Another one that looks interesting

Salt and Silver
Anna Katherine

Hmm. Doorway to Hell at a restaurant the heroine works in, guarded fo six years so far by a demon hunter who she's interested in (but he doesn't seem interested in her):

"Allie can’t seem to get it together.  Ever since her mom ran away to Rio with Rio—her tennis instructor—stealing Allie’s trust fund and her comfortable way of life, Allie has been floundering.  She works in Sally’s Diner, and lives above it. And one night in the basement, she and her friends chant a ridiculous spell—for money, for luck, for love…and open a Doorway to Hell. 

Ryan thinks he’s got it all figured out.  When the Door opened he appeared out of nowhere, a Stetson-wearing demon hunter dressed in leather. He’s assigned to the Door, and hangs out at the diner, and when the Door disappears he is certain that Allie had something to do with it.

But something strange is happening in Brooklyn.  Something bigger than Allie, and Ryan, and the Door in the diner basement.  And when a meeting of demon hunters gives birth to a dangerous idea, Allie and Ryan are left to wonder if the fragile feelings growing between them can survive a trip to Hell…or if they themselves will survive at all.  "

The author Anna Katherine is actually two people named Anna and Kat. According to their website they "have both worked in the publishing industry for most of their lives. They wrote Salt and Silver to be a jolly romp, starring a type of heroine they love but rarely see in romance novels." Could be good. But is this paranormal romance or urban fantasy? I'm not sure. The writing in the excerpt sort of has a flippant, almost young adult vibe but it's not young adult. The publisher is Tor.

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Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland

There are a lot of ARCs of this book floating around, so if you still don't have a copy and are interested, there are a couple of contests going on that I know of.

1) Lady Vampire's Lair has this book among a trio of books she's giving away for a Halloween giveaway. Comments throughout October 6th-11th in answer to her questions count as entries. Here's the link.

2) Lori's Reading Corner has a contest until October 6th (tomorrow),comment to enter. Additional rules and the link is here.

According to Amazon, the book comes out November 4th.

This is a first book in a new series by Lori Handleland. I've read one other book by this author which I liked more than I expected because I wasn't really into a short story I read in the Dates from Hell anthology.

This series centers on Elizabeth Phoenix, a former foster child, and cop turned bartender with physic powers. She has the ability to touch things and tell where the owner is or has been. The story starts off with Liz feeling called by her foster mom Ruthie, and discovering her dying at her house. The prime suspect is Liz's ex Jimmy Sanducci, who she broke up with after discovering his infidelity through her gift (ouch!). This starts a series of events which open up a new world to Liz – she discovers that Ruthie was the head of a giant battle between good and evil, with supernatural creatures of all kinds and tales from the Book of Enoch being the basis of it all. The gist of it is that doomsday begins now, and Liz has to take Ruthie's place. Meanwhile she has to deal with her ex Jimmy, and her past teacher, Sawyer. Both men aren't completely human.

Overall: I thought the book was OK. There were fascinating world-building aspects like the Nephalim from the Book of Enoch, Liz's talent, and her dreams with Ruthie. There are also some hints of past history that I found interesting regarding Jimmy and Sawyer, but they were done in a way that I had just enough to understand it, rather than feeling like just enough was being held back to make me confused. The dialog is flippant at times, but flowed well, and it did seem to fit Liz's personality. The book does fit more under the urban fantasy genre than it does as a paranormal romance – there is no HEA, at least in this book, and the ending leaves a lot of room for further developments, but there are a few sex scenes and maybe more attention to relationships than I usually see in urban fantasy. Both relationships with Jimmy and Sawyer have a dark edge to them, mostly because everyone involved is pretty emotionally flawed. I am not sure who she will eventually end up with, but both of the men have not treated Liz well. I wasn't sure I liked either of them and sometimes I wasn't sure if I liked Liz either. Still, it does make the characters very interesting and I'd like to see how it develops. I'd like to see Liz more confident in her powers, which hopefully we will see in the next book. The author's letter to her readers in the back of the book mentions Laurell K Hamilton as an inspiration, and I could see maybe a hint of that regarding Liz's hidden power we learn about later. I have to say I sort of … mmm, I don't quite like it, because I think it has a potential to make the books take a turn into territory that many people complain about with Hamiliton's books, but this book is a far cry from that, so I'll just wait and see.

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New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

I have written a haiku:

Liked Twlight but then,
Heard Bella is annoying,
Now that’s all I see.

I read Twilight years ago and remember liking it. I thought it was a sweet high school romance, and I remember being pulled in by wondering what was going to happen next - especially the second half when the action kicked in. I enjoyed it. Since then I think the whole world has read the books, and I haven't gone out of my way to read other people's opinions, but it's kind of hard not to run into them. You know when someone points out something annoying about someone that you never noticed and then after that you do start to notice? I think a whole episode of How I Met Your Mother was centered around this. WELL NOW, the whole time I was reading New Moon I was thinking to myself – wow, Bella really is annoying!  Was she like this in Twilight? And Edward really is controlling! I didn't think he was as bad in the first book, was I just completely unaware?

To be honest though, I have an aversion to reading about angsty teenagers. I read Harry Potter until book 5 (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) when Harry suddenly got mood swings and I just couldn't finish it. That's where I stopped the series. Maybe one day I'll pick it up again, but it's not high on my list.

In New Moon, Edward decides for Bella that their relationship is dangerous for her so he removes himself, so almost all of the book is centered around Bella on her own, and we're basically in her head for months. Months and months of completely dramatic depression. The book felt very long despite the simple writing and the larger font. I kept checking to see how much more I had to read. I seen depressed people, but Bella takes the cake – "catatonic" is used to describe her – and I found myself unsympathetic to someone so self indulgent and childish. Maybe it's my own age and experience here that I don't find it very romantic when someone can't pay any attention to the other people in their lives and only center on their own issues. While Edward is gone Bella begins to use Jacob Black as a crutch. He makes her feel better, so while she knows that Jacob likes her romantically, Bella feels that she needs him and when he holds her hand, she tells herself that Jacob knows that she's not interested in him that way, so she lets him. Strangely Jacob still likes her, no idea why – she's depressed half the time and he notices. I couldn't see what she was giving him besides companionship that wasn't male. I felt that Bella was giving herself excuses to do whatever she wants at the expense of others. This is not a nice trait, and this is not just with Jacob. Whenever things did go the way Bella wanted, her reactions made me wonder if she's as grown up as she thinks she is. To top it off, Bella really believes that Edward lost interest and her response is to become a depressed zombie. Not anger at being thrown off like an old plaything. Yay, women's liberation. Speaking of, it ticked me off that Edward decided what was best for her, and keeps at it later. Their relationship is not healthy. I think in book 1, I was seeing this as one of those intense first loves. Edward wanted to protect her yadda yadda, but it wasn't in your face controlling to me, and at the end of the book there was a relatively happy ending and that was it. But, in New Moon, this intense love continues and the seriousness starts to become disturbing. That they think of themselves as having a love like Romeo and Juliet makes me want to slap them. To compare yourselves to star-crossed lovers who killed themselves is ridiculous!!

Speaking of odd relationships - I couldn't remember why Bella called her parents by their first names and had to cook and clean for her dad. There was a point where she was up to her arms in Comet while cleaning the bathroom. Yet her father was supposedly living by himself before her – is he that hopeless? Or does Meyer only know hopeless men who can't cook and clean for themselves? I'm baffled. Also baffled by how even when Bella is grounded she's still allowed to have her boyfriend to come over every day for an hour and a half. In her room. By themselves. My brow furrows.

Overall: Liked book 1 better. This one makes me feel ranty. In the end not too much happens, though we get some information about Jacob's tribe at La Push and we learn a bit more about other vampires in the world. There is a set up for book 3 because there are rising tensions between Jacob's family and Edward's, but besides that there is very little actual action, and even that is only towards the last 100 pages. This was more a book that focused on Bella's inner turmoil, which made me I feel like a lot of what I read could have been condensed. Even with the ease of reading the simple language, teenage angst is tedious reading material. I have Eclipse and Breaking Dawn on my TBR because they were gifts, so I will shoulder on, but not right away. I really hope that I'm less annoyed by the main characters when I do.

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Jinx by Jennifer Estep

Jinx (Bigtime)
Jennifer Estep

Jinx is the third book in this series which is a tongue-in-cheek take on comic books. If you've read the previous books: Karma Girl and Hot Mama, you know that Bigtime is a city full of superheroes and ubervillians, secret identities are sort of obvious, and yards of spandex and sequins are required.

My reviews of the previous books:

Karma Girllivejournal | vox

Hot Mamalivejournal | vox

Cover: They swtiched over from a more comic cover, where the characters are drawn, to real people against a sort of comic-looking background. Not sure the reason for this – maybe to make the books look less chick-lit and more like it's a romance/paranormal?

Story: As with the previous books, the story is written in the first person point of view. This time it's Bella Bulluci, who was introduced in Hot Mama as the sister of the male love interest, and a fashion designer with muted tastes. Bella's family has a superhero tradition, her grandfather, father and brother have taken turns being Johnny Angel, a character who rides a motorcycle and fights crime. Bella's dad was killed earlier in the year because of this activity, and Bella has a very hard time forgiving him for choosing to put himself in danger rather than staying safe for his family. She remembers wanting to be a superhero when she was young, but soon was jaded by the worry and fear about her father night after night.

Her past experiences have caused Bella to hate superheroes – she thinks they are ridiculous and can't understand why people choose to have a secret identity. Her rule is to never get involved with a superhero – despite being in a family of them, and despite being closely connected with the Fearless Five, Bigtime's most powerful superhero group. AND despite Bella having her own powers. She has a "supercharged telekinesis" which gives her luck – both bad and good, and which annoys her a lot. It increases with her emotions and discharges with often embarrassing results, but Bella is usually not harmed very much.

I found this contrariness despite who she has surrounding her very stubborn on Bella's part. Her anger at her father's death colors her decisions. I still I found her feelings believable at first. Her practical and worrywort nature explains a about how she reacts towards the danger of being a superhero. Then Bella gets caught in the crossfire between the Fearless Five and some ubervillians after a fund-raiser at the Bigtime Museum of Modern Art. Bella is taken away from danger by Debonair and soon becomes involved with him despite her rule. This is where I found her back and forth annoying – she would really firmly (and sometimes a little meanly) push him away, and then the next time she sees him, they're getting it on. Then she'd remember her rule and tell him to leave after a long evening together, or say it was nice but nothing can come out of it. Once or twice – fine, but this happened a few times. The only explanation of why Debonair is OK with her waffling is that he's been secretly in love with her for months, but how easily he forgives her for hurting him was surprising. Their relationship was really the focus of the book, with the action against ubervillians Hangman and Prism as a secondary story.

Overall – I read this book in practically one sitting. It was fun, and doesn't take itself seriously, so worth reading when you're in the mood for something light. I think I liked it as much as I liked Karma Girl, and I thought it was better than Hot Mama. Bella was a more interesting protagonist and had a less dramatic and flamboyant personality than Fiona, Hot Mama's protagonist. I also liked Debonair and his shy alter ego – he was very sweet towards Bella throughout the story. And as usual the over the top and silly background of the Bigtime world makes things lighthearted and an easy read. Most readers will pick up on the secret identities of some of the superheroes and ubervillians (first name and last name have the same letter, not nice people = ubervillian, nice people = superhero, real job sometimes related to superhero power…), and it's amusing how oblivious the main characters are about the clues.

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Insatiable Desire by Rita Herron

This is the first book of the Demonborn series by Rita Herron. I have to say this isn't something I would pick up for myself – I'd never read anything by this author although she has apparently written over 50 books, but I was offered a copy by the author so I gave it a try.

This is billed as a "paranormal romance" but I thought it was a lot darker than I would have expected from a paranormal. There is a lot of violence and torture described in the story besides the other paranormal elements – I'd say it definitely has horror elements.

Clarissa King is a psychic who lives by the Black Forest in Eerie, Tennessee, and she believes that the recent deaths of young women are related, and that they were murdered by the same person. Brought in to investigate is Vincent Valtrez of the FBI, who used to know Clarissa when they were younger. He used to live in Eerie before his abusive father killed his mother in a demonic rite, and Vincent, then 10 years old, was found outside the Black Forest with no memory of what happened. Let's just say that his guy is messed up in the head because of it. Sparks fly when the two meet again, but Vincent is not interested in having a relationship.

Vincent has a lot of darkness inside him which he attributes to his father's "bad blood" and because of this, he's very abrasive to women. He fears hurting someone the way his father hurt his mother. Clarissa on the other hand has her own issues – her mother and grandmother had her same pyschic ability, an ability to see restless spirits, but her mom went mad because of it and killed herself. Clarissa's greatest fear is following in her mother's footsteps.

The paranormal aspect of this book is demons. The burn in hell, minions of Satan, evil, scary, trying to steal your soul kind. The kind of demons they talk about in church. In the Black Forest they say that there is a black cave that is the palace of Satan on Earth, and every eclipse something bad happens because of it. In Insatiable Desire, the eclipse is coming and with it a new demon lord. One demon is trying to impress the new leader with souls, using his talent of touching a person and knowing their greatest fear.

An excerpt of the book is here.

My thoughts:  First the characters – Vincent was really a big jerk, I mean huge, to Clarissa for about most of the book. Even after they have sex, he pushes her away again and again, but Clarissa actually keeps trying, and says that she knows he's like this because he was abused by his father as a kid. I had a hard time really agreeing with that, so I found Clarissa too forgiving. Every time it's Clarissa who reaches out and is the vunerable one first: saying she wants him, saying she loves him, and every time, he turns her down in a not nice way. Yet she tries again. Vincent also had a rule to only have sex with a woman once, and they had to face away from him. This wasn't really knight in shining armor material there. I think a lot of this is explained away by the face that Vincent is "demonborn" – half demon, which means he has tendencies towards evil as well as towards good, but it made me not like him much. It's hard to like someone who has fantasies of strangling women to death, and has blackouts where he wakes up with blood on his hands. Disturbing. Then the violence and the evil in the Black Forest – I just am not that into horror, and after a while it was too much. Not that I was seriously creeped out – more like it's just a lot. And it started to make me wonder – why is it that people called Clarissa "Crazy Clarissa" when they lived right next to the Forest where all this bad stuff often happened? Why didn't people believe in the supernatural there, but believed the Forest was full of evil? It was confusing.

The premise is interesting – half demon, half angel men who are really seriously fighting for their souls. I think there are people who will like this series, but I'm not quite the target audience for it.

The demonborn website with more information about this series, the world, it's characters, and a book trailer, is here.

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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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Thunder Moon by Lori Handeland

To be honest I didn't expect to like this book. I picked it up at Goodwill because I recognized the author as a popular one and I noticed that the published date was January 2008, so I thought I would swap it on paperbackswap. The only thing I had read by Lori Handeland was in the Dates from Hell anthology and the story in there didn't do it for me (my review of that is here).

So I was pleasantly surprised that I ended up sucked into this book. The heroine is a small town sheriff, with Cherokee blood. Grace McDaniel is capable and independent, and I liked her. She's tired and overworked but also irreverent and snappy. This is a supernatural romance, but instead of werewolves which I was expecting because of the world "Moon" in the title, the night-creature in this instance was one I'd never heard of before, so there were elements of Cherokee folklore that was new to me. The book looks to be part of a series, with references to Claire, who is the mayor, Grace's best friend, and probably the heroine of her own book, but I had no problems following it. A pretty decent read and while I sort of guessed the identity of the creature terrorizing the town, I wasn't completely sure about it till the end, which I liked. The only thing I found jarring was the sudden sex scenes in this book, which seemed to be incongruent with Grace's wary nature regarding men. I found myself saying out loud: what the hell, you're the sheriff, what are you doing?!! which brought down things a notch for me. Still, couldn't really stop reading.

Here's a review at Dear Author which meshes well with my opinion.

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Hellbent and Heartfirst by Kassandra Sims

Hellbent & Heartfirst
Kassandra Sims

Avoiding having to practice a presentation for work. Let us review a book instead.

Hellbent and Heartfirst was a book I picked up because I enjoyed the author's book Falling Upwards (which I reviewed here). Both books were published by Tor under Paranormal Romance, but Falling Upwards had more of a contemporary fantasy feel and less emphasis on the romance. Meanwhile, Hellbent and Heartfirst spends much more time on the two main characters and less on the "paranormal".

In Hellbent and Heartfirst, the story begins in Mississipi right after Hurricane Katrina. Jacyn Boaz has taken a sabbatical from her graduate work at the University of Texas to work for Oxfam, helping displaced families. Her cousin and her live in a house owned by their grandparents and after work they party with other relief workers and with relatives coming in and out of their house. Jacyn bumps into Jimmy Wayne Broadus, a rancher and rodeo cowboy who also it turns out spends time killing supernatural creatures that harm people. The confusion of Katrina has given the supernatural a way to hide their crimes, and Jimmy Wayne hopes Jacyn will understand and help him in what he does. Turns out, Jacyn is very reasonable because she has an odd relationship with luck that helps her believe in the unexplained.

I ended up not liking this one as much as Falling Upwards. The writing was interesting and intelligent but –

1) The plot. It had two scenes in which our protagonists fight paranormal creatures in the South, but these scenes are really short and anti-climactic. Once they were over I was left thinking –  "Was that it? That was easy." and there doesn't seem to be a real resolution. I felt unsatisfied. Some things never get explained – like Jacyn's luck.  The book really was about was two southerners who meet, fall in love, and hang out with friends and family. But with a dash of killing baddies. The rest of it was this slow meandering courtship without very much conflict amongst bars, barbeques, and house parties. It was like reading about party-kids settling down except there is a supernatural tint to it all. The relationship was very sweetly described and I ended up feeling like the two were meant to be together, but I thought the author kept trying to convince the reader of this after the reader was already sold. I started to feel like Jacyn and Jimmy Wayne could stop thinking how great the other was now. I was over the color of Jacyn's hair and Jimmy Wayne's eyelashes and lips.

2) There were grammatical errors that I kept running into. This is from someone who misses grammar errors, but I kept being tripped up by sentences with incorrect tenses. It just jarred me.

On the other hand, I really enjoyed:

1) That this was set in the South. That the backdrop was the delta in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and the book describes the people dealing with the aftermath in a very personal way. It felt very real. The humidity is a constant. I also liked the personal interactions – how Jacyn's family and friends are groups who drop by without invitation and just eat, drink and live together in an informal environment. Reminds me of my college days (which was in the south by the way). I thought it was nice to have non-stereotypical southern characters. There was a small scene about the use of the words "y'all" and "ain't" that I found interesting too.

2) Really part of #1 – That half of the book is set in Nashville. That's where I went to college, and I think the author captured the city perfectly. I have a lot of fond memories of living there.

P.S. The cover. The scary dark figure to the left of Jimmy Wayne. Creeeeppyy!

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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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A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole

I won this book sometime around the beginning of 2007 but after reading 100 pages in I put it down for about 6 months. Since I'm trying to read 100 books this year I picked it up again this week and finished it off.

The cover screams "vampire" novel but the two protagonists are a Lykan (werewolf) and a Valkyrie/vampire halfbreed. And she's the one half vampire. Yes, slightly confusing cover. Anyway, the werewolf Lachlain has been imprisoned by the vampire horde for 150 years, chained to a rock burning to death over and over (he's immortal and keeps reviving), so he's close to insanity when he smells Emmaline and recognizes her as his mate. This discovery propels him into escaping by gnawing off his own leg. Then he follows her scent, but when he finds her and sees she's vampire (his sworn enemy) he treats her very badly, kidnapping her and scaring her. Emmaline has actually never met a vampire before, she was raised by the Valkyries – fierce warrior women who channel electricity, and she's very sheltered – at 70 she's the youngest of them.

My thoughts in lazy bullet form:

  • As the first book of the series there is a lot of series setup stuff. There were some shifts to show what Emmaline's aunts were up to and references to certain players who I think will probably either get their own books or show up later. This set up felt like it was unnecessary to the story but I did like reading about Emma's aunts.
  • I did like the world of the "Lore" – with the Vampire Horde as the bad guys, a faction of rebel vamps, the Lykae clan, the Valkyrie and lots of fighting and old hatreds amongst them. I especially liked the Valkyrie – this was a fresh concept. Warrior maidens who cried for courage in their dying breath and whose cries were answered by old Norse gods, they gain sustinence from electricity and love to shop.
  • Lachlain was Scottish and his dialog was driving me crazy – no' , aye, ken, tae, lass.
  • There were a few of those "one true love" pairings here. The Lykae have their Mate and the vampires have their Brides. I'm not a fan of this destiny thing. It feels like a cheating – a deus ex machina instead of really giving me the reader a good reason why two people should be together.
  • Emma had a very modern dialog in contrast but I liked it much better. I laughed a couple of times from her remarks, and from a couple of her aunts (Nix and Regin in particular).
  • Lachlain acts like a big fat jerk and I don't think Emma made him pay enough for it. Actually I couldn't see the attraction after the first half of the book and what he does. I think this disbelief made me put the book down in the first place.

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