Dark and Stormy Knights anthology

Anthologies are basically perfect reading when you KNOW you’re going to be interrupted by relatives. With that thought in mind, I picked this one up while on vacation in Sedona and read it in between all the madness of the Christmas season. (Yes, I know it’s been a few months since Christmas.. still working on that review backlog).

Dark and Stormy Knights
edited by P.N. Elrod

Dark and Stormy Nights is an anthology of 9 urban fantasy stories with the theme of “knights” who do some questionable things for the right reasons. So basically urban fantasy heroes doing what they usually do, which is work in the grey area. I liked that the theme is so wide open, and that the anthology had a bunch of authors I have read and liked. Here’s a breakdown of what we get, followed by my brief (non-spoiler) impressions of each:

  • A Questionable Client by Ilona Andrews (also found in a 2-novella ebook here)
  • Even Hand by Jim Butcher
  • The Beacon by Shannon K. Butcher
  • Even a Rabbit Will Bite by Rachel Caine
  • Dark Lady by P.N. Elrod
  • Beknighted by Deidre Knight
  • Shifting Star by Vicki Pettersson
  • Rookwood & Mrs. King by Lilith Saintcrow
  • God’s Creatures by Carrie Vaughn

A Questionable Client by Ilona Andrews – Kate Daniels, a member of the Atlanta Mercenary Guild is offered a bodyguard job when two of her peers back out. This is a prequel the Kate Daniels series, which means it doesn’t require you to know anything, but fans of that series will enjoy learning the back story on how Kate met Saiman, a minor but unique character. I always understood that Saiman creeped Kate out from the beginning, and why that is is explained here.  Lives up to what I expect from Ilona Andrews, currently my favorite writing duo. Link to an excerpt

Even Hand by Jim Butcher – A powerful man agrees to protect a woman and child against a supernatural pursuer. This is set in the Harry Dresden universe, except the narrator is John Marcone. I haven’t read any of the Harry Dresden books, but I gather this narrator is not Dresden’s ally. He’s not a good guy, but he does have his own set of rules, and it was refreshing to hear a story from a character on the other side and who is sharp in a scary way. This was another strong story in the anthology and really hit the sweet spot in character development – I just loved the ambiguity in this one.

The Beacon by Shannon K. Butcher – This is a story about a weary hunter named Ryder Ward who kills Beacons – people who (through no fault of their own) attract monsters called Terraphages into our world from another dimension. The latest Beacon is a young girl with a single mother and Ryder feels wretched about his choices. This sounds like an original story though the Terraphages sound like the Synestryn of Butcher’s Sentinel Wars series. Although Shannon K. Butcher is known for her paranormal romance, this didn’t go there (although it did feel like there was the set up for it). There was something about these characters that I didn’t warm to – I think they just felt very standard issue: single mother in a small town, adorable child, tortured hunter, but I felt like there was a spark for something more there if this was a longer story.

Even a Rabbit Will Bite by Rachel Caine – This is another story that didn’t feel set in a bigger universe, but I really enjoyed the world building which was nice and comprehensive in such a small space. It’s about Lisel, a centuries-old woman warrior who has managed to survive and become the last living Dragonslayer, and she’s just been informed that her successor has been chosen (by the pope, as these things are). A young girl knocks on her door the next day. I loved this one for the characterization and dialogue. The grumpy old-school Dragonslayer (“Get your ass inside”) viewing the new guard with exasperation (“glowing with youth and vitality and health and a smart-ass attitude”) but having to train her anyway and maybe gets proved wrong was a fun concept. One of my favorites.

Dark Lady by P.N. Elrod – The Internet tells me that Dark Lady is part of the Vampire Files universe because its narrator, Jack Fleming is the star of that series. This didn’t bother me, all I needed to know was that Jack was a vampire, owns a nightclub, and on occasion helps out people, and this was explained in the first three sentences. This was a very noir-style story with a damsel in distress, a mob boss, missing money, and thugs galore, set in 1930’s Chicago. What I liked about this one was that there were surprises and a puzzle which is unexpected for the story length. Link to an excerpt

Beknighted by Deidre Knight – An artist named Anna gains a patron in order to pay for “living gold” which she needs to unlock a man from another world through her artwork, but there’s something that makes Anna question her patron’s motives for backing the project. This was another story that had more of a paranormal romance tint to the writing than an urban fantasy one. I found the concept of the living gold, Artist Guild and patrons in the context of artists actually “unlocking” things within their paintings interesting in theory, but the execution was confusing. It could be a reading comprehension fail on my part, but I just had trouble connecting some of the dots.

Shifting Star by Vicki Pettersson – Skamar is a woman made flesh by the focus of her creator, and her job is to protect a certain teen girl. This means investigating the abductions of girls around her age, working with a human, and dealing with human emotions. This is just as gritty and violent and a little bit heart rending as the rest of the Signs of the Zodiac series, and it focuses on side characters, but I think it would be a little difficult to follow the concept of the Zodiac, tulpas, and who Zoe Archer is unless you’ve read other books in this world. One of the darker stories in this collection.

Rookwood & Mrs. King by Lilith Saintcrow – A suburban wife comes to Rookwood, asking him to kill her husband, who is already dead. This is another short story of the pulpy vampire detective variety, except a more modern-day version and a damsel in distress who is a lot faster on the uptake than she might be given credit for. I liked the plot of this one, but I wish the story would have been from Mrs. King’s point of view instead of focusing on Rookwood’s interpretation of events.

God’s Creatures by Carrie Vaughn – Cormac is called to deal with a killer that has gutted some cattle. It is clearly a werewolf losing the battle against bloodlust, and it won’t be long before it moves to human prey. This is another story set in a bigger universe (Kitty Norville), but Cormac is a secondary character and on a side trip so you don’t need to have knowledge of the series to understand what is going on here. The concept of hunting a werewolf was straightforward, but God’s Creatures adds a human element and ambiguity to the whole enterprise that I liked. Link to an excerpt

Overall: As urban fantasy anthologies go, this is probably one of the strongest ones I’ve read. The reason for that is there seemed to be a concerted effort (for the most part) not to lose the reader with world building details they wouldn’t know. I think we’ve all read stories set in a world related to an author’s series and been lost before. It seemed like most of these were written from the point of view of a side character, or set the story before their series begins, or are original stories not related to some bigger world. This made things more accessible, which was refreshing to see. Also keeping things cohesive: no romance and stories that all kept with a theme of doing deeds for the “greater good” that don’t always leave our heroes looking entirely pure. A very solid lineup.

Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository

Other reviews:
Temporary worlds book reviews – “although there are a few stories that didn’t work for me, I feel as if the good content outweighs the bad in this anthology”
Calicoreaction  – Worth the Cash: “On the whole, it’s a very solid anthology with stories that stand on their own two feet even if they’re set in established universes”

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Kitty Raises Hell by Carrie Vaughn

This is the sixth book of the Kitty Norville series. At last I've read all the books out so far (though this is not the final book)! I've read and reviewed the first five books over the past month here:
 
Again – I recommend reading the series in order because although each book is fairly contained, it's better to follow the character growth and relationships as they progress. The premise is that Kitty is a werewolf with a talk radio show. She's the first open paranormal celebrity and has been using her show to educate the world about the supernatural.
 
*** Spoilers for earlier books from this point on ***
 
Kitty Raises Hell occurs really quickly after the fifth book, Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand. Because these books were released so close to each other (one in February and one in March this year), I think they are meant to be read together with Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand doing much of the set up for what's going on now. Kitty is back from her adventures in Las Vegas, but the problems she encountered there aren't over yet.  A week after she's in Denver, the werewolf club of New Moon gets a vaguely threatening message – the word "Tiamat" burned on it's front door. All the wolves are on edge, waiting for some sort of attack, and soon they get what they expect in the form of a creature that smells like brimstone and sets fires.
 
Now that Kitty is the alpha werewolf, she knows she has to protect her pack, and in the usual Kitty fashion this means using all her different resources to ask questions – on the air, via her vampire friend Rick, her contact in Las Vegas, and a group of paranormal investigators with their own reality TV show – Paradox P.I. This approach reminds me of seminars that point out the differences in female and male management style. Ben knows that's how Kitty works and usually lets her do this – using her mouth to talk to people to find solutions to her problems, which becomes interesting during their first challenge as the alpha pair, but I'm glad that they choose to use a more mental rather than physical route to solve issues. It's also nice to have the werewolf pack have what seems to be a partnership with the vampires with Rick treating Kitty like a person, not a minion. Hopefully that stays that way.
 
Thoughts: I find myself liking Ben more and more each book. In Kitty Raises Hell he does a couple of things that showed backbone – one is instinctively act like the alpha male when he and Kitty are threatened (and he needed to be I think), and the other is telling Kitty off for doing what she usually does – run off without telling him what she's doing. That actually amused me a bit because yeah I've been on the receiving end of that kind of glare. It does seem more like a real relationship that they still argue and Kitty makes mistakes, but they still like each other. It also puts them on more equal footing. Kitty has someone to answer to – that means she's allowed to do her own thing, but someone wants to have her back too and she can't always just risk herself. Of course, she hasn't really learned to always remember to tell Ben what's going on.
 
We don't really learn much more about werewolves and vampires, except we do learn more about the Vegas vampires and who is really in charge. Otherwise this installment has more of a focus on other supernatural things (specifically what has followed Kitty to Denver). We do however revisit a character from the first book – Kitty's best friend T.J. has an unexpected role in this book. There is some back story about him that I liked learning, and I think it helped Kitty to find out some things about him.
 
Overall: I liked this installment better than the last one – lots more action and less of a feeling of waiting while set up is going on, but my favorite is probably still Kitty Takes a Holiday. I did think "wait a minute" a once when it felt like Kitty was being saved at the last minute, but she does save herself at other points so I guess I won't focus on it. We also still never find out what happened to Ben in Vegas. Is that perhaps a short story somewhere I don't know about?
 
There are a couple of hints about the next book (coming out next year), including an excerpt at the end of this one, but I'm curious as to what's going on with Cormac in jail, because he had something he wanted Kitty to investigate. It will be very interesting to have Cormac leave jail and re-enter the picture, but not sure when that happens.
 

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Kitty and the Dead Man’s Hand by Carrie Vaughn

This is the fifth book of the Kitty Norville series (one more book and I'll be caught up!) I've read and reviewed the first four books here:

The basic idea for those who haven't read my earlier reviews is that the series centers on a werewolf with a talk radio show who introduces the world to the supernatural. I'd recommend reading this series in order to understand what's going on and follow the growth of the characters.
 
Carrie Vaughn seems to have two main settings for these books: either In Denver (books 1 and 4), or Not In Denver (books 2 and 3). In Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand – it's a bit of both, but mostly it's Not In Denver. This time, Kitty travels to Las Vegas, which I guess is why the title is what it is (according to wikipedia, it's the name of a poker hand rumored to be held by Wild Bill Hickok at the time of his death).  
 
*** Spoilers for earlier books from this point on ***
 
At the start of this book, things are going pretty well for Kitty. She's working hard at her job with The Midnight Hour, living in Denver, able to see her family and enjoying time with her mate, Ben. The pack is also doing fine – Rick calls it the "honeymoon period" because as the new alpha pair, Ben and Kitty are encountering no major grumblings about their leadership.
 
At the end of Kitty and the Silver Bullet Kitty and Ben seem to be mated as wolves, and their human sides decide to make it official and get married. Of course, being the people Kitty and Ben are, after stressing over the planning for a traditional wedding (I can relate here), they both agree that a wedding in Vegas would be perfect for them. Of course, Kitty's plans to just elope don't happen, because soon her parents are coming and the radio station wants Kitty to do a 2 hour televised show the same weekend.
 
This book had a slow first half as all the players in Vegas are introduced. Kitty plans out her television show and so much of the book has her doing footwork to meet possible supernatural guests for her show. The back cover blurb describes them so I'll mention who some of them are: "an old-school magician [who] might be wielding the real thing", some of the Vegas "vampire community", and "the irresistible star of a suspicious animal act". Then of course there is the gun show going on in the same hotel Kitty and Ben are staying in, which brings in an element who aren't really werewolf lovers.
 
My thoughts: I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop in this book, but no action really seemed to be happening for the first 150 pages except me feeling paranoid as the reader that "Ok this person is hiding something and wants to do something to Kitty. Or maybe that person. Or that one!" -  Kitty gets herself into trouble a lot. Not that she's stupid, but her very nosy nature that comes along with asking questions for a living doesn't help. When the action finally does arrive though, I can't blame her for it – it's more the fault of her being a werewolf than Kitty's curiosity.
 
The relationship in this book between Kitty and Ben feels more secure to me, finally. Again, I'm paranoid (maybe it was TJ's death in book 1 that makes me so), but I hope they stay together because I really like Ben. They act like a real couple who have been together long enough to know each other enough to be partners – compromising works here.  I liked that I could recognize guys I know in real life in Ben. I do still think that in wolf terms though, Kitty is more alpha, but maybe because Ben lets her be, since she's got more experience being a werewolf than him. Hmm.
 
Overall: This book felt more like a transition book than the previous four. Although there is an ending to what happened in Vegas – it does not stay in Vegas (ha ha, sorry, but look at the next books back cover blurb, I'm not the only one saying it). It looks like things end in a small cliffhanger and we'll have to see what happens next in Kitty Raises Hell. Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand was released February, and Kitty Raises Hell a month later in March, so that works out well. Several interesting new characters are introduced and Kitty and Ben's relationship moves forward, but there was a lot of set up in the first half before the action occurred. Also, we don't really hear everything that happens to Ben in this book because it's written from Kitty's POV, which had me gnashing my teeth (I hope that information shows up in the next book too).
 

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A plethora of Kitty Norville giveaways across the web

There are a lot of Kitty Norville giveaways going on right now. I want to post about them since I'm trying to finish catching up with this series by the end of the month (working on it, here's my reviews so far). Apparently there is also a blog tour of these books, which I missed. 😛
 

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Kitty and the Silver Bullet by Carrie Vaughn

Kitty and the Silver Bullet is the fourth of the Kitty Norville series by Carrie Vaughn. The basic idea for those who haven't read my earlier reviews is that the series centers on a werewolf with a talk radio show who introduces the world to the supernatural.
My earlier reviews:
 
*** Probable spoilers for earlier books ***
 
The books started in Denver, and while the last couple of books did not take place there, it's Kitty's home. So it was with a sense of inevitability that in Kitty and the Silver Bullet, things come full circle and Kitty has to go back and face what she left behind. The biggest immediate problem is Kitty's old pack and the alpha pair of Meg and Carl who would like nothing more than to see Kitty dead. Of course Meg and Carl are not Kitty's only problems. The politics involving Denver's vampire Family, headed by Arturo start heating up, which means that Kitty eventually has to make some decision about her interaction with them. 
 
Kitty has done some growing throughout the series which really gets highlighted in this book. First of all, she's actually taken seriously by the various Denver factions (werewolf pack, vampire family, human police) and each either finds her a threat or possibly ally. Then in the course of this book Kitty meets someone much like she was when she was part of the pack and the contrast is surprising. Kitty left as a young, submissive cub but she's grown up, and I'm glad she has.  
 
Everything Kitty left behind the first time has to be addressed so the reader gets more details about Denver – we meet Kitty's family for instance. Before they got only brief mentions and her mother was the most mentioned family member, but this book, they play a larger role. I thought it lent a certain normality to Kitty's crazy life. There's also some interesting side character development – as part of this situation Kitty learns some things about Rick and Arturo, and I felt like I learned some more about Ben's (and maybe a bit of Cormac's) character. There was also some fascinating world building, especially in regard to the vampires. It's good to have Kitty know a lot of things regarding the supernatural, but not everything. I loved seeing how Denver fits in with the rest of the country on vampire terms and of course there are some interesting revelations!    
 
Kitty is in a relationship here but I still think that there is a large window for things changing in that relationship. I'm a bit wary of expecting Kitty to stay happy because although Kitty seems to have chosen a partner, she never really closes the door on the other person in the love triangle she's involved in.  I feel like she can easily go back to the other person if something happens with her current choice. Looking forward to seeing how things develop and expecting to be surprised somehow.  
 
Overall: It's pretty good when you think "OK, this is my favorite book of the series so far", then you read the next book and think – "OK, this one is my favorite book of the series so far!" There was a lot going on in this one, but in a good way. There was a good mix of interesting plot twists, action (lots of it!), character development, and intrigue, with a bit of relationship drama thrown in. In the end I was quite satisfied with this installment.
 

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Kitty Takes a Holiday by Carrie Vaughn

Kitty Takes a Holiday is the third of the Kitty Norville series by Carrie Vaughn. In this series a werewolf with a talk radio show introduces the world to the supernatural.

My earlier reviews:
 
Because of the events at the end of Kitty Goes to Washington, Kitty is ready to take a break, so she's rented a house in southern Colorado. It's practically in the middle of nowhere, which allows her wolf half to roam and her human half to hide and write a book. Unfortunately those plans aren't going so well. Kitty hasn't written much at all and her wolf is taking over more than she'd like. Then Kitty begins to feel watched, and she wakes up to find dead animals and blood on her front porch. Local authorities are unhelpful at determining the source of the problem, and things only seem to get creepier as time goes by.
 
My thoughts: Despite the ongoing mystery of what is targeting Kitty, if I were to classify this book I'd call it the relationship book. Kitty's friends Ben and Cormac make significant appearances, and they begin to be cemented as major characters in this series. Reading back on my opinions of the earlier two books where I was saying that there was very little to no romance but I suspected a potential love triangle – well this book changes that. It actually surprised me that what happened occurred in this book when there was little prior attention to these things before, but I wasn't complaining. I found it refreshing the way Kitty addresses some of the questions that are brought up head on, but that doesn't mean things are resolved. I'm certain that things can (and will) change at any moment. I'm trying to be vague and not spoilery here so I'll just say that I really enjoyed the way things progressed.  
 
Another one of the things I mentioned in my last review was about Kitty's view of her wolf half. I'd said it was interesting how Kitty in her wolf form was written in the third person while the rest of the book was in first. In Kitty Takes a Holiday some light is shed on how Kitty views her wolf half when she talks to a newly made werewolf that helped me understand her situation some more. I really like how information in this series is not dumped all at once and instead is dispensed in the natural course of the story.
 
A third interesting thing, was this book had a very different type of plot from the other two. Rather than the last third of the book being where the action is, the action happens earlier when we discover the cause of Kitty's disturbing visitations.  The consequences of the action is what gets dealt with at the end of the book, and boy is it a doozy. Again; I was surprised.
 
Overall: This was a really good installment of the series and so far my favorite book. I was blown away at some developments and I there will be significant impacts to story arcs, so it's worth reading just to get to this point. Also of the three books I think this one also had elements that I found truely menacing, especially in one particular scene where Ben and Kitty do some investigation, even when what happened was in broad daylight! I am really looking forward to reading Kitty and The Silver Bullet, the next book in the series.
 

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Kitty Goes to Washington by Carrie Vaughn

Kitty Goes to Washington is the second of the Kitty Norville series by Carrie Vaughn. Review of the first book, Kitty and the Midnight Hour is here.

 
It's been a little while since the events in book one, and Kitty has been touring the United States, driving from one radio station to the next to host her radio talk show about the supernatural, The Midnight Hour. On the way to California, Kitty receives a call from her lawyer, Ben O'Farrell, who gives her the news that she's been subpoenaed by the Senate on a hearing about paranormal affairs. Kitty is apprehensive, but she  wants to avoid a witch hunt against shape shifters and vampires, so she goes.
 
*** mild spoilers for the first book from this point ***
 
What she finds is a bunch of people in Washington D.C. working towards their own pet agendas regarding the supernatural community. Because this book takes place mostly in Washington, characters and story lines related to her ex-pack and the vampires in Denver don't come into play.  We do however see some familiar characters – Ben, Kitty's lawyer, Cormac, the hitman who specializes in werewolves, show up to support Kitty. There is also Dr. Paul Flemming, the head of The Center for the Study of Paranatural Biology, whose press conference at the end of the first book prompted these hearings. Kitty finds his motives suspect but isn't sure what he's really involved in. Finally there's Elijah Smith, a dangerous man no one is sure is human who claims he can cure the supernatural who shows up at the hearings as well. After the death of one of Smith's followers that escaped and called Kitty in the last book, Kitty is determined to expose him, whatever he is.
 
Kitty also continues learning from other supernaturals. She meets new vampires and shape shifters in Washington, and discovers a very different approach than the werewolf pack and vampire families she had been exposed to.  There isn't a shape changer pack, the weres in Washington are independent allies, and rather than a large vampire family with one leader who controls everyone, there is Alette, a beneficent vampire who wants to help Kitty in her own way.
 
I really like the way that Vaughn writes the real world. I can see Washington, I can see wherever Kitty is and it doesn't feel fabricated. Scientists sound like scientists, politicians sound like politicians, people seem to have layers like in the real world, not like caricatures, and because of this it accepting the supernatural in the story didn't feel very hard. Through the radio show and Kitty's encounters with people of her own kind you see each supernatural creature as individuals coping with their "disease" in their own ways. No one is pure evil, just human.
 
I'm still curious about Kitty's relationship with her inner wolf. In this book and the last, while most of this book is first person, the narrative switches to third, like the wolf is a separate character, not part of Kitty. Maybe this is to show that Kitty is still differentiating herself from her "other half" because she's a new werewolf and not fully comfortable or in control of herself. I wonder if that will start to change.
 
As I've said earlier there is very little to no romance in these books, but Kitty has a fling in the middle of things (doesn't seem very serious), and there was one small suggestion of interest in Cormac, but I'm not sure if that's going anywhere, they seem like an odd couple. I suspect a potential love triangle, but maybe I'm just reading more than there is.
 
Overall:  Less dark to me than the first book but still gritty, and an enjoyable continuation of the series.  There is strong world-building – the supernatural aspects are explained artlessly, without info-dumping. When Kitty learns something new, it doesn't feel like it's only to progress the plot, but to develop the world further, and I found the description of the world very realistic. The book was a quick read, and pacing was good, particularly the last third of the book, when I was so caught up with what was happening, I stayed up till 1am to finish it! Extra bonus: the short story Kitty Meets the Band at the end of this book.
 
Links:

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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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Hotter than Hell by Keri Arthur, L.A. Banks, Susan Krinard, Marjorie M. Liu, Kim Harrison

I really need to catch up on my reviews – I actually read this book last month but didn't have the time to review it with all the "real life" stuff going on.

The one thing that gets me with this book is how different it seems from the rest of the "In Hell" anthologies that came before it. It really strikes me that Hotter than Hell is more paranormal romance than it is urban fantasy, because the premise in all the stories is sex with a paranormal twist. Pretty much all of these stories have a relationship with sex included, which makes it more romance than not, which isn't the case as much in the other books (which makes them more "urban fantasy"). What do people think – do I make sense? Agree/disagree with this?

Other "In Hell" books I've reviewed:

Holidays are Hell (Kim Harrison, Lynsay Sands, Marjorie M. Liu, Vicki Pettersson)  – vox link | livejournal link

Dates from Hell (Kim Harrison, Lynsay Sands, Kelley Armstrong, Lori Handeland) – vox link | livejournal link

Prom Nights From Hell (Kim Harrison, Meg Cabot, Michele Jaffe, Stephenie Meyer, Lauren Myracle) – the young adult version of these books – vox link | livejournal link

I am really critical of a book when I just do not believe the relationship – if it seems too contrived or the reason for the two loving each other seems unbelievable and the author just explains it with "love at first sight" and I can't see what one character sees in another, I can't buy into it. If you tell me how attractive either character is, it still does nothing for me. So? You know how many good looking people there are in the world? Attributing good characters to a person just because they are good looking, that's not common sense (I should hope). So tell me, why is this one so special to that one? Do they at least share something more substantial than a cheesy sexual attraction? Otherwise, it makes the story really boring. That is why I feel somewhat disappointed in a lot of the stories in this anthology. In most of them I found too much of the sexual attraction, not enough to make me believe in the relationship. I think that to some extent choosing to make the stories require sex and then making them short was shooting everyone in the foot – there simply is very little space to have a story, have crazy sex, and also make me see a believable relationship developing, a relationship where I can buy into a HEA. Not enough room for it all, and something lost out.

All the stories that managed to keep the three things balanced (plot, sex, believable relationship) – those where the stronger stories in the anthology. Those that relied on cliches which resulted in me not really believing the relationship, were the weaker stories. I'm sorry to say that for me, there were more weaker stories than strong ones. I think that most of the ones that had sex but didn't try to make the story have a fully formed romantic relationship occur within the short story were stronger – Tanya Huff's "Music Hath Charms", Lilith Saintcrow's "Brother's Keeper" (which still has a flaw – it threw the reader in without much information about the world. I recognized characters in her Dante Valentine series though), and "Dirty Magic" by Kim Harrison (also shares a world with her Hollows series, but this one didn't feel confusing). The best romantic one I think was "Moonlight Becomes You" by Linda Winstead Jones because the heroine was funny in a cute way, though I didn't see much from the hero's personality. "Minotaur In Stone" by Marjorie M. Liu was also good because of the lyrical writing, but there is something a bit off with the relationship there, I guess I found it hard to believe the heroine would go so far for someone she just met, but then she's isolated and so is he. That could be their bond, but I felt it could have been more cemented than it was.

deety at urbanfantasy.wordpress.com reviewed this book with a breakdown of the stories, and I found myself agreeing with most of what she had to say.

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