Saturday, December 29, 2007

#72 Cirque Du Freak #7: Hunters of the Dusk by Darren Shan

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Several years have passed since the events of Cirque Du Freak #6: The Vampire Prince. Darren has settled into his role of Vampire Prince, but times are not easy. A war is raging between the vampires and their blood-cousins, the vampaneze. Prophecy has dictated that the Vampaneze Lord, once fully blooded, would lead the vampaneze into a war against the vampires and wipe them out, and the vampires have lived with this knowledge for six hundred years.

But now Mr. Tiny has informed them that was simply the most likely outcome. For it now appears that there are four chances for the vampires to avert the course of destiny and save their race, three of which will occur within the next twelve months. Three vampire hunters have been named as the only ones who can hunt the Lord of the Vampaneze and take responsibility for the future of the vampire clan. Darren Shan and Larten Crepsley are two of those three, the third of whom they are to meet on the road. So after spending the last six years inside Vampire Mountain, Darren and Mr. Crepsley hit the road again, accompanied by Little Person Harkat Mulds, to hunt down the Vampaneze Lord and save the vampires.

This was another fast-paced and quick read in the Saga of Darren Shan. I love how the author always includes a prologue at the start of each book to bring you back up to speed with past events. This is particularly useful if, like me, you've gone several months or even a year since reading the previous book. So after that quick little refresher, I was off and running with another great Darren Shan story. Book 8 seems to pick up right where this one left off so I'll be diving right into that one now too. :-)

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

#71 Glass Houses: The Morganville Vampires, Book 1 by Rachel Caine

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Meet Claire Danvers, an advanced student headed off to college at Texas Prarie University a year early. Unfortunately, she's made quick enemies of some of the more popular girls in the dorm, and after numerous attempts on her life, she comes to realize that Monica and her pals are no longer joking around so she begins to look for off-campus housing, despite the fact that freshmen are prohibited to do so. But hey, if that's what it takes to keep her alive....

Responding to an ad in the local paper, Claire meets up with Eve, Shane, and Michael, and after a bit of worrying about her age, they've invited her to live at the Glass house, owned by resident Michael Glass. But the rest of the town is still out looking for Claire. It seems she's pissed off the wrong people; the "wrong people" being of the undead variety: the Vampires that rule Morganville. But can her new roommates keep her safe?

This was a good first book in the young adult Morganville Vampires series. At times I thought it was a bit too teenish for me, but I get that feeling with a lot of teen books whenever they start "crushing" on a guy or stuff like that. LOL It ended on a cliffhanger, as many young adult books seem to be prone to do, so I'm definitely looking forward to starting the next in the series shortly, which I have waiting for me here anyway as part of Amberkatze's bookring. :-)

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

#70 Dead Over Heels: An Aurora Teagarden Mystery by Charlaine Harris

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

This fifth installment in the Aurora Teagarden Mystery series is just as cute and cozy as it's predecessors. The story takes place about two years after the events of the previous book, The Julius House. Roe and Martin have settled into married life quite comfortably, and things have been relatively quiet around the small Atlanta suburb of Lawrenceton, GA for the last few years. But that all changes when a body is dropped from a low-flying airplane, right onto Roe's lawn! But just wait a day or two because you know that won't be the only dead body showing up!

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

#69 Kitty Takes a Holiday by Carrie Vaughn

My Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

This was another great installment in the Kitty series. I really like Kitty's character: tough as nails on the outside, yet vulnerable and quite complex on the inside. In this book, Kitty has escaped from the world for awhile to a remote cabin in the mountains, supposedly to write her memoirs, but she really just needs time to think... to get away from it all, get her priorities straight, etc. Unfortunately, her time away isn't quite as comforting as she'd like. It seems someone in town is trying to curse her, and now to top it off, she's got a new werewolf to train too. Guess who? =-o

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

#68 Sugarplums and Scandal by Dana Cameron, Mary Daheim, Lori Avocato, Cait London, Suzanne Macpherson, Kerrelyn Sparks

My Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

"All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth" by Lori Avocato
When nurse-turned-investigator Pauline Sokol decides to bring a bit of Christmas cheer to a helpless old man, she unwittingly discovers misdeeds of a Scrooge-like local dentist.

This was a cute little story. Not much of a mystery in and of itself, but apparently the Pauline Sokol Mystery series from which these characters are drawn is a fairly successful cozy mystery series. She reminds me a bit of Stephanie Plum. Characters were well drawn and the story imparted a nice sense of Christmas spirit despite it's brevity.

"The Lords of Misrule" by Dana Cameron
Modern detection techniques are called for on Christmas Eve in an elegant eighteenth-century English manor when murder and grand theft get thrown in amidst the Christmas cheer.

This was another cute little mystery. I didn't care for the 18th century setting as much as I do for contemporary settings, but the mystery itself was entertaining, the characters interesting, and it held my interest throughout.

"The Ghost of Christmas Passed" by Mary Daheim
All the wacky relatives are together for the holidays at Judith McMonigle Flynn's bed and breakfast—but a murderous, uninvited "ghost" may dampen the Christmas spirit.

I really couldn't get into this one and found myself paging ahead to see when it was gonna end! LOL I had a difficult time relating to the main characters or the situations they faced, possibly because they were quite a bit outside my age range, and the supposed "ghost" wasn't even really a ghost at all! :-( So overall, this was just a large group of family and friends, whose names I couldn't even keep track of, getting together on Christmas and getting a little surprise. Ehhh... *shrug*

"Partners in Crime" by Cait London
When a well-meaning do-gooder lets a mysterious man into her life, she must discover if he's protecting her—or stalking her.

This cute little mystery wasn't too bad, though it wasn't my favorite of the bunch either. It was like a cozy mystery and love story rolled up into one. At least it was interesting enough to hold my interest throughout. :-)

"Holly Go Lightly" by Suzanne Macpherson
A handsome hero's plucky late fiancée won't leave him be until he completes her unfinished mission on Earth.

When the ghost of his old girlfriend starts haunting him on Christmas Eve, Nick is led to discover a holiday secret that has been hidden from him for years. This was another good story: a little bit romance, a little bit mystery, but a good holiday story overall.

"A Very Vampy Christmas" by Kerrelyn Sparks
Coming home for the holidays takes on new meaning when a newly turned vampire discovers his own Christmas miracle.

This one was the best of the batch! It was also the longest at 86 pages so perhaps that had something to do with it. :-) This is the story of Don Orlando de Corazon, "the greatest lover in the vampire world" from the DVN soap opera As a Vampire Turns, and his discovering who he really is. Don Orlando was a minor character in the previous Love at Stake novels, and I recognized many of the other characters from the full-length novels as well, though its certainly not necessary to have read them before this; this story can easily stand alone.

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

#67 The Julius House: An Aurora Teagarden Mystery by Charlaine Harris

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Aurora "Roe" Teagarden has received a most unusual but welcome wedding present from her fiancé, Martin Bartell. He has given her "the Julius House", a local house that's been shrouded in mystery for the last 6 years since it's previous occupants went missing. Roe has always been drawn to the house, as well as the circumstances surrounding the unexpected and sudden disappearance of its previous inhabitants. But when she starts sleuthing, can she handle the things she discovers?

It took me a little while to reacquaint myself with a few of the characters in this series. I didn't really recall Martin all that well, though I did remember her previous two boyfriends, Arthur the cop and Aubrey the minister. So either Martin came into the picture late in book 3, and I haven't yet read enough about him, or else he simply didn't make much of an impression on me. Nevertheless, that was the only character I didn't remember. And I quickly warmed to the familiarity of Roe and her family and friends from the small town of Lawrenceton, GA.

This book and the next, Dead Over Heels were fairly difficult to find so I purchased them from eBay for a fair price and plan to give them to NeedSun. I'd actually planned to do that after I bought them last year, but she insisted I read the series first since I had been acquiring the majority of the early books for her. And I'm certainly glad I did. These are cute little cozies, not as dark as the Shakespeare series, but Charlaine's terrific writing style comes through just as easily in these earlier books, making them a joy to read. :-)

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Monday, December 03, 2007

#66 Dead and Loving It by MaryJanice Davidson

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

"Santa Claws" (read 11/4–5)
Not a whole lot of substance to this one. I can see why the first three of these Wyndham werewolf stories were initallly published in e-book format. I suspect they're mostly fillers to fill in a bit of back story on the various werewolves of the Wyndham pack. That said, I did appreciate this story for what it was: how Alec met Giselle, and how they rocked the sheets all night. ;-)

"Monster Love" (read 11/15–16)
Again, not a whole lot of substance... just a way to introduce you to a few more minor characters to be introduced/talked about in the Wyndham Werewolf series. In this story, we've got Janet Lupo—whose name they kept shortening to Jane which is really stupid because Jane is not a nickname for Janet. I know lots of people by both names and none has ever shortened Janet to Jane! Anyway, Janet's a real bitch of a werewolf: harsh mouth, bad attitude, the works! And now she's finally met her match in local vampire, Richard "Dick" Will. Their initial "getting-to-know-you" revolves around sex... which is fine by me. Being dogs by nature, that's how werewolves judge their compatibility apparently. ;-)

"There's No Such Thing as a Werewolf" (read 11/25)
This one didn't appear to have as much sex as the previous two, at least not anything as explicit. Instead, it was a nice story about Drake, a former werewolf of the Wyndham pack, who's gone rogue and who's actually a practicing doctor among humans. Oh, and did I mention he's blind as well? Well, that is until he meets Crescent, a street girl who thinks she can fly. What is it about her that causes him to be able to not just sense her with his extrasharp senses, but actually see the light eminating from her? This is their story, and I quite enjoyed it. :-)

"A Fiend in Need" (read 12/2)
This story actually takes place in the Queen Betsy universe, and occurs between book 4, Undead and Unreturnable, and book 5, Undead and Unpopular. Here we meet Antonia, a werewolf who's a little unique in that she cannot Change. She can however see the future, and one of her visions has told her to travel to Minneapolis, MN to see the queen, and she'll get what she needs. Since the pack doesn't seem to miss her, an address pops into her head and off she goes! She doesn't realize until she gets there that the queen she's visiting is actually Queen Betsy, Queen of the Vampires. She falls into a fast friendship with the gang at Betsy's, particularly George the Fiend, née Garrett Shea, where it's pretty much love at first sight. So this is primarily Antonia and Garrett's story, and it reads very much like a typical Betsy story. It'll be interesting to see how things progress with Garrett and Antonia in the later Betsy books, since Antonia has decided to move into the mansion with Betsy and the gang.

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#65 Nightlife by Rob Thurman

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Cal and Niko have lived the last 4 years of their life on the run... ever since Cal discovered his father is a monster, an evil and hated Grendel. Grendels are a vicious and hated species from the otherworld, and apparently they have some grand scheme that involves Cal and they've been tracking him throughout his life. He escaped once, but they don't plan to let him go again... not when their entire existence depends on it!

I enjoyed this first novel from new author Rob Thurman. The storyline was interesting and there was enough action to keep me interested. One thing that threw me though was that the mythology was quite a bit different from what I've come to know about the various otherworld species. For instance, Cal's father is referred to as a Grendel or Auphe, which is actually an Elf. So this is the first time I've encountered evil, bloodthirsty elves with red demon eyes, and the character of Rob Fellowes, aka the puck Robin Goodfellow, didn't come across as very faery-like to me either. a typical faery creature either. So I kind of had to put aside my past learnings about these creatures so it didn't impact my perception of the characters in this book in the wrong way. I have Moonshine, the follow-up to Nightlife, waiting on Mt. TBR, so I'll be looking forward to seeing how this series progresses.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

#64 Confessions of a Werewolf Supermodel by Ronda Thompson

My Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

On the night of her senior prom, shy, awkward Shelly Billington discovers that she has the ability to shapeshift into a werewolf, particularly when she's feeling scared or threatened. Unfortunately, that was the first and only time she's fully transformed, and superjock Tom Dawson paid with his life that night. Granted he had attempted to rape her and her rage took over, but still...

Now 7 years later, having fled that small town in Texas where it all went down, she's changed her name, her identity, and—one of the fortunate side effects of the change—her looks. She's now Lou Kinipski, successful supermodel living in a swanky high-rise in New York City. For the past 6 months however, Lou's been having strange nightmares... and strange "hairy" outbreaks that coincide with the moon's cycle. And two women who look very much like Lou have been murdered. I think her past is about to catch up with her... now!!!

I had recently read the Midnight Pleasures anthology, which included a short story by Ronda Thompson. That was my first introduction to this author and I really liked her style. I expect to eventually read her Wild Wulfs of London historical romance series via bookrings from CandyDarling, but was quite happy to find this stand-alone novel by Ms. Thompson which was just published last month. I do hope she decides to continue these characters in a series of their own as I really liked this book a lot.

I'd say it leaned more towards paranormal chick-lit, in the style of MaryJanice Davidson's Betsy Taylor series, as opposed to paranormal romance. We didn't have any sappy happily-ever romance/relationship issues. Lou's got her own real-life problems, but prefers to let the world think she's just an airhead supermodel with no brains. Her best friend Cindy is a lesbian, a makeup artist, and knew her back when she was still Shelly Billington. The many situations they get themselves into are touching, humorous, and fun. I truly enjoyed this book!!

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#63 Unmasqued: An Erotic Novel of The Phantom of The Opera by Colette Gale

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

I'm a huge Phantom fan. I've seen it on stage several times, read the original book by Gaston Leroux, have the movie version on DVD in my collection, and have the original Broadway production soundtrack on CD. So I guess you can say I know my Phantom. ;) For the other Phantom fantatics out there, know that this book is based on the Broadway play and movie version, not the original Gaston Leroux book. However, this is probably the version most people are familiar with anyway.

I read through the reviews over at Amazon and was surprised at the number of negative reviews complaining about the sex. Sheesh, it's an Erotic novel people! That's why the word is part of the subtitle even! Though from that same vantage point, I actually found the sex scenes a little lukewarm and only mediocre for my taste. This wasn't the spicy hot erotica I usually find like in Ellora's Cave or Black Lace books. Granted they were explicit, but in my opinion, more along the lines of what you find in an erotic romance as opposed to full-out erotica. But I suppose that's how she got published with a major publisher instead of an Erotica-specific one such as Ellora's Cave or Black Lace. I'm not faulting her in any way for this, simply stating the facts.

I really did enjoy this take on Phantom though, taking it at face value. Sure, I think it could've been a little hotter on the sex as I already stated. ;) But I enjoyed the fleshing out of the various characters: Christine Daaé, Madame Giry, and especially Erik. I loved how the author really made you feel for Erik! She also managed to make the Comte de Chagny, Raoul's brother Philippe, look like a real asshole, while leaving you with a sort of indifferent attitude towards the Raoul himself. So her words and story did a good job of evoking plenty of emotion. :)

The pacing of the story was quite good as well. There was a good mix of action with the sex scenes placed appropriately throughout. Going in, I was afraid the sex would seem contrived, randomly inserted and disjointed from the rest of the story, but that wasn't the case at all. All the sex was woven in with the rest of the action, which in turn was woven into the standard Phantom story we all know and love.

Most excellent work, Ms. Gale! Bravo!

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Friday, November 16, 2007

#62 Don't Be Afraid by Rebecca Drake

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It reminded me of many a past mystery where clues were dropped throughout the story, and I found myself keeping track of the page numbers on which various characters were first introduced and comparing aspects of their looks or personality to that of the killer, whose mind we got to see into in various chapters.

Of course, I knew it would end up being one of the characters previously introduced, but the author did real well keeping me on my toes with the red herrings, and though it came down to two characters that I considered the most likely suspect, I was thrown off when it turned out to be over the other. :P (Okay, I hope that didn't give too much away.) Suffice to say, I thought the author did a good job on the mystery part... not making it too easy right from the start, and also allowing us to look into the killer's mind, despite the story being written in third person.

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

#61 The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Humpty Stuyvesant Van Dumpty III, minor baronet, ex-convict, and former millionaire philanthropist, is found shattered to death beneath a wall in a shabby area of town. Preliminary investigations at the Reading Police Department suspect no ill intent, that Mr. Dumpty simply fell off the wall because he'd had too much to drink at the charity benefit earlier that evening. But Detective Inspector Jack Spratt and his assistant Mary Mary of the Nursery Crime Division (NCD) keep turning up clues to the contrary.

But they'll need to find enough solid evidence to get a conviction—particularly after the failure to convict the Three Pigs in the murder of Mr. Wolff which wasted so much time and resources—in order to receive continued funding for their division. And who knows... they may just get their story published in the most popular public crime magazine, Amazing Crime Stories, in the process!

This was my first introduction to Jasper Fforde. Though I have her Thursday Next series here, I hadn't yet found a chance to read them. And from what I've read here and elsewhere, those are even better than this. :-) That said, I did enjoy this little romp through Nursery rhyme time. I can't say it was laugh out loud funny, but it was certainly worth a chuckle or two, enough so that I'll be looking forward to reading The Fourth Bear. Apparently I'm endeared enough towards Jack Spratt and Mary Mary to find out what happens to them in the future. ;-)

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Friday, October 26, 2007

#60 Demon's Delight by MaryJanice Davidson, Emma Holly, Vickie Taylor, Catherine Spangler

My Rating: 5 out of 10 stars

"Witch Way" by MaryJanice Davidson
My Rating: 2 stars
New York Times bestselling author MaryJanice Davidson challenges a charlatan exorcist with a sexy dead woman-and an unnatural romance.

Stupid, stupid, stupid!! And completely unrealistic to boot. The author writes about Salem, MA as if it's some theoretical place where Witches are still hunted to this day when that couldn't be farther from the truth. It's actually more of Witch Central now. If you want to write about witch hunters, look to the southern states where there's still a lot of ignorance and fundamentalism. For some reason, this just didn't read like MJD's usual stuff... it was just blah for me.

"Street Corners and Halos" by Catherine Spangler
My Rating: 5 stars
And award-winning author Catherine Spangler gives a vampire prostitute a last chance at redemption when an angelic hunk offers her a night of divine lovemaking.

This one was a bit better than MJD's story, and at least held my interest, even if it was a bit corny and cliche at times.

"The Demon's Angel" by Emma Holly
My Rating: 6 stars
USA Today bestselling author Emma Holly introduces a beautiful scientist to the realm of the Demon World...and an irresistible male she has experimented on.

A little different from what I'm used to from Emma Holly. The genetic mutation part was a bit freaky... the sex was a bit tame, but there was a bit more to it than just a romance so I tended to like it a little bit. :-)

"Angel and the Hellraiser" by Vickie Taylor
My Rating: 5 stars
National bestselling author Vickie Taylor throws a hell-bent man into the arms of a beautiful dark angel who is driven by ethereal desires of her own.

For my first intro to this author, I found her story fairly well written and interesting enough. Though a bit too romancey for my tastes to make me want to hunt down other works by this author.

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#59 Derik's Bane by MaryJanice Davidson

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

This was a quick read, and I think I enjoyed it more coming into it after having read the two Wyndham werewolf stories from the Secrets anthologies since I already recognized many of the characters.

This is Derik's story. In it, he leaves the shelter of his pack leader Michael's home to head out to California, to supposedly kill the reincarnated Morgan LeFay, destined to bring the end of the world. Instead of killing her however, Derik falls in love with Dr. Sarah Gunn, the reincarnated LeFay, and cannot bring himself to do the deed. Besides, she apparently has some strange cosmic forces at work that make it impossible to kill her. So Derik takes matters into his own hands (paws) and attempt to change Sarah's fate.

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#58 Nymph by Francesca Lia Block

My Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

This is a collection of short erotic stories by Francesa Lia Block, author of the Weezie Bat books. I wasn't quite sure how to feel about this collection, but I think I at least got my money's worth in the "hotness" factor department. ;) Each story was loosely related to the others, either via a common character or a common location. Some stories had an element of fantasy to them while others did not. And though some seemed a little weird, they weren't much weirder than some of the goth books I've read, and I know this author writes in that genre anyway. That said, I think I enjoyed Plum's character the most.

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#57 Heiress for Hire by Erin McCarthy

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Amanda Delmar is a 26 year old Chicgo socialite and heiress to a multi-million dollar company. She'd been living the good life back in Chicago, with her dad footing the bill for everything from her apartment and huge closetful of designer clothes, to her luxury trips around the world and all her day-to-day living expenses. With all her parties and superficial friends, she was the epitome of FAKE! But when her Dad suddenly cuts off her money supply, the life lessons she learns are the most valuable ones of her life.

Going in, I wasn't sure how I'd feel about this book since I'm still deciding whether or not I like chick lit. :-P A few of the chick lit books I've read, Jennifer Crusie for instance, read much too romance-y for my liking. This book however, wasn't too sugary at all and I'm glad I gave it a chance. :-) It had a great deal of humour and a number of laugh out loud moments. And I should've known as soon as I saw her refer to someplace as "East Bum Fuck", a term I use quite often myself, that I'd really relate well to this author. LOL

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Friday, October 19, 2007

#56 Light My Fire by Katie MacAlister

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

This is the third book in the Aisling Grey, Guardian series. Whenever I start reading these Aisling Grey books, I read all the girly-girl romance crap at the beginning and think to myself, I'm not going to read any more from this series after this one. I just don't have the time with all the other great books I've got waiting on my shelf. However, about halfway into the book, it begins to pick up the pace and grab my interest, and then ends on somewhat of a cliffhanger so that I'm looking forward to the next book again. LOL

This time, Aisling and Drake are romping around London, and as usual, Aisling is doing her best to keep herself alive. She's had one too many close brushes with death, and this time around is no different as she's got no less than three different groups gunning for her! Besides coming into some new, darker powers, she's also had quite a change of heart with regards to on-again/off-again her relationship with Drake, which now appears to be going strong! But if this will continue as her "dark side" continues to tempt her will remain to be seen in the next book.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

#55 The Cutting Room by Louise Welsh

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Rilke is a down-on-his-luck auctioneer in Glasgow, Scotland who comes into a estate job that has seriously piqued his interest. In the converted attic of the McKindless residence, hidden among a huge collection of rare and hard-to-find first edition pornography, he finds some extremely disturbing photographs.... Proving that McKindless was more than just a reader, but an actual participant in some very nasty stuff!

I'm glad I found the time to read this. Thank you for allowing me hang on to it longer than usual. I'm not much of a "true crime" reader usually, but the subject matter of this particular book (pornography and other sexual deviations) greatly interested me. ;-) Apparently, this was a first novel from this Scottish author, Louise Welsh, and though I had a slightly difficult time with some of the colloquialisms, it wasn't anything that took away from the story, and I was usually able to figure out what the author was referring to within a page or two max. An exciting read!

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Friday, October 05, 2007

#54 Midnight Pleasures by Amanda Ashley, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Maggie Shayne, Ronda Thompson

My Overall Rating: 5 out of 10 stars

Though I didn't care for some of the stories in this anthology all that much, I'm still glad I read it because I did enjoy the story by Ronda Thompson. :)

"Darkfest" by Amanda Ashley
My Rating: 3 stars
The price of saving her dying mother is Channa's promise to spend a year at the castle of tormented nobleman, Lord Darkfest... to obey him as his servant or, as his secrets are revealed, to become his salvation. And her own.

I found this one a bit chintzy and sappy. And then I realized I didn't really care for Amanda Ashley's full-length novel, Desire After Dark, that I'd read either. Romance buffs may enjoy it more but it didn't have enough of an interesting story line to go along with it to hold my interest.

"Phantom Lover" by Sherrilyn Kenyon
My Rating: 4 stars
Haunted by recurring nightmares of terrifying beasts, Erin McDaniels is afraid to sleep—until a hero arrives in her dreams to save her... and makes erotic, incredible love to her. But can she find him again when she is awake?

I wasn't too impressed with this story. It was a bit too "sappy romance" for me and the rest of the action was only mediocre. Though I've felt that the romance in Kenyon's full-length Dark-Hunter novels was a bit sappy too, they generally had enough action and sub-plot going on to keep me interested anyway... although I do admit I get a bit glassy-eyed during the sappy love scenes that go on for 3 or 4 pages. But glossing over those parts, the rest of the story is still fairly engaging, which I didn't really find to be the case as much with this short story, probably due in great part to the short-story format and not having enough space to really flesh out a good sub-plot.

"Under Her Spell" by Maggie Shayne
My Rating: 5 stars
Melissa St. Cloud is hired as the technical consultant for a television series, The Enchantress. But instead of simply correcting the technical inaccuracies related to Witchcraft in the show itself, she ends up having to banish an evil spirit who is trying to consume Alex's life... literally!

I had mixed feelings about this one. On one hand, I liked the background story that went along with the it. However, the way the author approached the parts dealing with Wicca and Witchcraft, though accurate, seemed very much like a Wicca 101 lecture. Yes, granted she's trying to teach the reader something in the process, but for someone who's already experienced with all that like myself, it simply came off as rote, and the kind of thing that should be saved for a non-fiction Wicca 101 text.

"A Wulf's Curse" by Ronda Thompson
My Rating: 7 stars
Elise is running from her uncle and the arranged marriage he's set for her to a very cruel man. So she stows away in the wagon of a traveling road show, hoping to hitch a ride from London to Liverpool, and ends up right in the arms of the Beast Tamer, Sterling Wulf... and the Wulf part is more than just his last name! ;-)

This is my fist introduction to this author, and since I have some of her full-length novels coming in a bookring from CandyDarling, I had wanted to make sure I liked the author. Although this was strictly romance, I liked the author's writing style enough, and there was enough of a storyline outside of the romance with the traveling road show, that I enjoyed it nonetheless. IMO, this was the best story in this anthology.

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#53 Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews

My Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

When the magic is up, rogue mages cast their spells and monsters appear, while guns refuse to fire and cars fail to start. But then technology returns and the magic recedes as unpredictably as it arose, leaving all kinds of paranormal problems in its wake.

Kate Daniels is a down-on-her-luck mercenary who makes her living cleaning up such problems. But when her guardian is murdered, her quest for justice draws her into a power struggle between two strong factions within Atlanta's magic circles: the undead (Vampires) and the shapeshifters (more than just wolves).

This book had a completely unique way of looking at vampires, shapeshifters, and magic, and I'm not sure I cared for all of it. I definitely didn't like the concept of vampires "piloting" other vampires remotely, nor the fact that they were portrayed as completely emotionless bloodsuckers. The concept of magic or technology being "up" was also a bit hard to get used to—especially the fact that only one or the other could be in effect at any given time. I'm much more synergistic in my approach to life and thus have a hard time dealing with absolutes. And this one definitely seemed a hard one to swallow, at least for me personally.

Overall, I'm not sure how I felt about this one. On the one hand, I enjoy the urban fantasy genre very much, but on the other, this was this author's first novel and I'm sorry to say, you could sort of tell with the writing. There were many things that could've been done better. That said, I do hold out hope for the second novel in the series, due out in March of next year. By then, she may have refined her writing technique a bit more and I won't be distracted by the lack of finesse in the writing. :) We shall see....

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Friday, September 28, 2007

#52 Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

I was looking forward to reading this because I'm going to see the musical in Boston on November 3rd, and I wanted a more concrete understanding of the story before seeing it.

I enjoyed this take on The Wizard of Oz, as seen from the viewpoint of the Elphaba, later to be known as the Wicked Witch of the West. Elphaba was born in Munchkinland, a province of Oz, daughter to a Unionist minister and his privileged wife, a woman with what some called "loose morals". She was born with green skin, extremely sharp teeth, and a very temperamental manner. Her father, Frex, thought Elphaba was his curse to bear, and Elphaba grew up feeling this guilt her entire life.

Eventually Elphie, as she was known to her friends, heads off to school at Shiz University in the Emerald City, where she meets Galinda, who later becomes known as Glinda the Good Witch of the North, and some other key figures relating to Oz politics. Elphie has a very strong personality and develops some strong ideals for which she fights. After her sister Nessarose, who was born without arms and eventually becomes the Wicked Witch of the East, joins her at Shiz, and their Ama is killed for witnessing something she shouldn't, Elphie runs away, fearing that as the headmistress predicted, she's being used as a pawn for the evil Wizard of Oz.

So Elphie begins a campaign of her own to right what she believes is wrong in the world. Her actions eventually cause the death of her lover and her life seems to go downhill from there.

I really felt for Elphie in this book. Maguire portrays her not as the evil witch we have all become so familiar with through the famous movie, but instead as a misunderstood but headstrong character with strong ideals which she defends to the very end!

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

#51 Enchanted, Inc. by Shanna Swendson

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

I wasn't sure how I'd feel about this going in... would it be just another silly chick-lit paranormal wannabe? Fortunately, that wasn't the case here. Shanna Swendson has some talent, and this book didn't come off like a standard chick-lit trying to jump on the paranormal bandwagon either.

Katie Chandler is just your ordinary girl living in New York City... so ordinary in fact, she's actually pretty special. As an Immune, magic has absolutely NO effect on her; all the glamour and illusion used throughout the world to mask the use of magic doesn't work on her at all. She can see right through it, which makes her a hot commodity to MSI, Inc., that's Magic, Spells, and Illusions, Inc.

After being recruited by Rod and that hot guy, Owen, from R&D, Katie goes to work for MSI as a Verifier, and learns that all the things she used to try to write off in her head as "that's NYC for ya" really are there!

And to top it all off, she's just learned that an evil wizard who once worked for MSI is attempting to introduce a number of manipulative spells to the market, which will cause all kinds of chaos and mayhem. And if that happens... oy, our entire world as we know it could come to a screeching halt! Fortunately, it's Katie to the rescue!

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Friday, September 07, 2007

#50 The Mysteries by Lisa Tuttle

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Ian Kennedy is a private investigator in England, who's been hired by Laura Lensky to find her missing daughter, Peri. Ian's got a thing for missing person cases since his first case which sent him to England and Scotland in the first place. There he did indeed find Amy, the young girl he was seeking on behalf of a family friend, but he also discovered a whole otherworld he hadn't realized existed. Now he thinks Peri's case seems a bit too similar to Amy's, and he wonders what he'll find this time....

I enjoyed this book, though I found it a bit difficult to follow at times due to the way the author inserted relevant short stories from the past between chapters. I realize they were put there to get the reader thinking on the right track, but combined with how it sometimes jumped back into Ian's past as well—the Amy case or his relationship with Jenny—I still found it a bit disconcerting at times. But overall, still a very interesting read. :)

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Friday, August 10, 2007

#49 Murder Under a Mystic Moon: A Chintz 'n China Mystery by Yasmine Galenorn

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

I very much enjoyed this 3rd book in Galenorn's Chintz 'n' China Mystery series. On the personal front, Emerald's relationship with Joe is beginning to get a bit more serious. And now Autumn is in full swing and the town is getting ready for it's annual Early Autumn Breeze Celebration.

Emerald has also become good friends with Jimbo the biker, who featured in the previous book. And now, Jimbo's friend Scar has gone missing, and tales point to the legendary Klakatat monster, supposedly living in the woods surrounding Klickavail Valley. Scar asks Emerald to use her senses to try to figure out what, if any, ill will has come to Scar since the local police chief isn't too concerned about a missing biker. But what Emerald and Murray discover is older than man itself!

I look forward to more of this series!

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#48 Vampirates: Tide of Terror by Justin Somper

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

I loved this second in the Vampirates series just as much of the first. Lots of action and adventure, and best of all, both vampires AND pirates! :)

This book picks up right where book 1 left off. We've got Conner and Grace, now both on the Diablo, the pirate ship that rescued Conner from the waters when he and his sister's boat capsized. They are happy to be together now, but Grace can't help thinking back to her time on the Vampirate ship, and she sorely misses some of them, especially Lorcan and Darcy. And she's also not so sure anymore that the Diablo is the right place for her and Conner....

So off to Vampire Academy they go with Cheng Li, to learn more about what it means to be a pirate and other useful skills. But how will what they do and learn there affect their future on the Diablo, or if they even return....

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Friday, July 27, 2007

#47 Valiant: A Modern Tale of Faerie by Holly Black

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

I didn't like this one quite as much as Tithe. Though it seems more of a standalone, there are a few characters from Faery from the first one that are mentioned later on here. Apparently, Ironside, the third book in the series, is more of a direct sequel to Tithe.

When seventeen-year-old Val finds her mom and her boyfriend making out, she runs away from her home in New Jersey to the streets of New York City. She befriends a group of kids who live in the subway tunnels where she encounters some strange substances, and meets some even stranger people, including Ravus the Troll. She agrees to help him with deliveries since he cannot go out in the sun, while he teaches her sword fighting in return. She grows to admire him and when he's accused of poisoning the other exiled faeries, she vows to help him in any way she can and everything ends happily ever after (sorta). Just like a true fairy tale. LOL

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

#46 Thunderbird Falls by C.E. Murphy

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Not bad... I can't say I like this series as much as the Retrievers series by Laura Anne Gilman though, which I find similar enough that I get some of the characters mixed up between the two series. :( It's really just the two main characters, Joanne and Wren, that seem pretty similar to me.

In this second installment in the series (3rd if you count the short story appearing in the Winter Moon anthology), we start off with Joanne trying to deny her powers (again!) because of what happened last time in the first novel. Some of the same things that bothered me there bother me here as well, with the main character suppressing her powers rather than embracing them. But since it's a story involving magic, which happens in our world in the here and now, I can't keep away. :P And I've got a lot of hope for this series going forward.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

#45 Shakespeare's Christmas: A Lily Bard Mystery by Charlaine Harris

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Another great entry in the Lily Bard Mystery series. In this one, Lily travels home during the holidays to be a bridesmaid in her sister's wedding, and of course trouble follows her... as does her sexy new boyfriend Jack! ;)

We learn a bit more about Lily's background in this one as she stays with her family during her homecoming. This is really the first time she's been home since the incident which scarred her both physically and emotionally.

I'm looking forward to reading more of this series!

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#44 Shakespeare's Champion: A Lily Bard Mystery by Charlaine Harris

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

This is the second book in the Lily Bard Mystery series. I'm really beginning to like Lily cuz she kicks ass! :P Granted, I may not always agree with her "need to be alone" attitude but I can understand where it comes from. Like the other reviewers, I liked this one a bit more than the first one as there was definitely more action here, and more setup there.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

#43 Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Zahrah lives in the northern Ooni Kingdom, where fear of the unknown runs deep. She is born dada, with vines growing through her hair and believed to have special powers. Besides their fear of dada, the people of the Ooni Kingdom also gravely fear the Forbidden Greeny Jungle, which begins on the outskirts of their small village. But when Zahrah notices changes going on within her and is then faced with having to save Dari's life, she's ready to confront all her fears head on, and challenge everything she's been taught.

This was a fun adventure. I enjoyed Zahrah's trek through the jungle and the various creatures she met therein. Because this is a children's book (ages 9–12), it also teaches a few important lessons, many which I believe strongly in to this very day. That one being to not believe everything you're told if you don't feel comfortable with it. It's okay to challenge old, outdated beliefs to forge the way for the future. Another is that you are definitely stronger than you think when faced with seemingly impossible odds.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

#42 Julian's House by Judith Hawkes

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

I really enjoyed this story. It was very atmospheric, and I enjoyed it more so because there wasn't so much blood and murder as opposed to suspense and psychic happenings due to the haunted house. The characters were portrayed well, and though i can't say that I really cared for David all that much, I had the same feelings of dislike towards Sally in the beginning as well... until I began to empathize with her situation a bit further along.

My only complaint about the book might be that sometimes I felt the paragraphs went on a bit too long for my taste, and that if they were split up, it might've been a bit easier to read. But I think a lot of that could also be due to the fact that I've been reading a lot of the more contemporary and/or YA authors lately, whom tend to stick to smaller paragraphs to make for easier reading. Certainly the paragraph lengths the author used here weren't outside the boundary of acceptable writing. I've just found shorter to be better for me personally in holding my interest and keeping me from getting too distracted. Obviously a lot of contemporary authors have jumped on the same bandwagon.

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