Thursday, March 29, 2007

"The Trouble with Harry" by Katie Macalister

It's not great, but it doesn't suck.

Sorry, that's pretty much my entire review of this book. It's a "historical" romance by KM, but you know right from the start it's not going to really stick to any true accuracy, as there is a bright yellow rubber ducky on the cover of the book. KM herself put in a little note about it before the novel begins, something about how even though she knows it's going to irritate people, that was not her intention at all; rather, it's there to "reflect the humorous, fun tone of this tale."


OK, basic plot is as follows: Two people are in desperate need of a spouse. They meet up after he places an ad in a local paper. She is the last candidate for the interviews, having lost her way once or twice. They know this is merely a marriage of convenience but are both attracted to each other immediately. Never mind that neither of them has an honest bone in their bodies. He has five children born of his first wife, children that he doesn't bother to tell his bride-to-be exist. He also has a previous occupation of spy, one that resulted in a scandal and arrest after false accusations. She is no better, having had a previous marriage that was never really a marriage, as her first "husband" was already betrothed to someone else. She was, of course, also ruined by her scandal, as the ton never believed the cad to be a bigot - she was a mistress and just embarrassed at being outed. Oh, and she has an even bigger secret to hide; that faux marriage resulted in enough sexual shenanigans for her to write and publish a book that sounds remarkably similar to The Joy of Sex (for Victorians, though......), something that will surely ruin her and her new husband forever if it were to come out.

Basically, this book is all about the crazy antics of both Harry and his wife Plum trying to hide their past problems from each other. Why anyone wouldn't run screaming from five unmentioned children is beyond me - they are not grown children, for Pete's sake! The youngest seems to be about 4-5, the oldest in her early teens. They first make their appearance when Harry and Plum are about to consummate their marriage, something else I would hardly find amusing. And yet, this book is cute in parts. You can sort of understand how Plum overlooks her new offspring, as it is made blatantly obvious that she wants to be a mother in the worst way. As Harry has a copy of the scandalous sex manual, it really should not be upsetting to him to find that his wife was the author. I mean, really, I just couldn't see why everyone was so worried. Then again, I didn't live back then, so I don't really understand the impact a scandal could have on one's future.

It was a fast read, even if the plot didn't always make sense. None of the characters were that well-rounded or interesting, with the exception of Plum's niece, Thom. Now she seemed to be an interesting sort of girl, right up until they introduce a young man who will obviously become a love interest for her down the road. Luckily, that doesn't happen in this particular title. I don't know if KM writes about her in a later book or not. It's cute, if you're not a strict Regency romance reader.

I still say "The Corset Diaries" is her best book to date. Go pick that one up and really have a good read!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"Something From The Nightside" by Simon R. Green

John Taylor is a private eye hearkening back to the good old days of Chandler, Hammet, and the like. As the book opens, he's in his seedy little London office, arguing on the phone with someone to whom he owes money. In true film noir fashion, in walks a very classy dame, one who screams money, offering him what should be an easy case - find her missing teenage daughter.

Except that daughter has gone to The Nightside, and John knows all about the horrors that await him there. The Nightside is in the heart of London, a sort of alternate reality where it is always 3 am. There is no such thing as weather per se; the temperatures and such reflect the emotions of The Nightside itself. As Taylor puts it, it probably accounts for the great amount of rain there. The Nightside is a dark, scary place full of people who are not quite human, things like Timeslips, and all sorts of general weirdness. John was born there but left five years ago after some distinct unpleasantness. He's not in a great hurry to return, but Joanna Barrett, the rich broad, is offering him a lot of money, money he can hardly afford to refuse.

This is the first in The Nightside series by Green, and it's a great little book. As one character points out early on (and John himself tells us again and again), one can never be sure what one is looking at in The Nightside, as things are never what they seem to be. There are cool characters, like Alex the bartender, and scary ones, such as The Harrowing. The feel is sort of like a cross between Sam Spade and the flick "Dark City". John is a mystery himself, having been born of a human father and a mother was most certainly not; his father drank himself to death when John was just ten years old. John is almost a celebrity in his old home, and there's talk of an inheritance, although just exactly what he's supposed to inherit is never spelled out. (I have a feeling that will come in subsequent installments of the series.) There's a great "tough chick", Suzie Shotgun, rounding out the cast of characters on the hunt for the missing daughter, too.

This is definitely a thumbs-up title for The Bookbabe. It's a tightly-written, short, very cool little book. I look forward to spending more time in The Nightside.

Monday, March 26, 2007

"Fangland" by John Marks

"I just want you to know.....where you've landed. It's not an office. It's a country. Under the UN charter, it's known as Fangland, and to receive a passport, you need only one thing: the capacity to suffer in vain all things. Congratulations. It sounds to me like you'll be very happy here."

This little speech doesn't occur until page 323 in the book "Fangland" but it's very appropriate in trying to describe this book. I sort of felt like I was suffering in vain, and yet I did feel happy here. It's a wild thrill ride, although I'm still not entirely sure what happened.

The basic story is much the same as that of "Dracula"; this book obviously works off the same outline. Evangeline Harker is sent by her television show, The Hour, to Romania for a story on Ion Torgu, a reported terrorist. She has a meeting set up with an associate of Torgu's; not being an actual reporter herself, she's been sent ahead to verify that Torgu is real and that he's "news-worthy" as such. What she finds is certainly sensational, although not in the way that her employer ever imagined... The horror is much, much worse.

This modern-day vampire tale is definitely built on the bones of Stoker's "Dracula". The name Harker, for instance, is a direct lift, although the character is female this go-around and also much stronger. There's the spooky castle that the villain resides in, this time a burnt-out hotel in a small, rural village. There are servants for the villain. There's the escape from the villain and a stay at a convent. There's the "invitation" to the vampire and his shipment sent to a new country, this time America rather than England. There's even a Renfield, a colleague of Harker's who happens to be secretly in love with her. All these homages are great and really help make the book appealing.

The story itself, particularly that of Torgu, is where the two go there separate ways. Yes, Torgu is a vampire, of sorts. He is hideous, has horrible, worn, almost black teeth, and is not in any way charismatic. He does not bite anyone but he does drink blood, using a knife and a bucket. He infects others with a virus of death, a litany of place names that reflect man's inhumanity to man. Places like Auschwitz, sites of mass slaughters, even the site of the 9/11 Twin Towers. Each person that comes into contact with Torgu ends up hearing this chant of names in his/her head. However, none of them feel compelled to kill or drink blood like he does.

Just exactly what Torgu is trying to accomplish isn't clear. He seems to be out to infect others with this virus of his, and yet it also seems that he's trying to pass on his "gift" to Harker and relieve himself of the burden. Weird, weird and more weird. Also, a bit difficult to get into originally, as the entire novel is told from different viewpoints and different mediums, such as email, journals, and first person narrative. However, once it gets going, it's a wild ride. I really liked reading all the ins and outs of the news show - an obvious copy of 60 Minutes. In some ways, I felt like Marks was trying to make some sort of comment about how vampiric the media has become. In others, I thought he was mooning over them like a fan himself.

"Fangland" is definitely recommended by the Babe, but I gotta tell ya - don't expect a nice, neat, pat story. This is one for the "way out there" column. And I mean that in a good way!

"Away Laughing on a Fast Camel" and "Then He Ate My Boy Entrancers" by Louise Rennison

What is it with me and these YA books? Particularly these books about Georgia and her life? As Gee would say "Fabbity Fab Fab"!

Nothing new really happens in either book. Gee is still going to school at Stalag 14, still crazy about boys, still clueless about said boys, and still amazed at the antics of her cat Angus. So why do I love these books so much? I'm really asking ya'll why - this is not a rhetorical question!

No, really, I think I know the answer. The books reminds me of myself at that age, and sometimes you just want a stroll down memory lane. Gee is not the brightest of girls (OK, maybe that doesn't remind me of myself!), her life is all about her and her wants/needs, and she thinks boys are just awesome. I can totally relate on that count! The number of crushes I had in grade school alone is staggering. Of course, I never had much luck with boys until I got to college, and even then it wasn't the best of luck. Guess Gee has me beat there!

Yes, they are repetitive, no Gee hasn't grown up, no her parents still don't get her, etc. There's nothing new, and yet they're still fun to read, unlike the Lemony Snicket series. Sorry, I tried to read them since they were so insanely popular, but only made it through the fourth installment. You knew exactly what was going to happen and it just seemed very stale. I can't tell you why I didn't enjoy those the way I have the Rennison books.

Go check out Georgia Nicolson and her ramblings at a library near you!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Aim of the Bookbabe

Hello readers! I've had a couple of comments about the blog, ones that were made privately, about how I seem to be down on a couple of authors, or possibly not supportive of others. I thought I'd take the opportunity to tell everyone again what my aim is here with Novel News.

As an avid reader, I like sharing my feelings about the books I read. And that's exactly what the reviews posted here are - my feelings. They are in no way meant to reflect badly on any author or work written about. Let's face it, literature is subjective material, meaning that no one is going to be happy with everything that's out there. Two people can (and often do) read the same work and have polar opinions about it. One will love it, the other will hate it, etc.

The Bookbabe wanted to put her opinions out here in cyberland in the hopes of guiding her fellow readers to some good reads. But again, they are reads that I consider to be good, and that's just my opinion. Please don't hesitate to pick up a work that sounds good to you, even if I didn't enjoy it. Again, not everything appeals to everyone! Also keep in mind that I'm reviewing books that I like and want to read; there will most likely never be a review of a "popular" mainstream author. No Grisham, no Steel, no Patterson and the like. I don't read those books. That doesn't mean they're not good books - I just don't care for them. They have to be fairly decent to someone for those authors to be the best-sellers that they are!

Also, don't limit yourself to the works reviewed here. I'm not out to be like Oprah - this is not a book club and should not be treated as such. I want you to read anything and everything that appeals to you! Reading should be fun and you should pick out what appeals to you. If that happens to be something I've reviewed, great. If not, that's great too! I think it's best when readers can be well-rounded and have interests in several different areas. It's not a bad thing to read only one genre, but I think it's better to try a little of everything. You never know what you might be missing otherwise.

In closing, again, please keep in mind that these reviews are meant to guide you, the readers, through the millions of books out there. BUT THESE ARE JUST MY OPINIONS. Read, read, read!

Monday, March 19, 2007

"Beneath a Rising Moon" by Keri Arthur

Hm. This is going to be one of those "I don't really recommend this book" sort of reviews, and there's a very specific reason why, so it's going to be short.

In a nutshell, there's just too much sex in this book.

I know, I know - what's wrong with sex? Well, nothing - unless it takes up a good third of a relatively short book (about 245 pgs). The basic plot is that Neva Grant is trying to find out who attacked her twin, Savannah, almost leaving her for dead. The main suspect is one of the Sinclair family, a werewolf pack that throws "dances" every month during the week of the full moon. In Arthur's mythos, the full moon heats the blood of the werewolves to a sexual frenzy and they must "dance" with partners (sometimes several) so as to relieve their frustration. Neva believes that Duncan Sinclair might be the key to finding her sister's attacker and sets out to seduce him at the dance. Needless to say, she's successful to a degree, thus the numerous sex scenes. It turns out that Duncan and Neva are actually after the same thing; the attacker has killed several female partners and is bringing much unwanted attention to the Sinclair dances.

The plot was okay, not horrible. The mystery of whodunit wasn't too badly written, although Bookbabe figured it out fairly early on. The characters themselves were okay - nothing great but nothing awful, either. Again, it was basically the amount of sex in the book that I found to be a turnoff (no pun intended!) I'll give Ms. Arthur her props for making it part of the story from the get-go; nothing worse than having a character who suddenly is having sex with anything that moves (yes, that is directed at LKH - I'm still bitterly disappointed over the whole Anita Blake train-wreck). But even when it's part of the character make-up, it still feels like way too much here. Neva and Duncan are constantly ripping off clothes and going at it like bunnies, often at times that just make no sense at all. I get the whole "moon-fever" thing, but really - most books have weres behaving themselves and not running amok like wild animals, whereas this one would have us think that they cannot control their lust during the full moon. Nowhere does it say much about actually hunting, as I would expect from werewolves, unless you count the hunt for a willing partner. And the way these partners "dance" with several partners each night, it would seem that no one is playing very hard to get.

If you like sex and lots of it, this might be the book for you. The Bookbabe is going to steer clear of Ms. Arthur in the future, at least, while I'm happily married, that is!

"Night" by Elie Wiesel

This is now considered a classic, assigned in schools all over the country, just recently added to Oprah's recommended reading list. Back in my time at school, however, it was still relatively unknown and as such I hadn't read it. I can see why it's part of the current curriculum; it's just as powerful as "The Diary of Anne Frank" and just as important to anyone trying to understand that dark time in history known as The Holocaust.

This slim book is Wiesel's story of the concentration camps, an extremely harrowing ordeal. His family lived in Sighet, Transylvania until the Nazis arrived in 1944. At first, no one wanted to believe that anything bad would happen, even though all the Jewish families in town were segregated and moved to "ghettos". Within days the Nazis started rounding up the families and shipping them by rail to Aushwitz; I do mean shipping, as the people were treated more like cattle than human beings. Wiesel was separated from his entire family save his father. The remainder of the story is their attempt to survive the horrors of the concentration camps.

It's never a bad thing to be reminded of the darkest times of history, for the old adage is correct: those who do not learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them. While there have been dictators since, some extremely vicious men, no one has come close to committing the heinous sort of crimes that Hitler was able to accomplish. Had he been just a bit more successful, it is entirely possible that the Jewish people would have been eliminated entirely - not only their persons but their history as well. Thank goodness that didn't come to pass, but it was very, very close.

Despite the power of the story itself, it is something that Mr. Wiesel says in his introduction to this new translation that caused me to stop and think. While explaining some of the edits to the original publication and what might have made it otherwise, he throws in one line, a very disturbing line to me, "Books no longer have the power they once did." This is just unthinkable to me, and I hope, to you as well. Books have been and hopefully always will be a powerful way to get one's point out to the masses. Granted, not every book is going to be a life-changing experience, and that's okay. Just as one would grow very bored and possibly waste away on just bread and water, one cannot (or should not) rely on just one type of book to fill all one's reading needs. But there are very powerful works out there, and I hope that, as readers, we take the time to digest those as well as our favorites. Let's prove Mr. Wiesel wrong on this count, shall we?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

"Beyond the Pale" by Savannah Russe

Oh, the things I read for you, dear fans! This certainly isn't the worst book I've ever picked up, but it's far, far from the best, either. To top it off, this is the first of a series. Sigh.

Daphne Urban has been a vampire for around 500 years, managing to escape detection and consequent slaying all that time. Or so she thinks. While going to her source for yet another set of documents (she needs to get a new identity every 20 years or so), she is captured by none other than the U.S. Government. They want her to work for them as a spy, gathering intel on a bad guy named Bonadventure, an evil villain who knows no bounds. She is to act as a liaison for an art deal but that's not the only pie Bonadventure has his finger in - there are also blood diamonds and nuclear weapons for terrorists.

While all the James Bond stuff is going on, she meets another agent, Darius della Chiesa. There's an instant attraction there despite the lack of trust on both ends. He won't tell her what agency he's with, he won't share pertinent information with her, and, oh yes, he may also be a vampire slayer. Hard to be completely honest with someone if they loathe your kind and want to kill you on sight. But it makes for some awesome sex, right?

Uh, no, not really. This is a hard book to make a call on, readers. Most of it wasn't all that great, but there were some saving graces, so I can't totally pan the thing. I wasn't all that fond of Daphne; it seemed the author was having a hard time deciding if she was going to be a philosophical-type vamp or more of a Sex-and-the-City bloodsucker. There are a lot of descriptions of her clothing choices, more than I really needed. At times she seems to be repulsed by her nature, at others she's obviously revelling in it. A vampire with issues is nothing new and it can be done well, but here I just felt like Daphne's angst was a put-on, sort of like a teenager acting out.

Then there's some of the dialogue. Phew! I have to share this one with ya'll, because I thought I was going to have to put the book down at this point. Ready? This is Darius talking to our spy gal (obviously before he knows about her "true" nature.....) "Yes, Daphne Urban, I intend to seduce you and love you as certain dark things are to be loved, between the shadow and the soul. I want to find the hidden places within you like a traveler following twisting roads through the mountains that lead higher and higher till they vanish in the clouds." BARF! Sorry, but how anyone could find that romantic is beyond me. Especially when they're supposed to be modern, hip people! Or rough, jaded ex-military, which is exactly what Darius says he is.

Finally, there's the plot development, or rather, lack of. This does have one, but it just didn't feel very well-thought out. Also, I've said this about a billion times, but I'm going to say it again. Lots and lots of sex scenes do not make for a romance. They can be part of it, but they can't make up for a lack of one. The sex comes very early in the book; in fact, Daphne pretty much starts out lusting after most of the men she meets, due to a very, very long "dry spell". Sorry, but that doesn't really endear her to me as a character. She just comes off as horny, which is all well and good, but not really necessary. Also, I just never felt much a spark between her and Darius, which I should have, given that they are the two involved in the said romance of the book!

The things I did like were Daphne's fellow vamp spies, aka the Darkwings. Cormac is a drama queen of the worst magnitude, but a complete hoot as well. I would totally hang out with him any day of the week. Ditto her friend Benny, who hails from Branson, MO, the only vamp to ever come out of a such a place. I would love it if these two had a book of their own - both are funny and much more realistic than our reluctant heroine. Also, I will give Ms. Russe props for her description of the vampires' appearance when they transform - they are basically large bats, although with some of their human qualities still appearant. One of the characters that Daphne changes in front of is described as looking at her as if he's not sure if she's devil or angel - so I'm guessing that means they can be quite beautiful in their bat-forms. Hey, I like bats myself, so I'm all for it!

If you have spare time on your hands, you might want to check it out. And let's face it, pretty much any opinion about a book is subjective, so don't always take my word for it. The Bookbabe's sis has read all the Darkwing books and really likes them, so perhaps they're just not my cup of tea, right?

Friday, March 16, 2007

"No Dominion" by Charlie Huston

Huston isn't new to the scene; he's been writing crime dramas for the last couple of years. Good crime books, sort of crime noir, if you will.

He first delved into the supernatural realm with "Already Dead", a crime thriller that just happens to have a vampire detective as its main character. "No Dominion" picks up where that book left off and runs at full speed into the same world of sleaze, this time involving different gang leaders and a new street drug. The only difference in these books is that the world of Joe Pitt, the detective in question, happens to be full of vampires, himself included.

Pitt is a Rogue; he doesn't belong to any of the gang leaders anymore. Well, "gangs" might be a harsh way to describe them - there are different factions of vamps with different goals for their people. Pitt used to belong to The Society, Terry Bird's group, but went Rogue in the first book. There's also The Enclave, led by the enigmatic Daniel; The Coalition, led by Pitt's nemisis, Predo; and The Hood, now led by DJ Digga. The City is divided into territories for each group and crossing into another territory is grounds for punishment, possibly burning if the transgression is considered heinous enough. Pitt isn't well-loved by any one group, thus his Rogue status. But he can still get the job done, and Terry's got one in mind.

A new drug has appeared on the streets, a drug that only affects vamps. In this world, vampirism is caused by the Vyrus, sort of a parasite that infects its host and causes an insatiable need for blood. It attacks any sort of threat to its host, so a vamp can't really get high anymore - nothing can get past the Vyrus for very long. Alcohol, human drugs such as pot and coke, none of that "works" anymore. The appearance of this new vamp drug is cause for concern, as it can really take hold of a vamp and mess him up, especially in the wrong dose. And having a vamp go nuts in public is bad for everyone - the human world in these books doesn't know that vamps exist. Terry Bird's assignment for Joe is to find out what exactly the drug is, track down the manufacturer, and bring him back the information.

Or is that the assignment? This book is full of twists and turns, red herrings, mixed loyalties, and ulterior motives. Trying to navigate this maze with Joe, the reader is carried along on a hell of a ride, not sure who Joe should trust, or if he should trust anyone, even himself. The characters aren't very fleshed out, but that actually works here, keeping your knowledge at a minimum and keeping you more involved with Joe. Of course, Joe is a vamp of few words, so we never really know him very well, either.

I highly recommend both of these entries by Huston. The man writes a great crime drama and for those who prefer gritty realism to sappy romance, these vamp novels are perfect. The only thing that might throw you off at first is Huston's writing style - dialogue is written without quote marks, and there are no chapter breaks of any kind. It can be distracting, but it's temporary. Once you get into Joe's world, you won't notice anything but the action. Check him out today.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

"Tempting Danger" by Eileen Wilks

This is another one of those cases for making it blatantly obvious what number a book is in a series. "Bloodlines" by the same author showed up here at work, and it's been on my Amazon recommended list as well as my sissy's Wishlist for a while, so I scooped it up. Only to check it back in within the hour - after reading the blurb on the back, I realized it was the third book in the series. ARGH! Of course, we didn't have the first two here, so I had to resort to an interlibrary loan to obtain "Tempting Danger". (We will have the first books, though; I make recommendations about this sort of thing all the time to our Collection/Development dept, probably too many!)

Anyway, I'm very glad I asked for this book! It's well-written, has an interesting plot, and the romance part doesn't overwhelm the rest of the book. And again, CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT! Just can't say enough about that, can I?

Lily Yu is a homicide investigator who has just come across a very ugly case. It would appear that a man has been killed by a lupi (werewolf to us mere mortals), something that will cause all sorts of problems. See, the lupi are "out" in this world, albeit walking on eggshells. There's a bill being tossed around in Congress that would give them all the legal rights of humans, but would also subject them to all "human" laws, making things like Challenges a thing of the past (anyone not familiar with werewolf behavior needs to read up on it - there's always an Alpha male and fights for dominance are frequent). At this moment in time, it's still legal to kill a lupi if they attack in that form. You can shoot the wolf, not the man. Lily's case is going to have all sorts of implications if a lupi is really responsible for the attack.

Lily's biggest problem is going to be convincing her department that they're looking in the wrong direction. It wasn't a lupi that killed the man - it was a sorcerer. How can she possibly know that when all the physical evidence says otherwise? Lily is a sensitive; she can touch a person or object and feel the magic left behind. This isn't common knowledge, as most "others" are still not accepted by the "normal" human population at large. Complicating matters further is the offer of help from the Lu Nuncio of the local lupi pack. Rule Turner might be a suspect, most certainly is involved in some way, and there's a definite attraction between him and Lily, one that she can't resist. No, not in a "he's so hot" way - Lily is Rule's Chosen, his mate for life, something that neither of them will be able to ignore.

Cullen Seaborne, a lone lupi and sorcery practitioner, is also heavily involved, as well as being one of Rule's best friends. Can the three of them solve the case and bring the killer to justice? Is the killer human or much more, possibly one of the Old Ones that Rule and Lily's Grandmother talk about? How much trouble is the shift between the realms bringing on them? Will Lily be able to walk away from Rule? What if he really is the killer - can she bring him to justice?

Pretty much all these questions and more are answered by the end of the book. I thought Wilks did a great job with Lily; she's a very engaging female character, one I found myself liking, which is quite a feat. Too many of the females in the realm of paranormal romance come across as too snarky or too wimpy - Lily is just about right. And while described as handsome and sexy and all those other descriptive words, Rule is written as a whole person, not just a gorgeous cut-out. He has a back-story just as much as Lily, which helps when the two are drawn to each other. They feel like real people, not stereotypes. Always a good thing!

Go digging around and find yourself a copy of "Tempting Danger" today!

Monday, March 12, 2007

"Dancing in My Nuddy-Pants" by Louise Rennison

This is the 4th book of the journals of Georgia Nicolson, and they're still hilarious. I skipped reviewing books 2 and 3, but thought I'd remind ya'll of Gee and her wild mates. I've been using these as a sort of literary palette cleanser - need something light and funny between all the heavy paranormal stuff!

Georgia is still with the Sex God (aka Robbie) but all is not well. In fact, she may be - gasp - growing up! She finds herself wishing she could talk to him more. Not that snogging isn't wonderful, but they don't really seem to have all that much in common. Worse, there's a chance that he'll be off to Hamburger-a-go-go Land (aka The States) with his band for a tour, and you know there's no way her parents will let her go, too.

Gee and her mates are still in Stalag 14 (school) and still trying to defy authority with their wacky ways to wear the required berets, doing things like "crazy dancing" in the hallways, etc. Her parents still don't understand her, her sister Libby is still silly, and her cat Angus has gotten the neighbors' pedigreed feline preggers. It's all fabbity fab fab fun in Gee's world!

If you haven't checked out these Young Adult titles, you might want to. Short, easy reads, very funny, and very nostalgic for those of us who saw our teen years long, long ago! What will happen to Gee and the Sex God? Will she ever stop "accidently" snogging Dave the Laugh? What kind of a father will Angus make (are the kittens even his?!) Stay tuned for more British adventures!

"Blood Bound" by Patricia Briggs

Hey bibliophiles! The Bookbabe had a very busy weekend - weather was gorgeous, so I plopped my butt in the patio chair and read, read, read! Sooooooooooo relaxing, and so very much what I love to do with a day off!

If you haven't checked out the Mercedes "Mercy" Thompson series by Briggs, now's your chance to start. Well, start with the first book, "Moon Called" - it gives you most of the necessary background on Mercy. You could read this one without the first one, but in a series, always best to start at the beginning!

Mercy is our beloved "walker", a person who can shape-shift at will, unlike the werewolves in her life, who are moon-called (thus the title of the first book). She's also a kick-ass mechanic, having bought her shop from the Zee, the former owner. Zee still assists when needed, and helps Mercy with other "jobs" - those involving knowledge of things other than humans. Zee happens to be Fae, unusual for a mechanic in that most of them cannot touch iron. Regular cast characters Adam and Samuel, the two were-wolves in her life, are also back.

Stefan the vampire is also back in this installment, and his need for a return favor is what gets the ball rolling. Owing him for a favor done in the first book, Mercy agrees to accompany him, in coyote form, to a meeting at a hotel with a vampire who may not be what he seems. This newbie, Littleton, has caused some trouble and Stefan has his suspicions that he is not just vampire - he is also a sorcerer, which means he's got a demon inside him (I know, it's hard to keep up with the different mythos that all these books employ - but in this one, there's a definite price for sorcery). Stefan's concern is well-founded, as Littleton kills the few people at the hotel, including a maid who is drained right in front of Mercy. Not only does he kill for pleasure, he's able to plant memories of said killings in other's heads, making them believe that they did the deed. Stefan believes he killed the maid and only Mercy's immunity to magic makes him realize otherwise.

Needless to say, the vampire community is not happy with the mess. Marsilia, the seethe leader, needs Littleton stopped and now. Mercy, Stefan, Adam, and Samuel all ride to the rescue, but in the end, it is the little coyote that will be the only one able to stop him. Seems demons have a very negative effect on werewolves, so they turn out to be of little help, and we know that Littleton can affect a vamp's mind. But can a small coyote really destroy a being this powerful? Will her friends come out of this alive?

Guess you'll have to read the book!

Sorry, I hate when someone gives away the ending, or worse yet, the entire plot! This is an excellent 2nd outing in the Mercy books, and again, we have a good involved plot here. I cannot say it often enough, people, character development is so important in a book! And again, this is not classified as paranormal romance but as fantasy, something I've now seen twice. Maybe it's time to switch over? Or at least stay away from the pr books? Anyway, we find out more about Mercy, which is to be expected. Even better, we find out more about the men in life - Adam, Samuel, and Stefan. Most surprising are the revelations about Stefan, which I won't go into here, other than to say that Mercy has always thought that vamps cannot be kind or care about anyone. That should give you a hint! Since this is very much a plot-driven book, there is romantic tension but no sex. Again, I'm fine with that - it would have felt far too out of place, considering the amount of action occurring on the page. Would have felt thrown in for the sake of having a sex scene, which is just not a good thing!

Big thumbs up for "Blood Bound". Check it and "Moon Called" out ASAP!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

"The Becoming" by Jeanne C. Stein

Thank you, thank you, thank you Ms. Stein! After reading the tepid Cameron Dean book, I was hesitant to start yet another paranormal sort of book. Was thinking that maybe it was just time to hang this genre out to dry, get back to some basic mystery writing or something similar. Luckily, this happened to show up at my branch, and seeing as how it's been on my Amazon recommended list (as well as my sissy's Wishlist), I thought I'd give it a try. And much to my amazement, I was not disappointed, not in the least! Perhaps because this title is being marketed as fantasy? I have no idea, but it works.

Anna Strong is a bounty hunter. While pursuing a skip, she and her partner, David (an ex-football pro), are attacked by the seemingly wimpy criminal. David suffers nothing more than a bad bump on the head. Anna isn't so lucky; she has been sexually assaulted, as well as something much more serious. She was bitten by the felon and also ingested some of his blood, thus turning her into a vampire. This is all explained by Dr. Grant Avery, who treats her at the hospital, and he should know; he is, after all, a Night Watcher - also known as a vampire. He takes it upon himself to initiate Anna into her new world.

And it's not a bad world. Anna finds that she is stronger now, something that will come in handy for her job. She can communicate telepathically. She doesn't need to avoid sunlight after all - that's something that vampire physiology has adapted to over the years. But there's that pesky problem of drinking blood, something she finds repulsive. Avery assures her that it can be quite enjoyable as it is usually taken during sex, a fact that she herself realizes after she starts turning and gains back her memory of the attack. Avery also assures her that this does not mean she needs to feed off different partners; she can feed off her boyfriend, DEA agent Max, and remain monogamous. And, of course, she has to kill the skip that turned her.

The rest of the book follows Anna as she tries to navigate her way through her new vamp world. She's such a newbie that she always feels one step behind. Further complicating things are her growing feelings for Avery, despite her love for Max. It's a great ride watching her come into her abilities and figure out who's on what team - who's really good and who's really bad? Are vampires evil as she's always been told by the media and folklore? Or are they really good, watching over the villagers back in the Dark Ages as Avery explains to her?

As I said in the opening paragraph, this is a great read, one I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to readers of this sort of book. I was a bit worried at first, since we have a bounty hunter (shades of several other writers), a new vampire, a new vampire mythos, and of course, the whole blood/sex thing. I was very, very afraid of that when it was mentioned - too many bad memories of Anita Blake jumping the shark in Incubus Dreams. Bookbabe was very happy to see Anna not want to go down that road! Again, a good strong female protagonist, good character development, good twists, good plot, etc, and I can highly recommend this title. Even better is the news that Ms. Stein is working on the next installment!

Friday, March 2, 2007

"Passionate Thirst" by Cameron Dean

Another vampire slayer has entered the paranormal romance fray. Candace Steele is working as a cocktail waitress in a Vegas casino when the book opens. Of course, we find out early on that this is merely a cover; her "real" job is to take out vampires. She has a unique ability to sense a vamp due to being bitten herself and almost dying. Luckily, she didn't perish, nor was she turned. The nightmare of that event has spurred her into her current obsession of ridding her new hometown of the evil bloodsuckers.

Enter a child-like pop queen, Temptation McCoy, who is putting on a show at the casino. Her manager, Dru Benson, is not only controlling, he's a vamp - and Candace must protect the star to be sure the show will go on as planned. Trouble being, Dru is a very strong, old vamp, and Candace can't let anyone know that he's not human, otherwise their lives will be in danger. There are also some dead bodies that start showing up at a strip club, bodies that aren't human, which means there's a killer on the loose. Not that she doesn't mind a dead vamp, but it's bad to draw attention to that sort of thing. If that wasn't bad enough, her old flame, Ash, is in town to try to win her back. Oh, and he's the vamp that almost left her for dead. What's a girl to do?

Well, not much, at least, not in this book. This isn't a bad book, really, but it's certainly not great. It's sort of like those movies you find yourself watching on a Sunday afternoon, something that you're really not that interested in but there's nothing better on and you don't feel like doing anything else but sitting in front of the boob tube. This book is exactly like that. There's nothing really new here, not if you've been reading this sort of thing for a while, which I have. There are other authors out there covering the same ground and, quite frankly, doing a much better job of it. The plot felt very old, very "been there, done that".

Then there's the problem of the characters themselves. I didn't really ever connect with Candace, which is especially bad for a book told from a first-person perspective. I thought Ash was interesting, but not so much that I need to read the next book (this is the first in a trilogy). Her friend Bibi was the stereotypical best friend, always there for her with a wise word, especially during her original break with Ash. The only thing that caught me by surprise was the reveal of the murderer. That was a great twist, but not enough to save the book.

There's also a huge problem with Candace's memory, and it plays an integral part in this book. She dated Ash back in San Francisco, fell in love with him, found out he was a vamp, dated him anyway, and even agreed to cross over to be with him eternally. At the last second, though, she changed her mind and ran from him, after he'd already bitten her and drained quite a bit of her blood. However, she keeps referring to him as the vamp that almost cost her her life, the one that tried to destroy her, etc. Uh, that's not right, is it? The whole scene of the bite is told in flashback, so we know what happened. As a reviewer on Amazon put it, it's very much like crying rape after the fact. The impression I got throughout the book was that Ash truly loves her and wants her to be with him. He's not evil, he's not manipulative, he's not a bad guy. She's made him into one by using some very selective memories of that one night. It's hard to feel her pain when you find yourself blaming her for how she's turned out.

All in all, I'd have to give this a "blah". If you don't have anything else to do, nothing else to read, and it happens to fall into your lap, sure, give it a try. I wouldn't actually go out and buy it; if you still want to read it, find a good used copy or check your local library.