Giveaway: Thirteen by Kelley Armstrong

To celebrate the paperback release of Thirteen by Kelley Armstrong, the final book of the Women of the Otherworld series (available August 6th), Plume has offered a copy for this blog’s readers.

Thirteen by Kelley Armstrong

The gripping, epic finale to the bestselling Otherworld series

A war is brewing and the first battle has already been waged. After rescuing her half brother from supernatural medical testing, Savannah Levine—a young witch of remarkable power and a dangerous pedigree—is battered, but still standing. The Supernatural Liberation Movement took him hostage, and they have a maniacal plan to expose the supernatural world to the unknowing.

Savannah is fighting to save her world as witches, werewolves, necromancers, vampires, half-demons, and all the forces of good and evil—including the genetically modified werewolves known as hell hounds—enter the fray. Uniting Savannah with Adam, Elena, Clay, Paige, Lucas, Jaime, Hope, and other denizens of the Otherworld, Thirteen is a thrilling conclusion to this blockbuster series.

Enter here, easy peasy:

This giveaway has ended

Rules:

  • This giveaway is for U.S./Canada only
  • Contest ends: Sunday, August 4th.
  • One entry per person please!
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The Eternal Kiss by various authors, edited by Trisha Telep

I actually tend to like anthologies because it gives me a chance to “try out” or find new authors I may not have tried out on my own. Usually there are always hits and misses, but what I liked about The Eternal Kiss was that although it is a young adult anthology and it’s about vampires it doesn’t make the mistake of only being about teenage romance, and it doesn’t shy away from the darker side of vampires. I picked this ARC up at BEA.

I did something a little different here – I wrote up my review as I read the book, just jotting a couple of sentences on each short story. Very brief reviews follow (my two favorite stories were the ones by Karen Mahoney and by Sarah Brennan):

1) Falling to Ash by Karen Mahoney – Vampire girl (Moth) comes home to find her sire wants her to get the ashes of a recently staked vampire. Really like this one, this author has been on my radar on LJ, but I hadn’t connected the the LJ user with “Karen Mahoney” (sometimes things get past me), until I had already read and liked this.  This is the introduction to a series about Moth, so now looking forward to it.

2) Shelter Island by Melissa de la Cruz – 15 year old Hannah has a mysterious visitor at night. I couldn’t connect with this one. I think the characters, particularly the female protagonist were a not substantial enough in the amount of pages this story was for me to grasp them.

3) Sword Point by Maria V. Snyder – Girl fencer discovers that the prestigious fencing school she goes to is more than it seems – interesting at first but then I started to lose interest halfway when the relationship part occurs. The action at the end felt very perfunctory.

4) The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black – A bitten girl tries to stay human, but then learns her ex-boyfriend and a neighbor girl have run away to Coldtown, the vampire section of town. A dark story about the glamorizing of vampirism. Liked it, nice and chilling.

5) Undead is Very Hot Right Now by Sarah Brennan – A nineteen year old who has been a vampire for a year joins a boy band. Hilarious. I laughed aloud so much reading this one. Another author I plan to look for in the bookstore.

6) Kat by Kelley Armstrong – A teen is awoken by her vampire guardian and try to escape would-be captors in the middle of the night – Interesting. Ending makes me want to read more, maybe the start of a series?

7) The Thirteenth Step by Libba Bray – Teen gets a job at a halfway house which may not be all that it seems. I think my own experiences cloud the way I read this story. It bothered me that the protagonist become like the addict sister she considered selfish.

8 ) All Hallows by Rachel Caine – Vampire boyfriend of the narrator gets into trouble and she goes in to save him. Readers may need to have read other Morganville books. This is a short story in that world that seems to fit in the timeline after the first 4 or 5 books.

9) Wet Teeth by Cecil Castellucci A vampire begins to feel alive for the first time in a long time after meeting a strange girl in the park. This one seems to focus on the ending, and left me a bit wanting for the rest of the story, but seems to be in the right vein for horror.

10) Other Boys by Cassandra Clare- A girl begins to get interested in the new boy in school, who says he’s a vampire. This one had elements of nice old school horror.

11) Passing by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguié – A girl has to pass the final class in her vampire hunter academy – only one student will get a special elixar. A bit too complex of a back story to cram into a short story space.

12) Ambition by Lili St. Crow –  Smart but poor schoolgirl meets boy at club. Girl falls out with rich best friend. Boy may be supernatural. Dreamy, sort of hazy relationship that may be dangerous à la Heavenly Creatures. I keep re-reading the last three lines, wanting questions answered.

13) All Wounds by Dina James – Girl discovers her grandmother and the bad boy in detention aren’t exactly who she thought they were, and neither is she. Looks like the start of a new series so there’s a lot of plot set-up, but not much time for more than brief character sketches.

The Eternal Kiss will be released July 27th.

Made To Be Broken by Kelley Armstrong

I can see the Nadia Stafford series as a tv show. It falls into the same category as a crime drama like CSI – shot mostly at night, but it also has the action of a spy thriller like Alias or La Femme Nikita. Despite this Armstrong series not being urban fantasy like her Otherworld books, I think it still has Armstrong traits – a smart heroine, a dark but not too dark storyline, plenty of action, plus some romantic elements. It's one of my favorite series out right now.
 
The basic background is this: Nadia is an ex-cop who left her law enforcement career amidst a very public shaming for killing a suspect in her custody. Knowing the the deepset trauma in her childhood that Nadia had never been able to come to peace with, her reasons for the killing become obvious. Of course, growing up in a family of cops, Nadia finds herself alone after this act because none of them agree with her method of justice. Now Nadia's the owner of a hunting lodge and channels her passion into a secret side job as a the contract killer "Dee". "Dee" works for one mob family, earning extra cash to keep her business afloat, but she only kills people who got away with some crime that deserves punishment.
 
Surrounding Nadia is a small group of people. Her hunting lodge employees on one side, her mentor Jack and a few people in the hitman business on the other. So when the teenage girl who Nadia has been paying to work part-time at the lodge disappears along with her baby, despite the town's belief that Sammi just ran off, Nadia decides to find out what happened.
 
I am not feeling very coherent right now so I think another bullet list would be best:
 
  • I have a lot of the same comments as with the first book as this one. The characterization stays consistent between the books. My review of book 1 (in which Nadia and her fellows track a hitman turned serial killer) is here, and reading it I agree with myself there for this book too:
    • "Almost everyone in this book: is the strong silent type. Even Nadia." – Nadia is pretty quiet but her mentor takes it to another level. He barely speaks in full sentences until he's putting on another persona. So background information comes in crumbs and it is fascinating to find out details about the characters.
    • "The whole profession: REALLY interesting to read about." There is so much secrecy to keep their identities secret from each other – after all they're all killers. Nadia's identity is known by Jack and Evelyn only as they sought her out first to get into the business.
    • "this book was delightful because I like a smart heroine. And Nadia Stafford is a smart woman; she has to be, she's a hitman."
  • Again this book is told from the first person viewpoint, and this time we don't shift focus away from that.
  • Nadia is very smart and good at what she does, but because she's "the strong silent type", she can be a bit oblivious about relationships. As is her mentor Jack. It amused me no end that another character, Evelyn, gets exasperated by it.
  • The love triangle I thought there were hints of in book 1 begins to take shape in book 2. But of course, Nadia being dense doesn't really see it. So this has romantic elements because of it, but it's slow moving.
  • The culmination of the missing teen case was quite good. I liked how it was handled and how Nadia took care of herself quite easily in the situation she found herself in.

Book excerpts: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3

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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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Exit Strategy by Kelley Armstrong

Ah.. this book was delightful because I like a smart heroine. And Nadia Stafford is a smart woman; she has to be, she's a hitman. People just don't last long in that business without a brains. Either you get caught or you get killed.

Nadia, or "Dee" (as she is called by other assassins who don't know her real name), was once a cop, born into a family of cops. After a traumatic childhood event, all it took for Nadia to take things into her own hands was one criminal scumbag who had hurt a young girl. Hardly any of her friends and family stuck around her after that. She had to leave the force, and now runs a hunting lodge, secretly making money on the side for killing people who deserve it. Clearly she has issues brimming under the surface, but it may be her passion that makes her a good hitman. In Exit Strategy, her talent catches the eye of others. Her passion is also what makes her agree to join a team of other hitmen who are going after one of their own. A professional killer has turned into a serial killer, and it has caused a shakedown from the law against the whole profession.

Lazy bullet time:

  • This is NOT a paranormal, even though Kelley Armstrong is well known for her paranormal series, the Women of the Otherworld. I looked at the author's website and book 2 *looks* like it is coming out in September this year and will be called Made to be Broken. I'm not sure about this because Amazon UK has a whole list of authors under that title; maybe it's an anthology?
  • Almost everyone in this book: is the strong silent type. Even Nadia. When she's chattering, she's usually playing a role. It's interesting how subtle the communication is between assassins. Facial expressions and head movements mean more than words. Actions speak loudest.
  • The whole profession: REALLY interesting to read about. Especially things like trying to retire or having a family. No one trusts anyone, everyone has a hidden real identity, everyone's motives are suspect.. most people never retire: they die. And almost no one has a family, they are all loners – trying to have a family never seems to work out. So passing things along to the new generation usually happens in a mentor-mentee relationship, not through children.
  • The book is in a mostly first person point of view, with the attention mostly on Nadia. But sometimes the focus shifts to the killer or his victims. This could fall flat, but in Exit Strategy, it was powerfully done.
  • Finally, there is a very subtle hint of a romance (I am thinking love triangle) in this book. It is barely even there, it's all in the silent communication. One of the men is clearly interested, the other one is so subtle about it that even smart Nadia is oblivious. That's my take. I really want to know what happens in book 2.
  • Excerpts: Chapter 1, Chapter 2

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Dates from Hell by Harrison, Sands, Armstrong and Handeland

Dates From Hell
Kim Harrison

I've been having one of those slow months where I don't really feel like reading anything I have. This is bad since my TBR pile is at 104..sigh.. oh wait.. I won 4 books so its 108, SIGH (ok - not really if I think about it, I won, weee!). To solve this, I got the Dates from Hell anthology. I like short stories when I'm in a reading slow-down because I can read a complete story then take a break and it feels like less to commit to than a whole 300 page book. And sometimes it means I find an author I never tried before that I really like, which gets me all excited to find their books: thats a win-win.

This anthology turned out to be OK. I guess one of the downsides sometimes to short stories, maybe more so in fantasy/urban fantasy- its hard to get some great world-building in there. I often see that the stories are based in a world the author has their series in - which can be confusing to new readers if not done quite right.

"Undead in the Garden of Good and Evil" by Kim Harrison – This is a story of the vampire Ivy from Kim Harrison's Rachel Morgan series, before Ivy and Rachel met. Ivy is working at Inderland security under an undead vampire and trying to advance up the ranks, except she doesn't want to do it the traditional way vamps do it (which is pretty much requires her to use her body/blood and submitting to older vampires). So we get some backstory here on Ivy which is very interesting if you have read and liked Kim Harrison's series and explains some of her angsty past. On the other hand, if you haven't read that series, this story (especially the beginning of it) can be confusing. I was a little confused myself for the first page or two before I got where the time period was and remembered some of the rules of being a vampire from Harrison's series. Once I got that I felt it was one of the stronger stories in here (but I'm a fan of that series too, so I'm not sure how much that colors my opinion).

"The Claire Switch Project" by Lynsay Sands - this is about a couple of scientists who are testing a ray on lab animals which is supposed to allow them to have cameleon-like abilities. An evil scientist, impatient to test it on humans, tricks our heroine Claire into getting into shooting range of this ray and zaps her. Now she can change into anyone she wants to just by thinking about it. Hijinks ensue when her best friend finds out and wants her to pretend to be super-moviestar Brad Cruise at their high school reunion, the same reunion she is invited to by her long time crush and fellow co-worker Kyle. I think the name Brad Cruise was a silly choice, and then half of the story takes place in the restroom as the heroine switches from Brad Cruise to herself and back multiple times, so to me this felt like the most goofy story in here. It also felt very high school sitcom (trying to get back at the mean girl in high school who became the mean woman at the high school reunion). It could be amusing for someone who likes this kind of humor, but not really my thing.

"Chaotic" by Kelly Armstrong – This too is a short story based in a world that the author has a series on – the women of the otherworld, but it centers on a new character named Hope who is half chaos-demon trying to use her powers for good. A newbie in her task, she runs into werewolf and thief Marsden, mentioned in the series (so I hear, but I haven't gotten to those books yet). This was a pretty interesting story and I liked how the author had a resolution to the story but also left some things unfinished – made the tale believable and I wouldn't mind seeing these characters again in the future to see where that relationship went. Also one of the stronger stories for me.

"Dead Man Dating" by Lori Handeland – Kit is a literary agent in New York City and she's out on a date, but when she finds herself pinned against an alley wall by him and she's not that kind of girl - she begins to feel strangely not herself. When demon hunter Chavez rescues her, she learns her date is dead – possessed by some kind of incubus demon which wants her in particular. There were a couple of amusing bits to this one (Chavez has a thing for girls who read), and a couple of annoying bits (Kit's self esteem issues), but overall it was in the "alright" category.

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