Monday, March 30, 2009

SEALed with a Promise, by Mary M. Daughtridge - Review

Long story short, this is a pretty good read, despite a couple of flaws.

It's a well-crafted, character-driven romance (my favorite kind) with a memorable, distinctive couple. If you love contemporary romance with military heroes, here's a new author for your list.

My biggest problem with the book is with the hero's character, and to a lesser extent, the heroine's as well. Daughtridge portrays a man with a cold, hard shell, one who lets nothing stand in the way of his agenda... and I'm afraid she succeeds just a little too well.

It's not an unusual plotline: the unlikely hero, not looking for love nor believing himself worthy of love, finds a woman who can be instrumental in his plans. Intending only to use her, he finds himself in love-- but when she finds out what his original motives were, it all blows sky-high.

That's a paragraph that could describe at least a hundred romances that I've read in the last few years. It often works, though the scene or scenes where the heroine finds her way back to trust are really, really critical.

What works in this story is Caleb's care of Emmie from the very beginning. His attraction is real. His desire to protect her from hurt even as he uses her is real, if a bit delusional. By that I mean, he really doesn't want her to be hurt and even thinks he make her a little happier... but his ulterior motive-- to get close to someone else in her social circle-- is still more important.

Which brings me to what doesn't work, at least for me. Caleb's revenge plotline is muddy and fuzzy and doesn't have a satisfactory resolution. He just "gets over it." Whatever. Secondly, the subplot which serves to spill the beans to Emmie was a near-dealbreaking turn-off for me. There are things that heroes Just. Don't. Do. in romance -- they don't kick cats, they don't mock the unfortunate or knock over old ladies, and they don't do what Caleb does. They don't even consider it. Even though he changes his mind later, it was close to irredeemable for me.

Correspondingly, Emmie is a character set up as cerebral, bookish, logical, analytical. This is pretty appealing to me in many ways, but she can't be a robot, either. Her reaction to the above "black moment" just went wrong, wrong, wrong for me. I'm going to forgive it in this book though, because my sense is that the author had a very specific blueprint for the couples' characterizations, and these reactions, while rubbing me wrong, I can see why the author might have felt they were true to the character (though sadly sacrificing humanization instead). I'm interested to see what Daughtridge does with different blueprints.

Then, on a really minor note, there's this bizarre paranormal element that's introduced for no apparent reason. It has no purpose for the plot nor the characterization, as far as I could see. I can only presume it has a reason in the overall series arc. Annoying.

On the upside, Daughtridge does a good job switching POV between the two characters, and not mixing it up with anyone else. With maybe one exception, I could always tell whose head I was in, just from the voicing. Nicely done.

The sexual tension between these characters is excellent, simmering on low for a lot longer than the current norm. (I started to wonder if it was going to be one of those books where the bedroom door closes and opens in the morning on a happily-ever-after). But Daughtridge delivers the heat, pouring it on most satisfactorily where it moves the plot most effectively.

Finally, a favorite snip. There's an early scene, where Caleb and Emmie are getting to know each other, where he calls in his buddies and they execute a wedding cake construction mission with military precision:
Lon studied the photo of the cake taken before they'd dismantled it. "If we move the pumpkin three degrees to the left, I think we can cover the dent."

"That's going to widen the angle to the peaches."

"Right. But if we rotate the entire cake, the shift in triangulation will move the discrepancy into occlusion."

Davy carefully placed the marzipan pumpkin where Lon indicated using forceps from his medical kit.

"That's it. Now we rotate the cake. Three degrees. Everybody get in position and mark."

Hilarious. I know guys like this.

Romance Vagabond Challenge Score (link): 6
...Title Points: 0
...Cover Points: 3 (Mantitty, Cutoff Head, Body of Water)
...Plot Points: 3 (Military Hero, Hero from Wrong Side of Tracks, Bookish Heroine)

What others are saying:

Good Books, Bad Books
Long And Short Reviews
Book Reviews by Bobbie

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Weekly Geeks 2009-12

To be honest, I'm not sure I qualify as a Weekly Geek. I pick and choose which of the challenges I want to do, and sometimes I bend them a bit to fit Alpha Heroes' niche. This is one of those weeks.

At some point last year, I noticed that Jackie was including a list of links to other reviews on some of her posts. I thought that was a really good idea. I followed her links, found other blogs, enjoyed multiple points of view on the same book. When I'm doing a single-title review, and when I remember, I do a blog-google on the title I'm reviewing and post links to reviews that I think are relevant. I've found some good blogs this way, and I think it adds value for my readers.

It turns out that the bright idea came from a 2008 Weekly Geek challenge, and it's been brought back for this week. WGs are challenged to sift through each others' blogs, looking for reviews that we have in common, and adding cross-links.

Which is a pretty good idea, in theory. But there are a lot of Weekly Geeks and not that many of them are romance-oriented. So what I've done is to check my last couple of reviews and update them with links found via google (see Lady Anne, Dogs and Goddesses, and White Witch, Black Curse), and also add a note to my sidebar inviting fellow-bloggers to leave their links. I've done this in specific posts but I haven't gotten much in the way of results so far. I'll work on checking out the WG archives.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

JR Ward Update

Those of you who are hoping to attend an in-person book signing for J.R. Ward's Lover Avenged, may or may not be aware that such events are a little bit rare. Ward rarely ventures very far out of the midwest, and pretty much does not fly.

If a trip to Wisconsin or Kentucky is not in your plans this spring but you would still like a signed book, I BEAR GLAD TIDINGS:

Ward and her entourage of devoted fans, fellow authors, and assistants have put together a virtual signing event. You can buy books, specify a personalized message, and choose your method of shipping. Sign-ups have begun for insiders on Ward's forum, which you can sign up for here. Once you have a log-in, look for a thread titled "Virtual Signing now OPEN!" and follow directions from there. Navigating the forum is pretty self-explanatory, but if you need any additional help finding the right spot, shoot me a comment here or PM one of the mods on the board.


Signing up on the forum is free and quick, and there are some fun extras there if you are the kind of person who loves looking for internet easter eggs. There are "slices of life" scenes that are available from the front webpage without going into the forum, which are really great if you need a between-book fix, but if you like that, dig into the forum for even more goodies. The characters from the books make occasional "appearances" on the forum; the mating ceremony between Cormia and Phury plays out in one thread, and the section called "The Brothers on The Board" is full of extra content. Fans first met the character Lassiter here long before he appeared in Phury's book, and while you don't need this information to enjoy the books, there's a whole additional layer of fun, speculation, and character nuance to be found here. Spoilers are rare and clearly marked if you want to avoid them -- the mods are vigilant and sometimes even when Ward spills a tidbit, it will get deleted!

I'm told that the virtual signing will be available to non-forum-members shortly (within a few days) from the main page, but if you want a jump on it, head over to the forum today!

If nothing but a face-to-face meeting will do, here are the announced dates for in-person signings. And hey, spring is a nice time of year for a jaunt to the midwest.
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ps, a couple people have told me that they are having trouble leaving comments -- if this is broken for you too, could you please let me know at nicola327 AT hotmail DOT com ? Much appreciated.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark - Review

What kind of book is this title, exactly?

The book is described by the publisher as “Historical romance with a twist - a little bit of gothic suspense, a paranormal element that turns out not to be, and a whole lot of fun!”

I would tend to take issue with “romance” as a main descriptor. In my opinion, it does not fit the parameters of a genre romance. I don’t think I can say more without spoilering.

Since I’m not an expert on the mystery genre, I had to do a little detective work myself to make sure I’m using the terminology correctly (as a side note, I learned that the term “potboiler” does not refer to the simmering tension of a mystery plot….)

However, as a romantic mystery, I quite enjoyed it. Set in the late 18th or early 19th century (not specified exactly, but wigs for men were on the way out of style), it took me a little bit of getting used to the cozy mystery style compared to my usual fare. My aborted attempt at reading Pride and Prejudice comes in handy here, since I recognized a couple of similarities – one, obviously, the era, and two, the technique of conveying almost all the information through dialog and very little through action.

It also suits the parameters of a gothic novel, which no, has nothing to do with the 1990s goth-kid stuff. If the title itself doesn’t convince you, the name of the hero, The Marquess of Darkefell, should cover it.

Why does it matter? Well, when I pick up a genre fiction piece, I have different expectations, depending upon which shelf I find it. So, in my inexpert opinion, what we have here is a cozy gothic romantic mystery. Within the expectations that might be prompted by that description, I think Lady Anne succeeds admirably. A number of dire incidents surrounding Darkefell Keep intertwine like a dance, coming together and apart, and Lady Anne has her work cut out for her in untangling all the threads, while juggling her attraction to the mysterious and possibly murderous marquess.

I quite liked Lady Anne’s character. Independently wealthy, the daughter of an earl, unmarried, plain but not unattractive, intelligent and no-nonsense, she’s the kind of woman that goes on to become a formidable eccentric dowager character in her golden years. Here's a snip I particularly liked:
As a girl of eighteen, she had been bullied by her mother and many a seamstress into unbecoming dresses by the score. Her Season had been one long, mortifying sequence of spring green, frothy confections, mauve monstrosities, and pink, plumed headresses....A woman must have utter confidence when dealing with seamstresses, she learned, for the tribe seemed to delight in foisting on their clientele ugly but expensive frills and furbelows, especially on plain women.
Some things never change.

She is not initimdated by Darkefell, which comes as a refreshing, though disconcerting surprise to him. The romantic element between these two is nicely done, simmering on low through the whole book. It’s been awhile since I’ve read a romance without some fairly explicit lovemaking scenes, and it was kind of nice to see sexual tension handled in a more subtle way. Made for some really memorable kisses.
If he would be insolent, she would be daring. His breath was warm on the naked skin of her wrist, where he pushed back the edge of her sleeve. He pressed his lips to her pulse, thumbed her palm, then released it; her heart, after thudding heavily, raced once more as her glove fell, disregarded, to the polished marble floor."
Whew, that's as hot as any striptease. So the romantic element is low-key but well done. The chemistry is there and I like the characters.

The mystery is solved in the classic Agatha Christy parlor denouement. I couldn’t quite decide whether this was annoyingly clichĂ© and predictable (although I did not predict the “answer”), a tongue-in-cheek homage, or just the way things are routinely done in this type of book.

On the downside, I thought the secondary characters were pretty annoying, especially Lydia. Perhaps it’s a standard thing in mysteries to have a cast of dislikeable characters, the better to evoke suspicion, but I thought there were smoking guns laid upon a lot of characters’ tables that were never really dealt with in a satisfactory way. For example, Darkefell’s younger brother John is just weird. He behaves strangely through the whole book, I thought, and it was not addressed at all. Howl is apparently the first of three books, so maybe these threads are taken up later. Which I could live with, I guess, but it still feels a bit unsatisfying at this point.

Language usage deserves a mention here. While it took me a chapter or two to get used to the slower pacing and the ratio of dialog to action scenes, I think the reason I was able to get engrossed is that the language amused and entertained me, while staying true to the character and style. Most of the narrative is in Lady Anne's point of view, and it's full of rhetorical questions and Sherlock-Holmes-style deductive reasoning. Simpson is an experienced writer and it shows in the tightness of the plotting and language.

Overall, if you enjoy Agatha Christie, Victoria Holt, and historical mysteries, this is well worth a read.


Edited to add:
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING ABOUT THIS BOOK:

Love Romance Passion
- very positive

Long And Short Reviews - "Enthralling, powerful, wonderful "

Genre Go Round Reviews
- "...a howling success" (well, somebody had to say it.)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Bookmark Final Draft

OK, here's the one I like the best. If you'd like one, shoot me an email at nicola327 AT hotmail DOT com.


If I can figure out how, I might change the blog header to use this font too (it's Chopin Script, available from dafont.com). I like how the swoop from the capital H snuggles up to the word "women." I have a slight worry that the text to the right won't be legible, but I'll cross that bridge if I get there.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Attention Julia Quinn and Kim Harrison Fans

I think if you looked at all the authors that I've reviewed and loved over the last year or so, you couldn't pick two that were more diametrically different in style and content. And yet, they do have a few things in common, other than just general authorial awesomeness:

Both have offered me hours of top notch entertainment over the last year.

Both have signed books for me and graciously ignored my stammering starstruck awkwardness.

And both are in the FINAL FOUR!!! in Harper Collins' March Madness promotion. This is really a HUGE accomplishment. The contest started out with 64 books, paired up and voted off round after round.

If you haven't voted yet, go do so here. You can also sign up to win all 64 books from the competition-- my little bookworm heart just goes pitter-pat at the very thought.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Swag: Which Do You Like?

I've been wanting to do up some bookmarks for Alpha Heroes for a little while now. I like to go to book signings, and I think it would be fun to have something to trade and pass around, and maybe snag a little more traffic. (I'm just planning to print these out on matte photo paper and cut them myself).

I've been working on the design, and obsessing slightly over details. So I thought I'd do a poll. Please vote for the one you like best!


#1 (First try) ~ 1.5"wide by 6" long



#2: (Scripty) I keep thinking that a romance blog ought to have a big fancy flowing cursive script for the title, but I didn't find any that I loved, so I just kind of stuck with italicized Times New Roman. This one has a scripty font, but I'm not sure I love it. Also ~ 1.5"wide by 6" long.



#3 (Roomy) I thought the text was cluttering up the image a bit, so I moved part of it off to the side. Not sure I love the 90-degree text, but it looked weirder on the horizontal. This one would probably be longer, like 1.5"x 7".


4. (Fatso) This one is the most like my header here, but I'm not wild about the proportions. I think it would come out about 2"x6", possibly 2.25x6.


Vote!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Dogs and Goddesses - Review

I'm a huge Jennifer Crusie fan. Huge. I got to hear her speak once, in 1994 or so, and a smarter, funnier, more supportive person you could not even imagine, much less a published author. I believe I said something to her about my being just a dilettante and she would have none of it, the message being essentially, to think positive, although I'm sure it was phrased far more originally and entertainingly.

Given all that, it makes me feel bad to write this review, because OMG, this is a stinker. The premise is, there's this Mesopotamian goddess Kammani, who gets resurrected in Ohio by accident. She has 7 attendants who are demi-goddesses, I think, well, at least 3 of them are, the other 4 are more powerful than mortals but less than The Three Special ones, who together are another goddess, but apart only manifest their powers in uncontrollably wacky sorts of ways. Are you following this? Yeah, that's part of the problem.

Technically, this is a paranormal, but the "world-building," such as it is, is more of a series of punchlines, that strung together barely have any kind of coherence. There's a more serious turn of events in order to build tension for the book's climax, but IMO it falls flat because the authors at no time before that point take any of the characters or the world's rules seriously. I'm all down with humor, you know, but if you're going to make jokes out of your own characters, I'm not going to feel much empathy for them.

The goddesses tend to be interchangeable, with the possible exception of Mina, who's your basic Wednesday Addams, with a dog. The men in the story have zero character development. The dialog of the dogs is kind of funny, though if you like that sort of thing, Betsy's blog is far more entertaining.

(Edited to add)
What others say about Dogs and Goddesses:
Speed-Reading Book Nerd Reviews - liked it
Books, Books, and More Books - about the same reaction as me
A brief but positive mention from Charlene Teglia (an author that I totally love, BTW)
The Good, The Bad, and The Unread - lukewarm but polite

Monday, March 9, 2009

Cover Comment

The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance hits the shelves today*. What do you think of the cover model? I don't know if Josh Duhamel was the actual model, but he sure is a ringer, eh?





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*Well, this was the due date. Looks like Amazon started shipping early. Do you already have it? Early reports?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

White Witch, Black Curse - Kim Harrison - Review

I'm going to wrap up this week's unplanned Harrison-fest with a review of the most recent book in the Hollows series, White Witch, Black Curse. I don't think I was quite clear on the fact that I hadn't read it yet when I did the previous two posts. I think I know what's up with that cat now, f'rinstance.

Do you think there's a limit on how many books in a row you can read from a series without getting burned out? I was a little bit let down by this one, and I'm trying to figure out if it's just that I ran out of steam, after reading 5 or 6 of them consecutively, or if maybe this one was a little sloppier than its predecessors. For instance, scent is important in the Hollows universe, and witches have a sharp nose. But she's just now figuring out what a pixie scent is? (p 79 in the hardback edition). That seemed odd to me, since Jenks regularly hangs out on her earring. And, heh-- I remember this from reading Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys-- every book has to detail certain things over and over again just in case readers have skipped the previous books. I guess it can't be helped, but jeez, how much does Rachel love her kitchen? A REAL LOT, that's how much. Because Ivy remodeled it before they moved in and it has a window overlooking the graveyard and an island and separate stoves for cooking and spelling and at this point I could write the scene myself. Ahem. *OK, grip gotten.* Sorry.

Every Hollows book seems to introduce and feature a new paranormal race or two - we get ghosts and banshees in this one, plus some additional insight into the witch's culture. Considering that Rachel IS a witch, this kind of seems long overdue, but it's good, so, OK. Each book introduces new characters, most of whom continue to appear in subsequent books, so by now, it's getting a little more difficult to keep track. I tend to confuse Glenn and David pretty regularly, for example. But that's probably just me.

I recognized Mia the banshee from the Hotter Than Hell anthology, and definitely got a nagging feeling that I was missing something about the new character, Pierce. Can't confirm, but I suspect there's a little backstory on him in 2007 anthology release, Holidays are Hell. It was enough to bug, so I recommend you go find that short before reading WWBC.

One of the things I really like about the Hollows series is the ongoing character arcs with Rachel, Ivy, and the various Powers That Be in Cincinnati. I like the shifting alliances and powerplays, and the friendships and crushes that come and go in Rachel's life. So it's probably more a sign of my own fatigue than a flaw in the series that the ongoing Rachel/Ivy angst started to feel like it was too much. And while Rachel reaches a fairly important decision (either this book or the last one, they blur) about her relationship with Ivy, it still feels unresolved and the ongoing spun-out tension is starting to feel artificial.

Overall, WWBC had more action and several competing plotlines and, IMO, less character development than previous books. I was a little frustrated that there wasn't more to do with Al in this book-- at the moment, he's definitely one of the most interesting characters and with the setup from the last book, I expected to see a lot of him. *sigh* Maybe in the next book.

It's still a good read, and for Hollows fans undoubtedly a must-read. I would not recommend reading this on its own; I think the cast of thousands and their ongoing histories would be pretty confusing.

For me though, I sort of wish I had taken a bit of a break sometime in the last half-dozen books so it would feel a little fresher. Clearly, the rest of Harrison's fans have no problem with this book; it recently hit 3rd on the NYT best seller list, so congrats are in order there.

A final tidbit: At the end of Outlaw (paperback edition), the extra scene about Al and Ceri included a flock of blue butterflies. The same butterflies appear momentarily in WWBC, and per Harrison's comments at the booksigning, we should "watch for the butterflies." Anyone who's read both want to hazard a guess? (I think they have something to do with Al's potential for 'good,' challenging the Hollows' current belief that demons and demon magic are 100% evil.)

Edited to add:
What others are saying about White Witch, Black Curse
Sci-Fi Guy - Loved it; includes lots of little quotes
Book Series Review - liked it but with caveats about the anthology stories, like me.
*headdesk* Balanced review but overall liked (great blog name, no?)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Thursday Thirteen, Edition 10

So I'm currently really immersed in Kim Harrison's Hollows series, starring the wonderful witch Rachel Mariana Morgan. And it's one of those series that stays on my mind even when I'm not between their covers; partly because I'm reading 6 or 7 books back to back and partly because they're so dense and rich, like a really excellent fudge brownie. And I have this running mental list of questions, observations, speculations, and an irritation or two. (Hey, I love the series, but nobody's perfect).

Since that's what's on my mind at the moment, I have my inspiration for this week's T13. With apologies to those Thirteeners who aren't familiar with Kim Harrison, this one won't be that interesting to you. (But this is a genre-busting series with something for everyone, so really, you should just give in and read the series. Then come back and this list will make a lot more sense to you.) Here is:




Thirteen Random Thoughts about Kim Harrison’s Hollows Universe


1. Dammitall. Is Trent a good guy or not? I NEED TO KNOW. Definitively.

2. If the magic in this world is predicated on balance (eg, the price of an earth charm is blood, the price of a demon curse is the black smut on the practitioner’s aura), what is the opposite, the balance, of the smut? It seems like there ought to be a way to eliminate it, not just move it from one being to another. I’m waiting for the angels to show up.

3. What *is* the crazy deal between pixies and elves, anyway?

4. Mild spoiler: So Rachel has witch abilities, demon abilities, carries the vampire virus, and is the member of a were pack. Oh, ‘scuse me, she’s the Alpha Bitch of a were pack (and we LOVE that). What can she do with pixies? Fairies? Elves? Gargoyles? Trolls? Well, OK, I guess she’s not quite at the tipping point yet for being the nexus of all paranormal races in the Hollows.

5. Ivy’s voice is described as a “gray ribbon,” or “gray silk” too often. What does that even mean?

6. I also think that as an expletive, “the Turn” gets overused. “By the Turn,” “Dammit back to the Turn,” etc. etc. OK, I get that it was huge, but has it actually replaced ALL other profanity?

7. Speaking of profanity though, I adore Jenks’ creative vocabulary. “Tink’s tampons”? And the little interplay between Jenks and his son, where the son says “Tink’s diaphragm” and gets called out on it? Hah, so very father/son, and yet totally warped. Love.

8. A lot of this cover art reminds me of the cover of “In the Garden of Good and Evil.” Cool.





9. I’m very curious about where the focus thing with David could go. I don’t actually think much else is going to happen in this series arc, but according to the setup, *spoiler for FAFDM* the balance of power between the vamps and the weres has shifted. Though I don’t quite get why it was such a *bad* thing for Warren to have it and now it’s an OK thing for David. Still, wouldn’t it be cool to see the Hollows in a couple of generations?

10. Something is UP with that cat Rex. Mark my words.

11. Church bells. Do church bells ring when anyone else in the Hollows does their thing? I don’t think so. What does this mean?

12. I love how Rachel’s mom is emerging as a character. Hope there’s more good stuff in upcoming books.

13. Pretty sure I could do another 13 like this. Have you read any of the Hollows books? What are you curious about? If you could spec a short story in this world about a certain plot point or character, what would it be?

.

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Visit the Thursday Thirteen site here.
The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


Monday, March 2, 2009

The Hollows - Kim Harrison - Series Review

I'm reading as fast as I can!

Really.

I got to go to a signing tonight to see Kim Harrison (damn, that woman is GORGEOUS) and got a shiny new copy of White Witch, Black Curse. Since most signings I've been to have the author reading a little blurb, I've been doing my best all week to get caught up on the series. At the moment I'm about halfway through the sixth book, The Outlaw Demon Wails. I kind of wanted to finish that and WWBC before doing a review but I just can't wait that long.

I'd read the first one, Dead Witch Walking, a couple months ago, but the series stalled for me when I couldn't find book #2, The Good, The Bad, and the Undead. Paperback copies are all but unavailable for some reason and I really didn't want the hardback. So I waited for the library system to come through with a copy for me, which was about two weeks ago.

Since then I've been burning up the series. WOW. If you're a reader who loves complicated plots, a wide cast of characters, themes that are all about shades of gray, and the interplay of love, sex, and power, this is a series you'll love.

It starts out fairly typically for urban fantasy. The POV is first person, the main character has certain magical powers, consorts with vampires, weres and demons, wears a lot of leather, has bright red hair, and is frequently described as "kick-ass" or, alternatively, "ass-kicking." You know. The usual.

But you soon get drawn in. More happens in any given Hollows book than you see in some whole series. The plotlines are impeccably drawn, twisted, hairpinned, knotted, cloverleafed, and eventually resolved, dragging the characters and the readers through a world where perceptions of black and white are slowly but surely turned upside down and run through the wash and dry cycle until the blacks are light at the seams and the whites are distinctly gray and it's hard to be 100% sure about anything.

For me though, intricate and meticulous plotting isn't enough to get me to read 6 books and to buy the 7th in hardback (!). The part that keeps me deeply engrossed is Rachel's developing character and relationships; the exploration of what love and friendship and power and sex mean and how all those things play against each other and change everything. Characters who are anything but black or white.

I have to say, there's one secondary character that deserves a special mention. Jenks is a 4" tall pixie with 54 kids, who at 18 is nearly at the end of his life expectancy. Turns out that despite his small size, you really don't want to mess with the guy-- he'll fuck you up. But he'll be making hilarious and obnoxious wisecracks while he's at it. At first, I thought his style of comic relief was a little wrong for the book, overly slapsticky or something. But as his character develops beyond kooky sidekick and convenient reconn man, he really grew on me. And really, you just have to love a guy whose repertoire of profanity includes the sweetly alliterative "Tink's titties!"

One thing that I'm enjoying about UF as opposed to straight genre romance is that the characters have more freedom when it comes to relationships. Since the book isn't *required* to end with a romantic Happily Ever After, there is more suspense and uncertainty about what is going to happen between Rachel and any given character-- just like real life. New and interesting characters show up in each book, adding layers of complication and interest and possibility to Rachel's life. I kept thinking Trent is going to be redeemed and turn out to be The One that Rachel ends up with, but events in For a Few Demons More pretty well derailed that train of thought. It could still happen, I guess, but it would certainly be an interesting character arc to get from where I am now in the series to that particular resolution.

I need to stop here, I think, or I'm going to start spoilering. I'm really enjoying the series and give it a strong recommend. Love it!

Some Useful Info:
  • Look for Harrison's books in the horror section rather than romance or fantasy.
  • She has a new YA series starting with a short in the anthology Prom Dates From Hell; the first full-length book is Once Dead Twice Shy and is due out in June of this year.
  • A new Hollows short story will be included in the anthology Unbound, due out this August. Not much info is available, but you can pre-order now.
  • Harrison's website has all the info you need about the books and excerpts from most of them, since I'm lazy tonight and not building all the individual links. There is also a slim chance that a photo of me might show up, as people were taking pictures of the book signing line. Mostly likely I'll be the one with my eyes closed (that always happens to me). However, sadly, I am NOT one of the people in the book tour T-shirts making the vampire-bunny-kiss-kiss gesture.
  • If you are buying the hardbacks, did you know that several of the mass market books contain bonus short stories? The one in For a Few Demons More was cute--it involved Rachel and Kisten kicking some not-from-around-here vampire ass. It almost read as a deleted scene to me, although it would have really been a tangent as an actual scene. There's another waiting for me at the end of The Outlaw Demon Wails, which appears to be a little story or character sketch involving Al and Ceri and demonic paperwork. Just in time to get me in the mood for doing taxes.
  • WWBC is Book 7, and books 8 and 9 are already written (though not finished). Ms. Harrison is in discussions with the publisher about the next books and how many there might be to take her to the end of the series arc that she currently has envisioned.

Reading Order:
  1. Dead Witch Walking
  2. The Good, The Bad, and the Undead
  3. Every Which Way but Dead
  4. A Fistful of Charms
  5. For a Few Demons More
  6. The Outlaw Demon Wails
  7. White Witch, Black Curse

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