin. She saw the girl on a TV show called CSI, but this isn't the CSI currently on television in our world. Delilah explains: "Lilith supposedly was one of the TV series' actual corpses, who kill themselves for the immortality of being taped during their autopsy on the number one show in the world." (Virtual Virgin, p. 110) Lilith, however, is not dead, and Delilah is determined to get to know her better and to discover just what their relationship is.
     Delilah's faithful, magical wolfhound, Quicksilver, backs her up in her battles and heals her afterward. Also by her side is her hot Latino boyfriend, Ric Montoya (aka Cadaver Kid), an ex-FBI agent who can locate and raise dead bodies. Other colorful characters include Snow (aka Christophe), a casino-owning rock star who may be the devil himself; Hector, a flesh-eating ghoul who is Delilah's eccentric landlord; and a variety of CinSims (from cinema simulacrums), seemingly real people who are actually the result of melding silver-screen stars with zombie bodies. These CinSims become more and more important to the plots as the series progresses. Here, Delilah explains: "The most complex beings in my brave new world are the CinSims. Cinema Simulacrums are created by blending fresh zombie bodies illegally imported from Mexico with classic black-and-white film characters. The resulting "live" personas are wholly owned entertainment entities leased to various Vegas enterprises." (Virtual Virgin, p. 4)
     In Dancing with Werewolves, Delilah moves to Las Vegas after she is run out of Wichita by a jealous weather witch, meets Ric, searches for her mysterious look-alike, and gets involved with the local werewolf mob.
     In Brimstone Kiss, Delilah and Ric solve the murder of a pair of lovers found together in an unmarked grave and Ric is nearly killed by a group of ancient Egyptian vampires. 
     In Vampire Sunrise, she mixes it up with those same Egyptian vampires deep below a casino and battles a supernatural monster who is terrorizing the werewolves' casino. 
    In Silver Zombie, Delilah and Ric head for Wichita, KansasDelilah's home town, to delve into the secrets of her past. By the end of their adventure, Ric has confronted his childhood nemesis, the demon who enslaved him from the age of four. Ric also performs an astonishing magical feat that gets the instant attention of Snow. He soon discovers that it will change his life forever. In this book, we finally discover why Delilah has those nightmares about being probed by aliensand it definitely is a major surprise. 
     The first few pages of Virtual Virgin provide a summary of most of the action of the first four books. As Virtual Virgin opens, Ric is trying to decide what to do with the robotic female CinSim that he raised (in the previous book) from the movie Metropolis. Ric feels a real responsibility for her future, and she keeps calling him, Master, to Ric's discomfort and Delilah's jealous exasperation. The other primary story threads in this book are family-related, and they involve Delilah's search for the identity of her parents and her developing relationship with her sister, Lilith. (She does meet her mother in this book.) The final big adventure comes out of nowhere as Ric and his mentor, Tallchief, head for Juarez, Mexico, for another battle with Torbellino (aka El Demonio) and his zombie army. Delilah's love life gets a thorough examination in this book, and it all comes down to to a trio of possibilities. Here is Delilah as she thinks about this: "Sansouci's mantra replayed in my head. Ric loves you. I want you. Snow needs you....You're going to have to decide who you're safest with, and who's safest with you....Or, I added mentally: who I most want and need to save and who most wants and needs to save me." (pp. 363-364) By the end of the book, Delilah's worst fears about Ric are confirmed, and she discovers exactly why Snow needs her.
     This book follows the usual pattern of the previous ones, with rambling, intersecting, and sometimes dead-end story lines that come and go and intermittently connect. It seems to me that there are a lot more vintage-clothing-fashionista moments in this book, but I could be mistaken about that since it's been a long time since I read the last book. I like the characters of Ric and Delilah, and respect the personal freedom they maintain in their relationship, but, frankly, the zigzagging plot lines and the continuous bizarre magical scenes are beginning to turn me off. As I said in my opening sentence, this is really like Alice in Wonderlandbut freakishly ramped up. 
     A series twist is that in each book Delilah invents an exotic drink that usually has the same name as the book's title (except for book 1, in which the drink is called an Albino Vampire). Drink recipes are included in each book. 
    Meanderingthat's the word I'd use to describe the plots, as they wander aimlessly from one intensely magic-infused situation to another. Delilah constantly and annoyingly pauses for extensive interior monologues when she is under attack and is supposed to be planning her strategy to get out alive. She really has trouble focusing on the battle at hand. Delilah and Ric frequently have separate adventures as each goes off on independent investigations. 


Author:  Gerry Bartlett
Plot Type:  Paranormal Chick Lit (CH)  
Ratings:  Violence--3-4; Sensuality--4; Humor--4
Publisher and Titles:  Berkley
       Real Vampires Have Curves (2/2008)
       Real Vampires Live Large (4/2008)
       Real Vampires Get Lucky (6/2008)
       Real Vampires Don’t Diet (1/2009)
       Real Vampires Hate Their Thighs (2/2010)
       Real Vampires Have More to Love (12/2010)
       Real Vampires Hate Skinny Jeans (4/2012)
       Real Vampires Know Hips Happen (3/2013)
       Real Vampires Know Size Matters (12/2013)  

    This post was revised and updated on 12/30/13 to include a review of  Real Vampires Know Size Matters, the tenth novel in the series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the series world-building and reviews of novels 6 through 9:

           BOOK 10:  Real Vampires Know Size Matters            
     At the very end of book 9, a dangerous womanan ex-lover, actuallyfrom Jeremy Blade's past comes to Austin to lure him away from Glory. Melisandra Du Monde is a powerful Haitian voodoo priestess who immediately attacks Glory by sending hordes of mice into her shop, summoning zombies into the alley behind her apartment building, and even eviscerating a goat on her sales counter. Not to mention the fact that Melisandra is drugging and spelling Blade so that he has blackouts during which he has no idea what she does to him.

     While Melisandra is at the top of Glory's list of problems, she also is forced to deal with a number of other troublesome situations. Aggie (the selfish and arrogant former Siren) is still staying in Glory's apartment, and Hebe (Glory's long-lost mother) won't leave her alone. Then, Glory gets involved once again with her two former lovers: Israel (Ray) Caine and Rafael (Rafe) Valdez. Because of Glory's concern that Melisandra will attack her during the day, she asks Rafe to be her bodyguard, and Blade is so fearful of Melisandra that heshockinglyasks Rafe to pretend to be Glory's boyfriend just to throw Melisandra off the track. Glory's re-involvement with Ray comes when he "accidentally" drains his human singing partner (Sienna Star) to the point of death, and Glory has to turn the poor woman into a vampire to save her from true death. As Sienna's maker, Glory is required to be her vampire mentor, which complicates Glory's life even more because stubborn and naive Sienna is determined to come out of the vampire closet and become the first vampire rock star.

     As Glory and Blade try to survive Melisandra's witchery, the plot weaves together all of these story threads and moves toward the eventual resolution of some, but not all, of them. The ending leaves some loose ends, particularly concerning Hebes' as-yet-unfulfilled determination to get Glory to Mount Olympus and Aggie's determination to get revenge on Glory for kicking her out of the apartment. Also, in the course of the story, Glory makes a deal with Miguel, a shady and conniving rogue vampire, and I'm sure that will come back to haunt her in a future book. To top things off, Blade ends the book by asking Glory a very important question that will take their relationship to a new level. 

    In this book, Glory continues to become a more independent woman, but she still finds herself dependent on the men in her life for protection and career advancement. Although she enjoys her new powers, she doesn't use them much in this storyexcept for the one that allows her to freeze a person in place. Unfortunately, she winds up using that power on several of her allies, much to their annoyance. 

     This is another typical novel for this series, and the only real problem is that even though the adventures are newly minted, the story has a stale, repetitive feel to it. In each novel, Gerry has the same type of problems and reacts to them in the same manner. Although she is slightly less needy than she was in earlier books, she continues to get into situations in which she makes a string of bad decisions and allows herself to become a doormat to a succession of real losers. Even the chemistry between Glory and Blade is feeling a bit humdrum, with their bedroom scenes playing out as formulaic rather than passionate. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Real Vampires Know Size Matters.  

     In this world, vampires, shifters, and demons live under the human radar. They exist amongst mortals, but try hard not to use their powers in public. Most of the vampires drink bottled blood, so there aren't many hunter-prey scenes. In the early books, a fanatical group of vampire hunters makes life difficult for the supernaturals. The series is set in Austin, Texas, and follows a group of supernaturals as they live out their lives.

     The series heroine is Gloriana “Glory” St. Clair, a BBW who is a former Vegas showgirl and a vampire. She also has an addiction to gambling, which is why she feels she has to leave Las Vegas. Glory settles in Austin, where she opens Vintage Vamp’s Emporium, a vintage clothing store. Plots revolve around the Glory and her supernatural friendsmostly vampiresas they battle human vampire slayers, evil energy vampires (EVs), and paranormal drug dealers. Supporting characters include Jeremiah “Jerry” Blade, Glory’s sire and long-time lover; Rafael ("Rafe") Valdez, her shape-shifting bodyguard; Lacy, her werecat neighbor; Freddy and Derek, her gay vamp friends; Harvey and Emmie, two ghosts who haunt her shop; and any number of hot male vamps who would like to take Blade’s place with Glory—and sometimes she lets them. Although Jerry is probably her one true love (her soul mate), Glory is attracted to many men throughout the series, and she doesn't always stop before the romantic action goes way over the edge.  Glory can't help it; she just loves all those tall, handsome, sexy men. The villains of the series include vampire slayers, particularly Brent Westwood, who is always trying to stake Glory. Click HERE for brief plot summaries and links to excerpts from the GLORY ST. CLAIR novels.

            BOOK 6:  Real Vampires Have More to Love                  
     If you thought that Glory's troubles with vampire slayer, Brent Westwood, and his family were over at the end of Real Vampires Hate Their Thighs, think again. In Real Vampires Have More to Love, the Westwood kids turn up to threaten Glory's life as they seek revenge for their father's death. A different, more pleasant, kind of threat comes in the human form of Rafe, Glory's shape-shifting former bodyguard, who is attracted to Glory—and vice versa. Unfortunately, Rafe's demonic ex-wife, Alesa, has other ideas about the future of that relationship. Once again, Glory's romance with Jerry hits some major potholes. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Real Vampires Have More to Love.

            BOOK 7: Real Vampires Don't Wear Size Six           
     Just when Glory thinks she has seen the last of the demons, they're baaaack! Lucifer sends two demons—Caryon and Spyte—to punish Rafe (who is part demon and part shifter) because Rafe used his demon powers in a fit of temper when Glory ended their brief affair. Now, Lucifer not only wants Rafe to become a soul gatherer, he also wants Glory's soul for himself. Lucifer promises Glory that she will instantly become a size 6 if she turns her soul over to him. How's a Rubenesque girl like Glory supposed to do the right thing in the face of such temptation? In the meantime, Jerry is still upset about Glory's amorous episode with Rafe, and Glory is trying her best to win him back. Oh, and one more thing...Damian and the Vampire Council have asked Glory to mentor a young, newly turned vampire woman (Penny Patterson) who is having a tough time coming to terms with her new undead life. While Glory is in the middle of all this, her former protégé, the rock star Israel ("Ray") Caine, develops a severe drinking problem and needs her assistance. Matters aren't helped by the fact that Glory continues to be attracted to all three of the handsome men in her life: Jerry, Rafe, and Ray—and the attraction is definitely mutual. Near the end of the story, Glory tries another of the specialized concoctions of the vampire chemist, Ian MacDonald, and, once again, she is the sole vampire who has a severe allergic reaction. This incident, along with a hint dropped by a demon goddess, seems to indicate that Glory is not just a vampire, but may be...something else. 

     This is a relatively light-hearted, sexy series, with Glory falling—or nearly falling—into bed with every handsome supernatural she meets, all the while telling herself that she's meant to be with her true love, Jerry. In other words, she's kind of slutty—though she does halfheartedly try to resist all of the male attractions that surround her. This turns out to be one of the main weaknesses of the series in that it's difficult to understand why all of the men are so attracted to Glory (other than for her magnificent bosom). Glory spends most of her time making dicey choices, getting into and out of trouble, and groping guys—not much serious conversation going on in her life. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Real Vampires Don't Wear Size Six.

            BOOK 8:  Real Vampires Hate Skinny Jeans           
     As the story opens, Alesa, the demon who has caused so much trouble in previous books, turns up on Glory’s doorstep claiming that she is pregnant with Rafe’s child, supposedly conceived when Alesa was possessing Glory’s body. Glory and her friends don’t believe Alesa’s story, so Glory asks the devious Ian McDonald for help in determining the baby’s parentage. Why Glory continues to trust Ian is beyond me, because he has proved to be completely untrustworthy in past books, and he is Jerry's lifelong enemy. McDonald agrees to be Alesa’s obstetrician and to do some tests to determine the baby's paternity. Ian has been analyzing a sample of Glory's blood for several months, and he informs Glory that she was never human, but he doesn’t know what species she was before she became a vampire. Glory reacts to this news with tears and fainting—weirdly ultra-girlish behavior that is repeated several times throughout this story. As the plot advances, Glory seems to abandon her much-desired feminine independence and constantly depends on the men in her life—Jerry, Rafe, and Ray—for attention, comfort, and assistance of every kind.

     Eventually, Glory learns all about her genetic heritage (including the reason for her statuesque build) and is even able to help out some of the “sisters” she never knew she had. The plot includes yet another break-up with Jerry and a finalization (maybe) of Glory’s relationships with Rafe and Ray. As the story moves along, Glory has to deal with three powerful and hostile females: Alesa, of course is her primary nemesis. Aglaophonos (Aggie), the siren, alternates between friendship and animosity, and Luciana Carvarelli (aka Lucky Carver), loan shark for the mob, returns to harass Glory and Ray. (Just to review: Glory is Lucky’s sire, and Lucky is Ray’s sire—it’s complicated, and it’s all explained in Book 5, Real Vampires Hate Their Thighs.) Here's how the three wicked women fit into the plot: In the first part of the book, Alesa is the antagonist as she makes life hellish for both Glory and Ray. Just as soon as Glory gets rid of Alesa (sending her back to Hell), Aggie shows up and starts being obnoxious. By the time Glory settles things with Aggie, Lucky materializes to do her damage. There’s always a malevolent female in Glory’s life.

     Glory spends more time than usual in angst-filled interior monologues as she worries about the ramifications of her genetics on her male relationships. She has a moment of epiphany near the end in which she decides that she must stop depending on her men to keep saving her from financial disaster and personal injury. We’ll see how long that lasts.

     This book didn’t hold my interest as much as some of the earlier books. Glory hasn’t really developed much as a person during this series, although in this book she does develop some new powers. That part isn’t very probable, though, because all she has to do is think about it and she can use these new and powerful magical talents. So...we are to believe that Glory has had these abilities for centuries, but she never knew it. As soon as someone tells her about them, though, she can magically use them perfectly. Seems illogical to me—as if the author suddenly needed Glory to have some new powers to liven up the series and to help move this story along. Glory is still a multi-man woman, professing her love for Jerry even as she’s getting ready to go to bed with Ray. She continues to muddle through life, trusting all the wrong people (i.e., Ian MacDonald) and never learning from her mistakes. As the series continues, she isn’t becoming a stronger heroine. Instead, she seems stuck in one place—and that place is becoming less and less engaging. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Real Vampires Hate Skinny Jeans.

           BOOK 9:  Real Vampires Know Hips Happen            
     For the first paragraph or two of this story, you think that Glory and Jeremiah Campbell (aka Blade) are finally slated for some trouble-free, romantic time together in Blade's castle home in Scotland, but alas, it is not to be. As soon as they kiss and make up, Jerry is stabbed with a cursed knife and loses all memory of the past five centuries, which means that he doesn't remember Glory at all. In the first three quarters of the book, Glory does her best to find a way to reverse the spell, which was actually placed on Jerry by Glory's goddess mothera mother that Glory never knew she had. Mom is disgusted that Glory is a vampire and holds Jerry responsible, and she wants Glory to leave him behind and come back to Olympus with her so that Glory can marry someone more suitable, preferably a god. Mom eventually promises to try to get Jerry's memory back, but only if Glory does something in return, something Glory finds very unpleasant indeed.

     After a few twists and turns, the memory situation finally gets solved, but towards the end of the book another problem arises, this time involving Glory's old nemesis, Aglaophonos (Aggie), the siren. Aggie has gotten herself into some trouble with Ian McDonald, and she ropes good-hearted Glory into bailing her out.

     In the meantime, Jeremiah's daughter, Lily, makes some wrong choices, and Glory has to come to her rescue as well. Not only that, but Glory must make final breaks with sexy shape shifter Rafael (Rafe) Valdez and racy rock star Israel (Ray) Caine, both of whom claim to still be in love with her. And just to make things worse, she still hasn't confessed to Jerry that she had a one-nighter with Ray. Glory's life is never dull, mostly because of the consequences of her frequent bad choices.

     By the end, just when you think Jerry and Glory's romance is finally going to get back on track, Jerry reveals a secret that will have major negative (and probably dangerous) ramifications in the next book, Real Vampires Know Size Matters

     The memory-loss story line moves along nicely, with plenty of action and lots of entertainingly snarky scenes between Glory and her motherwho is a fascinating character (if you like narcissistic, arrogant, selfish, insensitive goddesses). The last part of the bookthe Aggie/Ian story threadisn't as successful. Aggie is such an unlikable and one-dimensional character that I have little sympathy for her and no interest in her story. Glory alwaysalwayslets characters like Aggie impose on her life. In recent books, Bartlett has been allowing Glory to become more self-confidant and self-sufficient, and as part of that development, she should stop forcing Glory to be such a doormat to these parasitic freeloaders (who seem to pop out of the woodwork in every novel). 

     The whole goddess/Olympus development was probably created to freshen up the story lines, but I'm not sure how successful it's going to be. In the next book, Glory may head for Olympus, so we might be dealing with a whole new plane of existence and new characters, so we'll see how that goes. Glory's up-and-down relationship with Jerry is getting to the point that we never really expect an HEA any more. There is always some impediment to the romance, and the pattern of instability is beginning to feel repetitious. Then there's the siren explanation for Glory's lust for sexy men. I guess that's one way to explain her  slutty behavior, but it almost seems too easy. Maybe it's time to bring the series to an end and let Glory and Jerry ride off into the sunset together at last. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Real Vampires Know Hips Happen.

Monday, December 27, 2010


Author:  Nancy A. Collins
Plot Type:  Urban Fantasy (UF)
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality3; Humor3
Publisher and Titles:
       Right Hand Magic (12/2010)
       Left Hand Magic (12/2011)
       Magic and Loss (11/2013) (FINAL)   

     Horror writer Collins has written an urban fantasy series set in the heart of an alternate Manhattan in a 6-block by 9-block section called Golgotham. In this world, supernaturals are part of society, but they live in areas that are segregated from humans. Golgotham has existed since the days of the American Revolution, when the reigning Witch King made a deal with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson that in exchange for the witches' help against the British, the new American government would grant the supernaturals a sovereign country of their own within American borders. Currently, human tourists visit Golgotham to take advantage of magic (e.g., witches' curses) and buy souvenirs, but they treat the supernaturals mostly like a freak show (e.g., taking photographs, buying t-shirts).  

     Golgotham, with its narrow, car-free streets and supernatural inhabitants is entered through the Gate of Skulls. A Manhattan cab driver will only drive you to the edge. From there, you either walk or hire a cab driven by a centaur or a satyr. (Be wary of those sly and dangerous satyrs!) The supernaturals also include leprechauns, nature spirits, Valkyries, Amazons, various shape shifters, and the Kymeransan alien race of sorcerers with technicolor body hair, cat-like eyes, and powerful magical talents.

    Collins provides a glossary to help the reader with the more unfamiliar creatures. Unfortunately, she doesn't include an explanation for the Kymerans. The heroine, Timothea Alda Talmadge Eresby (aka Tate), has turned her back on her wealthy family so that she can concentrate on her art, but she still cashes her trust-fund checks every month. Tate is a metal sculptor, building human and animal figures out of recycled metal bits and pieces. When her condo kicks her out for making too much noise, she finds a room in Golgotham and becomes one of the very few humans living there.

    Tate's new landlord is Hexe, a purple-haired Kymeran prince (and heir to the throne) who has also broken away from his family. Hexe confines himself to good magic (aka right hand magicand refuses to use dark magic (aka left hand-magic). 

               NOVEL 1:  Right-Hand Magic               
     In the series opener, Hexe and Tate rescue a teen-aged were-cougar from the Malandanti (the Golgotham equivalent to the Mafia) and begin to fall for each other. Supporting characters include Hexe's familiar, Scratch, a cat-like demon, and Lukas, the rescued shifter.

     I wish I could like this book more, but there are some problems. Told in the first person by Tate, the language in her interior monologues is very different from her language in her dialogues. In the dialogues, Tate speaks in an awkwardly profane, slangy manner, whereas in her monologues her language is free of both profanity and slang. It just doesn't match up. 

     Although the descriptions of Golgotham itself were interesting, Collins seemed to keep throwing weird creatures into the mix just for the effectnot for any real connection with the plot. One more problem: Tate has no magical abilities, and she's not even a well-trained fighter. Mostly, she just hangs back and lets the supernaturals fight it out, getting in a lucky hit or kick every once in a while. I wonder how she will hold our interest in future books if she doesn't develop some kind of magical talent.  

               NOVEL 2:  Left-Hand Magic               
     As the second book opens, trouble is brewing between the humans of New York City and the supernaturals of Golgotham. After a brawl between some drunken college students and a leprechaun at a local bar, the crowd gets out of control, both the Paranormal Threat Unit (the supernatural police) and the New York City Police Department (the human police) arrive, and some of the Kymerans begin to use magical weapons against the NYPD. Soon, a (supposedly) human trio calling themselves the Sons of Adam begin attacking Kymerans and other supernaturals on the street in the dead of night. In reaction, Hexe's Left-Hand-practicing Uncle Esau forms the Kymeran Unification Party, vowing to force all humans out of Golgotham, once and for all. In the meantime, Tate has to pay back a debt to Quid (of Quid's Pro Quo) for a favor he granted Tate in the last book. Pay attention to that little scene, because it will come back to haunt Tate later in the book. The plot follows the development of hostilities against humans in Golgotham, which complicates life for Tate. Both Hexe's mother and Tate's parents want Tate to move out of Golgotham, but she is determined to remain independent and stay with the man she loves. Hints are given that the two mothers have had some kind of past history, but no real facts are divulged. 

    In this book, we learn more about the history of the Kymerans, including the wild hair colors. Here is Hexe explaining things to Tate: 
     "Back in ye oldie [sic] daysbefore Kymera sankthere were three distinct castes: the Aristocrats, the Crafters, and the Servitors. The Aristocrats had blue hair and were the ones with the strongest magic. The Crafters had yellow hair and were talented in the creation of talismans, scrying stones, tarot cards, and the like. The Servitors werewell, they were redheaded and served the Aristocrats. And so it went for millennia. Then, fifteen thousand years ago, Kymera was drowned by a massive tsunami. Only a hundred Kymerans managed to escape the Deluge on their dragons. My ancestor, Lord Arum, led them to New Kymera, in what would become Eastern Europe. Because there were so few left, the castes were forced to mingle, and that's when green, orange, and purple hair began to appear among my people. Yet the royal family has always remained some shade of blue, at least until I came along." (p. 186)    

     Remember, Hexe has purple hair, so that means that his biological father (whom he has never met and knows nothing about) was probably a Servitor (because blue + red = purple). At the end of this book, Hexe finally learns the identity of his father.

   Once again, this book overloads us with irrelevant details. At one point, Tate takes three pages to describe the interior of a restaurant owned by a mermaid. Nothing plot-related happens in the restaurant, so why bother with the description? There are other instances of this same authorial quirk. For example, we get endless descriptions of the weird toppings that Hexe orders on each of his take-out pizzas. Descriptions that either set a mood or tie into the plot are valuable to the readerbut these descriptions only demonstrate that the author can imagine fantastical images, but apparently doesn't know how to make them meaningful to the story

               NOVEL 3:  Magic and Loss                
This is the publisher's back-cover blurb for the final book in the trilogy: 

     Located on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Golgotham has been the city’s supernatural district for centuries. Populated by creatures from myth and legend, the neighborhood’s most prominent citizens are the Kymera, a race of witches who maintain an uneasy truce with the city’s humans…

     It has been several months since Tate Eresby developed her new magical ability to bring whatever she creates to life, but she is still learning to control her power. Struggling to make a living as an artist, she and Hexe can barely make ends meet, but they are happy.

     That is until Golgotham’s criminal overlord Boss Marz is released from prison, bent on revenge against the couple responsible for putting him there. Hexe’s right hand is destroyed, leaving him unable to conjure his benign magic. Attempts to repair the hand only succeed in plunging Hexe into a darkness that can’t be lifted—even by news that Tate is carrying his child.

     Now, with her pregnancy seeming to progress at an astonishing rate, Tate realizes that carrying a possible heir to the Kymeran throne will attract danger from all corners, even beyond the grave...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Clare Willis: "Biting the Bride"

Author: Clare Willis
Title: Biting the Bride
Plot Type: SMR
Ratings:  V-3, S-3, H-2
Publisher:  Zebra, 2010

     In this stand-alone novel, Sunset (Sunni) Marquette believes that she has been followed all her life by a tall, dark, and handsome protector, but after he saves her (e.g., from kidnappers, from a mugger), he never sticks around long enough to get acquainted. Sunni is the orphaned, twenty-something owner of a high-end art gallery in San Francisco, and she has always felt a bit different from other girls.  

     After Sunni fights off a drunken would-be rapist at a friend's wedding reception, she finally has an up-close encounter with her mystery man. He tells her that his name is Jacob Eddington, but he won't tell her anything else. The plot soon heats up when the villainous Richard Lazarus shows up to try to temptor threatenSunni into going off with him to bear his children. What a jerkright?  

     As the plot plays out, Sunni learns the truth about her mysterious parentage and about whoand whatJacob and Richard really are. It's really no big secret. Just take a peek at the fangs on the hot guy (Jacob) on the cover.  The primary supporting character is Sunni's best friend, Isabel, who suffers from muscular dystrophy and gets drawn into Richard's devious plotting in a really bad way.

     The heroine has the predictable mysterious genetics (and the resulting magical powers) inherited from her missing parents, and the happy ending is telegraphed from the beginning, but the storytelling moves along at a fast pace.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Carolyn Jewel: MY IMMORTAL

Author: Carolyn Jewel
Plot Type: SMR
Ratings: V-4, S4-5, H-2
Publisher and Titles: Grand Central
      My Wicked Enemy (2008)
      My Forbidden Desire (2009)
      My Immortal Assassin (2011)
      My Dangerous Pleasure (2011)

     The newest book in this seriesMy Dangerous Pleasurehas been published, and a review of that book follow this brief synopsis of the series so far:

    In this world, witches and fiends (aka demons, aka Kin) are bitter enemies. Even knowing this fact, we are still unsurprised to find that many of the books in this series feature a witch-fiend pair falling in love and following the rocky road to a happy soul-mate ending. 

     The villains are the magesdiabolically powerful magic users who gain power by binding hapless fiends to them, thereby harnessing the fiends' magical powers and super strength.  A fiend bound this way is called mageheld and must obey every horrific order from his mage master. The mages are always on the lookout for talismansrelics that contain the living spirits of fiends.

     If a mage performs a blood ceremony, he can drain a talisman of its fiendish power and absorb it into himself. Needless to say, the fiends want to keep every talisman out of the hands of the mages.  And also needless to say, each witch (at least in the first two books) has possession of a talisman. 

     In My Wicked Enemy, the warlord Nikodemus hunts down Carson to kill her and steal her talisman. Instead, of course, they fall in love as she comes into her witch powers, and the two of them defeat the mage who had imprisoned Carson since childhood. This book is on the high side of the sensuality ratings due to the blood lust scenes and a threesome scene.

     In My Forbidden Desire, Xia (who was mageheld in book 1) is assigned to protect Alexandrine, a witch with a talisman. Xia hates all witches, but, in short order, he falls in love with Alexandrine as she develops her powers, and the two of them defeat the mage that had bound Xia. 

    My Immortal Assassin follows Durian (who was free, then mageheld, then free again in previous books) and Grayson, a  human who absorbs Kin powers after a villainous Mage (Christophe) kidnaps her and forces her to submit to impregnation by one of his magehelds.

     In My Dangerous Pleasure, Iskander and Paisley (his human tenant) get together when she is brutally attacked by a mage. Paisley is minding her own business running her bake shop when the mage Rasmus Kessler begins stalking her, telling her that she must be his lover forever.  When he destroys all of her earthly possessions, she moves in with Iskander. At first, Iskander thinks that Paisley is a "vanilla" human (i.e., that she has no magical talents), but eventually, he begins to suspect that Paisley may well have some magic in herand he's absolutely right. But where the magic comes from is the mystery. This story has less external plot than the previous books and more focus on the romantic couple. As usual, there are plenty of sensual bedroom scenes, with some of them involving Iskander in his demonic formalways kind of stomach-churning. This book contains the climactic scene in which Iskander's relationship with his blood-twin, Fen, is resolved once and for all.

     This is an interesting series, with a fresh premise and unusual supernatural beings as the good guys, but it does have the usual alpha male heroes and spunky, sassy heroines. If you enjoy paranormal romance series, this is a good one. Each book involves a variety of mage-fiend battles, but the fiends seem to be getting stronger now, and better able to defend themselves. By the time we get to My Dangerous Pleasure, Nicodemus has built up quite an efficient and well-run empire, and Carson and Alexandrine are rescuing mage-helds left and right. I advise you to read the series from the beginning so that you can appreciate the growth and change within the fiend community. (I never thought I would ever use the phrase "fiend community" in a sentence!)

     On her web site, Jewel has posted a free, on-line short story from the MY IMMORTAL WORLD entitled Future Tense. She also has a MY IMMORTAL SERIES page that provides history and background for the series. If you click on a book title on that page, you'll find a brief biography of the hero and heroine of the book, and sometimes there is a free chapter.

This blog entry was last updated on 6/6/2011.