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 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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Prom Nights from Hell by Meg Cabot, Kim Harrison, Michele Jaffe, Stephenie Meyer, Lauren Myracle

I read this book sometime last year but I was so disappointed with it I didn't even bother to review it. Everything felt like it lacked effort. Anyway, I've had this nagging unfinished feeling about not reviewing so here goes. This is a anthology of prom stories with some kind of paranormal aspect to them.

The good thing about this book is that a portion of the proceeds goes to, which is a charity I like. Um.. otherwise, it was in the average to meh range for me.

The Exterminator's Daughter by Meg Cabot – This was a story of a vampire slayer's daughter, trying to track and kill the son of her mother's killer (that would be Dracula, naturally). Each chapter was told from the point of view of Mary, this girl, or of Adam, another teen involved. Well this seemed very predictable. Teen + paranormal + prom, let's just have a vampire slayer going after a vamp at prom. Add a dash of back story, some other teens for perhaps a romantic angle. The end. This lacked kick and I didn't understand the point of switching narrators so much (to show how they liked each other? not really that necessary).

The Corsage by Lauren Myracle – Well there's a warning on the front of this story that this is inspired by "The Monkey's Paw" by W.W Jacobs, and talks about being careful what you wish for. This was definitely in the creepy camp, and the most memorable story in the book. The narrator is a silly teen girl with foot in mouth syndrome, who, just to get the boy she likes to take her to the prom, makes some really dumb decisions involving a bad voodoo-vibe object – an old corsage. I could have smacked this girl, but I still felt sorry for her after what happened.

Madison Avery and the Dim Reaper by Kim Harrison – well this girl was another one I could have happily smacked. Another one who didn't listen to other's advice and made rash decisions out of spite, then other rash decisions out of fear. But there was an interesting paranormal aspect about dark and light reapers, and about the protagonist's role in the future. The reapers reminded me of the shinigami in Full Moon o Shagashite. I felt like this could be the start of an interesting series, and there seemed to be more detail and thought to this world than some of the other stories. And I hope if this is the start of a series, that Madison starts acting after thinking. I would really like a teen protag that I do not want to smack. Why are they lacking in recent young adult fiction?

Kiss and Tell by Michelle Jaffe – Ok, so a protag (Miranda Kiss) who is a princess with special powers, hiding out as a town car driver. She befriends a girl (Sibby) who she drives from the airport. A special girl who has some other powers herself. Miranda decides to rescue her from a cult, some actiony stuff ensues, but the suspension of disbelief I had was hard to maintain. Not badly written, but too many leaps in logic to get the story going.

Hell on Earth by Stephenie Meyer – This was about a junior demoness spreading despair and unhappiness with mental nudges at a school dance, but she can't seem to get everyone unhappy because a boy at the dance seems unsucceptable to her powers – he's just full of goodness and light. Not only that, he senses the darkness in her and wants to help her. Not a bad idea, has a sort of open ended conclusion, but it also felt somewhat predictable to me. And a little sappy.

Sighh. I am old I think. Old and crabby about young adult books now.

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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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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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random book potpourri

There is a poll on Mindy L. Klasky's livejournal about what gets readers to pick up a book. If you have a livejournal, go fill it out.  Personally it doesn't take much to get me to read a book.. first the book has to look interesting to me, but strongest thing is definitely word of mouth. If someone who's opinion I tend to agree with likes it I will go look for it, so I think friends, book reviews, blogs fall under that. Otherwise – looking at the book – if I like the cover and the blurb, and look and like the first couple of pages – I buy it.

OK, I don't know who reads this, but I had a question – has anyone here ever sent their books to an author to get it autographed? There are certain authors I'd totally love to have sign my books, but I feel quite fangirly to send my books to them in the mail. Weird or no?

I'm thinking about this because this new author Jeaniene Frost was offering free cover flats of her debut novel "Halfway to the Grave" (looks like a paranormal fantasy about a vampire killer) on her livejournal, and I feel ok asking for one. falalala.

I also totally sent money to Kim Harrison just for her burning bunny pin and a toe tag thingy. And I was quite excited when I got them (yes, such fangrl behavior).

So I can do that, but I feel shy about sending books over to be autographed. Eh, I should get over it, huh.

TBR was holding at 100…now at 101. Why do I do this to myself? Remember when it was at 92? Damn.

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