Friday, October 31, 2008

Review – “Succubus Dreams” by Richelle Mead

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
Some days, a girl just can't catch a break ... especially when the girl in question is Georgina Kincaid, a shape-shifting succubus who gets her energy from seducing men. First there's her relationship with gorgeous bestselling writer Seth Mortensen, which is unsatisfying on a number of levels. It's not just that they can't have sex in case Georgina inadvertently kills him (generally a turn-off for most guys). Lately, even spending time together is a challenge. Seth's obsessed with finishing his latest novel, and Georgina's under demonic orders to mentor the new (and surprisingly inept) succubus on the block.

Then there are the dreams. Someone, or something, is preying on Georgina at night, draining her energy, and supplying eerie visions of her future. Georgina seeks answers from Dante, a dream interpreter with ties to the underworld, but his flirtatious charm only leaves her more confused-especially as the situation with Seth reaches crisis point. Now Georgina faces a double challenge-rein in her out-of-control love life, and go toe-to-toe with an enemy capable of wreaking serious havoc among mankind. Otherwise, Georgina, and the entire mortal world, may never sleep easy again.
Succubus Dreams is the third book in the Georgina Kincaid series. Of all the books so far this one is my favourite. It is a very dark, almost tragic story, not only for Georgina but for many of the supporting characters. But it all the more emotionally gripping because of it.

Georgina has an awful lot thrown her way. Her boss saddles her with an incompetent rookie succubus who is supervised by the imp who wrote the original contract for her soul. An imp she hates and fears A seed of doubt is planted that their may be something awry with its’ conditions.

Georgina is struggling to make her relationship with Seth work, but their unique circumstances (like no sex) and differing expectations make for a bumpy ride. It is clear Georgina loves him dearly and it breaking her heart when time after time events conspire to unravel her efforts to make it work.

After each seduction of her victims, Georgina is tormented with vivid dreams of a domestic life that seems to fulfill her every desire for happiness—a husband, a home, a child and a profound feeling of contentment. Things missing from her waking life. Each day she rises with the captured energy drained from her and a deep sense of loss.

Georgina consults Dante, a magical human familiar with her supernatural world to help interpret her dreams and identify the source of the energy drain. Despite significant difference a certain respect builds between the two. We learn a great deal about Dante, a story that in many ways parallels Georgina’s in terms of choices and consequences.

Additional relationships are mirrored with Georgina’s. A posse of Angel’s are in town for unknown reasons and a human member of their party crashes with Georgina. Eventually we learn how their mission and Georgina’s troubles are connected. She observes the secret and forbidden love affair between one of the Angels and her guest, not unlike her own relationship with Seth. Foreshadowing her future, the affair ends in the most tragic of ways and is perhaps the most poignant scene in the novel.

With Succubus Dreams, Georgina continues to evolve as a fascinating and complex protagonist. She has had centuries to reflect and regret her choices which led her to becoming a succubus but she remains steadfast in her positive outlook. At several points the Angels compliment her with “you’re not so bad for a demon”. And in fact, there are several veiled implications that she may have a destiny very central to the good versus evil struggle.

This is not a HEA episode in Georgina’s life, but it is one that explores her resilience and tests her endurance and resolution. Almost as if she is being prepared for bigger things. I look forward to seeing how Georgina will grow the next time around. I hope you will too. Can be read without prior exposure to the series but as always better appreciated if you read the earlier books for back story and recurring characters.



Author and Book Showcase


Excerpt from Chapters 2 & 3

Kensington Publishing Corporation
Published: October 2008
ISBN #: 9780758216434

Georgia Kincaid Series

  1. Succubus Blues
  2. Succubus On Top
  3. Succubus Dreams
  4. Succubus Heat [2009]



Book Releases for November

Here is a partial list of forthcoming Fantasy, Urban Fantasy and Paranormal books to look forward to in November. Reviews as time and budget permits.


Science Fiction


Check out the Locus page for forthcoming titles. Coverage through June of 2009.



Fantasy, Paranormal & Urban Fantasy


ANTHOLOGIES:

SUITE 606
BETTER OFF UNDEAD edited by Martin H. Greenberg
LOVE IS HELL


NOVELS:

A MERMAID'S KISS by Joey W. Hill
CASTING SPELLS by Barbara Bretton
MAGIC TO THE BONE by Devon Monk
MIDNIGHT SINS by Cynthia Eden
NEW TRICKS by John Levitt
QUEEN OF OBLIVION by Giles Carwyn
THE DEMON KING AND I by Candace Havens
THE FLAME AND THE SHADOW by Denise Rossetti
THIRTEEN ORPHANS by Jane Lindskold
WINTER KISSED by Michelle Hauf & Vivi Anna


SERIES:

ANY GIVEN DOOMSDAY by Lori Handeland (Phoenix Chronicles #1)
BLOOD BARGAIN by Maria Lima (Blood Series #1)
DARK MAGIC by Cheyenne McCray (Magic #4)
DEMON BOUND by Meljean Brook (Guardian #4)
FORTUNE AND FATE by Sharon Shinn (Twelve Houses)
ON THE PROWL by Karen MacInerney (Tales of an Urban Werewolf #2)
PRINCEP'S FURY by Jim Butcher (Codex Alera #5)
SHADOW KISS by Richelle Mead (Vampire Academy #3)
SWALLOWING DARKNESS by Laurell K. Hamilton (Merry Gentry #7)
THE BLACK SHIP by Diana Pharaoh Francis (Crosspointe #2)
THE DRAGON MASTER by Allyson James (Dragon #3)
THE GODS RETURN by David Drake (Lord of the Isles #9)
THE LORD-PROTECTOR’S DAUGHTER by L.E. Modesitt Jr. (Corean Chronicles #7)
THE MANE ATTRACTION by Shelly Laurenston (Pride #3)
THE REAWAKENED by Jeri Smith-Ready (Aspect of Crow #3)
DEEP WATER by Pamela Freeman (Castings Trilogy #2)
FISH OUT OF WATER by MaryJanice Davidson (Mermaid #3)
IMMORTAL WARRIOR by Lisa Hendrix (Immortal #1)
ON THE PROWL by Karen MacInerney (Urban Werewolf #2)
ONE SILENT NIGHT by Sherrilyn Kenyon (Dark Hunter #17)
SUCCUBUS TAKES MANHATTAN by Nina Harper (Succubus #2)
THE DEVIL'S DUE by Jenna Black (Morgan Kingsley #3)
THE PAGAN STONE by Nora Roberts (Sign of Seven #3)
WAIT TILL YOUR VAMPIRE GETS HOME by Michele Bardsley (Broken Heart #4)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

World Fantasy Convention Starts Today

The World Fantasy Convention started today in Calgary and runs through the weekend. Here's a quick look at the event poster and press release. You can visit the website here. If anyone knows of any bloggers posting from the convention, please leave a comment. The World Fantasy Awards will be announced on Sunday. Here are the nominees in the novel category:
  • Territory Emma Bull [Tor]
  • Ysabel Guy Gavriel Kay [Viking Canada/Penguin Roc]
  • Fangland John Marks [Penguin Press]
  • Gospel of the Knife Will Shetterly [Tor]
  • The Servants Michael Marshall Smith [Earthling Publications]
For Immediate Release

Calgary will be hosting this year's World Fantasy Convention from October 30th to November 2nd at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. This is the first time an international convention of this significance in the literary world is to be hosted in Western Canada. Fantasy and Horror authors, internationally renowned artists, and publishers and editors will be attending. The theme for this year’s World Fantasy is: Mystery in Fantasy and Horror.

Guests of Honour include: David Morrell, creator of Rambo, winner of the World Horror novel of year 2006, and winner of the World Comic award 2007; Barbara Hambly, fantasy, mystery and horror writer; Tom Doherty, publisher of TOR books, the largest publisher for speculative fiction in North America; Todd Lockwood, award winning fantasy cover artist and our toastmaster is Tad Williams, international best selling fantasy author.

Individuals who love reading fantasy and horror novels will have the opportunity to meet over two hundred authors of speculative fiction from all around the world. Many Canadian authors will be in attendance such as, Guy Gavriel Kay, Dave Duncan, Steven Erikson and Robert J. Sawyer. Some of the authors from outside of Canada include; George R.R. Martin, L.E. Modisett, S.M. Stirling, David Drake and Patricia McKillip, from the USA, as well as Paul Cornell (Dr. Who scriptwriter) from the UK, Garth Nix from Australia and Jay Caselberg from Germany.

During the four days of the convention there will be discussion sessions and readings followed by presentation of the 2008 World Fantasy Awards on Sunday November 2nd. Full details about the convention and who will be attending is available online at:
www.worldfantasy2008.org. Questions can be sent to: info@worldfantasy2008.org. Everyone is welcome to attend. Pre-registration at our current rates are available until October 5th, 2008. Rates will be higher at the door. Banquet tickets for the awards lunch must be purchases in advance. There will be no day passes.
We are currently arranging for free public lunch hour readings through the Public Library. Dates and authors will be announced soon.

Please contact Clifford Samuels at 403 242-1807 if you would like additional information or to arrange interviews.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Review - “Fallen” by Claire Delacroix

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
When her estranged husband's mysterious death is declared an accident, Lilia Desjardins knows that it is a lie. She leaves all she knows to risk the dark heart of the Republic -- only to find that she herself has been targeted by forces unknown.

Adam Montgomery will do anything to complete his earthly mission, even if he has to tangle with the enigmatic Lilia Desjardins. But when his contact is murdered and he must rely on Lilia’s silence to save him from the slave dens, Adam knows that his wings were only the first sacrifice required of him.

As danger and intrigue surround them, Lilia and Adam realize that they must work together -- body, mind, and soul -- in order to save the world.
While billed as a dark fantasy romance by the author and as paranormal romance by the publisher, I can safely say that Fallen can easily be included in the growing sub-genre of Science Fiction Romance (SFR).

In the year 2099, the United States is now known simply as the Republic and has become a totalitarian regime. New morality codes severely restrict women’s behaviour and dress in public. The inner cores of most of the major cities are uninhabitable from a series of terrorist attacks by nuclear ‘dirty bombs’ throughout the century. People identified with genetic mutations from the radiation (known as Shades) now form a slave labour underclass and are subjected to medical research with no rights. All citizens are closely monitored and tracked.

Set against this convincing dystopian nightmare, Delecroix has built a solid mystery romance. Lilia is a hunter who finds Shades and saves them from the system by placing them in special Circuses which are safe havens by Republic law. Lilia is investigating the suspicious death of her mathematician husband who had been conducting confidential research for the Nuclear Darwinists about the Shades when she is witness to another brutal murder.

From the beginning you are aware that the story is a good vs evil tale, as Adam Montgomery is an Angel who forsakes his wings to become human in order to investigate the rapidly declining state of human affairs. What better place then as a city detective in New Gotham? Their individual missions cross paths and ultimately they find themselves working towards common goals, but not without first overcoming significant trust issues. Lilia after all is a rule breaker and Montgomery is a cop. Her and authority do not get along.

Montgomery and Lilia both have secrets and as they both realize they are falling in love it is both painful and fascinating to see how they deal with the many obstacles presented. Montgomery is destined to regain his wings when the mission ends and Lilia is terrified of losing him.

There is plenty of action and intrigue as the two pursue conspiracies and more murders while outwitting Republic surveillance and unknown enemies. What they ultimately uncover is decidedly evil and holds the fate of the Republic hostage.

Lilia is a relentless, compassionate heroine. Montgomery experiencing and embracing his humanity is a conflicted hero with strength and hope.
When she returned to his side and touched his elbow, he laid one hand over hers. His gaze remained locked on the falling star. "Mine," he whispered, but she didn't understand.

No one could own falling stars.

It was only when it had disappeared at the horizon that Raphael turned to face her, only then that Lilia saw the tears on his cheeks.
I’m a sucker for the HEA and the conclusion to Fallen is picture perfect. The science fiction world building is very well done with an interesting mix of sfnal tropes.

Claire Delacroix says that this is the beginning of a trilogy with the next volume called Guardian due this time next year. I look forward to its arrival. The author also writes the popular Dragon Fire series of urban fantasies as Deborah Cooke.

For more information on the Science Fiction Romance genre I encourage you to visit Heather at The Galaxy Express where there are many excellent articles and commentaries on the topic.



AUTHOR AND BOOK SHOWCASE

Official Claire Delecroix Website
Official Deborah Cooke Website

Read an Excerpt

Tor Paranormal Romance
September 30, 2008
ISBN #: 978-0765359490

The Fallen Trilogy

1. The Fallen
2. Guardian (Oct 2009)

Dragon Fire Series [Urban Fantasy]

1. Kiss of Fire [2008]
2. Kiss of Fury [2008]
3. Kiss of Fate [2009]


Sunday, October 26, 2008

“Steelflower” by Lilith Saintcrow

FROM THE BACK COVER:
Picking the wrong pocket can get a girl in trouble …

Thief, assassin, sellsword—Kaia Steelflower is famous. Well, mostly famous, and mostly for the wrong reasons. She’s made a good life for herself, despite being kicked out of her homeland for having no magic. She’s saving up for her retirement, when she can settle down, run an inn, and leave the excitement for others.

Then she picks the wrong pocket, wakes up with a hangover, and gets far more than she bargained for. Now she has a huge, furry barbarian to look after, a princeling from her homeland to fend off, and an old debt to fulfill. And for some reason, the God-Emperors assassins want to kill her. Its never easy being an elvish sellsword, and this time it just might be fatal…
Steelflower is an engrossing sword and sorcery fantasy that delivers a rousing adventure, with a dynamic female lead. Sword and sorcery traditionally has not offered a lot of strong female heroines; Howard’s Red Sonja comes to mind and some stories in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s sword and sorcery anthologies. With the heroine Kaia Steelflower, Saintcrow is solidly making her mark in this male territory.

Kaia Steelflower is a renowned sellsword, a member of the Thieves Guild and an accomplished assassin. She is also an expatriate from the Elvish lands (a G’mai) with greater speed, strength and superior senses as is natural for her kind. She has no magic and no s’tarei (a paired male protector or twin) which is not natural. The how’s and why’s of all of these things are intricately woven into the main story as we journey with Kaia. Steelflower is as strongly character-driven as it is action oriented and we come to know and care greatly about Kaia.

A barfight opens up the story, with Kaia saving the life of a huge barbarian named Redfist who is being attacked by the city guard. The same barbarian whose pocket she picked the night before. Having saved his life, he insists that his honour demands that he accompany her as repayment of the debt. Together they make a harrowing escape from the city. The necklace she stole from Redfist stirs discomforting thoughts.

On their journey to the next town, they realize they are being followed, Kaia suspects the necklace has something to do with it and abandons it. Shortly they are confronted by Darik, one of the first G’mai that Kaia has met outside of her homeland. He too is a loner and has been using the necklace as a magical Seeker to search for his adai, or female counterpart. He believes Kaia is his adai but she disagrees. Reluctantly she allows him to join her growing band of travellers.

In the next town, Kaia’s life becomes even more out of control. Darik is being sought by several pairs of G’mai. Turns out he is a Prince of the ruling house and in line to be heir, a role he has no interest in. He refuses to return and sticks by Kaia insisting she is his intended adai. A pair of the G’mai decide to stick with Darik, the adai of the pair is an apprentice teacher and believes Kaia does have magic and needs to be trained. Kaia remains skeptical, but is deeply troubled by the thought.

Kaia responds to a plea from an old mercenary friend for aid and plans to join a caravan headed to their new destination. Before leaving town, Kaia’s travelling band acquires two final members, a young thief that idolizes Kaia and a minstrel responsible for many of the outrageous ballads that enhance her reputation.

As Kaia’s group journeys they survive attacks by mage assassins, wyverns and become embroiled in a rebellion against the God-Emperor. There is never a dull moment. But beyond the obvious thrills, it also a journey of self-discovery for Kaia, Darik and her companions. It explorers their hopes and fears, reveals their strengths and weaknesses.

The world building in Steelflower is also finely crafted, with plenty of lands and cultures, phrases and names that will fascinate and delight you. Despite the book blurb above which implies a tongue-in-cheek tone, Steelflower is more of a fun, riveting adventure with some comedic moments. Action moments especially the many sword fights and encounters are vivid and exciting.

Saintcrow has fashioned a memorable heroine and a terrific crew of colorful supporting characters along with a firmly establish fantasy world. The future adventures of Kaia Steelflower should be exciting indeed.

Readers of Ms. Saintcrow’s urban fantasy series with Dante Valentine and Jill Kismet should also enjoy this.



Author and Book Showcase

Official Lilith Saintcrow Website

Book 1 of the Steelflower Chronicles
This was originally released as an Ebook in 2007. Contains several B&W illustrations.

Read an excerpt.

Samhain Publishing
Sept. 1, 2008
ISBN #: 978-1599986425



Saturday, October 25, 2008

Updated Book Trailer for "Bite Me" by Parker Blue

I had previously reviewed the engrossing young adult urban fantasy novel Bite Me, so I was surprised and delighted when the great people at Belle Bridge Books advised me that they were going to use a quote from my review in the newest version of the book trailer.



Author and Book Showcase

Official Parker Blue Website

Book 1 in the Demon Underground series.
Read an
Excerpt.

Belle Bridge Books
Available: October 2008
ISBN #: 978-0-9802453-8-7


You can read my earlier review
here.

Friday, October 24, 2008

“Wolfsbane and Mistletoe” Edited by Charlaine Harris & Toni L. P. Kelner

My favourite urban fantasy anthology of 2007 was Many Bloody Returns featuring stories by a diversity of fabulous authors on a theme of ‘vampires and birthdays’. This year Harris and Kelner have followed it up with Wolfsbane and Mistletoe which includes stellar cast of writers on a theme of ‘werewolves and Christmas’. A surprisingly large number of dark tales are to be found (I know, I know—they’re werewolves) considering the seasonal setting. Makes me rethink the pecking order of werewolves versus vampires.

Here is a brief look at the 15 howling Christmas tales.

"Gift Wrap" by Charlaine Harris
A short Sookie Stackhouse story that occurs after the events of the most recent novel. Sookie is spending Christmas alone until she finds an injured werewolf in the woods near her home. Nuturing Sookie just has to take action. Contains spoilers if you aren’t up to date on the series. A feel-good story although I must say Sookie’s relative is a piece of work despite his good intentions.

"The Haire of the Beast" by Donna Andrews
A humorous tale of revenge. A witch’s brother wants to be a werewolf so she researches the spell but also concocts some magical Christmas brownies for her ex. A Lhasa Apso is involved. An amusing ending.

"Lucy, at Christmastime" by Simon R. Green
Simon Green is known for his Nightside series and here we have a werewolf in a Nightside bar reminiscing about Christmas pasts and his lost love. You can see the ending coming from a mile away, but it still brings a smile to you face anyway when you get there.

"The Night Things Changed" by Dana Cameron
This tidy little tale of a brother and sister team tracking down a serial killer. She’s a vampire and he’s a werewolf. In their world supernatural creatures are members of the Fangborn and are always the good guys until now when they learn the killer is one of them. Some nice ideas and suitable HEA.
Mistletoe
"The Werewolf Before Christmas" by Kat Richardson
Perhaps my favourite of all the stories in the collection, Kat Richardson who writes the Greywalker series, turns out a very twisted tale. Matthias the werewolf finds himself at the North Pole and having just finished off eating Rudolf the Reindeer is corralled by St. Nick into being his replacement. Most definitely an alternate take on our Christmas traditions. The clever Matthias ends up with more then he bargained for.

"Fresh Meat" by Alan Gordon
Turns out that dogs aren’t only mans best friend but a werewolf’s best friend too. A smart, fun story where the dog and the girl save the day and the bad guys get their just desserts. Another one of my favourites.

"II Est Né" by Carrie Vaughn
A Kitty story set at Christmas just before Kitty Takes a Holiday. Kitty feeling alone and depressed meets a newly made werewolf in a Waffle House. The chance encounter leads them to catch a serial killer, brighten Kitty’s outlook and save the sanity of the new werewolf. A nice ‘It’s a Wonderful Life” style ending.

"The Perfect Gift" by Dana Stabenow
A confusing tale of two cops in Alaska tracking down serial killers (what’s with all the serial killers?). She’s a werewolf and he isn’t. Or is he? My least favourite of the collection as I just couldn’t figure this one out.

"Christmas Past" by Keri Arthur
The author of the Riley Jensen series brings us a Christmas romance story about two cops tracking a killer. He’s a werewolf and she has psychic abilities. Ex lovers they find their new joint case brings them together again. Hottest story in the collection.

"SA" by Joe Konrath
Perhaps the most twisted tale in the anthology and outrageously absurd and funny. Forget everything you thought you knew about Santa Claus and his elves. Here is the straight scoop. The SA of the title refers to Shapeshifters Anonymous. Manages to include were-turtles, were-coral and even furries (don’t ask). Tied as my favourite. I guess I have a sick sense of humour.

"The Star of David" by Patricia Briggs
A poignant story of Christmas reconciliation from the author of the Mercy Thompson stories. After many years, the estranged human daughter of a werewolf asks her father for assistance even though he killed her mother/his wife under tragic circumstances. Another favourite.
Wolfsbane/Aconitum
"You'd Better Not Pyout" by Nancy Pickard.
Another amusing twisted tale of two ex-soviet vampires (hence the ‘pyout’) in Florida who figure out that Santa is a vampire and that his Christmas scam gets him an open invitation to homes which he later visits for snacking on more then milk and cookies. Wanting in on the action, they ultimately end up in Africa thwarted by a werewolf. Don’t worry it all makes sense once you’ve read it.

"Rogue Elements" by Karen Chance
This is a fine police procedural mystery from the author of the Cassandra Palmer series. Set in the Las Vegas of the Palmer universe, it is a tale of werewolf pack politics and intrigue. Lia a member of the War Mage Corps is in denial about her were heritage.

"Milk and Cookies" by Rob Thurman
Rob Thurman of the Cal Leandros series offers up a deliciously bent story of what werewolf children really want under their Christmas tree. Loved this one.

"Keeping Watch Over His Flock" by Toni L. P. Kelner
Another poignant tale from editor Toni Kelner. Jake a young shapeshifter learns the true story of the nativity and the role of werewolves. He becomes a hero when he rescues a missing girl but needs to shapeshift into something unexpected to protect the secrets of the pack. Funny with a nice HEA.

There are more then enough great stories in this collection to recommend it, although it is not quite as strong as last years anthology.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

“Moonstone” by Marilee Brothers

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
The girl voted least likely to save the world may have to do just that.

A sickly mom. A crappy travel trailer. High school bullies and snarky drama queens. Bad-guys with charming smiles. Allie has problems. And then there's that whole thing about fulfilling a magical prophecy and saving the world from evil.

Welcome to the funny, sad, sometimes-scary world of fifteen-year-old Allie Emerson, who's struggling to keep her act together (not to mention her mom's) in the small-town world of Peacock Flats, Washington. A zap from an electrical fence sets off Allie's weird psychic powers. The next thing she knows she's being visited by a hippy-dippy guardian angel, and then her mysterious neighbor, the town "witch," gives her an incredible moonstone pendant that has powers only a "Star Seeker" is meant to command. "Who, me?" is Allie's first reaction. But as sinister events begin to unfold, Allie realizes she's got a destiny far bigger than she ever imagined

If she can just survive everyday life, in the meantime.
Moonstone is the first book in a satisfying new YA urban fantasy series ‘Unbidden Magic’. We are introduced to Allie, a teenager with a dysfunctional single mother and living in near-poverty. Allie is a smart, self-reliant young girl who despite these home life handicaps is not resentful, but has a practical glass-half-full-attitude. Even when her gifts are awakened and discovers she has a destiny, Allie works hard not to let it overwhelm her.

Moonstone delivers an impressive and emotional rollercoaster reading experience. What had previously been a relatively quiet life for Allie is thrown into total disarray. Her mentor is attacked and hospitalized in critical condition, Child Services looms threateningly, and she locates her father who has been absent from her life. As if these events are not enough of a curveball, Allie as the prophesied Star Seeker becomes a target of the evil Trimarks who want her moonstone pendant for the supposed telepathic powers it confers on the wearer.

Allie befriends and enlists the aid of an unlikely ally, Junior Martinez the school badboy and former gangbanger. Brothers does a wonderful job of not portraying ethnic and teenage stereotypes in the usual way, but cuts to the heart of their character, breathing real life into them. Junior reminded me of a kinder gentler version of Weevil from Veronica Mars. The two develop a strong bond and it is easy to see that Junior will play an important role in future stories.

Moonstone offers plenty of tension-filled and dramatic moments including a near escape from the Trimarks when they invade Juniors’ home while Allie is alone. One of the most vivid scenes occurs when Allies’ mother is kidnapped and Allie is taken hostage as well. Truly riveting and suspenseful.

Moonstone is a very well-crafted, well-paced story. Allie is not the usual kick-ass heroine but a normal teenage girl struggling with unusual powers and thrust into exceptional circumstances. Readers of all ages should enjoy this fresh and bewitching tale. Moonstone nicely establishes a solid back story and cast of characters to launch the next volume in the series. Recommended.


Author and Book Showcase
Marillee Brothers
Official Marilee Brothers Website

Book1 of the Unbidden Magic series

Read an Excerpt.

Belle Bridge Books
Published: August 2008
ISBN #: 978-0-9802453-4-9


Watch the book trailer.



Tuesday, October 21, 2008

“Bite Me” by Parker Blue

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
My kid sister shrugged, trying to act nonchalant. "Dad might not like it if you get vampire blood in his trunk."

I slammed the trunk shut. "He's used to it. Besides, the blood will disintegrate along with the rest of the body when sunlight hits it."

Barely eighteen-year-old heroine Valentine Shapiro got a raw deal in the parent lottery. Her father was part incubus demon, and her mother's never forgiven her for that.

Life after high school is tough enough without having to go 15 rounds with your inner demon. Thrown out of the house by her mother, Val puts one foot in front of the other and does the only thing that seems to make any sense--she takes aim at the town vampires. A stake a day, keeps the demon at bay. (But don't call her Buffy. That makes Lola, her demon, very cranky.)

Her dark side makes everyday life a roller coaster, but means she's perfect for her night job as a bounty hunter. San Antonio's vampires are out of control, and it's up to Val, her faithful hellhound Fang, and her new partner, a handsome San Antonio police detective, to get the deadly fangbangers off the city streets.

Soon enough she finds herself deep in the underbelly of the city, discovering the secrets of the Demon Underground and fighting to save those she loves. Whether they love her back or not.
This week I am delighted to be reviewing a new line of YA urban fantasy books from Belle Bridge Books (Bite Me by Parker Blue, Moonstone by Marilee Brothers and later, Once Bitten by Kalayna Price).

First up is Bite Me by Parker Blue, an exciting new YA urban fantasy and the first book in The Demon Underground series.

Val is your typical outsider teenager. She doesn’t fit in. She has few friends other then her sister Jennifer. She’s been home schooled. Why? Because she is part demon—a succubus in fact and needs to disguise her true nature. The general public knows nothing about the supernatural creatures among them. She calls the demon part of herself Lola. To satisfy her demons lustful cravings, she seeks out and kills vampires. Otherwise losing control could mean hurting the ones she loves.

And just as Val turns eighteen her already complicated life becomes more so. Her family asks her to move out to protect her younger sister from her influence. Sixteen year old Jen is fascinated by vampires and would like to be like her older sister, but she is plain human and not equipped for the dangers. Val is even fired from her job at the family bookstore. She’s on her own, confused, unhappy and angry.

Fortunately not all of her luck has deserted her. While staking a vampire in the park to vent her frustration she encounters a stray terrier, a loner like herself that is part demon—a mongrel hellhound in fact. Fang as he calls himself, is intelligent, telepathic and can smell vampires, in other words a perfect partner for a part demon vampire hunter.

Needing a job, Val contacts Dan Sullivan, a police detective from the Special Cases Unit that investigates supernatural crime, to see if he might have some work for her. Before you know it she is the squads’ newest recruit and Dan’s partner and her life sets out in a new direction.

Parker Blue has created a smart, sympathetic character facing a host of unique challenges. How Val responds to these demands is depicted in realistic terms and hits just the right note for an inexperienced, but strong young women. Along the way she deals with an emerging relationship with her partner, evolving powers and a family placed in jeopardy.

Moral ambiguity is introduced early on placing troublesome demands on the team. Val starts out believing all vampires are evil and should be staked, but as events proceed it becomes less clear that this is so. If a vampire was decent as a human would they not remain that way? This extra subtlety is often overlooked even in non-YA novels and adds essential complexity to the story.

Above all, Bite Me is an entertaining, police procedural mystery with loads of action and witty banter. Val’s’ adventures take her into an unrealized world of the supernatural, whose depths she is only just beginning to understand. Engaging for readers of all ages, this new YA urban fantasy is recommended. I look forward to Parker Blue’s next ‘Demon Underground’ tale with Val, Dan and Fang. You will too.

Author and Book Showcase

Official Parker Blue Website

Book 1 in the Demon Underground series.
Read an
Excerpt.

Belle Bridge Books
Available: October 2008
ISBN #: 978-0-9802453-8-7


Watch the book trailer.




Monday, October 20, 2008

“The Gypsy Morph” by Terry Brooks

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
Eighty years into the future, the United States is a no-man’s-land: its landscape blighted by chemical warfare, pollution, and plague; its government collapsed; its citizens adrift, desperate, fighting to stay alive. In fortified compounds, survivors hold the line against wandering predators, rogue militias, and hideous mutations spawned from the toxic environment, while against them all stands an enemy neither mortal nor merciful: demons and their minions bent on slaughtering and subjugating the last of humankind.

But from around the country, allies of good unite to challenge the rampaging evil. Logan Tom, wielding the magic staff of a Knight of the Word, has a promise to keep—protecting the world’s only hope of salvation—and a score to settle with the demon that massacred his family. Angel Perez, Logan’s fellow Knight, has risked her life to aid the elvish race, whose peaceful, hidden realm is marked for extermination by the forces of the Void. Kirisin Belloruus, a young elf entrusted with an ancient magic, must deliver his entire civilization from a monstrous army. And Hawk, the rootless boy who is nothing less than destiny’s instrument, must lead the last of humanity to a latter-day promised land before the final darkness falls.

The Gypsy Morph is an epic saga of a world in flux as the mortal realm yields to a magical one; as the champions of the Word and the Void clash for the last time to decide what will be and what must cease; and as, from the remnants of a doomed age, something altogether extraordinary rises.
The Gypsy Morph is the concluding volume in the Genesis of Shannara fantasy trilogy. As the series title implies, the trilogy explores the origins of Shannara. Standing on its own merits apart from the rest of the trilogy, The Gypsy Morph is a fine example of the post apocalyptic science fiction novel with a twist. The twist of course is that the death of our technological civilization brings about the birth/rebirth of an age of magic—making The Gypsy Morph a welcome blend of fantasy and science fiction.

I had not read the first two parts of the series and it was obvious that I was missing big chunks of back story and was also picking up on story threads started in the earlier books, but after a few chapters it was easy to become immersed in Brooks’ breezy narrative style and brisk pacing.

Strong themes run through The Gypsy Morph. Even though there are grand battles and cross-country pursuits of predator and prey, the story focus always remains on the people and in most instances on the children. Simple acts of courage and sacrifice are found everywhere. There are enduring expressions of hope and love despite the overwhelming obstacles, harsh realities and implacable enemies. This is especially refreshing compared to the usual dark, despairing atmosphere found in many apocalyptic scenarios.

There are tragedies too. Even with characters drawn with but a few broad strokes, you feel an emotional connection so when tragedy strikes or a character is imperiled, you feel the impact. In many cases the effect was heightened because so many of the characters are children and the portrayal of the evil stalking them so insidious.
All of them had believed they were following someone they could trust. All of them had believed they were safe right up until the end.
Our survivors are being lead to the safe haven by Hawk, the gypsy morph of the title. Barely more then a boy, the other children follow him solely on faith.
He was born a gypsy morph, a thing of wild magic. But his past was hidden from him, and he only just found out the truth about himself.
Even as the world is breathing its’ last gasp, we come to realize that the ending that our diverse group of survivors is anticipating is something beyond the cataclysm they are already experiencing—something even more ominous then the radiation, disease, environmental collapse, mutations, and forces of demons and Once-men. The ultimate cause of the Earth’s denouement is neatly hinted at in the opening chapter and bookended by the final chapter.

The travails of the Ghosts, Knights of the Word and Elves are exciting and heart wrenching in equal measure. I certainly plan to seek out the earlier books in the trilogy to learn more and share in the experiences of these memorable characters. Like the character namesake, the book The Gypsy Morph is a thing of wild magic. Highly recommended.


Author and Book Showcase


Official Website

Read an excerpt from Chapter One.

Read a letter to fans from Terry Brooks about The Gypsy Morph.

Read an interview with Terry about the writing of The Gypsy Morph

The Genesis of Shannara Trilogy

  1. Armageddon's Children
  2. The Elves of Cintra
  3. The Gypsy Morph
Suggested reading order of the Shannara books from Terry Brooks.



Sunday, October 19, 2008

Preview of Legend of the Seeker

The television adaptation of Terry Goodkind's Wizard's First Rule series debuts on November 1. Here is a 10 minute preview of the season opening 2 hour episode. More details about the show are available at the Legend of the Seeker website.



Official Twilight Movie Poster and Trailer

2008 is the year of Stephenie Meyer what with the huge success of Breaking Dawn this summer and the fall release of Twilight. Earlier this month the official poster and movie trailer were released for Twilight. With the movie only a little over a month away here's a look.


Twilight HD Exclusive Trailer




Saturday, October 18, 2008

“Bond of Darkness” by Diane Whiteside

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
Texas Ranger Stephanie “Steve” Reynolds is on the hunt for a serial killer who is stalking innocent women in the Lone Star State. The beautiful Ranger comes to suspect the unbelievable – that the killer is a vampire.

Steve knows all about vampiros, since she has a demon lover of her own. For the past several years, Ethan Templeton has been helping her on cases when he wasn’t sharing her bed. But Steve, craving mortal motherhood, refused to get serious about the handsome vampire. Especially after she saw him kill a man she’d just arrested…

Ethan loves Steve, but he thinks nothing can come of their passion. Even if he could convince her to share his immortal life, his vampire patron, Don Rafael Perez, would execute him for transforming her.

But when the killer menaces Steve, Ethan realizes he has no choice except to risk everything. Will Steve agree to join a man she’s called murderer—or will she refuse her one chance at eternal life, lust, and love?
Bond of Darkness rounds out Diane Whiteside’s trilogy of The Texas Vampires. This gritty urban fantasy series has been a particular favourite of mine. In it the author has created a unique vampire culture based on customs and language from feudal Spain. Layers of this heritage flavour the book with a rich texture that melds wonderfully with the frontier cowboy culture of Texas.

The novels are dark and hard-edged, about powerful men with strong passions and loyalties, evocative in many ways of gangster stories like the Godfather, only with vampires. Against this backdrop is interwoven a compelling romance. This is Ethan and Steve’s story.

Bond of Darkness may seem familiar to those that have read the earlier two volumes. Much of the background story arc is a fresh retelling of many of the events from the first two books told from the point of view of Steve and Ethan. Steve has been Ethan’s lover off and on for 15 years and is recently divorced. Her work as a Texas Ranger leads her to investigate a horrible string of deaths, that may be murders, and she suspects vampires are involved. She reconnects with Ethan romantically and professionally to enlist his aid.

There is plenty of taut action as Steve pursues her investigation leading her to crime lords, vampires and more then one bloody showdown. The case expands to include the FBI and U.S. Federal agents and a joint task force. Steve benefits from her insider knowledge of vampires but is unable to share the real truth with her fellow agents in the hunt for the killers. The law enforcement procedural elements of the story are particularly well done.

Through Ethan’s eyes we see the entire behind the scenes activity in the lengthy war against Madame Celeste and her New Orleans vampire forces responsible for the troubles in Texas. As head of security for the Texas territory Ethan is intimately involved in every detail. We also watch as he struggles with his envy of his patron’s cónyuge, or life mate bond and his own desire for a similar bond with Steve.

All of the story threads, both romantic and action, converge in a rousing and satisfying conclusion. Bond of Darkness may be read as a standalone novel; however I would encourage everyone to read the earlier books. That prior knowledge will bring an additional appreciation and depth to this freshly told and many-layered urban fantasy thriller.

As a final observation, I have often found it curious that in the fictional worlds of immortal vampires, urban fantasy and paranormal authors rarely take advantage of the opportunity to delve in to the historical antecedents of their characters backgrounds even though centuries of history may be available to mine. Handled appropriately, integrating detailed flashbacks can add considerably to the stories. This is ably demonstrated in Ms. Whiteside’s trilogy where such flashbacks add even more depth to her already complex characters.

Read the Prologue and Chapter One.

Earlier Books in The Texas Vampire Trilogy
From the author’s website.
  1. Bond of Blood is the first volume of The Texas Vampires trilogy. While most of the story takes place in present day Texas, part of it occurs in thirteenth century Spain and fifteenth century Lebanon. It was published in January 2006.
  2. Bond of Fire is the second volume, focusing on Jean-Marie St. Just, Don Rafael’s chief diplomat and spy. Again, while most of the story takes place in present day Texas and New Orleans, part of it takes place during the French Revolution and the Peninsular War. It was published in January 2008.
Watch the Book trailer.



Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday Findings

Artist Interview – J.K. Potter
Check out Genreville’s interview with illustrator J.K. Potter who recently completed a cover for the Subterranean Press collection of steampunk stories by James P. Blaylock.

Mashup Serialization at DeadBooks.com
A rather unusual science fiction multimedia project is up and running at Deadbooks.com. From the producers introduction -
For the last eight years, underground content creator, PantherRun Productions LLC has been working on a new form of SF/Horror entertainment for the web called The Deadbooks Project. With the help of 30 actors and about 40 musical groups from almost as many countries, they're taking a novel and transforming it into something that has yet to be seen on the Net. It's not really a novel anymore, but nor is it a movie, nor an old-time radio show, though it contains attributes of all those story-telling techniques. It's called a Hyper-Serialization. Web-launch of the first 10 hour season is now.
Recruiting Science Fiction Readers
Heather from The Galaxy Express is guest blogging at Tor.com with a funny and insightful article on how to encourage non-SF readers to give it a try. The article is called Green Eggs & Ham (you’ll find out why when you visit).

Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson Books Optioned for Movies

I know this was announced awhile ago but I hadn’t seen it posted until I came across it in the Orbit newsletter. The original press release can be found at Publishers weekly. Patricia's Mercy Thompson series is awesome and would make a great film.

Subterranean Press Announces New China Mieville Novel

In its newsletter this week Subterranean Press announced that they will be publishing the limited edition of the major new novel The City and the City by fantasist China Mieville.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

“The Rogue Hunter” by Lynsay Sands

FROM THE BOOK COVER:
Samantha Willan is a workaholic lawyer. She's grateful for some rest and relaxation in cottage country, and after a recent breakup she wants to stay as far away from romance as possible. Then she meets her irresistible new neighbor. There's something strange and mysterious about his eyes. Is it just her imagination, or are they locked on her neck?

Garrett Mortimer is a rogue hunter. His last assignment united Lucian Argeneau with his life mate, and Mortimer is hoping this one will be less . . . adventurous. He's here to track down a reported rogue, but fun in the sun is every bloodsucker's nightmare. Worse, he can't seem to get his mind off Samantha, especially when he spies her skinny-dipping in the lake. After eight hundred years as a bachelor, is he ready to turn a volatile attraction into a lasting love affair?
The Rogue Hunter is the tenth foray for Lynsay Sands into the paranormal romance world of the Argeneau vampires. Reports have reached the Council that a rogue vampire has been feeding from the human population in cottage country north of Toronto, so a two-man Enforcer team is dispatched to investigate. Mortimer and his partner Bricker arrive at a fellow Enforcer’s cottage to use as a base of operations and discover three lovely women vacationing next door.

Very quickly Mortimer recognizes that Samantha, Sam for short, is his ‘life mate’ because he cannot read or influence her thoughts. She is not at all what he expected nor is he sure she’s the life mate he wants, but can he afford to pass up the chance? Samantha is smart, independent and suffering from an inner ear infection that makes her appear drunk and clumsy (it takes Mortimer a while to figure this out). Needless to say Mortimer becomes distracted with conflicting priorities—his mission or his life mate.

The guys are eager to combine business with pleasure by spending time with the gals and using their local knowledge to help them find the rogue. Of course the girls have no idea the guys are vampires. To further complicate matters, Sam is asked by her boss to look into the disappearance of a clients’ daughter in the area. The guys wonder if the two events are connected. Sam and Mortimer partner up to solve their individual problems.

This book had me laughing out loud numerous times. Sands’ uses impeccable timing and outrageously funny circumstances to repeatedly thwart Sam and Mortimers’ amorous opportunities. I am not going to itemize them here but suffice to say they involve leeches, bears and police sergeants. Add the equally outrageous idea of daylight averse vampires spending time in vacation country, boating on the lake, barbecuing and site-seeing and you have a comical tour-de-force. A cast of amusing and entertaining secondary characters rounds out the picture.

The various mystery plot lines and the central romance are neatly intertwined and come to satisfying conclusions. The Rogue Hunter is one of the best Argeneau novels to date. As long as Lynsay Sands keeps writing about these charming vampires, I will be waiting in line for my copy. This novel is an excellent entry point into Sands’ paranormal romances but does not require prior knowledge of the series (the author does have a unique interpretation of vampire origins and abilities but it is conveyed well in the context of the story for new readers).

Read the first four chapters.

Previous Books in the Argeneau Series:
  1. A Quick Bite [2005]
  2. Love Bites [2004]
  3. Single White Vampire [2003]
  4. Tall, Dark & Hungry [2004]
  5. A Bite To Remember [2006]
  6. Bite Me If You Can [2007]
  7. The Accidental Vampire [2008]
  8. Vampires Are Forever [2008]
  9. Vampire, Interrupted [2008]
The eleventh book in the series is called The Immortal Hunter and will be out in March 2009.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"The Forever War" by Joe Haldeman to Become Ridley Scott Movie

This is exciting news. Not only is one of my favourite science fiction novels, The Forever War, going to be made into a movie but to boot it is being done by one of my favourite film directors - Ridley Scott. Below is the cover of the first edition paperback from 1975. The Forever War received both the Nebula and Hugo awards.

Boing Boing has an excellent recap of the announcement here.

“One Bite with a Stranger” by Christine Warren

FROM THE BOOK COVER:
When Regina’s friends insist on setting her up a “Fantasy Fix” to help her get over her cheating ex, she dreams up some kinky out-of-this-world encounters that they could never possibly bring to life. But the next thing Regina knows, her friends have got her laced into a shiny black corset, tight leather pants, and a sexy pair of stilettos. It’s time for some downtown vampire-fantasy fun…

The Vampire Ball in Manhattan’s East Village isn’t really Dmitri Vidâme’s idea of a good time, but as a member of the Council that governs the Others, he has to keep an eye on all the young vamps who prey on the pretenders. After he feasts his dark eyes on fiery Regina at the bar, he knows that he must have her. But for the first time Dmitri meets a woman who is more than a match for his indomitable will. And he may be the fantasy Regina hoped for… until she—and her feisty friends—discover her sexy new lover’s bloodsucking secret…
One Bite with a Stranger is subtitled ‘The First Book of the Others’ and as the author reveals on her website is actually an expanded version of her first paranormal romance novel Fantasy Fix (Pub. Ellora’s Cave). This is the classic supernatural creature (vampire) meets fated mate story with the traditional HEA.

The cover synopsis pretty much sums up the story except for a minor subplot involving Dmitri investigating illegal vampire turnings which adds a couple of action scenes and is quickly resolved. The main ‘thrust’ of the story is the love story between Reggie and Dmitri. The erotica factor is pretty high—the first love scene lasts 4 chapters and 64 pages.

Overall this was a quick and pleasant paranormal romance read. However, having read all of the previous novels in the Others series, I would have to say that One Bite with a Stranger adds very little to the Others cannon. If you have not read an Others novel I would encourage you to start with one of the more recent titles, all of which deliver a more sophisticated and engaging urban fantasy layer with the paranormal romance.

The next Others novel will be out next year and is called You’re So Vein. Great title.

Read an excerpt from Chapter One.

Books in the Others Series:
  1. Wolf at the Door [2006]
  2. She’s No Faerie Princess [2006]
  3. The Demon You Know [2007]
  4. Howl at the Moon [2007]
  5. Walk on the Wild Side [2008]

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Shameless Plug - True Blood

True Blood just seems to get better each week. Here's a preview of the upcoming episode 7 and a look to later episodes as well.



Monday, October 13, 2008

“Paul of Dune” by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
Frank Herbert's Dune ended with Paul Muad’Dib in control of the planet Dune. Herbert’s next Dune book, Dune Messiah, picked up the story several years later after Paul’s armies had conquered the galaxy. But what happened between Dune and Dune Messiah? How did Paul create his empire and become the Messiah? Following in the footsteps of Frank Herbert, New York Times bestselling authors Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson are answering these questions in Paul of Dune.

The Muad’Dib’s jihad is in full swing. His warrior legions march from victory to victory. But beneath the joy of victory there are dangerous undercurrents. Paul, like nearly every great conqueror, has enemies--those who would betray him to steal the awesome power he commands. . . .

And Paul himself begins to have doubts: Is the jihad getting out of his control? Has he created anarchy? Has he been betrayed by those he loves and trusts the most? And most of all, he wonders: Am I going mad?
I confess it has been many years since I last read Dune, so I began Paul of Dune with some trepidation, figuring I might struggle to makes sense of events and characters that had come before. The novel opens with a simple scene of Paul and his closest family, mother Jessica, concubine Chani and sister Alia, building a small shrine in the mountains to the memory of Duke Leto. And as simple as that, the mythos of Dune all slipped back into place.

As the blurb above states, Paul of Dune is a direct sequel to the original Dune, commencing a year after the downfall of the Empire. The book is divided into seven sections with the odd numbered sections containing chapters about Paul’s reign as Emperor over the first five years and the even numbered sections flashing back to Paul’s life as a 12 year old boy. Of particular note are the stylish quotations that cleverly accent each chapter with insights into character and place.

With this alternating perspective, we come to see the man Paul Atreides has become in counterpoint to the key events that helped shape his early pre-Dune life. I found that the political discussions and planning of the initial jihad campaigns in the early chapters moved a bit slowly but in later chapters the pacing quickened and became richer in detail and action. Two significant story arcs focus on assassination attempts against Paul and are well-crafted with great tension and suspense.

All of the boyhood sequences are a fascinating look into House Atreides and the many pivotal characters from Dune. We get to learn more of allies, friends and family including Duncan Idaho, Gurney Halleck, Duke Leto and his concubine Jessica. Baron Harkonnen and Emperor Shaddam play pivotal roles as well. In his twelfth year, Paul gains a lifetime of experience surviving several assassination attempts on the family and participating in his first military campaign with his father. Love, duty and relationships are explored as his father plans a political marriage to the daughter of ally House Ecaz. Echoes of these early life lessons are found in Paul’s relationships between Chani his concubine and Princess Irulan his wife.

Secondary characters are also given their moments in the sun as well. I particularly liked the poignant look into Princess Irulan’s role as wife and biographer of Muad’Dib. Stilgar, Gurney and Jessica each receive additional attention as well. In expanded roles from their original appearance in Dune, Count Fenroy, his wife Lady Margot and their daughter Marie play major roles in one of the many conspiracies against Paul and they are deliciously devious and captivating.

As to be expected, Paul spends much of the novel struggling with his humanity, coming to terms with the consequences of his actions in following the course his prescient visions have set him upon. It is not easy being a man, an Emperor and a God. Early on Paul reflects –
“…he could think only of the dichotomy between his private feelings and his public image. Although he could not abdicate his role in the ever-growing machinery of government and religion around him, only a very few loved ones saw the real Paul. And even with this select group, he could not share everything.”
Paul of Dune is a complex tale and terrific companion to the original Dune. And even more amazing is how seamlessly they fit together considering Dune was first published 45 years ago. If you haven’t read Dune, I would recommend reading it along with Paul of Dune, as if they were one novel for maximum pleasure. The authors are to be commended for such a satisfying sequel and tribute to one of the greatest science fiction classics.

Read an excerpt.

To learn more about the extensive Dune universe visit the official website.

View a video interview with Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson about the book.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

“Midnight’s Daughter” by Karen Chance

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
Dorina Basarab is a dhampir—half-human, half-vampire. Subject to uncontrollable rages, most dhampirs live very short, very violent lives. So far, Dory has managed to maintain her sanity by unleashing her anger on those demons and vampires who deserve killing.

Now Dory’s vampire father has come back into her life. Her uncle Dracula (yes, the Dracula) infamous even among vampires for his cruelty and murderous ways, has escaped his prison. And her father wants Dory to work with the gorgeous master vampire Louis-Cesare to put him back there.

Vampires and dhampirs are mortal enemies, and Dory prefers to work alone. But Dracula is the only thing on earth that truly scares her, and when Dory has to go up against him, she’ll take all the help she can get…
Midnight’s Daughter is a spin-off novel from Karen Chance’s popular Cassandra Palmer urban fantasy series. Chance’s new character Dorina is a dhampir and unapologetic kick-ass, bad-guy smiting anti-heroine. If this resembles an archetype of many paranormal and urban fantasy central characters you would be right. However, Chance has imbued Dorina with her own special brand of sardonic humour, self-reliance and a unique back story.

Midnight’s Daughter is a non-stop action adventure. Mircea, the master vampire from the Cassandra novels, is Dorina’s father and recruits her to track down and recapture Dracula. Dorina is reluctant, but her room mate has disappeared, and Mircea promises the resources of the Council to locate her in return for her services. Dorina agrees because her room mate is one of her few friends, a witch, a calming influence on her volatile dhampir nature and currently the most important person in her complicated life.

Dorina is a lone-wolf and ostracized in the supernatural community because of her outcast dhampir nature. Mircea partners her with her uncle Radu’s son Louis-Cesare, a master vampire with a murky past. As they work together their relationship evolves from open hostility, to grudging admiration and eventually into a burgeoning romantic entanglement.

Actions scenes are frequent and descriptively violent and not for the faint of heart. All events lead to the climatic confrontation with Dracula and you will not be disappointed with the explosive conclusion.

Chance’s quirky humour shows though on numerous occasions including a battle on a parade float in Las Vegas, featuring a cameo appearance by Casanova from the original series. A later scene has Dorina struggling with an uncooperative flying carpet covered footstool while trying to have a conversation. It has to be read to be believed.

While not exploring new urban fantasy territory, Midnight’s Daughter is an unpretentious, rollicking actioner just right for a weekend of guilty pleasure reading. If you liked the Cassandra Palmer series you will certainly enjoy Midnight's Daughter.

Read the first two chapters.

Be sure to visit Fantasy & Sci-Fi Lovin' Book Reviews for an excellent interview with author Karen Chance.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Urban Fantasy & Paranormal Book Cover Video


I have noticed around the fantasy and paranormal blogosphere lots of discussion about the similarity of many of the book covers and a heavy penchant for the use of half-clad women with tattoos. So I quickly scoured through my collection in search of the truth.

Indeed there is a uncommonly frequent use of women in left, right, front and back poses in disturbingly similar styles among a diversity of authors. Almost as if there was a branding guideline for the genre (or the art directors are all related).

In any case I put together a little video showcasing the paranormal/urban fantasy covers from the last couple of years and grouped them together for everyone’s amusement.

I hazarded a guess that the initial style was emulating or paying tribute to the covers from the Kushiel fantasy books [first seen in 2002] by Jacqueline Carey, but as I am not familiar with enough genres and book art it may have originated anywhere. If anyone has any ideas as to a more likely source please leave a comment. Also feel free to let me know about your favourite covers I may have missed in case I ever update the video (or do a sequel).

So enough chit chat. On with the movie…



Wednesday, October 8, 2008

“Untamed” by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
Life sucks when your friends are pissed at you. Just ask Zoey Redbird – she’s become an expert on suckiness. In one week she has gone from having three boyfriends to having none, and from having a close group of friends who trusted and supported her, to being an outcast. Speaking of friends, the only two Zoey has left are undead and unMarked. And Neferet has declared war on humans, which Zoey knows in her heart is wrong. But will anyone listen to her? Zoey's adventures at vampyre finishing school take a wild and dangerous turn as loyalties are tested, shocking true intentions come to light, and an ancient evil is awakened in PC and Kristin Cast's spellbinding fourth House of Night novel.
Untamed is the fourth book in the House of Night series following Chosen [2008], Betrayed [2007] and Chosen [2007]. This YA urban fantasy series should only be read in sequence as each volume builds on the back story and events of the previous installments. As a result there is likely to be spoilers below if you have not read the earlier books.

Untamed is much more of a transitional story then the previous books. Zoey deals with the consequences and aftermath leftover from the last book and there are quite a few of them – Loren’s betrayal and death, the break up with Eric, the broken Imprint link with Heath, Aphrodite’s conversion to humanity, Stevie Rae’s undead rebirth as a red-marked vampire, and the loss of trust from her circle of friends.

New characters are also introduced including a new transfer student named Stark, with an amazing ability as an archer. He is fated to have profound impact on future events and Zoey’s inner circle. The arrival of the High Priestess of all the vampires at the House of Night thwarts some of Neferet’s plans and advances others. Could she be an ally?

Aphrodite continues to experience her visions despite being human proving she is still favoured by Nyx. A new vision warns of the emergence of a terrible evil with dire consequences not just for the House of Night and the vampires but for humanity as well. The source of evil is connected to Zoey’s native American heritage so her grandmother becomes entwined in the situation. The clock is ticking as Zoey and her friends seek to understand all of the ramifications of this new threat. Is Neferet involved and how are the red-marked vampires connected? How can they change the course of the vision and prevent a catastrophe?

All of these events culminate in an explosive ending that I would not have predicted, but will lead to an amazing next volume. The Cast’s it seems have decided to escalate life at the House of Night from minor action and intrigue to a major good versus evil conflict. A daring but welcome step. You won’t be disappointed with Untamed.

Read excerpt from Chapter One.

A new website has been created for the House of Night series with some interesting features. You can now make a photo of yourself with customized Vampire Marks.For example, what if Angelina Jolie was a vampire? Visit the website and make a vampire or fledgling of yourself.

Watch one of several book trailers featuring the principal characters created for Untamed.



Monday, October 6, 2008

“Blood Angel” by Justine Musk

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
In downtown Manhattan, a rising young painter is haunted by disturbing dreams. Her walls are covered in her own scrawls: Release the boy....

In small-town Minnesota, a teenage orphan struggles with a knowledge beyond his years—and a destiny he wants no part of....

In California, people are tuning in to a new underground rock band. Young and old, hipsters and. hippies, all are falling under the spell of its wildly charismatic lead singer.

Her voice breaks down all barriers—including the ones between heaven and hell.

The fans of Asha are starting to find one another—and the world is running out of time...
I had read some glowing reviews about Lord of Bones the sequel to Blood Angel, so I figured I would start at the beginning and ordered copies of both. The series is an urban fantasy featuring the supernatural and demons. Frankly, I haven’t read a more depressing book since my first reading of Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant stories years ago.

All of the principal characters are broken individuals (can’t call them people because some aren’t). Lucas, an ex-rocker and addict; Jessamy, an artist with a tragic past and troubling dreams; Ramsey, a foster teen also with a tragic past; Kai, a 700 year-old nephilim, alone and burdened; and Asha, Kai’s equally old, demon possessed half-sister consumed with rage. With a few exceptions, the supporting cast are equally from the fringes of society.

Asha has escaped from her prison and returned to the human world with an all-consuming hatred for mankind and the intent of cleansing the world by bringing demons through a portal from the Dreamlines. Kai is out to prevent this with the help of Jessamy who unbeknownst to her is the descendant of a powerful nephilim family. She has a dual soul and unrealised magical abilities that must be awakened and used to defeat Asha. Ramsey nature is similar to Jessamy’s and he also plays a pivotal role.

There are a lot of dream and ‘visions’ sequences in this book described in circuitous and oblique language. I don’t mind a few of these types of literary devices to advance a plot but essentially the overall style of the novel follows this pattern. Scenes often seem incomplete or fragmented and almost deliberately obscure - creating a feeling of disconnection from the story and the characters. This is not to say the novel is badly written – it is not. In fact, stylistically it is quite impressive for a debut novel, but for me not a very approachable or likable story.

The sequel was written and released three years later and may in fact be totally different from this first book. I would like to hear from anyone with an opinion on the sequel. In the meantime it is coming off my TBR pile in favour of more pleasurable reading options.

Fans of some of Stephen King’s more macabre offerings may find aspects of Blood Angel to their taste.

Read the first chapter.