Huntress by Christine Warren, Marjorie M. Liu, Caitlin Kittredge, Jenna Maclaine

Huntress
Christine Warren

This was an anthology I picked up at the friend of the library bookstore a while ago and am finally getting off the TBR. It has an author who writes in a way I like (Marjorie Liu), and another who I’ve meant to try (Caitlin Kittredge). The other two authors are new names to me so this was a good way to find out about them.

  • Devils Bargain by Christine Warren – Half-demon, half-human bounty hunter, Lillith Corbin has just one more task to do for the devil Samael – bring him the book the Praedicti Arcanum, which someone stole from him, in three days. Then their deal will be done and her soul will be saved. What she thinks is a simple job becomes complicated when she encounters Aaron Bullard in the middle of stealing back the book, and he tries to stop her.
This was a very straightforward paranormal romance and overall I’d give it an average grade. There was a lot about the story that felt predictable and the focus seemed to be about the hero and heroine getting together with their role in saving the world from apocalypse a means to do so. The part I liked best was the world building – demons and magic are accepted in everyday life, and the way magic and the demonworld worked interested me. What I disliked was the hero and heroine falling in lust at first sight. There was thin reasoning behind having sex and telling instead of showing.
  • Robber Bride by Marjorie M. Liu – Maggie Greene is her community’s tinkerer and fixer. She owns a junk yard in a world that was ravaged by a virus that killed 70% of the population 20 years ago. One day a strange pale man in a motorcycle arrives, and because Maggie has an odd gift she manages to bargain for her life. But that’s not the end of it. The man comes back with friends and steals people from her community, and she thinks they have Trace, an old woman and friend. With a mysterious raven that followed Trace and now follows Maggie, Maggie sets off to follow the band on motorcycles.
This story had a more urban fantasy feel although there is a definite romantic subplot. The writing was excellent, there’s a gorgeous sense of place and lyrical but uncomplicated writing, and I really enjoyed the fairy tale hints – a necklace of teeth, a journey, people who are not as they seem. I finished this one feeling satisfied and happy. Just this story is worth keeping the book. I’m beginning to feel like I would really like if there was a collection of Liu’s short stories, because I tend to enjoy them.
  • Down in the Ground Where the Dead Men Go (a tale of Black London) by Caitlin Kittredge – Jack Winter is a mage who does odd jobs for people in between gigs with his band. While he was in Scotland with his band he’s approached by a femme fatale with a job – to help her get to the Black so she can kill a demon. Jack is immediately leery, but is not really given a choice in the matter.
The main characters in this urban fantasy story are both very hard and jaded by their past. Jack is a brash and kind of skeevy, and Ava was a bombshell who exploits her sexuality to entrap him. This made them rather unlikeable so I found myself unattached to what was happening to them. I also I haven’t read the Black London books, of which Jack is a character. I think this story is probably easier to understand if you’ve read those books; although I could figure out Jack’s backstory, there are some places where I felt lost by the conversation. The language here was liberally peppered by Britishisms, but I wondered if they were overdone (does anyone use that much slang?). I would say this is a very gritty one with dark characters, dark places, and monsters that are reminiscent of Pan’s Labyrinth, but perhaps too gritty for my tastes.
  • Sin Slayer by Jenna Maclaine – Cin Craven and The Righteous, a group of vampire warriors, are tasked to take down Jack the Ripper, a demon who is terrorizing vampires in London. When they get there, Cin’s husband Michael is possessed by the demon and Cin must figure out a way to save him.
The author does a good job in getting the reader up to speed on Cin’s backstory and what The Righteous are, which I appreciated because I haven’t read any Cin Craven novels. There are a two already established relationships in the 4 members of The Righteous, and the sexuality between both couples at the beginning felt gratuitous, but perhaps not to those familiar with the books. After the story was moving along, the focus is on capturing Jack the Ripper, and the twist is that he takes over Michael, which Cin is very concerned about. I thought the relationship between Cin and Michael was illustrated well during his possession and Cin’s pained response to it. Overall a decent story.

Overall: There’s a mixture of urban fantasy and paranormal romance in the selection of stories presented in Huntress, and this is a combination that I think is a mixed bag that may work only for fans of both genres. I’m more of an UF reader than a PR one, so with the exception of Robber Bride, the stories in this anthology didn’t really resonate with me. I think this is worth picking up for those who are fans of the authors and related series in the anthology, but outside of that, the stories ranged from “meh” to “very good” and I would only call Robber Bride required reading.

Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository

Other reviews:
Couldn’t find any – send me a link if I missed yours

Spider’s Bite by Jennifer Estep

I liked the fun series set in Bigtime about superheroes by Jennifer Estep, so when I found out she had an urban fantasy series in the works, it went on my wishlist. I won a copy of this book over at vampirewire.

The Premise: Gin Blanco is an assassin who works at a barbecue restaurant called the Pork Pit during the day. She relies on her knives and tools for her job, but in case she needs it she’s also a Stone Elemental – someone with power over rocks and Earth with a small amount of Ice Elemental power as well. One day, Gin is hired to kill an embezzler, but is surprised during the job by a double cross by the client. Within moments, Gin is wanted by the police and everyone around her is in danger. To clean things up Gin makes a surprising move: she teams up with a straight-laced cop, Donovan Caine.

My Thoughts: Reading Spider’s Bite right after The Better Part of Darkness by Kelly Gay really highlighted how expectations of a character’s morals and whether they live up to them is part of what affects my reading experience. Although I didn’t always agree with what Gin did, I expected her to be ruthless, and it wasn’t as much a problem for me when she was. I understood her rules, and although she was not above doing something I find questionable, she was consistent with what my expectations were: a killer who doesn’t pretend to be one of the good guys. The interest is in knowing up front that Gin walks a fine line, and I’m not sure whether or not she will go over.  Somehow, I root for her despite her profession.

Because of the female assassin, this book reminds me of Kelley Armstrong’s Nadia Stafford series, which is a series I LOVE and am patiently waiting to continue. Of course this book is really different, but the smart, capable heroine is similar. I feel like this series, which has three books out this year (Web of Lies comes out in May and Venom comes out in September), fills some of the void I feel over Nadia Stafford, and I recommend this series for people who like that one.

What I really like about this book is how the hero, Donovan Caine, an honest detective with ideals, has to work with with an assassin in this story! He’s the one trying to make sure that Gin doesn’t do things that go over the line, and he has a moral dilemma – he likes and is attracted to her while he thinks that she’s a cold-blooded killer. His his physical attraction to someone who may have murdered his partner and all the mixed up feelings of guilt and anger involved with that make their relationship kind of delicious. I’d love to see how things develop in the next two books. One thing I’d say though – Gin isn’t subtle about her appreciation of the detective. Her thoughts are clear to the reader and I think that romance readers would be unfazed but readers who don’t like anything explicit could be turned off.

The relationships in this series feel real life, maybe because I thought Gin felt like a three-dimensional character. The people in Gin’s life felt like family – her handler Fletcher and his son Finnegan, and the twin dwarf sisters Jo-Jo and Sophia have a long back story that is hinted at but you feel like they’ve had years together to build their relationships.

Another thing I liked was the idea of the Elementals and how they are a normal part of society (along with giants, vampires and dwarfs). There are different shades and kinds of Elemental power: Ice, Stone, Air and Fire, and Elementals veer to certain jobs because of it just like any other talent. It’s also common for people to have their own personal rune to reflect this talent.There’s a promising introduction to Fire Elemental and Big Bad, Mab Monroe, who sounds like she owns the town and may be someone Gin will eventually confront in the next couple of books. Mab and Gin’s past looks to be part of a larger story arc I”d like to read.

Note: for fans of Estep’s Bigtime series – the Elemental Assassin series has a very different voice and a darker tone, but I noticed a nod to Estep’s previous series in the form of a mention of Fiona Fine. It tickled me. :)

Overall: The more I think about it the more I like this book. I recommend this urban fantasy for people who like a smart, practical kind of heroine with a hard edge. If you liked Kelley Armstrong’s Nadia Stafford, I think you will like Gin Blanco. I plan to buy the rest of these books.

Buy: Amazon | Powells

Other reviews:
Fantasy Dreamer’s Rambings5 out of 5
Smexy Books – 5 out of 5
A Buckeye Girl Reads – found the first half slower than the last but positive review
Literary Escapism – positive review

Once Bitten, Twice Shy by Jennifer Rardin

I’d seen Once Bitten, Twice Shy in the bookstore and I liked the premise from what I could tell it was, but didn’t pick it up right away just because of all the series I had already started and haven’t finished. But when it was $1 at the onedollarorbit website, the price was right and I downloaded it.

The Premise: Jaz Parks is a CIA agent whose job it is to kill vampires. A few months ago she was assigned a new partner – Vayl, the only assassin who is also a vampire. No explanation is given but Jaz wonders about it: Vayl has NEVER worked with anyone and he’s considered a big deal. She can’t imagine someone ordering him to suddenly take a partner like her, so she guesses Vayl asked for her specifically, but doesn’t know why. The story begins a few months into their partnership when Jaz and Vayl are in Miami to perform a simple mission to help smoke out their biggest enemy, the Raptor, which soon becomes much more than it seems.

This is the first book in the series:

1) Once Bitten, Twice Shy
2) Another One Bites the Dust
3) Bitting the Bullet
4) Bitten to Death
5) One More Bite
6) Bite Marks

Excerpt of Chapter 1

My Thoughts: This book is told in the person person from Jaz Parker’s viewpoint. Jaz is a character who seems like the prototypical fantasy heroine. Red hair, wields deadly weapons, drives fast cars, and kicks butt at killing vampires. There’s also a bit of a smart mouth, though to me it just seemed like she often shared the first thing she was thinking, no matter how random it was (there were times that Jaz thought she was funny when I did not, but humor is subjective). Jaz also has a dark back story; a recent tragedy hangs over her head, and she doesn’t get along very well with the male members of her family when the book begins (her father and twin brother, David). The only one Jaz has no difficulty with is her sweet-tempered sister Evie, but it sounds like a typical family: there is still love even when they don’t get along.

Vayl is a tall, dark and mysterious vampire (handsome too, obviously), centuries old who has his own reasons for choosing to work for Jaz. I thought his noticing her at the agency then wanting to work with her, was a little hard to believe, but didn’t question it much. The important thing seems to be exactly what she means to him. She’s more than just a coworker.  And this is where I was a little disappointed at the book.  It feels like we’re not getting the slow buildup of a relationship as people get to know one another. Instead we’ve skipped ahead to the “I like you, do you like me?” stage. Frankly, I’m all about the slow build-up and I really don’t know why they even have these feelings about each other, I’m just told they do. It wasn’t what I was expecting in the romance. Meanwhile even though it’s clear we’re in that stage, that’s pretty much where we stay. It just hovers there between them. I suspect the author is not going to address them for a while, which I don’t mind, but if nothing is going to happen, why not show more of why they like each other, and make me believe it?

Most of the characters where like this: a little flat. Jaz and Vayl pick up a team of a private investigator, a psychic, and a tech wizard, and they’re pretty quickly sketched out and don’t do much more than provide support to let Jaz and Vayl do what they do best. Even the villains seemed like the usual fare: the psycho ex, the evil henchmen, evil doctor, terrorists, cult, and Uber-Villain pulling strings behind the scenes. There is however, plenty there to build from and I’m hoping more fleshing out happens in the next books.

Despite all of this, which I know, I know, I sound a little ranty: I didn’t hate it, I enjoyed myself! I didn’t find the read annoying, it’s only looking back that I see some things, but as I read I did want to see where the story was going, and I did want to know the mysterious back story of both Jaz and Vayl.  I think a lot of why I didn’t end up disliking the book was the action. There’s plenty of it, in a very.. action movie kind of way. Think James Bond meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Jaz and Vayl are a good team, working together to kill the bad guys and save the day, using high tech weapons and gadgetry alongside some supernatural abilities. For the most part this was fun, like watching a spy movie: there are getaways and car chases, tense moments, and civilians in danger. It’s easy to follow (although near the end I had that I’m not quite sure where everyone is feeling) and not much thinking is necessary.

Overall: This has several elements of a typical urban fantasy – a strong, kick-ass heroine with mysterious powers she’s beginning to learn, lots of action, and a supernatural love interest. I think that if you are at all sick of this type of thing, move on. Otherwise, keep reading. It’s kind of like a written version of a high octane Hollywood blockbuster. Lots of entertainment value but only for those in the mood for action and entertainment. I still had a fun and will probably pick up the second book, but your mileage may vary. I’d recommend this book for those who also like Karen Chance.

I like the covers. Orbit posted the making of them: Part 1, Part 2.

Other reviews:

Lurv a la Mode has a thoughtful, very detailed review (4 scoops out of 5)
Books and Other Thoughts (also liked it)
LesleyW’s Book Nook – another positive review
Smart Bitches – gave it a B+ and really liked Jaz
Unbound! – isn’t sure yet, will keep reading
Tez at Tez Says also had mixed feelings, will keep reading

Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn

Kitty and the Midnight Hour was first published in 2005, but I hadn't started the series until now. I'd heard good things from people who I think have similar tastes in books, and happily, Hachette sent me the first five books to review. The sixth book, Kitty Raises Hell is right around the corner with a March 1st release date. My plan is to catch up to the whole series over the course of this month and review as I go.

The premise: Kitty Norville is a late night radio DJ and secretly two years into being a werewolf. One night she idly mentions a Bat Boy article, and this kicks off an impromptu talk show on creatures of the night.  Suddenly, a weekly show about the supernatural is born. Kitty calls it The Midnight Hour,  and it's a big success. Of course, not everyone is happy, like Arturo the head of the local vampire coven or Carl and Meg, her werewolf pack alpha and his mate, but Kitty finds herself increasingly proud of her show and will do anything to keep it.

Through the radio show, Kitty lays down the foundation of the world to the reader, and an idea of the practical "rules". Kitty is forthright with her listeners, sometimes dissuading those who may have lofty ideas of becoming a werewolf or vampire, providing advice to those who are, and educating everyone in the process.

Despite the amusing concept and Kitty's glib on air persona, there is an element of grit and darkness in this book. Kitty's change into a werewolf was not a happy story, and the werewolf lifestyle isn't for everyone. Kitty isn't a strong wolf, I think others prefer if she stayed as a cub, and so she's weak and vulnerable amongst her peers -at least when the book begins. To me it seemed like a constant battle between the human rational side, and the instinctive wolf side, and Kitty has to listen to both to survive.

Overall: Quite an enjoyable read – worth a try for all urban fantasy fans. Although there are some dark moments and grey areas which may turn off others, I breezed through this fairly fast, and I'm glad that I have the second book waiting. While this ended in a good place, there is definitely a lot more that you want to find out. Kitty and the Midnight Hour lays down the foundation. The world building is such that you understand what is going on, but you know that there is more, and you want to keep reading to find out what else is there.

A couple of people I know compared the writing to Patricia Briggs when I mentioned I was reading this. I think that there are some parallels to the Mercy Thompson series: werewolf packs and a society being introduced to the reality of supernatural creatures, but I thought the heroine was very different from Mercy. Kitty doesn't start off as a confident heroine. She's the alpha's pet, lowest wolf on the totem pole, and submissive to all the other wolves. At first I wasn't sure I liked her because of her submissiveness (and I definitely don't like Carl, who I felt was abusive), but as the book moves along, having the radio show gives Kitty purpose and she begins to question where she may not have before. The book starts off with me not really liking certain things, but as time moves along Kitty seems to make the right decisions regarding what bothered me. This is where I think the grey area is on whether others will like the book.  I thought that Kitty had a pretty good self-awareness of her own weaknesses, which reminds me of another heroine in a radio station – Ciara Griffen of Jeri Smith-Ready's WVMP series. I would call that a good comparison. Kitty also has an intelligent sense of humor, and I liked reading about her radio segments -  they brought up a lot of socio-political questions that I found interesting to think about.

This is definitely urban fantasy in that there's only a brief hint at romance and I don't think we'll see a HEA or HFN in that department, at least not for a while. As I said, there are some dark moments too. They secondary characters are interesting (Cormac, the were/vamp hunter, TJ, Kitty's best friend and fellow werewolf and others), and I want to see more of them, but I also warn you – don't get too attached to people, things don't really go the way you expect. I'm still hoping things go the way I want, and Kitty pulls through!

Carrie Vaughn's website

Calico_reactions Kitty reviews (she loves this series)

Cosy World's review (a different opinion, she didn't like it at all)

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Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs

Ah, another butt shot cover. I liked this one.

This is book 3 of the Mercedes Thompson series. Mercy, a VW mechanic who can shapeshift into a coyote, can't help sticking her nose into things when her friends are in danger, even when they tell her to back off. Book 1 was Mercy helping werewolves, book 2 was helping the vampires, and in book 3 she's involved with the fae. This time the problem is that her mentor Zee is being charged with murder. Mercy feels she must prove his innocence to save his life, even though he tells her get her ass lost.

Lazy bullet time:

  • There is a resolution to the love triangle Mercy is involved in since book 1. I was pleased with it. It felt like her decision was inevitable but I liked how her choice was explained.
  • I think you can probably read this book out of order, but I wouldn't recommend it. It's a lot better knowing what happened in books 1 and 2.
  • I was really looking forward to this book, and I think a lot of people loved the story, but I didn't feel the same way at the end of this one as the others. I don't think the end made me feel "satisfied", but this isn't the fault of the writing. I'm going to try to say this without spoilers. Basically - I found myself being chilled by what I was reading. It went past my personal comfort zone, which shows that the writing is good, but I don't think I want to reread it. At all. Meanwhile I would reread books 1 and 2. So basically, this was a different kind of book to me – more visceral, less escapist. I could go into why and blah but that would spoil so that's all I have to say.
  • So good book, not sure if i could handle it again. I'm fragile.
  • I love this protagonist.
  • Wonder what book 4 is going to be like? I thought there were 7 of these books coming out, and since this book seems like it concludes, I can't tell if we are going to keep hearing from Mercy (I hope we do), or if we're going to get a book from another POV. I wonder if we're going to revist the vamps because Mercy was a little nervous about them finding things out after book 2?  

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Holidays Are Hell by Kim Harrison, Lynsay Sands, Marjorie M. Liu, and Vicki Pettersson

Holidays Are Hell
Kim Harrison

I reviewed the first of these anthologies, Dates from Hell over here. This is the second one which is in the same vein as the first – urban fantasy, some paranormal romance going on, with an added holiday theme.

For the most part I liked this anthology better than the first one. I think it was all on the "good!" side except for one story.

"Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel" by Kim Harrison. In Dates from Hell we got a story about Ivy set before she meets Rachel, and in this story, we get a story about a young teen-aged Rachel before she ever joins Inderland Security. I thought this was well done because you don't have to have read the Rachel Morgan books to understand the world (much less confusing than the story in Dates from Hell), plus there are a lot of new things to learn for those who read those series. We learn about Rachel's family dynamics, and about Rachel's reasons for joining IS. I was also surprised to see how different Rachel is physically in this short story than what I was used to seeing in the series, but her stubbornness and trying to do things seemingly beyond her abilities seems very familiar.

"Run, Run, Rudolf" by Lynsay Sands. If you look at the link to the first anthology, and check out the "Claire Switch Project", this is a continuation of that short story. A couple of scientists gets zapped by a "destabilizer ray" that allows them to shapeshift if they concentrate really hard. I thought that story was goofy and I think this continuation is equally so. The scientists from the first story rebuild the ray in their basement and the same mad scientist from before (John Heathcliffe) zaps Jill with it. The characters sound like caricatures, and because Jill's keeps losing concentration during shapeshifting, she keeps conveniently being naked in public and flashing the man she's interested in (at least three times!). I rolled my eyes a lot. I have checked out reviews from this book and surprisingly this was many people's favorite story so I don't know.. I may be crazy or something when I say this was my least favorite of the bunch and it did not fit in with the rest of them.

"Six" by Marjorie M. Liu. I think this one is a stand alone, unconnected to an outside series, and it manages to have great world-building, action, characters, and plot in a short space. Six is a elite Chinese agent trying to track down terrorists when she stumbles upon the paranormal – vampires – not the western myth I'm used to reading about, but the Chinese version – Jiang Shi. This was a refreshing twist. When I was a kid and camping for the first time, a Singaporean boy scared me to death telling me about the Jiang Shi. I couldn't sleep all night imaging them hopping over to kill me! Seriously – cold sweats. Anyway, Six also meets a man named Joseph who fights these vampires, and who has some special abilities and they start working together. Possibly my favorite of the bunch because I liked the setting – urban China. Liu has several romance novels out but I really like her urban fantasy. I also enjoyed her short story in the Wild Thing anthology – that one was about a woman with living tattoos over her body which protect her but will eventually kill her, and that's going to be a series called Hunter Kiss.

"The Harvest" by Vicki Pettersson – Another one based in the world where a series is set. This is the story of Zoe Archer – the mother of the protagonist in the Signs of the Zodiac series, Joanna Archer. I thought this was a great side story to go with the series which fills us in on the motivation of Zoe's mother as well as learning about her personality and how she was able to do what she did. But, if you haven't read this series, I'm not sure how lost you would be reading this story. It's possible the answer is – quite lost. Though there are several hints that explain the world, the Zodiac world is very complex so it's hard for me to say how confused someone would be. Definitely a must-read for a Zodiac series fan though.

P.S. This one shall be tagged with my butt shot cover tag. I'm not a fan of the shoes on this cover but ok, it's holiday-related. Also – I noticed that this cover is so similar to another Kim Harrison cover – For a Few Demons More the mass market paperback (same pose – woman in dress walking with knife on the left side of the cover). Odd.

My TBR is around 120. Eek?

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More on butt-shot covers

 

Stray
Rachel Vincent

OK I haven't posted in a while. It's been a slow reading month.

Meanwhile, someone else has blogged about the butt shot cover trend – juno books:

"We having nothing against bums on coversBut we feel there are issues that should be addressed: Are there too many paranormal tuchas out there? Have artists gone haunch happy? Can you be a successful urban fantasy series with only frontals? Are rumps de rigieur for success these days? Does “kickassitude” mean ass must be portrayed at some point? "

The post can be found here. Plus another discussion on fangs_fur_fey.

FASCINATING!

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On the Prowl by Patricia Briggs, Eileen Wilks, Karen Chance, and Sunny

On the Prowl
Patricia Briggs

OK, been procrastinating about this review for some reason, better do it before I forget. I picked up On the Prowl because Patricia Briggs is on my buy list for her Mercy Thompson series and her short story in this book is from that world. I’ve also read Karen Chance (who I will keep reading) and Sunny (who I probably won’t), but I’d never read anything by Eileen Wilks before.

In this anthology, all four stories have to do with some kind of shapeshifting, so there are urban fantasy and paranormal elements.

Overall I liked the anthology, but it was a mixed bag. I was surprised in that I liked some stories more than I expected and others less than I expected.

Alpha and Omega by Patricia Briggs [link to excerpt]- Charles, son of the Marrok (the werewolf King) goes to Chicago to investigate suspicious activity there. At the airport he meets with Anna, the werewolf who called the Marrok, who is an Omega wolf. This was one of the surprises of the anthology. There was more of a paranormal romance rather than an urban fantasy feel to it, and I wasn’t expecting that because the Mercy Thompson series is very light on relationships. I’m not sure that completely worked for me because I thought the pacing was a little fast in the emotional aspect. It just didn’t fit into the constraints of a short story. I wouldn’t say I didn’t enjoy the story. The writing is well done. I’m going to keep following the series that is supposed to stem from the characters in it. Patricia Briggs says on her website that 3 books have been agreed on so far.

Inhuman by Eileen Wilks [link to excerpt] – This story centers around Kai, who is one of the Gifted in an Earth where some sort of unusual wave has caused a lot of people to discover minor pyschic abilities, but she is hiding something about her Gift even amongst her friends. She’s also covers for her neighbor Nathan who is an odd character, even though she’s not completely sure what he’s hiding either. This turned out to be what I thought was one of the stronger stories in the anthology and I enjoyed the subtle world building and the relaxed pace. I’d be interested in reading more books by this author. Hmm, I just realized that this short story is in the same world as her Lupi series. Well I couldn’t tell.

Buying Trouble by Karen Chance [link to excerpt]- This is another story which is in the same world as the author’s Cassandra Palmer series, and I didn’t think it was too hard to follow without reading the series but it’s hard for me to tell. It centers around Claire, a null who works for an auction house and who is avoiding her family and the Fey for some reason. When she sees a Fey noble at an auction, then sees her enemy cousin, she knows things are going to get bad. I was pleasantly surprised by this one, because OK I have ranted about the pacing in Chance’s books before. This story had some pauses in the action of the story which I was pleased by. Less rushing around = good!!! Also there was some mild humor in this one that I enjoyed.

Mona Lisa Betwining by Sunny [link to excerpt]- OK, yet again a story set in the same world as the author’s series, except this time this seems more of a side story in the actual series than a story separate from the series. A warning – major spoilers for book 2 in this short story!!! We have Mona Lisa, the main character of Sunny’s Monere series continuing down her path of sexual conquest and increasing powers. I think that the point of this was to introduce the character Lucinda who will be getting her own set of books, but this was done really awkwardly and I was wondering why Lucinda was even mentioned at all, because she sort of: enters, vaguely threatens Mona Lisa and then goes off somewhere, and that was it. Didn’t fit the context at all. I didn’t like this one and I skimmed it so I’ve already forgotten much of it. I really think this deserves to be in an erotic anthology, not with just paranormal/urban fantasy that’s not as sexual. OH. I remember one thing. At one point I actually paused for a few moments because I had just read the sentence “Crammingly so.”

Stray by Rachel Vincent

Stray
Rachel Vincent

Ah, butt shot cover. The only thing that really bugs me about this cover is that the scratch marks don't look right. I expect them to be parallel with one another. This is the type of thing I get distracted by.. other than the butt.

Anyway, this is the first of what looks to be a series about a female werecat named Faythe.  Her father is the leader of the pack, the Alpha, and oversees a territory south of the Missouri and east of the Rockies to the Mississippi. Faythe is one of only 8 unmarried female werecats in the U.S. so she feels overprotected and fights bitterly for her independence. She's the rebel in her household. She is the only female to insist on college, and although she's supposed to be left alone, she knows her father has her under guard. Unfortunately for Faythe, her "independence", such as it is, is coming to an end. Werecat females are being abducted, and she is made to go home for her protection.

There is an excerpt of the first chapter. I read it before I decided to get this book, but the excerpt actually made me worry a little bit that I wouldn't like Faythe. Why? Well.. if you read it, Faythe puts herself in a dangerous situation instead of asking anyone for help. She has options, but feels that she has to prove herself so is willing to get hurt to do so. Well.. this stubbornness is a reoccurring thing. I think one reviewer on Amazon called her "Too Stubborn To Live". I was worried this would drive me crazy, but I was pleasantly surprised that it did not. I can't say the same for everyone who reads this, but I could understand this flaw – she's still growing up, and she's blind to the position her parents have to take. I know someone like Faythe – my younger sister, so maybe I'm just naturally more patient with this. That and as the book progresses, I think we see some of the blinders removed from her eyes. She begins to see things differently and I think she finds out that her independence is really hiding from responsibility.  As a reader I also secretly called her spoiled. The only girl, the youngest, she calls her father "Daddy", and even when she's "independent"  at college, she bills her father without telling him that she's graduated and signed up for grad school.  I think that in book 2 (Rogue), we're going to see a more mature Faythe. That's the way I see the books going. If not.. I may find the stubbornness harder to deal with, but for now it makes her a very interesting heroine for me and I hope it continues.

Another trait that I felt that some of the werecat characters seem to have was – greater emotion closer to the surface. Maybe it's the animal nature, but Marc, Faythe's ex-fiance shows a lot of territorial jealousy, and Faythe has a lot of anger and lashes out at Marc often. I'm a bit baffled at their relationship. He's still unable to accept her breaking off of their engagement, and she can barely speak to him without wanting to hurt him. I want to know – what happened?! There's some backstory there.

Stray is a debut novel and its 600 pages long. Which I was surprised by. I thought the length was a little long, but it wasn't overly so, but I also enjoy movies that go longer than expected, so not sure how other readers feel about this.

Overall I really liked this one. I think the series will have a similar satisfying girl kicking-butt feel as Kelley Armstrong or Patricia Briggs. The only warning I have is there is brutal violence in this book. The bad guys are really nasty and like to toy with their victims, and both they and the good guys can turn into giant black panthers that kill.

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Butt shot covers unite!

Someone mentioned this on fangs_fur_fey and I hadn't realized it till then - there is a subset of covers in urban fantasy with a nice rounded butt shot! Now.. I do have a place in my heart for these. And apparently I have been reading quite a few books with this type of cover lately (and looking forward to one in the case of Iron Kissed). I wonder what this means.. Now favorite butt of these four.. that's a tough one. What do you think? 

Stray
Rachel Vincent
On the Prowl
Patricia Briggs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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