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Monday, April 29, 2013



I have just updated a previous blog entry for C. E. Murphy with a review of the eighth book in THE WALKER PAPERS SERIES:  Mountain Echoes. 

Click on either the author's name or the book title above to go directly to the updated review.

Saturday, April 27, 2013


Author:  Crista McHugh   
Plot Type:  Romantic Fantasy  
Ratings:  Violence--4; Sensuality--2-3; Humor--2-3   
Publisher and Titles:  CreateSpace
        A Soul for Trouble (2/2012)
        A Soul for Chaos (10/2012)
        A Soul for Vengeance (4/2013)

     This series is set in a fantasy world that mimics Medieval Europe, with castles, peasants, horses, swords, and a general fear of the supernatural, particularly witches. In the kingdom of Ranello, the citizens are mostly humans. A few witches live alongside their human neighbors, but they keep their talents hidden because in Ranello, the practice of witchcraft is punishable by death. The neighboring kingdom, Gravaria, is populated by mages and elves, and the two realms have had a hostile relationship for centuries. 

     The series heroine is Arden Lesstymine, who is known to everyone as Trouble. She is a young, blond witch who was born in Ranello to a mother who died when she was young and a father she never knew. As happens in many paranormal fiction novels, her absent father accounts for many of Arden/Trouble's magical talents and his identity will eventually have a direct effect on her life.

     Early in book 1, Arden is possessed by the soul of Loku, the God of Chaos, whose body was destroyed by the Gravarians after he did a lot of horrible things. (Loku is modeled after the Norse trickster god, Loki.) Loku has spent the last few centuries moving from one human body to the next, eventually driving each one mad. The Gravarians assign him a Protector, who must follow him around, making sure that his soul moves from one body to the next and, in general, keeping tabs on his activities. Each of these possessed humans is known as a Soulbearer. When the latest Soulbearer walks into the tavern where Arden is a barmaid, he is attacked and killed and Loku's soul moves into Arden. She is the first female Soulbearer and the first witch to be possessed, so Devarius Tel'brien (Dev), the Soulbearer's Protector, knows that he'll have his hands full keeping her safe.

     In the first two books, Arden has two love interests: Dev and Kell Sanguazur, a Ranellian prince. She spends much of her time in these books trying to figure out which one she truly loves.  

     The series is self-published through CreateSpace. I don't read many self-published books, but I read this one because I was judging some paranormal and fantasy novels for the 2013 Booksellers Best Awards. Most of the self-published books I have read have not been up to the quality of professionally published books in terms of editing, copy-proofing, characterization, and plot development, but this one is quite well done. The three lead characters each have well-developed back stories and a nice balance of strengths and flaws. Although the love triangle is an all-too-common trope, the author handles it well, and the characters' depth makes their tense and tangled relationships all the more interesting.

             BOOK 1:  A Soul for Trouble             
     Just as Arden is being possessed by Loku's soul, a necromancer sends an army of undead to attack the tavern and capture the new Soulbearer. The necromancer plans to kill Arden and absorb Loku's soul, thus making himself extremely powerful. The primary action plot involves the necromancer's continuing attempts to capture Arden and Dev's continuous efforts to keep her safe. With Loku's soul/spirit within her, Arden's magical talents have grown to be quite powerful. Loku has the ability to take her over completely, and he does so when she needs great power to overcome her enemies.

     The romantic part of the story (which is extremely extensive), follows the naive Arden as she is first attracted to Dev and then to Kell. Dev and Arden meet Kell and his men when the necromancer attacks them and Arden insists, against Dev's better judgment, that they go to the rescue. At first, the womanizing Kell sees Arden as just another female conquest and as a tool to defeat the necromancer, but then he falls head over heels in love with her. Dev, in the meantime, tries to keep his feelings for Arden under control because he is her Protector, and he believes that he has no business falling for her. As you can imagine, Dev's will power fails him, and all his good intentions go out the window. 

     By the end of the book the relationship among the three is unresolved, but we have the feeling that Dev is going to win out in the end. While the two men are jealously fighting with each other, Arden tries to sort out her own feelings, with the help (or hindrance) of Loku, who speaks to her nonstop in her mind, giving her questionable advice about her love life and generally trying to control her actions. Click HERE to read an excerpt from A Soul for Trouble.

             BOOK 2:  A Soul for Chaos             
     The romantic triangle involving Arden, Dev, and Kell plays out to its heartbreaking end as the three travel from Ranello to Gravaria, where Arden will continue her training under the direction of the Gravarian mages. Before their journey even begins, Arden is the focus of a magical attack that nearly crushes her and Kell in an earthquake just as Kell tries to hit a sexual home run during a clandestine picnic. The attacks continue as they cross the ocean to Gravaria, when a watery hand reaches up and grabs Arden from the deck of their ship. Even at the Gravarian palace and the mage stronghold, the attacker is able to get through the magical wards and continue the attacks.

     In the meantime, Kell almost manages to seduce Arden into believing that she loves him as much as he loves her, but in the back of her mind, she still has her doubts. Loku keeps encouraging Arden to have a sexual fling with Kell while she has such a willing partner. He keeps daring her to deepen her relationship with Kell while, at the same time, reminding her that she really loves Dev. In this book, Arden makes a few TSTL decisions, some involving Kell and some involving her personal safety, but Dev is always there to save her—both from herself and from her enemies.

     In this part of the trilogy, we meet the bigwigs of Gravaria, particularly the Empress Marist and her hostile uncle, the Lord Chamberlain. Back in book 1, Dev suspected that Arden has a connection with the powerful Milorian family, so this part of the story fills in some of her background that she has either suppressed or never knew about.

     All though the story we get short sections told from the villain's point of view. He is a devout follower of Nelos, the God of Law and Justice, who is determined to kill both Arden and Loku in order to bring an end to chaos. (Nelos appears to have been inspired by Nomos, the Greek God of Law.) The ultimate theme of this plot line is that both order and chaos are necessary to life on Earth.

     By the end, both the romance story line and the Nelos story line are resolved, but that doesn't mean that the characters get their HEAs. Kell is headed back to Ranello where the Thallian troops have been threatening to cross the border and attack; Dev has made a momentous decision about his job as Protector of the Soulbearer; and Arden is trying to learn enough magic to keep Loku from taking control and driving her mad.

     This story has plenty of angst from all three of the lead characters—almost too much sometimes as Arden follows her heart and her hormones on a rough romantic journey, leaving plenty of heartbreak in her wake. We learn much more information about both Dev and Arden, including the reason why Dev was given the position of Protector and the secret of Arden's genetic heritage. Kell is portrayed more sympathetically in this book, but he still comes off as a shallow and over-indulged princeling. The ever-changing relationship between Dev and Kell is interesting to watch, as both force themselves to make more mature decisions regarding Arden. Arden has quite a few spoiled-brat moments in this book, but those can be excused to some extent by the fact that Dev conceals vital information from her, including his suspicions about the identity of her father and of her attacker. This continues to be a strong series, and I'm looking forward to the final book just to see how the author resolves the angst-filled lives of her three young adventurers. Click HERE to read an excerpt from A Soul for Chaos.

             BOOK 3:  A Soul for Vengeance             
     The final book in the trilogy resolves most of the conflict for the three lead characters. Arden, Dev, and Kell are isolated from one another for most of the story, with the bulk of the action divided between Arden and Kell.

     As the story opens, Kell boards a ship to head back to Ranello alone, leaving Arden and Kell behind in Gravaria. When his ship is attacked by the Thallions, Kell is captured, tortured, and held prisoner for three months. At that point, he is rescued by Lady Zara, sister of his best friend, Bynn (whom we met back in book 1). Zara and Bynn are leading the Ranellian survivors in an insurrection against the Thallions. 

     Zara has a suicidal plan to take down the three Thallion mages who form the Triumvirate that now controls Ranello, but Bynn is reluctant to let her follow through because he fears that she will die in the attempt. Bynn views Zara as "just a woman," even though she has taken the lead in attacking Thallian supply lines and keeping the Ranellian refugees fed and clothed. In this world, women must follow the commands of their "blood"the male relative who maintains control of their livesor they run the risk of being cast off by their families into a life of prostitution or slavery.

     Meanwhile, back in Gravaria, Dev asks the Mage's Council to free him from his position as Protector of the Soulbearer so that he can freely declare his love for Arden. Unfortunately, he doesn't explains his motives to Arden, so when she learns what he has done, she jumps to the wrongful conclusion that he doesn't love her and wants to be free of her. Loku encourages her to run away and helps her break the wards as she heads out into the wintry mountains in search of her long-lost father, Varrik, who has her mother's necklace. Most of the book alternates between Kell's adventures in Ranello and Arden's reunion with her father at his isolated estate. Near the end of the book, the romantic situation between Arden and Dev gets resolved (just as you knew it would), as does Kell's struggle with the Thallions. 

     It's always a bummer to have the final book in a trilogy be the weakest, but unfortunately that is the case here, mostly because of a characterization issue and the mishandling of part of the ending. First, we have the further degeneration of Kell's character as he demonstrates even more shallowness and fickleness than usual by falling head over heels in love with Zara almost from the moment she rescues him. Keep in mind that Kell was deeply, endlessly, sometimes sullenly heartbroken all through book 2 when Arden didn't return his love. This sudden reversalfrom anguished, misery-filled mourning for Arden to instant, overwhelming love for Zaradoesn't say much for his character. Ultimately, the HEA resolutions of both of the series' romances are dealt with in a feel-good, "rainbows and unicorns" manner, particularly in the case of Kell and Zara. 

     Now to the ending: The overthrow of the Thallions is mostly handled quite well, right up until the point where everything depends on Kell, Dev, and Arden with little or no help from their soldiers or from the mages who are supposed to be accompanying them. It's an unconvincing, overly dramatic climax that feels like it has been manufactured solely for maximum drama, to shine one last super-hero spotlight on the three main characters, and it just doesn't ring true. 

     For me, the strongest element in this series, and particularly in this book, is the power struggle between Arden and Loku. Loku constantly lives up to his trickster image by lulling Arden into believing that he will look out for her and then manipulating her to his own ends, but Arden gradually learns to take control, trying to turn the tables on Loku by using him when she needs him and then suppressing him the rest of the time. Even though Arden has some terrible TSTL moments, she is a strong character who struggles with her new Soulbearer identity, her new knowledge about her parents' true relationship, and her feelings for the two men in her life (three, if you count her father). She is definitely the strongest character in the book.

     Even though the final book doesn't quite meet the standards of the first two books, I still recommend the series if you like traditional, angst-filled romances with nicely developed characters and mostly well-constructed plot lines. Click HERE to read the first chapter of A Soul for Vengeance.

Thursday, April 25, 2013



I have just updated a previous post for Kristina Douglas with a review of the fourth book in her FALLEN SERIES: Rebel.

Click on either the author's name or the book title above to go directly to the updated review.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013



I have just updated a previous blog post for Erica Hayes with a review of the second book in her SEVEN SIGNS SERIES: Redemption.

Click on either the author's name or the book title above to go directly to the updated review.

Monday, April 22, 2013



I have just updated a previous post for Amanda Bonilla with a review of the third book in her SHAEDE ASSASSIN SERIES: Crave the Darkness.

Click on either the author's name or the book title above to go directly to the updated review.

Saturday, April 20, 2013



I have just updated a previous post for Cynthia Garner with a review of the third novel in her WARRIORS OF THE RIFT SERIES: Heart of the Demon. 

Click on either the author's name or the book title above to go directly to the updated review.

Thursday, April 18, 2013



I have just updated a previous blog entry for Rob Thurman with a review of the eighth book in her CAL LEANDROS SERIES: Slashback.

Click on either the author's name or the book title above to go directly to the updated review.

Monday, April 15, 2013


Author:  J. C.Daniels (Pseudonym for Shiloh Walker)   
Plot Type: Romantic Urban Fantasy (UF)    
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality4; Humor2-3 
Publisher and Titles: Shiloh Walker, Inc.
        "A Stroke of Dumb Luck" (e-novella authored by Shiloh Walker, 2/2011)
        "Bladed Magic" (e-novella, 3/2014)
        Blade Song (9/2012)
        Night Blade (3/2013)
        Broken Blade (1/2014)
        Edged Blade (2/2015)
        Shadowed Blade (e-book, 2/2016)
        "Misery's Way" (Kit Colbana World) (e-novella, 6/2015)

     This is a world in which witches, shifters, vampires, and other supernatural beings live amongst humans. In this mythology, vampires have traditional traits: sun sensitive, night walking, blood sucking, and super strength. The older ones can also fly. These vampires get their power from psychic energy they drain during the biting process. As they age, they gradually lose their souls.

     Shape shifters (aka weres) come in several varieties, primarily wolves, big cats, and rats. Shifters and vamps can be found almost everywhere, but they tend to congregate in a few hot spots, including Indianapolis, Honolulu, Denver, Anchorage, Toronto, and Buffalo. Weres can be either born were or turned by a bite or by unprotected sex. Only about 20-25% of bite/sex-infected humans become weres. The other 70-75% die, except for about 5%, who are immune to the virus.

     The supernaturals are called non-human (NH), and most belong to the Assembly of Non-Humans (ANH), which serves as their governing council. The ANH is headed by elected non-humans, but also includes a few human emissaries "so everybody could pretend we played nice with each other." (Blade Song, Chapter 2) 

     The series heroine is Kitasa (Kit) Colbana, who is a halfbreed aneira. The author gives us this definition: 

aneira [a-nir-a]: derived from Antianeirai, found in the Iliad, warrior women, meaning "those who war like men." Also known as Amazons.
The aneira were once a thriving race, but now they have dwindled to just a few hundred, none of whom live in Orlando, Florida, where Kit lives and works.

     Kit runs her own private investigation service, specializing in tracking down persons and/or things and sometimes handling assassinations. Here, Kit describes her abilities: "I've got a knack for killing and tracking things down. I'm a talented thief, although I try to avoid that line of work, if I can. Luck tends to swing in my favor, although sometimes it's in a very odd manner, but at least I land on my feet...And I have the ability to fade out...I can go invisible. A handy skill for an assassin, I guess." (Blade Song, Chapter 1) Kit also has a magical silver sword that belonged to her mother. That sword comes to her—and only to her—whenever she calls it. She is a skilled fighter 
with both swords and knives, and she is immune to infection by a were. Unfortunately for Kit, she spends much of her time in this book getting beaten, shot, and/or stabbed—or healing from being beaten, shot, and/or stabbed. Some reviewers have compared Kit's character to Kate Daniels, but really, there is no comparison. Kit is far too overwhelmed by emotionally damaging flashbacks and emotional distress to be a strong, independent heroine like Kate.

     Kit had a horrible childhood, having been raised by the human-hating relatives of her mother, who died when she was very young. Kit's 
aneira grandmother forced her to go through regular aneira warrior training, even though she is only half aneira and not nearly as strong as the purebloods who trained with her. Grandma apparently is psychotic in nature, as she whipped Kit regularly, broke her arms, imprisoned her in a pit, and generally made her life miserable until Kit escaped when she was 15. Since then, Kit has been on her own. She received assistance from some witches, but mostly she has made her own way. The horrors of her childhood have never really left her, and she is frequently overcome with visceral memories at highly inopportune times. That, unfortunately, is one of the weakness of this character. It's hard to believe that Kit has been working alone as a successful assassin/tracker/thief all these years when she is crippled so often by flashbacks that stop her in her tracks.

             BOOK 1:  Blade Song             
     As the story opens, Kit is forced into taking a missing persons job for Annette, the sociopathic alpha of the Florida cat clan. It's bad enough that she has to work for the Lady, as Annette is called, but she is required to take on Annette's enforcer, the sexy Damon Lee, as her bodyguard, which means that he is with her 24/7 until she finds Annette's nephew, Doyle, a were-cat who is just approaching the spike—his first change into his animal form. Doyle has disappeared, and Damon hasn't been able to find him anywhere. The action part of the story follows Kit and Damon as they track down leads, gather clues, and eventually confront Doyle's kidnappers.

     The main story line, though, is the romance that develops between Kit and Damon. The two are at each other's throats (sometimes literally) from the moment they meet, but their sarcastic banter isn't the type we usually see between eventual soul mates. Damon comes across as a mean, controlling, abusive, arrogant jerk who repeatedly uses his physical strength and alpha dominance to injure Kit, both physically and emotionally. Then, well into the story, he suddenly starts calling her "Baby Girl" (Ugh!) and becomes her protector and wannabe lover! It all happens way too quickly and without any gradual changeover from their initial hate/hate relationship in which they trade deeply cutting insults—not flirty love/hate insults, but real, hurtful jibes and name-calling. To make things even more unbelievable, Kit—who has been outrageously bullied by this man the entire time she has known him—immediately melts into a gooey puddle of love for him. Sorry, I'm not buying it. Instead of the soul-mate type of love found in many paranormal romances, these weres have a condition called rut, which is defined in this mythology as a physical, emotional, and mental focus that culminates in an eternal commitment between two people. 
     To add to the complications, Kit is being stalked by Jude Whittier, a powerful and scary vampire who wants her for his own. A third of the way through the book, while Kit is still afraid of Damon, she agrees to let Jude bite her so that he can come to her aid if she gets in over her head. That scene just didn't work for me. Kit has always feared and distrusted Jude so when he gives her no real reason for the bite, why would she just let him do it without questioning his motives. This vamp has been invading her dreams for six years, without her permission, and yet she allows him to bite her. (I guess Kit hasn't read much paranormal fiction, or she'd have known better.)

     Despite it's weaknesses, the story moves along quickly, with lots of action. The author can tell a good story; I just wish that the characters were stronger and better developed. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Blade Song.

             BOOK 2:  Night Blade             
     The second book begins four months later. Kit and Damon have settled into their relationship, but are keeping her mate-mark a big secret. Their relationship is actually the center of the primary plot line in this book. After an opening sequence that turns out to have nothing to do with the rest of the book, Kit receives a visit from her old flame, Justin Greaves, who is now an agent for the Bureau of American Non-Human Affairs (aka "Banner"), which is the law enforcement agency that governs non-humans. Justin is investigating the recent murders of several prominent ANH Council bigwigs, and Damon is Banner's prime suspect. Banner is planning to execute Damon within days if Kit can't prove that he is innocent. To prevent Kit from alerting Damon to the investigation, Justin (who is a powerful witch) puts a binding spell on Kit that prevents her from discussing the details of the case with anyone. So...Kit is totally on her own with no possibility of help from anyone, not even the allies who frequently help her out.

     As Kit works hard to clear Damon's name, she (as usual) gets beaten, bitten, and generally worked over by various bad guys. By the end of the book, Kit has been horrifically brutalized by a villain from her past. I won't tell you more because that would be a spoiler. I'll just say that the final half of this book is a real shockerwith relentless agony for our heroine.

     The actions that take place during the plot's finale rely heavily on a single act by Damon that I just couldn't buy into. It's a trust issue, and you'll recognize it when you read it. See what you think. I just didn't believe that Damon would do what the author has him do to his relationship with Kit. (Sorrycan't say any more than that without a spoiler.) 

     I'm still not sure why the first two chapters were included in this book because they tell the story of one of Kit's cases that is totally unconnected to the rest of the book. Kit is hired by the local werewolf alpha to make a grisly delivery to a pack of demented wolves several states away. I'm sure that this incident will be referred to again in a future book, but why use it in this book as the lead story line and then never refer to it again?

     Even with the superfluous early chapters, the character issue with Damon, and the continuing lack of chemistry between the romantic leads, this book tells a compelling storynot pleasant, but fascinating. Like a train wreck or a fire is fascinating. You can't stop yourself from watching even though your stomach is turning over the whole time. This story definitely exemplifies the definition of "gut-wrenching." It's a dark, dark tale, but the author is a good storyteller, and she makes you keep on turning those pages until the bitter end. Click HERE to to read an excerpt from Night Blade.

     Click HERE to read an excerpt from the next book, Broken Blade. WarningDon't read this excerpt until after you have read the first two books because it contains a spoiler.

Saturday, April 13, 2013



I have just updated a previous post for Gena Showalter with a review of the second book in her ANGELS OF THE DARK SERIES: Beauty Awakened.

Click on either the author's name or the book title above to go directly to the updated review.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

MaryJanice Davidson's "Undead and Underwater"

Author:  MaryJanice Davidson   
Title:  Undead and Underwater   
Plot Type:  Paranormal Chick Lit  (CH)   
Ratings:  Violence2-3; Sensuality1-4; Humor4-5 
Publisher and Titles:  Berkley (3/2013)

     In Davidson's introductory "Author's Note," she explains that the three novellas in this collection have heroines "who have heavy responsibilities away from them until...they realize they have to suck it up and step it up." Davidson goes to to describe the four heroines as having "avoidance issues, as well as the occasional tendency to retreat into but-why-is-it-my-responsibility-to-fix-your-mess whining." but also having "a great capacity to love and to fight for what (and who) they loved, regardless of the potential cost to themselves."  The second and third stories also have themes related to the evils of bigotry. Each novella begins with an "Author's Note" and a series of quotations related to the story.

     The three novellas are written with Davidson's usual frenetic pacing and over-the-top farcical humor, which can sometimes drift (or fall headlong) into overblown slapstick. But if you're a fan of Davidson's novels, that's just what you're looking for, so you'll probably enjoy all three stories.

                    "Super Girl!"                    
Opening Sentence of Chapter 1:  "Hailey Derry seized the small garbage can and spat out a wad of chewed cardboard drink holder."

     Hailey Derry has a day job as the head of Human Resources (HR) at Ramouette, a company in Savage, Minnesota, that manufactures target silhouettes, but she's frequently late to work because she's off rescuing people from various types of disastrous situations. You see, Hailey is "It Girl," a mysterious woman with super strength, speed, and stamina who shows up at accident scenes to save the day. Hailey maintains her super powers by chowing down on various non-food items like staplers, file folders, and paperclips, but ultimately, her abilities are rooted in her bizarre genetic heritage.

     When Hailey interviews a new accountant, Jamie Linus, she can hardly believe her strong attraction to him, and (to her delight) the attraction appears to be mutual. Will Linus guess Hailey's true identity? Will Hailey find out who is leaving anonymous, slightly threatening post-it notes on her desk? Are all IT technicians inherently evil? These questions and more are answered by the end of the story.

                    "Undead and Underwater"                    
Opening Sentence of Chapter 1:  "Fredrika Bimm, grumpy mermaid and former future queen of the Undersea Folk, stalked across the cobblestones past the Marriott Long Wharf, zeroing in on the pit of all evil and despair, the loathsome housing for malice that was the New England Aquarium [NEA]."

     The heroines of this story are Fred, the grouchy mermaid from Davidson's MERMAID series, and Betsy, the ditzy vampire queen from the QUEEN BETSY series. They are brought together when Fred's intern at the NEA, Madison Fehr (whose mother is a vampire), gets into big trouble with a gang of arrogant bigots who are determined to kill Fred and all of the Undersea Folk. The plot follows the two women as they meet, form a (sort of) friendly alliance, and mop up the bad guysjust as you knew they would from the very beginning. This is the only one of the three stories with absolutely no sexjust lots of hyper-humorous situations and conversations.

     As usual, the dialogueparticularly Betsy's partis rambling and incoherent most of the time. At one point, Fred says to Betsy, "Stop Talking. Must you preface every single thing you do with nauseating endless speculative continual monologues?" (p. 182) As readers nod in sympathy for Fred, Betsy responds in the only way she knows how: she keeps right on talking. 

     The novella includes a lot of historical information and tourist tips about Boston, but for the most part, those bits are integrated into the story line.

     Click HERE to go to my review of the QUEEN BETSY series. Click HERE to go a web page with links to Davidson's QUEEN BETSY series. Click HERE to go a web page with links to Davidson's MERMAID series. 

Opening Sentence of Chapter 1:  "She was happy she was born during the worst winter Massachusetts had seen in decadessince 1994, the old-timers claimed."

     This novella is set in the WYNDHAM WEREWOLVES world. The heroine is Lara Wyndham, the brand new pack leader of the Wyndham wolves, a group that also shows up from time to time in the QUEEN BETSY series. Set in a futuristic Cape Cod, Massachusetts, several decades after the previous novella, the action follows Lara as she faces the first few days in her new position. Lara took over from her father when he retiredsomething that no other pack leader has ever doneand not everyone in the pack is happy with the new order. When Lara learns that someone is leaving dead animals on the back steps, she is determined to get to the bottom of the matter. 

     But...solving that problem has to take second place to falling in love and mating for life, both of which Lara does with amazing speed, right in the middle of breakfast. Her new mate is Jack Gardner, son of her father's best friend. The two have been eying each other for years from a distance, but now the mate bond has clicked in and will not be denied.

     The story follows the couple as they have a buttery, bacony first liaison and then go off to solve the dead-pet mystery, which (as in the previous story) has bigotry at its core. For me, this story is the best of the three, with more nuanced lead characters and a more engaging plot line.

    Click HERE to go a web page with links to Davidson's WYNDHAM WEREWOLVES series. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013



I have just updated a previous post for Nalini Singh with a review of her new novella collection, Wild Invitation. These four novellas are set in her PSY-CHANGELING world.

Click on either the author's name or the book title above to go directly to the updated review.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Anthology: "'Til the World Ends"

Author:  Julie Kagawa, Ann Aguirre, Karen Duvall 
Title:  'Til the World Ends   
Plot Type:  Post-Apocalyptic Romance
Publisher and Titles:  Harlequin Luna (1/2013) 

     Each novella takes place in a different type of post-apocalyptic world in which the survivors make the best of what is left to them. In each story, the theme relates to the importance of love. As the Beatles famously sang, "There's nothing you can make that can't be made./No one you can save that can't be saved./All you need is love, love, love is all you need." If you enjoy reading apocalyptic fiction, here's your chance to check out the power of love in three dissimilar future worlds.

          "DAWN OF EDEN," by Julie Kagawa           

Opening Paragraph: "In the summer of my twenty-third year, the Red Lung virus began its spread across the eastern United States. Flulike symptoms evolved to raging fever, necrosis of the lungs and finally asphyxiation, as victims choked and drowned in their own blood. By the time government officials knew anything was wrong, the virus had already made its way overseas and was rapidly decimating Europe and parts of Asia, with no signs of slowing down. A worldwide emergency was called; towns had been emptied, cities lay in ruins, and the virus continued its deadly march toward human extinction. We thought Red Lung was as bad as it could get. We were wrong." 

       The Red Lung plague has killed 84% of the world's population, and the survivors think things can't get any worse. Then, the dead begin to rise  each night as fanged, flesh-eating monsters, and more people die. Kylie is a doctor who survived Red Lung, and she has kept her clinic open to care for the sick. When Ben Archer brings his wounded roommate, who was bitten by one of the vampirish creatures, Kylie's life is changed forever. Soon, the vampire plague accelerates and Kylie and Ben are off on a cross-country trip to reach his family's isolated farm in the hope that they can find safety. What they find is a mutual attraction that soon grows to love.     

     Although there are a few soft spots in the mythology, this is a standard post-apocalyptic survival story with the usual it-takes-love-to-survive theme. IN this case, both romantic love and family love are part of the equation. Thematic quotation: "Taking my hand, he laced his fingers through mine, and together we returned to the open arms of our family."     

    This novella is the prequel to Kagawa's series entitled THE BLOOD OF EDEN, the story of Allie Sakemoto, who tries to survive in a world in which humans have become a blood source for the vampires who have taken over the world. The first book is The Immortal Rules.       

          "THISTLE & THORNE," by Ann Aguirre          

Opening Paragraph:  "If I didn't deliver the goods to Stavros by midnight, he would kill me. He was the local bossman in our ward. Mostly I scavenged and pawned stuff, but I also had training from my dad, who had been a top-notch cracksman in his day. Back then I thought it was an adventure when he took me on a job. Now it was a nightmare. In the Red Zone, people robbed and murdered each other outright for half a sandwich or a bottle of water."        

     In this novella, the world as we know it ended with a major chemical spill. Now, the rich are holed up in heavily guarded fortresses, while the poor live as best they can in the Red Zone, the barren, chemically contaminated lands outside the fortress walls. Marjolaine (Mari) Thistle comes from a family of thieves, and she's good at what she does. She has to be in order to keep food on the table for herself and her two teen-age siblings.

     As the story opens, Mari has been sent on a no-win mission by Stavros, the boss of the Red Zone. When she is nearly caught inside a fortress, she escapes with the help of Thorne, a one-time enforcer for Stavros. Thorne has decided that Stavros has gone too far with his murdering ways and plans to get rid of him and take over as the Red Zone leader. For some reason, he needs Mari's help, and that bit of reasoning is the weakest part of the story. Soon, though, Thorne discovers that Mari really can help him because of her mad skills at stealth and survival. Mari and Thorne share some flirty dialogue and a few simmering glances, but that's as far as it goes.   

     The theme is the importance of family and fellowship. Thematic quotation:  When Mari takes her siblings to a neighbor for protection while she goes off with Thorne to take down Stavros, her neighbor replies: "You took care of Irena when I was sick last year. Made me soup. I figure I owe you.l Of course I'll look out for them, protect them like they're my own."    

     This is the strongest of the three stories, with a terrific set of leading characters and a well-constructed mythology. I'd love to see Aguirre build this into a series.  

          "SUN STORM," by Karen Duvall           

Opening Paragraph: "I stared out the hospital window at the heat-glazed street below, knowing I shouldn't be shocked to see brown lawns, charred rooftops and the sun-scorched branches of leafless trees in the middle of January. But I was. I'd never get used to a hot winter in Colorado."     

     In the final novella, sun storms have devastated the earth and caused the deaths of many people. A person who is hit by the radioactive sun sparks that fall during storms is doomed to die almost immediately from Sun Fever. As is usually the case, some people are immune to Sun Fever. These survivors are called "kinetics," and each one of them develops a different weather-related power.

     Sarah, the heroine, is a kinetic who has been living with her father in a hospital in Colorado. She is a sun storm forecaster, and she is allowed special privileges in the town because she warns the citizens of pending sun storms, giving them time to get indoors. When Ian, a weather-controlling kinetic, comes to town, he and Sarah become romantically involved as they chase sun storms in near-by towns. Unfortunately, Ian is being followed by a slaver—an unscrupulous man who captures kinetics and sells their services to make himself rich. As the story plays out, the slaver catches up with the couple, forcing them to figure out a way to take him down.

     This is the weakest of the stories, with a plot that is bogged down with shallow characters and an unlikely ending. This might have been better as a full-length book, where the author would have had room to fine-tune the plot and add some complexity to the characters.   

     Once again, the power of love is at the heart of the story. Thematic quotation:  "I turned to face Ian, whose wide grin expressed joy and pride in what we had accomplished together."

Saturday, April 6, 2013



I have just updated a previous post for Amber Benson with a review of the fifth and FINAL book in her CALLIOPE REAPER-JONES SERIES The Golden Age of Death.

Click on either the author's name or the book title above to go directly to the updated review.