Synopsis from Goodreads:

Sookie Stackhouse somehow survived the Faery War, but life never seems to get easy for Bon Temps’ telepathic (but tip-poor) barmaid. In the tenth installment of Charlaine Harris’s resilient Southern Vampire series, Sookie and heartthrob Eric Northman come under intense regal scrutiny, but there are dangers even closer at hand: The doors to Faery slammed shut before some Fae were able to return and they’re holding Sookie very personally responsible.

Review: I was very disappointed with this installment in the Sookie Stackhouse series. My disappointment was primarily because nothing happened in this book. There was no real advancement of the series or character development.  I was mostly just bored while reading this book. I look forward to each Sookie Stackhouse novel and so I was a little more than crestfallen at the poor quality of this novel.

Pale Demon by Kim Harrison

February 21, 2011

This book will be released on February 22, 2011

Synopsis: Cincinnati-dwelling witch Rachel Morgan is about to take a road trip. In order to get her shunning revoked, Rachel has to travel to San Francisco to the annual witch convention. Sounds simple enough, right? It might be until you throw in an elf on a quest and a day-walking demon.

Before Rachel can scoot out of town, Trent Kalamack, local big-wig and elf, asks Rachel to assist him in getting to Seattle. He’s on a super secret elf quest, which requires he drive across the country instead of fly. Trent doesn’t truly want Rachel to go, but Trent’s head of security, Quen, insists he has protection on his journey. Since Quen can’t do it himself, he wants Rachel to get Trent there safely.

Rachel, Ivy, Jenks, and Trent, head across the country. Things are going smoothly until elven assassins attack the group. Once that situation is under control, an even bigger problem throws itself at the group: a day-walking demon is set loose in this reality. A day-walking demon that eats souls.

Rachel and the gang have to figure out how to handle the demon as it leaves havoc in its wake AND make the deadlines for Trent’s quest and Rachel’s witch convention.

Review: I loved this book. I think this was my favorite Hollows book in a very long time. Kim Harrison produces great Urban Fantasy. I. LOVE. HER.

This book read really quickly. The plot was speedy and not so mired down in the Ivy/Rachel relationship issues that many of the previous novels have been.

The plot itself was excellent! I loved the storyline. I really enjoyed the tension and humor that arose from Trent and Rachel being forced to work together. Since Trent was such a huge part of the plot, I feel like I got to know him much better as a character. He is typically always the bad guy in some sense, in these books. With this novel, the reader got to know Trent a bit better and actually like him more than before.

I loved the resolution of the plot and larger issues that have streamed throughout the novels. I don’t do spoilers, so I won’t name them specifically, but I really enjoyed seeing some of the issues that Rachel has struggled with for many installments, finally be wrapped up in a sense.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. I highly recommend this series and book! Many thanks to NetGalley for the ARC!

Synopsis from Goodreads:

More of New York Times best-selling author Kelley Armstrong’s most popular Otherworld characters get a chance to shine in this second short fiction collection, showcasing critical moments from many different lives.

Tales of the Otherworld explores the lives of some of Armstrong’s most popular characters, giving readers glimpses into how Clay and Elena met, how Eve and Kristof first hooked up (a brand new novella), and how Lucas and Paige got married. Kelley is a superstar of the genre, and Tales of the Otherworld is a great way to begin 2010.

Review: Tales of the Otherworld combined two of my most favorite things: Kelley Armstrong’s writing and short stories. I adored this collection. I really liked the stories that provided history for some of the lesser characters that we encounter in the Otherworld series, such as Council characters. I also loved the backstory that was provided on Eve and Kristof and how their relationship formed and then disintegrated.

I adored this book. I absolutely recommend it to Kelley Armstrong fans and fans of urban fiction. Even if you haven’t read the Otherworld series, you can still pick up this book and enjoy the stories.

Unholy Magic by Stacia Kane

January 08, 2011

Synopsis: Cesaria “Chess” Putnam works for The Real Church of Truth and Facts – the organization that has overtaken the government and religions of old. Chess works for the Church as a Debunker, someone who disproves the claims of hauntings by Triumph City residents. The Real Church fought an epic battle against the dead and being able to hold off the ghostly hoards is how they remain in power. Thus, Chess’ job was born. Chess is also a witch, using magic sanctioned by the Church to combat restless spirits.

In Unholy Magic, Chess has double trouble on her hands. First, there’s her new assignment from the church.  A movie start, Roger Pyle, has moved to Triumph City with his wife and daughter. The house he had built for his family is built on the site of a gruesome murder scene. Pyle contacts the Church and Chess is assigned to determine if Pyle’s haunting is legit or just Hollywood trickery.

Then, there’s evil afoot in Downside, the neighborhood where Chess lives. Someone is murdering prostitutes. Even worse than simple murder is the fact that the killer is branding his victims while they are still alive, and then cutting out their eyes once they are dead. Bump, Chess’ drug dealer, calls in Chess to investigate when Downside residents begin to believe the murders are being carried out by “the Cryin Man” – a ghost.

Adding further complications to Chess’ life is her relationship with Terrible, Bump’s right-hand man. There’s definite attraction between the two, but Chess is skittish about relationships. Also, Chess is sleeping with Lex, the son of Bump’s main drug dealing competitor.

Chess must solve the cases and play her relationship cards correctly before the present and the hereafter come back to bite her.

Review: I had mixed emotions about reading this novel. I read the first book in this series, Unholy Ghosts, and was really on the fence with the book. I hate to give up on a series, especially a series I had been hearing such good things about, after reading just the first book. While I am not ready to gush over this series yet, I will say that I liked Unholy Magic much better than Unholy Ghosts.

One of my biggest dislikes with Unholy Ghosts was the emphasis on Chess’ drug use. While that was still a pretty large part of the novel, the drug use was more like background noise than an in-your-face annoyance. This was a definite improvement and I hope that the drug use continues to diminish in the next installments.

I liked that we got to know Chess more as a character and see her relationship with Terrible take on new dimensions. I don’t really enjoy Lex as a character, so less of him and more of Terrible was a good thing. I equally enjoyed the character development of Terrible that took place aside from his relationship with Chess.

I am glad that I read this novel and didn’t give up on the series. I will be checking out the third book in the series, City of Ghosts, sometime soon. I would recommend this series, albeit with a healthy dose of patience for the first novel, to lovers of Urban Fantasy.

Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane

January 01, 2011

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The world is not the way it was. The dead have risen, and the living are under attack. The powerful Church of Real Truth, in charge since the government fell, has sworn to reimburse citizens being harassed by the deceased. Enter Chess Putnam, a fully tattooed witch and freewheeling ghost hunter. She’s got a real talent for banishing the wicked dead.

But Chess is keeping a dark secret: She owes a lot of money to a murderous drug lord named Bump, who wants immediate payback in the form of a dangerous job that involves black magic, human sacrifice, a nefarious demonic creature, and enough wicked energy to wipe out a city of souls. Toss in lust for a rival gang leader and a dangerous attraction to Bump’s ruthless enforcer, and Chess begins to wonder if the rush is really worth it. Hell, yeah.

Review: I am sort of at a loss for words with this novel. Although not totally since I am writing this review. People seemed to really love this novel. When I tweeted that I was reading this book, I received several comments back about how good it was and how much I would love it. I didn’t love this book, nor did I hate it. There were definitely things I enjoyed and aspects I did not. Let’s talk about what I liked first.

I loved the alternate reality in which the novel was set. I don’t know if I would say it was a post-apocalyptic setting. It was definitely a post-religious upheaval. The Church as we know it no longer exists and a new Church has replaced the older religious institutions and the government. I found this to be really intriguing and it created a very unique world for the characters to inhabit.

Going along with this new Church is the sanctioning of magic. In this new world ruled by the Church of Real Truth where the dead are a force to be combated daily, the new Church had to sanction magic that could be used to return the roaming spirits to their rightful realm. Enter Cesaria “Chess” Putnam. She is a Church Witch and a Debunker. She has been trained by the Church in the ways of magic and investigation. As a Debunker, she investigates reports of hauntings and either verifies that they are true or debunks them as fake. If it is a true haunting, then she uses magic to send the spirits back where they belong.

I found this entire construct fascinating. Chess is somewhat of a badass. She has official church tattoos that mark her as a witch and embue her with power. I thought Chess’ job and use of magic was brilliant. I am not sure how much I actually liked Chess as a character, though. What I didn’t like about her is really at the heart of what I didn’t care for in this novel.

Chess is a straight up junkie. Getting high was a huge part of the novel and the impetus for some of the plot. Chess owes a dealer named Bump a large sum of money for drugs. He is willing to forgive her debt in exchange for the use of her magical ghost hunting services. Because of her addiction and entanglement with Bump, a significant portion of the novel is taken up by the act of getting high, interactions with drug dealers and the underbelly of Downside (where Chess lives), and dealing with a lust interest who works for Bump.

I found this aspect of the novel very unsavory and unnecessary. This is not because I am a prude or keep myself in some sort of drug free literary bubble. The drugs and the drug dealers added nothing to this novel. If Kain was going for the creation of a flawed protagonist, she definitely succeeded, but I think her success was actually an epic fail. I cannot find a single example from the novel where this thread benefited the story or novel as a whole. Kain could have left out all of the drug shenanigans and still had a very strong and interesting novel. All the drug details did was succeed in annoying me, as a reader. It also made Chess, Lex, and Terrible much harder for me to relate to and like. I am not a fan of extraneous and unnecessary plots elements, which is what I found the drugs to be.

So where does that leave me? It leaves me a bit confused. The portions of the novel that I liked, I liked enough to want to read the second book in this series, Unholy Magic. The parts that I did not like make me very leery going into that second novel. I hope the drugs fade into the background and there is more of a focus on Chess, her job, and this amazing world that Kain has created.

Synopsis: Savannah Levine is many things. She’s young, pretty, and exceptionally intelligent. She’s also the daughter of a bad ass witch and a sorcerer. Working for her former guardians, Paige and Lucas, as a PI, Savannah is dying to get her first solo investigation. She wants to prove that she isn’t the screw-up prone little girl everyone thinks of her as.

So when Paige and Lucas take a vacation, Savannah is finally presented with her big break. Three women have been murdered in a small Washington town, and the murders appear to have an occult aspect to them. Savannah jumps at the chance to crack the case and heads to Washington. But the case proves more difficult than Savannah expected, and soon she realizes that perhaps she wasn’t as ready for a solo case as she thought she was. Savannah is not only not prepared, she may have inadvertently become a target of the murderer. She’ll have to solve the case or wind up a victim herself.

Review: Kelley Armstrong is one of my favorite Urban Fantasy authors. Her books are sharp, well-detailed, and plain fun to read. That being said, this was not one of my favorite Women of the Otherworld books. Nothing has changed with Armstrong’s writing, I simply do not care for Savannah. She has always been a lesser character, primarily due to her age, that was on the periphery of the tales. Those small doses of her I could handle, and honestly, I didn’t realize how much I disliked her until reading this novel.

Savannah is a very hard-edged character. She lacks a certain amount of warmth and likeability that Armstrong’s other characters have. I couldn’t really connect with her and found her off-putting.

I will say that I cannot 100% blame my dislike on Savannah. The plot of this novel was a little dull compared to the other installments in the series. I didn’t feel like I was on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what awaited on each new page. It was a very anticlimactic read for me.

Bounty Hunter Rachel Morgan has a teensy, tiny problem. Her former partner, Jenks the Pixie, is still not speaking to her. Try as she might, he refuses to forgive her for not spilling the beans about Trent Kallamack’s, local millionaire and sometimes bad guy, “supernatural” status (he’s an elf). But when Rachel’s former love Nick recruits Jenks’ eldest son Jax to be part of his own personal criminal enterprise, the two former partners are forced to start speaking, and fast. Nick has stolen a statue from a military trained pack of weres. They will stop at nothing, not even torture, to get that statue back. Rachel and Jenks, with a little help from the living vamps Ivy and Kisten, must save Nick and Jax before it is too late.

I have sort of a love/hate relationship with Kim Harrison. Sometimes, she pleases the heck outta me and then other times she super disappoints. Fistful of Charms was definitely not as good as the book prior. The story seemed to drag on and on and on. I felt like I was reading the novel for 10 years. The plot was convoluted and overly complicated. There were so many tangents and sub-plots, I had trouble keeping track of what was going on. Hopefully, her next book in this series will be better. Harrison has proven in the past that she can be a very skilled writer. This book is just not the best representation of that skill.

Kitty Norville, late-night radio DJ and werewolf, has done pretty well for herself. Since going public as a werewolf on her supernatural talk radio show, The Midnight Hour, Kitty has become a celebrity. Much to her chagrin, though, a Senate committee looking into supernatural beings has been formed and Kitty has been summonsed to appear. Though not happy about it, Kitty packs up her gear and heads for Washington, ready to dispel myths about lycanthropy and other supernatural beings.

While in Washington, Kitty is given an invitation to stay with the Master vampire of the city, Alette, and an order of protection, too. In addition, Kitty manages to meet others like her. She’d been in a pack, so she had met other weres before, but this time, Kitty finds a gathering place for weres who live a pack-free life. She even manages to grab a little romance while touring the nation’s capital.

The Kitty Norville series is really wonderful. Carrie Vaughn, the author, manages to mix mystery and romance, the supernatural and the human, without the cliches or the overblown cheesiness that plagues so many authors in this genre. Kitty Goes to Washington is a fun and captivating read that is light but has substance.

Sookie Stackhouse is back in the sixth installment in the Southern Vampire series. Sookie’s cousin Hadley, the sweetheart of the vampire queen of Louisiana, died unexpectedly six weeks ago. Or died again, since Hadley was a vampire, too. Sookie heads for New Orleans to clean out Hadley’s apartment. And while cleaning out the apartment of a dead relative might be mundane for some, Sookie’s trip turns into an adventure.

Sookie and the sexy were-tiger Quinn are an official item by the end of this novel, and both become accidentally entangled with the Vampire Queen’s politically motivated marriage to the Vampire King of Arkansas. Sookie will have to battle forces larger than herself to save the day!

Charlaine Harris’ series is so cute. I am especially looking forward to Allan Ball’s series based on her books. Sookie and the gang may seem a little run-of-the-mill to readers who are used to the action-intense Laurell K. Hamilton or Kim Harrison novels, but the characters are Harris’ strength. Her characters are completely endearing and her plot lines are credible. Even though this is a fantasy novel, Harris keeps her story rooted in reality as much as possible. It is just one of the great things about her books.

I highly recommend this book and entire series.

Vampire Executioner and Necromancer Anita Blake is called upon in this novella to visit Pennsylvania to raise a zombie. Larry, a fellow necromancer, was scheduled to go, but his wife goes into premature labor and Larry must hand off the task to Anita. Anita takes on the job and Micah, one of Anita’s many lovers, decides to play escort for the journey. Anita is filled with worry about the trip because Micah and Anita have never been alone together, despite having been living together for months. Can Anita handle the zombie raising and her anxiety about Micah at the same time?

Of late, I have become very disappointed with Laurell K. Hamilton and her Anita Blake series. Hamilton has turned what I would have called the best vampire fiction series out there into an exercise in erotica. As a general rule, I do not have a problem with erotica, but I am not reading the Anita Blake series to satisfy some sexual motivation. I read the series because I enjoy vampire fiction. I would even be OK with sex scenes in her novels. I am not opposed to them.

My issue with Hamilton is that she is turning this entire series into one long sex scene, and in the process, she is going to lose her audience. Micah was generally a waste of money. It was a short story that was turned into a “novel” by manipulating the font and page layout. Micah could have been included as a bonus with her next novel, or as a reader treat on her website. The actual story was, well dumb. It was all internal, emotional Anita struggling and no real plot.

I wouldn’t recommend buying this book. Get it from your local library.

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