January 27, 2009
When Kitty and Ben decide to elope to Las Vegas in Kitty and the Dead Man’s Hand, Kitty doesn’t expect it to turn into a working vacation. But she gets an opportunity to broadcast her radio show on television, which means she’ll be spending a little less time lounging by the pool and a little more time poking into the area’s supernatural community. She encounters a surprisingly large vampire population, a seductive group of lycanthropes, and a stage magician whose act might be based on real abilities. If that wasn’t enough, some people from Ben’s past are in town – bounty hunters who carry guns with silver ammunition.
August 13, 2008
The main character is Anna, a skittish young woman who was turned into a werewolf against her will. She spent years living in an abusive pack until being recently rescued by Charles, whose wolf side immediately claimed Anna’s as its mate. Of course this makes things awkward between Anna and Charles, who are basically strangers.
Charles is the son of the leader of all the North American werewolf packs, and he works as his father’s enforcer. He explains to Anna that she is a rare Omega wolf, which means she has a calming effect on other werewolves and is not bound by direct orders from an Alpha. When a rogue werewolf begins hunting humans close to Charles’s home, Anna hopes that these newly-discovered abilities will help. But the rogue is only part of a larger evil, one whose ancient grudge and current ambition could endanger the rest of the continent’s werewolves.
This book was set up in the story “Alpha and Omega” from the On the Prowl anthology. It explains how Anna and Charles meet, so if you skip it then you should be aware that you’re missing out on backstory. It also includes a Karen Chance short that some who enjoy Briggs might like. I didn’t care for the other two stories, they’re more romance-oriented.
Briggs tries to work the story’s most important details into Cry Wolf, but I can easily see some things confusing those who didn’t read “Alpha and Omega.” The basic plot of how the main characters met came through just fine, but I didn’t feel that this book did the best job of introducing the relationship between Anna and Charles. We got a great take on the difficulties of their situation, but not as much of a sense about why they should be together other than the attraction that their wolf sides share. I hope that the next book spends more time on the human part of their relationship, because right now it seems a little arbitrary.
Anna is a likable character, and the peculiar way that she managed to deal with some of the traumatic events of her past makes for a fantastic twist. Charles is still pretty mysterious, it was interesting to see the different ways that the other characters reacted to him. It was nice to get a different view of Bran’s pack, though (and this is just random speculation) I’d be surprised if Anna and Charles end up spending most of their time in Aspen Creek.
There was a good balance of mystery, action, and character development, and the ending was intense. This is a series with a lot of potential, and I’m looking forward to getting to know the characters better.
June 25, 2007
In The Harlequin, Anita and her boyfriends and her lovers and her vampires and her shapeshifters meet, you guessed it, the Harlequin. They’re a secretive, legendary society with the authority to observe, punish, or destroy other vampires. The characters have to deal with this group, work through shapeshifter power struggles, and put up with the usual soap opera stuff.
The last book in this series that I bought was Cerulean Sins, and even that purchase was kind of half-hearted. Since then I’ve been getting Hamilton from the library, and I’ve almost stopped doing that several times. But I just can’t help myself, somehow I always end up on the waiting list for them. I’ve always had a few problems with Hamilton’s writing, but the stories used to be entertaining enough that those issues were easy to overlook. Of course since the series ran off the rails I find myself less forgiving.
The good news about The Harlequin is that Hamilton seems to finally be listening to some of the criticism. Anita learned control of the ardeur, leading to slightly less casual sex. Even better, there aren’t any surprise orgies, which have at times been uncomfortably close to supernatural rape in previous books. Jean-Claude has a couple of “remember me? I’m still a badass” moments and Hamilton spends time fleshing out characters who have already made appearances instead of inventing another handful of hot guys for Anita to play with. She also revisits some interesting plot threads that had gone neglected. And best of all, Edward makes a long-overdue visit.
Despite the progress, this book is hardly a redemption of the series. A couple of the plot threads don’t make much sense. Asking to become Anita’s lover is treated as an acceptable power play. Nathaniel becomes more like all of Anita’s other guys. Richard does something unthinkable, but after the supernatural sex still required to sort almost anything out they treat him like usual. Anita is finally as cold in this novel as people have always accused her of being. She used to want to protect all the weaker characters, but the multiple strains of shapeshifer that she carries have apparently led to more of a law of the jungle mentality.
Hamilton still prods those readers who don’t enjoy the constant makeout party. There’s nothing as obnoxious as the “you’re just jealous” fight from an earlier book that seemed to cast Hamilton as Anita and the reader as Ronnie. But Anita is constantly defensive about her harem, throwing them in the faces of several characters. And Hamilton can’t resist checking another one of Anita’s taboos off the list in a scene made uncomfortable by coercion.
The Harlequin is an improvement, but I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up. There’s still too much irreconcilable relationship bullshit and too much boring sex with whoever is available. The series is just bloated. There have been too many characters, powers, and plots introduced for any of them to get a satisfying amount of attention, especially considering how many pages are devoted to either sex or the same old arguments that they always have.
June 21, 2007
I think it’s safe to say that while Riley Jenson won’t end up becoming one of my favorite urban fantasy heroines, I’ll continue to read this series. Kissing Sin is a lot like Full Moon Rising, it has an interesting, original story but has too much romance for me.
The book takes place a couple of months after Full Moon Rising, and opens with an exciting scene. Riley wakes up naked in an alley next to a bloody body, and winds up on the run with a sexy shapechanger. Naturally, they break up the monotony of running for their lives with a few steamy scenes.
Even after the initial escape, Riley remains a target because of her half-vampire blood. She has to work with the Directorate of Other Races to find the people responsible for using genetic experimentation to create new types of supernaturals, and needs the help of a couple of former lovers on the way.
All of my problems with Kissing Sin are related to the romance plots, so I won’t go into them other than to say that I felt a lot of the relationship stuff was predictable. I really enjoyed the action scenes and the investigation aspects of the story, so I’ll continue on with the series the next time I’m out of new books to read.
I’d definitely recommend this for paranormal romance fans. And this series has a lot more (or at least better-written) action than many of the “making out with vampires” books that I’ve come across, so it could also be just the thing for those who don’t usually like romance but are in the mood to try something different.
June 15, 2007
This is easily my favorite urban fantasy anthology. Often these types of books frustrate me because they tend to have only one or two really good stories. At best, many anthologies have too much filler, and at worst some authors really don’t seem to give a crap (like when Laurell K. Hamilton used a short story that was actually an excerpt from her next book).
Despite my low expectations for urban fantasy story collections, I had high hopes for My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding. I liked that it had a theme, especially one as interesting as wedding stories. It looked like a good mix of authors I’ve already enjoyed and folks who were new to me, which is always a bonus. Here’s a list of the stories and a few impressions:
- “Spellbound” by L.A. Banks
In “Spellbound,” the feuding Hatfield and McCoy families use voodoo rather than brute force to fight their battles. The basic idea is very Romeo and Juliet. But thankfully when Odelia Hatfield and Jefferson McCoy decide to marry, they have more support than Shakespeare’s lovers.
- “Something Borrowed” by Jim Butcher
Dresden Files fans will be happy to see a Harry story set at Billy and Georgia’s wedding. In one of the earlier books in the series, Dresden and the werewolf couple made a powerful enemy who decides it’s time for revenge. But the story should be enjoyable even for readers who haven’t been following the series.
- “Dead Man’s Chest” by Rachel Caine
This is a supernatural pirate tale, unconnected to Caine’s Weather Wardens series. It was fun enough, but highly predictable and I found Caine’s protagonist pretty annoying. I’m probably being a bit too harsh because pirates have been so overdone in the past couple of years.
- “All Shook Up” by P.N. Elrod
An Elvis impersonator with an uncanny resemblance to the real thing makes an impression on the caterer of a celebrity wedding. I thought this was the most original story of the lot, and a lot of fun. I liked Elrod’s approach to the wedding theme, by having the hired help as the main characters.
- “The Wedding of Wylda Serene” by Esther M. Friesner
I love the prose style of this one. It’s about a wedding that’s planned at a country club with an unusual problem. The setup is fantastic, but I have mixed feelings about the resolution because it got a little cheesy.
- “Charmed by the Moon” by Lori Handeland
An earlier story included a werewolf wedding, but in this setting the werewolves are more monstrous. This story includes characters from Handeland’s Nightcreatures series, but they’re taking a break from hunting shapeshifters to question their motives for getting married. This is one of the most romance-oriented stories in the collection, which means it wasn’t exactly my thing.
- “Tacky” by Charlaine Harris
This story is set in the same world as the author’s Southern Vampire stories, but doesn’t use the same characters. It’s about an unusual wedding, the thought of this marriage doesn’t really thrill either the bride’s vampire nest or the groom’s werewolf pack. It’s a must-read for any Harris fan, her characters are entertaining as they navigate the awkward social situation. There’s enough action to keep things moving, and the wedding ceremony itself is, uh, to die for. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
- “A Hard Day’s Night-Searcher” by Sherrilyn Kenyon
This is the other really romance-heavy entry, though there was more excitement than in Handeland’s story. It felt like Kenyon cheated on the theme. There was a wedding scene, but it was hardly central to the plot. The main characters could have just as easily crashed a birthday party or a book club meeting. Not that the supernatural creatures involved struck me as the book club type, but you get the point. The main character jumped from lust to serious life-altering commitment in a disturbingly short amount of time, which always bugs me.
- “…Or Forever Hold Your Peace” by Susan Krinard
The anthology closes with this supernatural mystery. The alternate history victorian setting was a treat, I was sad to learn that Krinard has only one other short story that uses it. The story starts out with a dramatic interrupted wedding followed by the disappearance of the bride. The main characters are a young man and woman who each have inherited supernatural talents that they put to use helping the groom figure out what happened. There are enough twists to keep everyone guessing. I liked the style of this story a lot, and hope to read a full length novel about the characters in the future.
This collection has really raised the bar for urban fantasy anthologies, which is nice to see. The upcoming Many Bloody Returns is a birthday themed set of stories that looks like it will feature many of the same authors, and My Big, Fat Supernatural Honeymoon has been announced but there’s no release date yet.
June 6, 2007
Full Moon Rising is a supernatural romance set in an Australia where werewolves and vampires live openly among the humans. The book’s heroine is Riley Jenson, a werewolf with vampire blood who works in the offices of a supernatural police force. Her brother works for the same force as a field agent, and he disappears while trying to find some kidnapped supernatural beings that are linked with biotechnology research. Riley has to solve the mystery and find her brother at a time when werewolves are most distracted, during the approach of the full moon.
Arthur’s werewolf culture is interesting. The most emphasized feature of lycanthropy besides the strength and shifting is the idea that all werewolves go into heat during the week of the full moon. This has shaped a lot of their society, both in terms of how they interact and how other races view them.
I don’t tend to enjoy books that are this romance heavy, and Full Moon Rising is only a partial exception. I appreciate that Arthur has worked in a plot reason from the start for the large amount of sex and inevitable emotional complications that follow. The mystery aspects of the story were interesting, even if they were a little predictable. The sex scenes were not terribly written or repetitive, but one or two did feel a overlong.
Of course I’d have preferred a higher plot-to-erotica ratio, but that wasn’t my real problem. I just couldn’t really click with any of the main characters. Riley was inconsistent and not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Her brother was okay but largely absent. Her regular lovers were a thug and a question mark. The new vampire in her life was charming, but then he showed off an unattractive cruel streak. Flawed characters are a necessity, but it would be good if some of them could remain likable.
Despite my issues I won’t rule out reading the next in the series. There’s potential here, if Riley matures a bit as a character. While I suspect the rest of the books will also be too relationship-heavy for my taste, the story could be worth it.
May 13, 2007
In Ivy Cole and the Moon, the title character is a dog trainer/vigilante werewolf who lives in the North Carolina mountains. As the death toll rises on each month’s full moon, it becomes obvious that Ivy isn’t the only predator in the small community. Ivy’s position becomes more risky as the townspeople become increasingly paranoid, especially because there are some non-supernatural reasons for her to be seen as a suspect.
Reading Ivy Cole was a nice change of pace for me. It’s more of a horror story, complete with a decent amount of gore. The romantic subplot is awkward, but it doesn’t overwhelm the rest. Some of the minor characters were very engaging and I liked the setting a lot. I especially enjoyed Farago’s descriptions of the outdoors.
Unfortunately, there were plenty of things I was unhappy with. There were several threads that were left hanging and actions that weren’t justified very well (for example, Ivy’s aunt does something towards the end that there wasn’t a good explanation for). At times I felt like the characters were lecturing each other about wolf behavior, supernatural legends, or historical murderers more because Farago wanted to include interesting research than because it moved the plot. There were also a few plot twists that didn’t make much sense to me.
But the biggest problem I had with the book was Ivy Cole herself, I found her pretty unlikable. I had no problem with the werewolf vigilante part, but Ivy wasn’t believable as an experienced werewolf who wanted to settle permanently in Doe Springs. She was sometimes messy in wolf form, but as a human she was reckless to the point of seeming stupid. She kept evidence against herself, told lies that were easily uncovered, and let a detective borrow a major clue. Ivy seemed confident that no one would believe the truth, but even the widespread disbelief in the supernatural shouldn’t make her that careless.
I don’t want to make Ivy Cole and the Moon sound worse than it is. It isn’t a bad book, just a flawed one. I liked the basic premise, the gore, and the small-town atmosphere, and on the strength of those things I’d read at least one more book by Farago. I just hope that her next novel is something different and I can connect with the main character better.