Must Love Hellhounds by Charlaine Harris, Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews and Meljean Brook

Must Love Hellhounds
Ilona Andrews

I preordered this one because this anthology of four paranormal stories featuring hellhounds has a couple authors I like in it.

Buy: Amazon | B&N

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1) Magic Mourns by Ilona Andrews: This is the third story in the anthology but I read it first. ūüôā

The Premise: This is a story set in the same world as the Kate Daniel series, but this time the first person narrator is Kate’s best friend, Andrea.¬† Andrea is filling in for Kate one day, when a call comes in about a member of the Atlanta Pack being chased after by a giant, three-headed hound. Andrea goes out to help and is dismayed to find Raphael, a were-hyena is the Pack member in trouble. Raphael has been pursuing Andrea for a while but Andrea is afraid he’s only interested in her for her novelty, not for herself.

Excerpt of Magic Mourns

My Thoughts: It’s probably better to have read the Kate Daniels series before reading this short story because much of the back story on Andrea’s origins and her relationship with Raphael is in those books, but that’s also reiterated in this story, so it’s not hard to understand what’s going on. I thought Andrea’s personality was similar to Kate’s (independent woman, hiding something, and doesn’t trust easily), but her voice was different enough from Kate’s (more wry humor I think) to make the story interesting. I enjoyed reading this one, because the pacing was just right to me, with a good balance of urban fantasy action and romance. I could savor it slowly. The reader already knows what will happen between Andrea and Raphael, especially if you’ve been following the Kate Daniels series, but it’s satisfying anyway. I also liked how well the story intersects with the Kate Daniels series and reveals a couple of things for people paying attention, but you don’t have to have read that series to follow this story (and there are no spoilers).

Overall: I’m a big fan of Ilona Andrews so no surprise: I liked this story a lot. A must read for Kate Daniel’s fans.

P.S. Is anyone else noticing some re-occurring themes in Andrews stories? Like the protection of children? Not that this is a complaint, I just find it interesting.

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2) The Britlingens Go to Hell by Charlaine Harris: This is the first story in Must Love Hellhounds, and by one of the two headlining authors (the other is Nalini Singh).

The Premise: Batanya and Clovache are both part of the Britlingen Collective, highly trained bodyguards for hire, who are assigned an unusual client. Crick wants Batanya and Clovache to protect him in Hell while he retrieves an item that he’d been hired to steal but he was caught the first time he was there.

My Thoughts: It’s a quirky, odd tale and not quite what I was expecting from Charlaine Harris. It takes some time to figure out who the Britlingens are and they use a combination of high tech and magic for their jobs, and hell is a bizarre place with a mixture of mythical creatures in it. Their client and others they run into are oddball people, and the whole tale uses a rather cheerful, matter of fact tone no matter what is happening. An example of bizarre is that someone has 2 penises. TWO PENISES!! It’s half-funny and half-I-don’t-know-what.

Overall:
I’m not sure if this will appeal to everyone depending on their sense of humor or level of tolerance for the off-beat. I didn’t dislike it, but it didn’t love it either. So I suppose it was in the “OK” to “good” range for me.

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3) Angels’ Judgment by Nalini Singh: Set in the same world as Singh’s Angel series, this story centers on vampire hunter Sara Haziz.

The Premise: Sara Haziz’s job is to bring back runaway vampires to their angel masters. Her latest retrieval is of a vampire whose head was almost cut off. Word is that a rogue hunter who has killed other vampires this way is responsible, and Deacon, the Slayer, is brought in.

Excerpt of Angel’s Judgment

My Thoughts: This was a straightforward whodunit with two ass-kicking characters and romance between them. The world building was interesting, and I didn’t have any problems following what was going on even though I haven’t read any of the novels set in this world yet. I couldn’t tell where this novella fit in the timeline of the Angels’ series though. At first I thought it was after Angel’s Blood, the first book, and was concerned that I was being spoiled, but then later on it sounded like Elena, Sara’s best friend and the heroine of the series, hadn’t met an archangel yet, so maybe this novella is supposed to happen before the series starts. The biggest issue I had with this was the repeated references to the sexual attraction of the two main characters, which made the romance very physical and not mental enough for me. Deacon bluntly tells Sara he wants to take her to bed within a very short time of knowing her and they pretty much sleep together while on a job together.¬† In the middle of their investigation when Sara is going to be the next hunter Guild Director? I also found it silly that Deacon was so big that he couldn’t fit into Sara’s car and had to follow on his motorcycle. Other than my inability to suspend disbelief at these things (and I think I’m in the minority from what I’ve seen), the story itself was relatively enjoyable.

Overall: Not bad but the romance was too predictable and physical for my tastes, but I think it would appeal to those who like a little steam in their stories.

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4) Blind Spot by Meljean Brook: This one is another story linked to a series I haven’t read, which is the Guardian series.

The Premise: Maggie is the equivalent of a butler for a very wealthy and powerful family, and her boss happens to be a vampire. When Maggie’s employer’s niece, Katherine, is kidnapped in New York, Katherine’s brother, Goeffrey Blake goes to get her, but he runs into some trouble and Maggie is sent over. Maggie and Geoff must work together (along with the family’s hellhound, Sir Pup) to find his sister.

Excerpt of Blind Spot

My Thoughts: I haven’t read the Guardian series, but I have read another novella set in this world in the Wild Thing anthology. I remember liking the worldbuilding in that story, but this one is even better. I think this author has grown, and I’m impressed! I felt like I was seeing Geoff and Maggie get to know one another and that although they each had an interest in each other they were aware that finding Katherine was more important. The attraction is shown more subtly, like their mutual curiosity for each other, and in gestures, like Maggie’s quick looks everywhere but pauses on Geoff’s mouth and hands. Meanwhile, Geoff’s thoughts reveal that he has known and thought about Maggie far before they ever met, which pulled me in because I wanted to know why and how that happened. The fantasy elements, such as Sir Pup the shape-shifting hellhound, and interesting abilities (really cool but I don’t want to spoil you), were unique and fascinating but also help along the story. I adored Sir Pup, the half-scary chaperone and¬† comic relief.

Overall: Really enjoyable blend of the fantastic and romantic. I liked this more than I expected to: it ties with the Ilona Andrews novella as my favorite in this anthology.

Other reviews:
The Good, The Bad, and The Unread – I think I consistently have a very different opinion from this reviewer, just like now, but we agreed on the Meljean Brook story. She’s also misinterpreted Andrea and Raphael’s relationship prior to when the novella takes place, IMHO.
Literary Escapism – I’m somewhat in line with her thoughts, but probably liked the Singh story less than she did.
Smexy Books – Same as above.
Shaymless Aymless at Babbling about Books and More – also in line with LE and Smexy books

On The Edge by Ilona Andrews

Oh this cover! The girl with the red pickup truck and the gun captures the backwoods feel of the setting, but not a fan of the floating head, this would have been perfect without it. I know it’s a signal for “this is a romance”, but eh, the model is not cute. The Premise: Rose Drayton lives in the Edge. The Edge is the place where our world, the Broken, overlaps with the Weird, an alternate dimension where magic is real. The people who live in the Edge are poor, and have to go over to the Broken to make money. They can do small magics, but most of their bloodlines are diluted. So when Rose proves herself to have a remarkable mastery to control her “flash”, suddenly the out-for-themselves Edgers will stop at nothing to have Rose, either to enhance their own bloodlines or to sell to the highest bidder. One day, Declan, the Earl of Camarine, a pureblood from the Weird appears at Rose’s door.

Excerpt of On The Edge

My Thoughts: This is much more romance focused than the Kate Daniels series and falls under paranormal romance rather than urban fantasy, but the great world building I’m used to is still there. The idea of the different worlds is a really interesting one, sort of a spin on a faerie world we can’t see except it’s really just down that road there. It’s just that only people who have the right bloodlines can see it and walk past the boundary. I’m always a fan of Andrews’ detailed world building, because it’s so well thought out. Like they’ve said, “You can build a most fantastic world, if you take care to make it logical and follow its own rules.” This is what I always appreciate in an Ilona Andrews’ series: a fantastic world that makes sense.

The Edge is like the Wild West. They don’t belong in the Broken, where magic doesn’t exist, but they aren’t part of the Weird either, where pureblood magic families rule. In the Edge, it’s everyone for themselves, but families band together. The Edgers are poor, some rather trashy, lawless, and feisty.¬† There are some real characters living in the Edge, especially with magic thrown in the mix. Rose herself has two younger brothers, Georgie and Jack who exemplify the oddness of the Edge. Georgie is a little necromancer with a soft heart. He resurrects animals he feels sad have died, and their grandfather Cletus (who gets drunk on dog brains). Jack was born a changeling, and like the cat his other half is, is easily distracted by birds and climbing trees.

So Rose has her hands full raising her two brothers because their parents aren’t in the picture, but they’re good kids (who also bring something to the story). Rose also has to deal with all the people who are after her because of her amazing control over her flash, and when Declan arrives at their door, a pureblood from the Weird who says he will have her, Rose isn’t pleased. At first Declan’s statements would dismay me. He would often spout some really over-the-top alpha hero stuff, but Andrews manages to fix this for me later on with a viable explanation (thank goodness). Maybe there’s also a touch of Pride and Prejudice here: Declan making his remarks and Rose taking offense, thinking that he’s the typical blueblood. Rose’s circumstances are much lower than Declan’s but she’s being avidly courted by someone who is obviously a catch. The book takes on a romance feel with Rose’s awareness of Declan’s appearance (I imagined He-Man) and breeding, and his alpha male assertions that he will get what he wants. On the other hand, Rose is pretty cool, and it makes sense that Declan realizes this. She’s a good sister, working hard and going without so that she can buy her brothers those Inu Yasha comics they’re obsessed with (Inu Yasha, good choice kids), and she’s smart and determined, but just has a hard life where she has to be independent in order to survive.

The paranormal/contemporary fantasy aspects of this story had probably about equal footing as the romance. Creepy rotting creatures in hound like form start terrorizing the Edge, and the mystery of what’s going on keeps Declan and Rose busy. The results aren’t pretty, but it makes for a great story.

Overall: A paranormal romance with awesome world building and the perfect balance of romance and fantasy. There’s more romance in this than the Kate Daniels series, but expect the same fantastic storytelling.

I’m looking forward to reading the second book. This time, William, who was introduced in On The Edge will be the hero.

Buy: Amazon | B&N

Other reviews (all positive)

Angieville – loved it
Literary Escapism – positive review
Book Love Affair – “charmed”
Smexy Books – 5 out of 5 stars
Mardelwanda – “a very satisfying read”
The Book Smugglers – 7 Very good

Other links:
Worlds of the Edge
Ilona Andrews and Ann Aguirre at Babel Clash

Silent Blade by Ilona Andrews

Despite the teetering TBR pile, I went ahead and bought Ilona Andrews’ latest (a short story from Samhain) as soon as I thought I’d made a wee dent in my reading. The price is $2.50 at the Samhain website but a helpful commenter (_ocelott_ from genrereviews) let me know it was cheaper at Books on Board. As of this review, the price there is $1.74, and its $2.00 at Amazon.

This is a short story in a world that isn’t the same as that of the Kate Daniels series or the upcoming On the Edge series. And.. its a science fiction romance!!¬† *happy dance*.The Premise: In a futuristic world in which powerful families control much of the world because of their biological and technological enhancements,¬†Meli Galdes¬†is an assassin who was excised from her family so that she could carry out killings without being connected to them.¬†Meli has¬†just gone into retirement when her¬†kinsmen ask for one more kill: Celino Carvanna, the man responsible for ruining her life. It’s been¬†twelve years since the event, and Celino doesn’t recognize her, but Meli hasn’t forgotten the pain he caused and plans to exact her¬†revenge.

Read an excerpt from the Samhain site

My Thoughts: I like the way that the world building is related in this one. In the space of a few short pages I understood¬†the concept of families with enhanced biological traits and financial power. A futuristic society is presented through DNA scanners, robot security, ereaders, plasti-paper, and other day-to-day objects. Meli and Celino are also conveyed in quick strokes. In 41 pages, their characters had more depth than I’ve seen in full length novels. Celino is a ruthless business genius who is impatient and powerful, and sometimes overlooks things because he moves too fast. Meli is just as smart, just as lethal, feminine, and¬†much more observant. She’s aware of his deficiencies and¬†knows how to counteract them. Of course, she knows a lot about Celino, and the back story of why is fascinating.

You know, after pondering about it, I realized that this is like a Harlequin Presents novel (my favorite Harlequin line by the way).¬†It’s got a businessman mogul and rival companies and an engagement¬†for the sake of business strategy.¬†Of course, in this case the Billionaire businessman is a preternaturally fast knife expert. And¬†the rival’s daughter¬†is an assassin who wants revenge on him. I’m not sure if I’m reading too much into the story by coming up with this, but if it was a deliberate spin on a popular trope, I’m delighted.

Unlike the Kate Daniel’s books out so far, this story does contain sex. It’s done nicely and although I was surprised at first¬†how quickly it happens,¬†fits in with the revenge plot.¬†¬†The romance is more than just physical attraction, there’s a mental connection as well (the discussion of books in particular,¬†some titles¬†I googled and now want to read, was a touch I loved). The couple also¬†have a history, which means the romance really spanned a longer time period than what the¬†short story¬†focused on. ¬†I wasn’t sure how the author was going to pull of this story with a satisfying HEA but they managed to do it!

Overall: I liked it a lot! I recommend it, but I will read anything and everything by this author so it’s probably not a shock to those who regularly read my blog. I spent a nice hour or so reading this story in bed. Well worth the money and my time, and if this ever comes out in print, I’d buy it all over again. In an Ilona Andrews short story collection perhaps? I’d die of happiness!

If you want an idea of how well Ilona Andrew’s short stories are written, I suggest reading her freebies on her website. I noticed that the idea of powerful, mafia like families is¬†something the writer likes to play with; it also shows up in one of my other favorite short stories – Days of Swine and Roses.

Being giddy about Doubleblind & June releases

Just a quick post here:

I’m a big Ann Aguirre fangirl and every time I hear news about any of her new books I’m all a-tizzy. So I wanted to point out that over the weekend ocelott has put up the very first review anywhere of Doubleblind. She says:

“if you haven’t read the previous two books, here there be spoilers. If, however, you’ve glommed the first two and are waiting impatiently for Doubleblind to release, you’re safe. I give out no plot twists.”

And with that- – the Doubleblind review is here
I am looking forward to this one because I kind of have a thing for the “ambassador in a strange land/world” trope. Love it.


Mark of the Demon
Diana Rowland

There’s a whole BUNCH of new books coming out today. Sci Fi Guy posted June releases on his website and about 80% of the books there I want to read. Which is so bad when I just hauled back 40 some books from BEA. I have the sickness.

Amongst the list (coming out June 23rd) is Diana Rowland’s debut The Mark of the Demon. I’m currently reading it and it is GOOD. Also – the cover is really gorgeous – I gasped aloud when I saw the coverflat. Seriously – it has shiney patterns on it and I am mesmerized by it’s beauty.

The book I’m FOR SURE going to get this week is Ilona Andrew’s Silent Blade which just became available from Saimhain today. I’m all over it. It’s a short story and costs just $2.50. It will be mine, oh yes, it will be mine.

Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews

The Kate Daniels series is one of my favorites in urban fantasy so it's no secret that I've been salivating over Magic Strikes coming out on March 31st (and shaking my fist at Amazon's April 6th estimated arrival date. Luckily that turned out to be wrong). When I finally got the book I pretty much read it with glee.

 
Here's my reviews of the previous books:
Book 1: Magic Bites (goodreads review)
Book 2: Magic Burns
 
The basic premise is that the world goes through waves of technology followed by waves of magic, and everyone is used to this and just goes on with life. Kate Daniels lives in a futuristic Atlanta and is a mercenary with a hidden past who works part time for the Order (a group of people whose jurisdiction is magical incidents). Right now she's the Order's liaison with the local shapeshifter Pack, and has made various friends among them over the past couple of books.
 
****Spoilers for the earlier books at this point***
 
 
Magic Strikes starts off with Derek (a young wolf shapeshifter that Kate is close to) getting caught by Saiman trying to steal some tickets to an underground fighting event called the Midnight Games. This leads to more trouble for him, and Kate being who she is, rushes into the problem with sword in hand to help. She of course gets caught up in the young wolf's problems, while at the same time annoying Curran (the Beast Lord of Atlanta) who has been kept out of the loop.
 
My thoughts: OK I think my favorite parts have to do with the interaction between Kate and Curran. By the time you get to Magic Strikes, Curran has made it clear he's courting her, but Kate is unwilling to be involved with him. She's got a big secret about her identity and she's still convinced that Curran is just after her for the challenge.  The dance between the two is amusing, and I'm not sure who is going to "win" the game because they've both made some bold and brassy declarations. Anyway, this is one of those relationships that span several books where you know they're supposed to get together and the question is when. I'm just having fun watching it, whatever they do.
 
Another thing I really enjoy about this series is the world building. There's always really well done writing in terms of description – I can read a paragraph or two in this book and my mind's eye easily conjures up the scene and everything going on in it. And there is always something interesting going on, I'm not bored or checking to see how many pages are left, I'm just reading. The series is refreshing in the use of some well-known supernatural creatures and turning them slightly on their head (like the idea of vampires being mindless, bloodthirsty beings that used to be human and are controlled by a group called The People), or using some not-so-well-known creatures and putting them into the story (like oni, frost giants, and rakshasas, to name a few). I'm also really fond of some of the side characters – they're all very interesting and likeable – Derek, Jim, Aunt B, Andrea, Julie, and Doolittle all make appearances, and we get introduced to a couple more (I really enjoyed the sort of geeky shapeshifter Dali).
 
Kate's an interesting character – intelligent and definitely falls under the "kick-ass heroine" title - she's got a magical sword, knows power words, and has a special heritage and an upbringing that made her a deadly fighter. Plus she has a smart-ass mouth to go with it. If you have something against this sort of character, you may not like this series, but if you read books 1 and 2 and liked them, I think you'll like this one too. I think there's a little bit of growth to her as the series goes along. In book 1 she's isolated but by book 3 she's surrounded herself with more people she cares about despite feeling like this makes her vulnerable.
 
Overall: A must read for people who read the earlier books and enjoyed them, especially if you enjoyed Kate and Curran's interactions because their relationship starts to heat up here. There are a couple small revelations about Kate's past and possible developments in a long running story arc regarding that past. A good installment – can't wait for book 4!
 
Links:
Bonus for those who have read this book – I recommend watching Sita Sings the Blues. Semi related I swear.

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On the Edge cover

This cover has been online for a little bit and I'm finally getting around to posting it. Not sure I like the big man's head on the cover, but really looking forward to the series. There was a blurb about this book at the end of Magic Strikes which I'm planning to review this weekend.

"Rose Drayton lives on the Edge, between the worlds of the Broken (where people drive cars, shop at Wal-Mart, and magic is a fairy-tale) and the Weird (where blueblood aristocrats rule, changelings roam, and the strength of your magic can change your destiny). Only Edgers like Rose can easily travel from one world to the next, but they can truely belong to neither.

Rose thought if she practiced her magic she could  build a better life for herself. But things didn't turn out how she planned, and now she works a minimum-wage, off-the-books job in the Broken just to survive. Then Declan Camarine, a blueblood noble straight out of the deepest part of the Weird, comes into her life, determined to have her (and her power).

And when a terrible danger, a flood of creatures hungry for magic, invades the Edge from the Weird, Declan and Rose must work together to destroy them — or the beasts will devour the Edge and everyone in it…"     

On the Edge is coming out this October. Excerpt here.

I've just updated my wishlist today – added this book, some pictures and others.

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Ilona and Gordan Andrews at Denver’s Opusfest

OpusFest is back! March 13 – 15, 2009 at Red Lion Hotel (I-70 and Quebec) Denver, CO.  Come meet Ilona and Gordon Andrews, Gil Bruvel, Stephen Segal, David Boop and many others.   Click for more information.

 

If I was in Denver, I would so go to this. Looking forward to Magic Strikes quite a bit!

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Best of 2008 and New Year’s Resolution for 2009

A lot of people are posting a year end post for 2008. It's nice to see people looking back at the books they read for the year and picking out their favorite reads, and it's interesting to see what they picked. I thought it would be a good thing to try myself because with it recorded, I can look back in later years and see what my tastes were like.

Out of a total of 77 books read this year, very few got into my best list, but book ratings are highly subjective.  I just went with my gut and rated them according to how I felt about the book as soon as I finished reading them. These lists are compiled from ratings I put down in my private notes.

All the links to my reviews here are to my Livejournal.

The Books that Blew Me Away  – These books are those I gave top marks to when I first read them. It's a very hard list to get onto because I have to feel like I'm falling in love and cannot be parted from the book for it to get on this list. Only three got on it this year.

Books that Came Close to Blowing Me Away – These came very close to getting top marks from me. This is a personal thing, but the books above I would put down and then obssessively think about when I could pick them up again. The books below, I didn't feel as consumed by the book, but still felt really impressed by them.

  • Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair (my review)
  • Wicked Game by Jeri Smith-Ready (my review)
  • Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (I need to review this when I have the book in my hands)
  • The Outback Stars by Sandra McDonald (review coming soon)

Books I Really Liked/ Keepers. These each had several moments where I loved the book and overall I think these are books that deserve to be loved and read by others, but for some reason or other these didn't get into the top 7. I still consider these keepers, and all these authors are pretty much autobuys/ must read backlist authors. There are 19 of these books this year (Linnea Sinclair's name comes up a lot here, I was reading her backlist in 2008):

  • The Down Home Zombie Blues by Linnea Sinclair (my review)
  • Exit Strategy (Nadia Stafford, Bk 1) by Kelley Armstrong (my review)
  • Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas (my review)
  • Grimspace by Ann Aguirre (my review)
  • An Accidental Goddess by Linnea Sinclair (my review)
  • Urban Shaman by C. E. Murphy (my review)
  • Wanderlust by Ann Aguirre (my review)
  • Cry Wolf (Alpha and Omega, Bk 1) by Patricia Briggs (my review)
  • Easy Freedom by Liz Berry (my review)
  • Jinx by Jennifer Estep (my review)
  • Finders Keepers by Linnea Sinclair (my review)
  • Gabriel's Ghost by Linnea Sinclair (my review pt 1, pt 2)
  • The Good Neighbors by Holly Black (my review)
  • The Nanny by Melissa Nathan (my review)
  • Grave Sight (Harper Connelly, Bk 1) by Charlaine Harris (my review)
  • Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler (my review)
  • Burndive by Karin Lowachee (my review)
  • An Ice Cold Grave (Harper Connelly, Bk 3) by Charlaine Harris (my review)
  • The Decoy Princess and Princess at Sea by Dawn Cook (my review)

 

And for my New Year's Resolution – it's the same resolution as last year , to read 100 books.

  • 2006 – 103 books
  • 2007 - 99 books
  • 2008 – 77 books
  • 2009 – let's get it back up to 100!!

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Magic Strikes / Other Ilona Andrews goodies

For Ilona Andrews fans looking forward to the third book in the Kate Daniels series (the authors' website says 4 books are contracted so far), Ilona Andrews blog had an excerpt of Chapter 1:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

It looks good! Cannot wait till this book comes out. Very much pre-ordering!

Meanwhile – a visit to the Ilona Andrews website shows some updates since I've been there last including some information about the next series they are working on – the Borderland series. There is an excerpt of Border Rose here.

And in the Free Fiction section I saw a new to me short story there "Days of Swine and Roses".

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