Category Archives: Paranormal Romance

Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story

Moore, Christopher. Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story (2008 ed.) 290 Pages. Simon & Schuster. $14.00

I am not allowed to read Christopher Moore in public. I’ll be discreet, I promise myself, I won’t be awkward, I won’t seem like a maniac. I promise myself anything, just get the book out of your ugly purse and start reading, it will make the trip so much more bearable, I think. And for a few minutes, I’ll keep my promise. It will start with a smirk, which will then turn into a silent snicker, which grows into a soft giggle. This is where things get really tough, as I’ll realize that I’m breaking my promise, and will attempt to be serious. So what eventually escapes is a strangled snort, which may or may not develop into full blown idiotic laughter. Soon, the seats beside me are vacant. Eventually, even on an incredibly crowded commuter train full of people with their own books, strangers will edge away ever so slightly. Because as the unwritten rules of the train say– you may read, but only quietly. Laughing aloud and making a scene of yourself, being seen enjoying your book is forbidden. When I let myself read Christopher Moore, I inevitably break that unwritten rule, which is why I am not allowed to read his books in public.

Despite all the public awkwardness and the sideways glances, I am endorsing his books, most especially Bloodsucking Fiends. It was brilliant, and had me laughing loudly and crazily on public transit, and managed to get me laughing just as hard the second time I read it.*

To start with the beginning:

Sundown painted purple across the great Pyramid while the Emperor enjoyed a steaming whiz against a dumpster in the alley below. A low fog worked its way up from the bay, snaked around columns and over concrete lions to wash against the towers where the West’s money was moved. The financial district: an hour ago it ran with rivers of men in gray wool and women in heels; now the streets, built on sunken ships and gold-rush garbage, were deserted–quiet except for a foghorn that lowed across the bay like a lonesome cow. (page 1)

I’ve had problems with books which were “set in” the Bay Area in the past, most notably geographic and cultural annoyances. This book manages to avoid all those pitfalls completely; the neighborhoods (Chinatown, Northbeach, SOMA, etc.) are all represented, and there were no imaginary streets. There were a couple locations which I cannot be sure existed, but it was nothing too major. I even forgave him The Emperor of San Francisco and Protector of Mexico — a not-entirely-imagined character who shows up in A Dirty Job as well– because The Emperor adds an awful lot to the story, and does actually remind me of several San Francisco transients who do exist.

I suppose I really should say something about the contents and storyline, so I’ll give you a quick synopsis. One night after working late, Jody is accosted. She wakes up beneath a dumpster, her hand badly burned, and her senses strangely heightened. Her jerk of a boyfriend proves to be rather worse than she ever realized, and she finds herself in need of help. Tommy is our other protagonist– a farm boy fresh from the midwest, overwhelmed by the city– who finds himself helping Jody before he even gets to know her. Things get complicated as a string of murders seem destined to lead the police to their doorstep. Of course, their entire story is told with excellent wit.

In Conclusion:

I am not allowed to read Christopher Moore in public. Regardless, you should definitely pick this one up and give it a read. Then read its sequel You Suck followed by Bite Me, which both seem rather promising. It gets a 5/5 for being brilliant and funny and just altogether awesome.

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* For some reason, my boyfriend kept looking askance and shaking his head at me as I sat on my couch and devoured the book.

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Blood Bound

Briggs, Patricia. Blood Bound (2007). 292 Pages. Ace Fantasy. $7.99

Mercy Thompson: Book Two

Please be aware that it is extremely likely that there are spoilers for the first book. You have been warned. Proceed with caution.

I was so excited when I figured out there was another book in this series. I hadn’t yet figured out that most authors write whole collections of books these days, as stand-alone novels just don’t sell as well. Well, that might not be the case, but it would hardly be surprising. Anyway, this is one character I was glad to see again.

Stefan is collecting his favor, and boy is it a doozy. There’s a sorcerer-turned-vampire who’s infected with a demon, and it’s bringing unwanted attention to the supernatural world. Sure, people know about some of the fae– the cuter, weaker, and less-threatening fae, anyway– and people have learned about the werewolves, but the vampires remain a closely-guarded secret. It’s not exactly easy to both suck blood and be a good guy*.

We learn a lot more about Mercy’s past, and her powers. More of Mercy’s character gets to shine through here, and she manages to kick some ass without being the most powerful being ever. She’s got some unique talents– compliments of her Walker heritage– which enable her to help her friends when they are unable to help themselves. Native American walkers used to hunt vampires, until the vampires hunted the walkers into near extinction. (One doesn’t expect vampires to worry about committing genocide.) Mercy learns more about herself and her abilities from this vampiric entanglement than she learned growing up with werewolves.

Of course, Mercy’s love-life gets more complicated– both Samuel and Adam are vying for her affection. She’s got quite the past with Samuel, and doesn’t quite buy that he loves her for the right reasons. Adam is a pack Alpha, and comes with a lot of werewolf complications. There’s a lot more coming Mercy’s way, and despite the fact that this is largely a paranormal romance, Mercy’s love-life takes a back seat to the adventure in this novel.

The Quick Version:

Mercy remains a kick-ass heroine who has a strong voice. Her story grows more complicated as the story goes on. She kicks some ass. And characters actually seem to grow. This gets a 4/5, because I don’t generally give a damn about vampires, and this plot is not my favorite. (Though it remains pretty well written, and solid.)

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* And universes with “good vampires” are made of suck. (Pun not intended) (I’m looking at YOU, Twilight.)

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Moon Called

Briggs, Patricia. Moon Called (2006). 288 Pages. Ace Fantasy. $7.99

Mercy Thompson: Book One

I suppose since I just reviewed book five in this series, I should probably take some time to go back and talk about the earlier books. I keep re-reading this series, and I enjoy it every single time I do. The covers connect with each other, since they have a steady, constant artist. Despite what the cover leads you to believe, Mercy does not wear cropped belly-shirts. She’s above that.

Meet Mercedes Thompson, Volkswagen Mechanic. She’s very aware of the irony of her name, but tends to go by Mercy, so it’s not as much of a running joke as it might be. Mercy is a walker– that is, she can transform into a coyote at will. As far as she knows, she’s the only one of her kind, which leaves her knowing very little about the full extent of her abilities.

Mercy has a long back-story which is revealed very neatly as she explains herself to a new werewolf. It manages to be expository without feeling contrived, and in essence explains that Mercy was raised by the Marrok– the ruler of the werewolves. She knows more about werewolves than any other non-were, and uses this knowledge to her advantage (to both torment and survive her handsome were-neighbor Adam, among other things.)

Anyway, Mercy starts off by picking up Mac- a stray wolf- and stupidly locking herself in a garage with him and a dead body. Adam manages to save her, but things get weirder and crazier with every page until we reach an impressive climax. Of course, there’s a lot going on: Samuel (the Marrok’s son) re-enters Mercy’s life after a long absence. Stefan, the vampire, helps Mercy out. The Marrok steps in. There’s even a Witch. There is kidnapping, mystery, and suspense. By the end of the book, you’re not quite sure what’s going to happen next.

Mercy herself is the reason this book is so great. She has an amazing voice, and a strong personality. She kicks just a little more ass than most girls, without being over-powered and flawless. She’s one of the better heroines out there, and I look forward to her books.

The Quick Version:

I loved this book. (I love this whole series.) I feel like it’s just the right amount of ass kicking (by Mercy and her posse) and mystery. We learn about the characters, and I actually cared what happened to them. It was a well written story which kept you turning pages. It gets a 5/5.

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Silver Borne

Briggs, Patricia. Silver Borne (2010). 342 Pages. Penguin. $24.95

Mercy Thompson: Book Five

Please be aware that there are spoilers for the first four books in this series. Proceed at your own risk.

I’ve been waiting for this book since I first figured out that you can put books on hold through the library. Every few days I would creep further up the queue, until I was finally able to pick it up. When I did, I momentarily debated re-reading the other books in the series, before deciding that it would be silly to waste any time. Of all the supernatural fiction, there are only a few authors I really enjoy, and Patricia Briggs is one of them. I’m going to review this one out of order, because I read it without re-reading the others, and because it’s due at the library.

I’ll say right now that I enjoyed it a lot, but it had a sense of finality at the end which had me asking “Is this the last book in the series?” It’s not, by the way. There are a lot of urban fantasy novels out there, and a lot of them are very “Meh.” This is not one of those series. Nor is it one of those series where you find yourself wondering why you’re still reading, because it’s become so formulaic and you don’t really give a damn. Continue reading

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My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon (Anthology)

Elrod, P.N. My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon (2008). 358 Pages. St Martin’s Griffin. $13.95

I like trade paperbacks, they’re big, and they feel solid when you hold them. However, they’re tough on my style (what little there is) because while most of my purses are chosen for their ability to carry a book, mass market paperbacks are more common, and fit into more of my purses more easily. I checked this book out well over a month ago, and have been slowly reading it, trying to get through it, and wondering why it was so very difficult to read. I’ve decided that it is because of its format, and the fact that it is so very hard to fit it into my purse, so I haven’t been taking it to work for lunch-time reading.

Anyway, this is a very solid volume with a lot of stories that I really enjoyed. I sort of wish I’d read My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding first, but this was an impulse grab from a bookshelf, so I didn’t realize there was another volume in this set. (Though it’s hardly a prequel/sequel pair, as most of the stories are unique from the first volume, though I hesitate to call them stand-alones.) Continue reading

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Love in the Time of Dragons

MacAlister, Katie. Love in the Time of Dragons (2010). 331 Pages. Signet. $7.99

The Light Dragons: Book One || Dragons Universe Book Eight

Please be aware that though this is the first book in a new series, it is not a stand-alone, and the following may contain spoilers for the preceding books.

Tully Sullivan is Dr. Kostich’s apprentice, a mage-in-training who got dragged into the Dragon’s conflict at the end of Me and My Shadow. Except, she’s not a mage. Five weeks after she first arrives at Drake and Aisling’s house, she wakes up as a guest in Gabriel’s London house. She has no idea what has happened, and does not understand why everyone seems to be insisting that she is Ysolde de Bouchier, Baltic’s mate. But Tully doesn’t remember this– in fact, she doesn’t remember much at all. What she does know is that she has vivid dreams, yearly fugues, and a son (named Brom) who must be very worried about her.

Unfortunately for Tully, nobody is able to wait for her to come to terms with Ysolde. As Baltic’s mate, she is responsible for his crimes, and she is brought to the sárkány to face the charges. However, it is only a matter of time before Baltic figures out she’s back. Ysolde is his mate, and she was dead. Once he finds her, things will never be the same for her again.

The drama which has been building, all the intrigue which has left us wondering as we’ve read the last seven books has hit a crescendo with this book. Questions are (at least in part) answered, while yet more arise. By the end of the book (which is somehow shocking and expected simultaneously) you’re questioning nearly everything which the characters have taken for granted thus far.

The wait for the next book is going to be killer.

The Quick Version:

The drama which characterized the segment about Gabriel and May remains, but things have gotten funnier again. Ysolde and Baltic have that love/hate thing going on that makes things firey and fantastic. There is also something that is just so charming about a domineering dragon, and his willingness to do anything for his mate. I’m dying for the next book, which will be quite some time in coming, since this book was released on May 4, 2010. The book was fantastic, and scores a 5/5.

Please be aware, this is not a stand-alone book.

I know you’ll want to read it, so get it off Amazon or from Swaptree.

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Me and My Shadow

MacAlister, Katie. Me and My Shadow (2009). 352 Pages. Signet. $7.99

The Silver Dragons: Book Three || Dragons Universe Book Seven

This is certainly not the last Dragons book– Love in the Time of Dragons is the next book — but it is the last book about Gabriel and May. Much like with Aisling and Drake before, their series might be over, but they are not gone.

Kostya continues to petition the weir for recognition of the Black Dragon sept. Cyrene continues insisting that she is Kostya’s mate. Drake’s mother is an evil, obnoxious woman. Aisling has given “full custody” of Jim to May for the remainder of her pregnancy– which means that Jim will continue being loud and obnoxious and Not. Funny.*Something weird is going on with Sally. Magoth has been unleashed on the mortal realm (and is still obnoxious). And so on and so forth.

The only thing which really concludes in this book is May and Gabriel’s romance; they really and truly are committed to each other, and have found their personal happily-ever-after. Oh, and Aisling has finally given birth.** However, May has finally found herself- in more than one sense- and her relationship with Gabriel has strengthened in such a way that it will last through their immortality.

Things get more and more complicated with Baltic. He’s basically the center of everything, and we know next-to-nothing about him. Hopefully this is not the case in Love in the Time of Dragons, because I believe it is his chest decorating the cover. I should be reviewing that by this time tomorrow, with the way I inhale these.

The Series as a Whole:

May and Gabriel manage to be different from Aisling and Drake while following the same basic plot; Girl has some powers. Boy notices girl, Girl notices boy. Girl gains lots of powers and complicates life. Boy does not run away from incredibly powerful, complicated girl. Boy and Girl overcome obstacles, and live happily ever after. But then, aside from the powers point, that’s really ever romance novel ever, and who really reads them expecting something original? The fact is, seven books in, I still enjoyed the set enough that I want to read the eighth. The series scores a perfect 10 of 10.

The Quick Version:

This book makes a good end to the rest of the Silver Dragons novels, though as stated repeatedly, the overall plot of the Dragons universe is not done. I did enjoy it, and I did actually laugh aloud a couple times. As a whole though, this series is less funny than the Aisling Grey series, which works, because the dramatic and action-oriented plot has become much more significant than the slapstick humor of the first portion. There are still scenes where I laughed– I snorted out loud while I was sneakily trying to read this book at work (and was so busted by a customer).  It gets a 4.5/5, because I really did enjoy it, even if some of it made me cringe.

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* I have not thought Jim was funny more than once or twice the entire series. In seven books I have laughed at him maybe twice. He is not a good character. He is annoying, and needs to go away.

** She’s been pregnant through four books now. It’s about damned time.

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Up in Smoke

MacAlister, Katie. Up In Smoke (2008). 328 Pages. Signet. $7.99

The Silver Dragons: Book Two || Dragons Universe Book Six

This book did not have me laughing as much as others have in the past. In fact, a lot of the scenes which I think were meant to be funny were really just… painful. I’ve never really liked Jim- he annoyed me more often than he made me laugh. Magoth is just… too annoying to really be a scary villain.

May has been bound to Magoth since she was created, and it has caused her nothing but pain and frustration and trouble. Until she met Gabriel, however, she had managed to put up with it. But when Magoth tried to give her an order which would hurt Gabriel and the dragons, May refused it. The most creative punishment Magoth could come up with is giving May the role of Demon Lord’s Consort. (Perhaps because she loathes him so much that it’s actually punishment to spend time around him).

Gabriel surprises May when he tells her to go through with it, and actually become Magoth’s Consort. It would allow Magoth access to the human world, but it would also mean that May could be with Gabriel, fulfilling her duties as a Wyvern’s Mate.

That’s just the first few chapters. It moves quickly, and is full of drama. It was strange, because MacAlister’s books are usually funny, but I didn’t laugh more than a few times. The story is intense, and leaves you wanting more, but concludes at least reasonably well.

The Quick Version:

This book is awesome, but it’s not as funny as others. Certain characters remain annoying, a few new characters are annoying. The drama and suspense in this one are pretty impressive, and really make it a page turner. It only gets a 3.5 out of 5, because there’s a bit too much identity crisis.

If you want to read it, get it through Amazon or Swaptree.

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Playing with Fire

Macalister, Katie. Playing with Fire (2008). 331 Pages. Signet. $6.99

The Silver Dragons: Book One || Dragons Universe Book Five

I was more than a little worried when I picked up this book that I would find a repeat of the preceding series (girl finds out about being Wyvern’s Mate, girl resists, girl runs, dragon chases, happily ever after-ish). Instead, we get a new story, a new heroine, and a continuation of the unresolved plots from the Aisling Grey: Guardian series. The Silver Dragons series does not stand alone, and it is important that you take the time to read the Aisling Grey series first. Things are explained, but will make a lot more sense if you’ve read the first half. Anyway, all the familiar faces are back in this new series- which is really only “new” insofar as our heroine is new. Aisling and Drake are both present, and important to the series. Jim is there- and slightly less annoying now that he’s not in every scene, and of course Gabriel, Wyvern of the Silver Dragons, is there, as is Kostya.

May Northcott is a naiad’s doppelganger- made from shadow and common sense. She is also a top-notch thief, but because she is bound to a Demon Lord, she must steal whatever he wants. Her most recent mission has gotten May into far more trouble than it was really worth, and has gotten Thief Takers — magical bounty hunters — on her tail. Unfortunately, in her effort to return an incredibly valuable item which she took by accident, May got caught in the back garden of a Green Dragon house (and of course there is a huge misunderstanding; we all know that Drake is incredibly overprotective).

It is there that May meets Gabriel, and there that they find out that she drinks Dragons Blood (again, you remember this from the first series) and they learn that she is a Wyvern’s Mate. In fact, because doppelgangers are made, not born, she is effectively a loophole in the curse against the Silver Dragons. Unlike Aisling, May does not continue fighting and trying to get away from Gabriel; she realizes early on just how attracted to him she is, and becomes his Mate very quickly. Very early on she is officially Gabriel’s Mate. However, being bound to the Demon Lord Magoth complicates things, and she finds herself facing a hugely important decision, one that will affect the rest of her immortal life.

The Quick Version:

This may have a different series-title, but it is definitely a continuation of the first set. It does not stand alone, and if you really are interested, I would advise going back and reading the Aisling Grey: Guardian set. However, May is another strong heroine, one who you find yourself rooting for, and one who does not do the wishy-washy indecision that so many romance heroines are tainted by. We get a bit more of Aisling and Drake, and a lot more of Kostya, as well as a few (vague and confused) references to where the hell Chuan Ren and Fiat have gone. As a continuation to the original story, this book gets a 4/5 (if it was a standalone, it would get a 2, because a lot is not explained again).

If you’ve already read the other books, you can pick this one up on Amazon or through Swaptree.

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Karma Girl

Estep, Jennifer. Karma Girl (2006). 360 Pages. Penguin. $14.00

I picked this one up on clearance at Borders, and thought “why not, for $2.99, who cares if it’s bad?” It wasn’t amazing, but it was interesting, and it kept me reading, which is key. I did not find myself laughing, but I was drawn in by the plot, and it invaded my brain to the extent that I found myself thinking about it while I was not reading.

Set in a superhero universe, where every town has its own villain and superhero*, Karma Girl is about Carmen Cole, and the fury of a woman scorned.

Once upon a time, Carmen was getting married and, concerned for the feelings of her husband-to-be, she went to speak with him before the ceremony. Unfortunately, she walked in on her fiancée and her best friend banging. To make matters worse, their spandex was revealed, showing her fiancée to be a superhero and her best friend to be the town’s villain and his nemesis. Carmen, journalist that she is, snapped some pictures and published them, unmasking her first heroes.

This is the start of the next part of Carmen’s life. She enters a town, unmasks their hero and villain, and moves on, leaving a path of destruction and confusion behind her. This continues until she reaches Bigtime, New York (i.e. Metropolis, New York City, Gotham City et al.) where the Fearless Five fight the Terrible Triad. Things happen, and there is a lot I cannot reveal without spoiling things. Suffice it to say that Carmen is definitely well behind the reader when it comes to realizing identities. Alliterative names are a dead giveaway, and a seeming joke on the genre.

So anyway, our heroes (the Fearless Five) are Striker, Tornado, Fiera (star of her own novel), Mr. Sage, and Hermit, all of whom have some backstory revealed. The villains (the Terrible Triad) are Malefica, Frost, and Scorpion, none of whom get any backstory revealed. Carmen gets forcibly yanked into the Triad’s long, drawn out, and horribly convoluted plot (perhaps the longest and most convoluted I have ever had to deal with). The “twist” is not a good one, as it is not very twist-y.

As far as the story goes, Carmen is a little too stubborn, a little too whiny, a little too obsessed with karma. She’s determined to sabotage herself, and is still bitter at her ex-fiancée three years later. She’s too determined to continue her pity party, even as it becomes increasingly obvious to everyone but her that the Love Interest is interested. Due to the genre, I won’t even bother expanding on this, except to say that it has far more stupid obstacles thrown in its way than are necessary. Carmen herself drags out the romance by being intentionally dense and denying everything obnoxiously. Striker himself is a sad analog of the badass misanthropic anti-hero who goes all mushy and soft on us very early on.

The thing which has doomed this book though, has really and truly made it take a nosedive is that attempted rape is the device upon which the romance hinges. She nearly gets raped, Striker saves her, he goes all mushy and interested, and she goes all “ooh you stopped them from raping me, now I’m going to jump your bones.” She’s really fucked up from this attempt for all of a day, and then she’s too busy being hot for Striker. Ugh.

The Quick Version:

Light, reasonably enjoyable, and vaguely resembling*** an actual superhero story. It attempts to make fun of the superhero genre, which might have been more successful had the author done a bit more research on her genre. Aside from the terrible romance plot device (see above), the book is alright. It scores a 3 out of 5. Mostly because if you set aside the whining and the angst and the poor-me and the stupid bits, you have a short story about a pretty kickass set of superheros.

Want to read it? Get it on Amazon or though Swaptree.

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*Like The Incredibles, or Soon I Will Be Invincible** this world has, and believes in superheros.

**I will review this one soon

*** I mean cut apart, mangled a bit, and sort of mashed back together.

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