Saturday, February 26, 2011

My Soul to Steal by Rachel Vincent

My Soul to Steal (Soul Screamers, Book 4) by Rachel Vincent is the latest addition to the Soul Screamers series.  Kaylee Cavanaugh, female bean sidhe is trying to hold it all together.  While she is still recovering from her recent breakup with Nash, his ex-girlfriend and first love Sabine comes to town.  Kaylee is blindsided by the gorgeous and slightly creepy Sabine, who is very clear in her intention to win back Nash's heart.  Sabine is a mara--a being that feeds off the fear of others in the form of their nightmares. 

In the midst of Kaylee's troubles, teachers start dropping dead at school--in their sleep.  And the student body seems to have lost its collective mind.  On top of all this, Avari seems to have been possessing people around Kaylee in their sleep.  Sabine, Avari and the chaos can't all be a coincidence, can it?  Kaylee is faced with so many possibilities that she doesn't know where to turn or who to trust.  Can she turn to Nash even though she feels that she can't trust him?  Tod is always there for her, but he seems to be acting a little weird too, and she can't expose Emma to any more of Netherworld, can she?

My Soul to Steal (Soul Screamers, Book 4) shows Kaylee becoming more self-reliant and confident in her abilities.  She also has to learn to trust and accept help from others instead of trying to take everything on herself.  Nash is also maturing--his desperation in trying to win Kaylee back a clear sign that he is adhering to the straight and narrow.  All of the characters seem to  have matured since the first novel, My Soul to Take (Soul Screamers Book 1).  Okay, maybe not Sophie but somebody has to play the foil, right?  The books seem to be heading in a direction where Kaylee is learning how special she is, as both a girl and a bean sidhe.  I found this latest addition to be highly entertaining and I am eagerly anticipating the next installment.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

My Soul to Keep by Rachel Vincent

My Soul to Keep (Soul Screamers, Book 3) brings us back to the world of Kaylee Cavanaugh, teen-aged bean sidhe.  Kaylee, still adjusting to life with her recently returned father, is finally finished with her grounding from her last adventure when the Netherworld rears its ugly head in her home town.  It appears that some of the students in her school, friends of Nash, are inhaling Demon's Breath for a high, unaware of its otherworldly origins or of its deadly consequences.

Kaylee and Nash set out to protect the student body from the highly dangerous Demon's Breath, but all is not as it seems.  Nash's behavior is erratic and he keeps trying to Influence Kaylee.  Both Emma and Sophie are wrapped up in things via their respective boyfriends, and Kaylee can't know for sure how much danger either of them are in.  She wants to go to the adults for help but Nash keeps stopping her.  The whole story seems a bit disjointed before things finally click into place for Kaylee and, vicariously, for the reader.  Once the core of the story begins to unwind, we see that all roads lead to Avari, the hellion whose attempt to snatch Kaylee's soul was thwarted in My Soul to Save (Soul Screamers Book 2).  I won't tell you how things develop to this point, but once Avari is revealed, things begin to make a little more sense and the action begins to pick up.  Kaylee must make some difficult choices and take a long, hard look at who is truly on her side.

In My Soul to Keep (Soul Screamers, Book 3), Kaylee begins to grow up.  She has to make difficult decisions based on what is right, not on what she wants.  She also seems to have made an enemy in Avari, bringing Netherworld into her life on terms other than her own.  Her actions in previous books are coming back to either benefit her or make her re-evaluate the consequences of her previous decisions.  Overall, I think that this book represents a turning point in the series.  Kaylee is maturing, the problems are getting bigger and the villain is badder.  It seems as if the character relationships will be more complex in the coming stories which will benefit the series' longevity.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Red Riding Hood by Sarah Blakley-Cartwright

When I first heard of Red Riding Hood, the movie, I thought it sounded interesting.  In fact, I thought it might be based on a book I'd read not too long ago called Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce since the timing seemed relevant.  However, once I saw the movie trailer, I knew it was a different take on the Little Red Riding Hood story, not Pearce's story.  The trailer looked interesting, so when I saw Red Riding Hood in Target I picked it up thinking I'd like to read it before seeing the movie since, for me, the book is usually better.

I was surprised to find that this is a book based on the movie and not the other way around.  As Catherine Hardwicke, the movie's director, explains in the introduction.  The original idea belonged to Leonardo DiCaprio and was the basis for the script written by David Leslie Johnson.  However, Hardwicke felt that there was so much to the story, beyond the scope of the movie, that she brought Sarah Blakley-Cartwright to the film set in Vancouver.  Once there, she was immersed in the world of Red Riding Hood and found the characters and the voices to tell more of the story.

Red Riding Hood is the story of Valerie, a wood cutter's daughter.  She lives in a world that is terrorized by a wolf.  Once a month, the villagers take turns leaving an animal sacrifice on the altar, appeasing the wolf on the full moon and ensuring another month of safety for the village.  However, during Valerie's first harvest as a village woman, things change.  There is a Blood Moon and the Wolf starts killing the townspeople.  It touches Valerie's family and the families of her friends.  The villagers call for a wolf hunt and Father Auguste sends for the famous Father Solomon, who informs the village that their troubles stem not from a wolf, but from a werewolf.

Valerie is also facing some major inner turmoil.  She finds that she is betrothed to Henry, without anyone consulting her, on the same day that Peter, her childhood friend and first love, returns to the village.  As the Wolf's killing begins to tear her family apart, the villagers start to turn on each other as Father Solomon convinces them that the werewolf lives amongst them.  Valerie is caught up in the frenzy as she finds that she has an interesting connection with the Wolf.

In the end, we are left with uncertainty.  The story could end where the book does, but a final page directing us to the book's website informs us that Valerie's story continues with a bonus chapter on March 14th, a few days after the movie opens.  While this is a very clever means of keeping the movie's ending a secret, especially since the movie was conceived first, it is a little frustrating to know that the end is not the end.  And, while I don't have to wait another year to know what happens next, as is the case with books in a series, I'm still left wanting to know how the story ends.  It's difficult to rate a book without knowing if the end is well-written.  However, based on the rest of the book, I'd venture a guess and say that Red Riding Hood the book will be an enjoyable read for anyone interested in the upcoming movie or is just a fan of paranormal fiction.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Deborah Harkness' debut novel, A Discovery of Witches: A Novel, is amazing.  I was drawn in from the first and did not want to put it down.  It's like a mature Twilight (The Twilight Saga, Book 1) meets The Da Vinci Code.  The characters are interesting and complex, the story is exciting without being too ambitious or overcomplicated.  The book held me spellbound and is responsible for a few hours of lost sleep. It's an historical-supernatural-romance-adventure-mystery--my favorite genres wrapped into an exceptionally good book.

Diana Bishop is not going to use her magic--at least, that's what she keeps telling herself.  She is the last in a long line of powerful witches, with a father as powerful as her mother.  However, having lost her parents when she was seven years old has turned her away from her heritage and her magic.  While researching alchemical manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, she comes in contact with a volume that reaches out to her magic.  Panicked, she returns the book to the stacks, but it is too late--word is out that she has discovered the lost Ashmole 782 and now all species of creatures are after her.

Enter Matthew Clairmont, renowned scientist and vampire.  He has been searching for Ashmole 782 for centuries and is determined to retrieve the book Diana has recalled.  He feels drawn to Diana, feeling the need to protect her from the other creatures, despite witches and vampires being notorious separatists.  They are thrown into an uneasy friendship when the worlds of witches, vampires and daemons descend upon Diana, all looking for the manuscript.

A Discovery of Witches: A Novel is one of the best books I've read in quite a while.  It's clearly written to have a sequel, possibly more than one, and I am anxiously awaiting the next book.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Eternal: More Love Stories with Bite

Eternal: More Love Stories with Bite is the follow up to yesterday's review of Immortal: Love Stories With Bite.  P C Cast has gathered another group of talented authors in a collection of vampire-related stories.  Claudia Gray, Rachel Caine and Nancy Holder also contributed to the first anthology, with Lili St. Crow, Heather Brewer and Jeri Smith-Ready rounding out the group. 

The anthology opens with "Bloodshed--A Story of Evernight" by Claudia Gray.  I've stated previously that I had not read the Evernight series, but this second short story from the series has me curious.  Patrice, from the short story in Immortal: Love Stories With Bite, is in love with a human who is being shipped overseas during WWII.  She finds out that he has been captured and is being held prisoner by the Nazis.  She goes to Europe to rescue him, but ends up with a lot more than she bargained for. 

The next story "Say Yes" by Lili St. Crow is a fascinating tale of a girl whose image of herself as being in the background of life leads her to take action that she seriously regrets later.  She truly can't believe that she is special enough to have been chosen over her popular friends and betrays someone who could have been important to her.  I'd love to see what happens to her after this story, but couldn't find any hint of a connection to this story in any of the books on Lili St. Crow's website.  Although, I do think I'll be looking into adding some of her work to my to-be-read list.

"Letters to Romeo" by Nancy Holder is an interesting twist to Shakespeare's classic tale of star-crossed lovers.  Romeo hasn't died, he is a vampire who has waited  for 700 years for his Juliet to return to him.  He believes he has found her in a 15 year old girl from Florida, whom he plans to turn in order to spend eternity with her.  But, the tragedy of his tale still clings to him...

Heather Brewer's "The Other Side" tells the story of Tarrah & Cody, lovers who are kidnapped and held together in a small room while awaiting their captors.  The twist at the end was one I didn't see coming though, and the 'myths' mentioned in her story are really interesting.

Two of my favorite authors round out the book:  Rachel Caine and Jeri Smith-Ready.  Rachel Caine provides another story of the Morganville vampires with "Drama Queen's Last Dance" or, as I like to think of it, All About Eve.  Eve is what brought me to the Morganville vampires series, having read
"The First Day of the Rest of Your Life" in Many Bloody Returns.  This time a new vampire in town has her sites on Michael, and Eve, despite being told by everyone that it's lost cause, is determined to break Gloriana's spell.  Eve is an awesome character, strong and self-confident, but still showing some of the normal insecurities of being young.  This story is a great showcase for her character.

"Thief" by Jeri Smith-Ready has me chomping at the bit for the next WVMP book!  The story introduces us to Cassie & Liam, who are "Irish Travelers" and I believe Cassie is a relative of Ciara from the WVMP series.  However, as highly as I recommend the WVMP series, you don't have to have read it to enjoy Cassie's story.  Cassie and Liam are engaged and inseparable.  Unlike most Traveler girls, Cassie is in love with her betrothed.  Her father wanted her to be happy and promised her to Liam, despite his disabilities.  Unfortunately, her father is dead and her step-father is threatening to tear Cassie and Liam apart by promising her to another.  Cassie is determined to be with Liam no matter what, even if it means being dead to her own family.  "Thief" is listed as a tie-in story to the WVMP series on Jeri Smith-Ready's website and I can't wait to see how she and Liam fit into Lust for Life, due out in fall 2012. 

I've mentioned before how much I love anthologies:  I get introduced to new authors that write about a subject I'm already interested in reading and I get little tidbits to tide me over until the next offering in a series I enjoy.  Eternal: More Love Stories with Bite provides all of this in some really cool vampire stories :) 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Immortal: Love Stories with Bite

I love anthologies!  Especially when one of my favorite authors includes a short story related to the series I'm reading. So, how Immortal: Love Stories With Bite got past me, I do not know.  I love Rachel Caine and am a huge fan of the Morganville Vampire series, so why this anthology that includes a short story about Shane didn't hit my radar, I don't know.  Anyway, I'm glad I finally came across it because it has some excellent stories in it. 

First up is "Haunted Love" by Cynthia Leitich Smith, which features a very new vampire, a ghost and a not-so-innocent girl who is connected to both.  What I found interesting is the manner in which the new vampire is made--a modern twist.  The story is very interesting and the character of Cody is someone I would read about again.  Next is "Amber Smoke" by Kristin Cast.  This story features a vampire of mythological origin intervening with Fate to save a very special girl.  I enjoyed the mythological aspect of this story, it brought a different aspect into the story.

"Dead Man Stalking" by Rachel Caine is part of the Morganville Vampire series and features Shane, my favorite character from the series.  Anyone unfamiliar with the series may not enjoy the story as much because you really need to understand the history to appreciate the story.  However, if you are not familiar with the series, find a copy of  Glass Houses (Morganville Vampires, Book 1) and get to reading!  In this story, Shane is 'contacted' by someone from his past & he has to choose between his past & what he believes is right.  It's a great story about Shane and shows a bit of maturity in his character.

"Table Manners" by Tanith Lee is a new kind of vampire story--at least, new to my reading experience.  I was introduced to Lelystra Draculian, only a distant relation, and some notions that the widely behold beliefs about vampires' powers and weaknesses are largely a self-fulfilling prophecy.  This story is followed by "Blue Moon" by Richelle Mead.  I haven't read any of her books, although I understand her Vampire Academy Collection is very popular.  This story isn't related to the series, it introduces an interesting character in Lucy Wade, a vampire born with the power to fulfill an ancient prophecy that will change the world--for real.  I liked this character and would read more about her if Richelle Mead developed this story into a full blown novel.

"Changed" by Nancy Holder takes place in a different New York--one devastated by vampires.  On Jilly's 16th birthday, vampires take over and destroy New York City.  What's interesting about this story is really that the vampires could have been anything--terrorists, aliens, whatever you prefer for your outside source of devastation.  The truth of the story takes place in Jilly's journey to maturity and adulthood, the vampires providing the catalyst for her growth.  Following "Changed" is "Binge" by Rachel Vincent.  I am a fan of Rachel Vincent's Soul Screamers series, as well as her Shifters series.  Although neither refer to vampires, there is enough overlap in the supernatural world to consider that either series would be referenced in this story.  But, this story was completely independent of either series and it was very, very good.  I don't even want to mention the story for fear of providing spoilers, but let me say that it is a very good story that does not develop in the direction I expected it to.  I loved it and would read more about Mallory anytime.  The final story in the anthology is "Free-A Story of Evernight" by Claudia Gray.  I have not read the Evernight series but the story is very interesting on its own.  It tells the story of Patrice, a young quadroon in New Orleans.  Patrice is an intelligent, independent young woman who is about to be introduced into 'society' for a wealthy white man to 'court' her to become his mistress.  However, even as Patrice seems to get in over her head, she uses her intelligence to not only escape the immediate situation, but to embark on a completely new life.  I may have to add Evernight (Evernight, Book 1) to my to-be-read shelf.

Overall, I enjoyed Immortal: Love Stories With Bite.  I also enjoyed P C Cast's introduction, waxing poetic about the attraction of vampires.  I was able to read offerings from authors I currently enjoy and found some new authors to look for in the future.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Home for a Spell by Madelyn Alt

Home for a Spell (A Bewitching Mystery) is Madelyn Alt's latest offering in the Bewitching Mystery series.  It picks up a short time after A Witch In Time (A Bewitching Mystery) ended.  We find Maggie, still with a cast on her leg, happily cohabiting with Marcus and hoping things in Stony Mill have started to calm down.  Of course, things haven't calmed down--that wouldn't make much of a story, would it?

So, when the lives of those around Maggie start to change and impact her own, she sees it as a sign to affect some change for herself.  Fearing that she is holding Marcus back, she decides to find a new apartment that is accessible for her while still in a cast.  Naturally, the apartment manager, a creepy little man to begin with, ends up murdered and Maggie finds his body.  The mystery that follows isn't complicated, but there is a bit of a surprise at the end.  What I liked about this book, and the whole series for that matter, is Maggie's personal growth.  She's come a long way from the first book, where whisperings of her power made her uncomfortable, to a place where she is trusting her instincts, for the most part, and is even broadening her horizons into the world of the supernatural.

One thing I've noticed in the more recent offerings in the series is the lack of supernatural.  In fact, at one point Maggie mentions this & Marcus responds that once summer is over & the veil thins, things will change.  I'm hoping that this is a bit of foreshadowing on Alt's part because I really enjoy the supernatural aspects of the series.  I think that the lack of supernatural events, however, have actually encouraged Maggie to use and develop her gifts, perhaps because she'll need them in the books to come?

Home for a Spell (A Bewitching Mystery) is another great addition to the Bewitching Mysteries series.  I love Maggie & I especially love Marcus & can't wait to see how things develop in the future.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Spirit Dances by CE Murphy

When I reviewed Demon Hunts (Walker Papers, Book 5) by C E Murphy, I said that it was the best in the Walker Papers series to date.  Well, as befits a series, Spirit Dances (Luna Books) trumps its predecessor as the best book in the Walker Papers.  And, the ending leads one to believe that there are better books to come.

The book opens with promise.  Joanne actually ends up, albeit accidentally, on a date with Morrison.  They are attending a performance of a Native American spirit dance, which I expected to lead to a lot of exploration of Joanne's shamanic side.  I was surprised when her interaction with the dance troupe was somewhat minimal, although it was very interesting to see how her power was affected by the dancers, especially their intentions.  There are new paranormal elements being introduced.  I'm not going to divulge what happens, but suffice it to say that Joanne has her perceptions and preconceptions about Magic Seattle expanded.  Most of the story is centered around Joanne--there is some presence of Billy and Melinda, even Morrison's presence is limited in a sense.  Joanne is beginning to rely on her instincts more and communes with her spirit animals, Raven & Rattler to test/control the limits of her power.

In fact, at one point, I was concerned that there was too much going on for the story to make sense in the end.  Not that I am necessarily one for neat, tidy endings--especially not in a series--but sometimes there can be too many things happening that the pieces fail to fit together cohesively enough to make sense.  Not so in this case.  Not only does everything come together to make sense, but it all points to an exciting new adventure for Joanne and a promising beginning for the next book, Raven Calls.

I have to admit that I was concerned that the Walker Papers would get stale.  Knowing that I was about to read the sixth book in the series led me to wonder where it would go.  I have stopped reading series that start repeating the same story lines or go too weird, even for paranormal fantasy.  However, C E Murphy uses this book to take the series in a new direction.  It leaves me with the impression that Joanne will continue to grow, both as a person and as a shaman, in the books to come.  I look forward to reading many more installments of the Walker Papers.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Demon Hunts by CE Murphy

Demon Hunts (Walker Papers, Book 5) by C E Murphy is definitely the best book in the series so far.  It's Christmas time and Santa has a lot of surprises in store for Joanne Walker.  Not long after the events of Walking Dead (The Walker Papers, Book 4), the Seattle area is hit with a new serial killer--a paranormal killer who chews on his victims.  Joanne & Billy are on the case--but there's not much to go on.  This killer leaves no trace evidence, not even the kind these two paranormal detectives can find.  Frustration leads them to involve a civilian in the case, which, of course, backfires on them leaving Joanne in the doghouse with Morrison and them both with a deadline to meet or else face suspension.  

The mystery of this story is very interesting--it involves a wendigo and it forces Joanne to continue expanding her perception of her power and the realities in which she works.  However, what is more interesting is Joanne's journey in this book.  She comes face to face with people from her past and has to begin the difficult process of knitting together her life from before her tragedy at 15 with her present life.  She also becomes more aware of the significance of her mother's death in the spiritual world and her place in it.

Never in doubt is the fact that Joanne will find the killer and save the city, but she faces some pretty difficult choices during her quest.   She has to embrace both her healing path and her warrior's path, which may have serious repercussions on her relationships.  In the end, however, she meets the challenges and makes the tough decisions to keep her on her destined path.  And, she starts the new year with a bit of hope.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Walking Dead by CE Murphy

Walking Dead (The Walker Papers, Book 4) brings us back to Joanne Walker, police woman, shaman &  heroine extraordinaire.  When the book opens, Joanne is starting to have some semblance of a life.  She's hosting a party, has a boyfriend and is enjoying her new position as a detective partnered with Billy Holiday.  Naturally, this is where things start to fall apart.  The party is going well when dead souls start to arrive, sending everything into a tizzy.  Joanne is forced to use her abilities in front of a lot of people she'd rather not, including Phoebe her fencing instructor and fledgling friend.  But, these souls are just the tip of the iceberg & something bigger and badder is coming to town.  The Cauldron of Matholwch is stolen and a black mist is settling over everything threatening to empty out the cemeteries on Halloween and there's been another prediction of her death.  Oh, and her partner's pregnant wife is due to deliver any time now....

Such is the life of Joanne Walker.  Her life was pretty uneventful until about a year ago when her dying mother invited her to Ireland for a visit.  Since then, she's learned how her father's Cherokee heritage and her mother's Celtic heritage combined to create a unique soul--hers--destined for greatness.  She's a very powerful shaman on a warrior's path and she's bringing along her friends and the Seattle PD along for the ride.

The latest installment in the Walker Papers series, Walking Dead (The Walker Papers, Book 4) brings us a Joanne Walker who is growing, both in her powers and in her maturity.  In Coyote Dreams (The Walker Papers, Book 3), she chose to take a promotion to use her powers to help solve crimes while sacrificing a potential personal relationship with Captain Morrison.  She's looking at herself as more of a successful shaman than as the wreck of a person she saw herself as in the past.  Overall, things are looking up until the supernatural aspect of her life throws a monkey wrench into her personal life.  Of course, she tries to take everything on by herself and gets thrown for a loop when her friends ride to the rescue.  Once again, CE Murphy does not fail to entertain.  I especially appreciated the references to The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure by William Goldman, although having read the book and seen the movie so many times that I can't remember if her references were truly from the movie or the book :)   No matter, the humor is unbelievably appropriate to Joanne, who is fast becoming one of my favorite characters.  My only hope for this series is that Joanne travel back to North Carolina to truly embrace her shamanism--maybe one of the upcoming books will tackle that?