Friday, May 29, 2009

Eight Short Reviews

I have fallen behind recently on keeping my reviews current with my reading. Some reviewers prefer to let the reading experience percolate a little before they write their reviews, but I like to review a book when it is fresh in my mind. Wanting to get back on track, this post is a collection of mini-reviews of recently read books that I have been unable to devote the proper time to for a full review, but I didn’t want to let the opportunity pass to share my thoughts on the following eight titles, all of which I enjoyed.

The Devil You Know by Mike Carey
Felix Castor is a freelance exorcist, and London is his stamping ground. It may seem like a good ghostbuster can charge what he likes and enjoy a hell of a lifestyle--but there's a risk: Sooner or later he's going to take on a spirit that's too strong for him. While trying to back out of this ill-conceived career, Castor accepts a seemingly simple ghost-hunting case at a museum in the shadowy heart of London--just to pay the bills, you understand. But what should have been a perfectly straightforward exorcism is rapidly turning into the Who Can Kill Castor First Show, with demons and ghosts all keen to claim the big prize. That's OK: Castor knows how to deal with the dead. It's the living who piss him off...
I’d seen a number of rave reviews for the Felix Castor series. The books have been out in the UK for some time but are usually delayed before being published here. I received an advanced copy of Dead Men’s Boots which releases in the US July 23 (my birthday as it happens) and wanted to read the earlier books in the series first and boy am I glad I did. The Devil You Know is the first in this delicious urban fantasy noir series and features Felix Castor, an exorcist and a character with one of the most unique authorial voices I have read. Every line of Felix’s dialogue, whether internal or conversational is strewn with sly and self-deprecating humour and delightful observations of the other characters and situations. The world-building is dark and edgy with a really intriguing take on the dead – after the millennium they simply starting appearing to regular people, as ghosts, as zombies and even as were-creatures. Exorcists like Felix are in demand. I can’t recommend this series highly enough.

Vicious Circle by Mike Carey

Castor has reluctantly returned to exorcism after the case of the Bonnington Archive ghost convinced him that he really can do some good with his abilities ('good', of course, being a relative term when dealing with the undead). But his friend, Rafi, is still possessed; the succubus, Ajulutsikael (Juliet to her friends), still technically has a contract on him; and he's still--let's not beat around the bush--dirt poor. Doing some consulting for the local constabulary helps pay the bills, but Castor needs a big, private job to really fill the hole in his overdraft. That's what he needs. What he gets, good fortune and Castor not being on speaking terms, is a seemingly insignificant 'missing ghost' case that inexorably drags himself and his loved ones into the middle of a horrific plot to raise one of Hell's fiercest demons. When Satanists, sacrifice farms, stolen spirits and possessed churches all appear on the same police report, the name of Felix Castor can't be too far behind...
In Vicious Circle, the second book in the series, Felix Castor takes a lot of punishment and becomes a prime suspect in kidnappings and murders. The secondary characters in these stories are a big part of the attraction of the series. Juliet, the succubus, who was introduced in the first book, plays a much larger role this time around. This is a depiction of a succubus as you may never have seen before - very alien, lacking morality and very scary. I absolutely loved her. The central mystery is complex and satisfying, the action plentiful and violent. And Felix’s wit continues to be at its sardonic best. Felix can also be philosophical, a nice layer to this complex character. Surprisingly he is an atheist or at least an agnostic which may seem strange given that he exorcises ghosts for a living which others would consider proof of an afterlife and God. This case causes some reevalutation of his by Felix of his world view. As an antithesis to his own position on the matter his brother is a priest. A rich and rewarding reading treat.

Storm Glass by Maria V. Snyder
As a glassmaker and a magician-in-training, Opal Cowen understands trial by fire. Now it's time to test her mettle. Someone has sabotaged the Stormdancer clan's glass orbs, killing their most powerful magicians. The Stormdancers—particularly the mysterious and mercurial Kade—require Opal's unique talents to prevent it happening again. But when the mission goes awry, Opal must tap in to a new kind of magic as stunningly potent as it is frightening. And the further she delves into the intrigue behind the glass and magic, the more distorted things appear. With lives hanging in the balance—including her own—Opal must control powers she hadn't known she possessed…powers that might lead to disaster beyond anything she's ever known.
In Storm Glass, her fourth fantasy novel, Maria V. Snyder returns to the world she first introduced in Poison Study (2005), Magic Study (2006) and Fire Study (2008). This time around Opal Cowan, a secondary character from Fire Study is front and center. Many of the players from the earlier books make an appearance as well. Opal is a softer, more tentative character than Yelena from the earlier novels. She has a single unique magical gift that allows her to place magic within glass during the casting process. The glass objects can be used by magicians to communicate across great distances. A valuable attribute, but Opal feels inadequate with only this minor skill in her repertoire. Opal's story is engaging because she is a flawed character, forced to confront her own fears (she has many) and desire for happiness and fulfillment. The glass theme and backdrop is exotic and interesting, the pacing excellent and the plot engaging. Interestingly, the earlier books have been repackaged as young adult and whether the knowledge of that influenced my reading I don’t know, but I did feel that this book leaned more strongly toward that readership than the previous books. A sequel, Sea Glass is forthcoming September 1.

Secret Life of a Vampire by Kerrelyn Sparks
A typical bachelor party is all about beers and beautiful women. A vampire bachelor party is no different -- except the men are drinking Blissky (whiskey-flavored synthetic blood). And no one can throw a party quite like Jack, the illegitimate son of the legendary Casanova. But when the party gets out of hand and the cops show up, Jack has some explaining to do . . . if only he wasn't struck speechless by the beauty of Officer Lara Boucher. Lara is sure there's something more than a bachelor party going on. What is Jack hiding? And why is he so interested in the recent disappearance of young women all over town? Her investigation uncovers more than she wants to know, especially about this modern-day Casanova. But if she's ever to make detective, she'll need to expose all his secrets . . . if only her heart wasn't on the line.
Secret Life of a Vampire is book six in Kerrelyn Sparks Love at Stake series of paranormal romances. This series is always is a guilty pleasure read for me. I enjoy the hijinks of the employees of MacKay Security and Romatech Industries. Every book features one of the male vampires who discovers his true love and mate. In these books it is all about the chase. He wants – she doesn’t. The object of desire is a human with no awareness of the supernatural or vampires so part of the dynamic of each book is the big reveal by the vampire. Achieving a HEA is the objective and the journey is always amusing, and fun. The next book in the series Forbidden Nights with a Vampire was released in April. For some light escapist reading you can’t go wrong with this series. (Note in the interest of full disclosure I did find that the last instalment All I Want for Christmas is a Vampire was not as strong as the earlier books but with Secret Life of a Vampire the series has returned to form).

The Immortal Hunter by Lyndsay Sands

Even vampires need a vacation. But Decker Argeneau's ends abruptly when he's asked to help hunt the group of rogue vampires targeting mortals -- one that might include a defector in his own family. Before he can worry about that, though, he's got to rescue the latest victim. It's all part of the job, including taking a bullet for a beautiful doctor. Dr. Danielle McGill doesn't know if she can trust the man who just saved her life. There are too many questions, such as what is the secret organization he says he's part of, and why do his wounds hardly bleed? However, with her sister in the hands of some dangerous men, she doesn't have much choice but to trust him. Except now Decker's talking about life mates and awakening a passion that's taking Dani beyond anything she's ever known. Being undead may not be half-bad...especially if it means spending forever with a man who would love her with his mind, body, and immortal soul.
The Immortal Hunter is the eleventh book in Lyndsay Sands Argeneau Vampires paranormal romance series and the second in the Rogue Hunters story arc. This book resumes immediately after the events of The Rogue Hunter. Sands’ twist on vampires is unique, based on nano-technology developed in lost Atlantis. The central premise of each Argeneau book is that one of the vampires discovers his life mate. He knows this because vampires can read the minds of all but their mates. The enforcers for the Council are still looking for rogue vampires and this time it is Decker who steps to center stage and of course finds his life mate in Danielle McGill, a doctor kidnapped and rescued from the rogues. Her sister remains in their clutches and the search is on. A little darker than the previous book, this one ends with a significant cliff-hanger to be continued in The Renegade Hunter coming September 29. My review of The Rogue Hunter here.

Some Girls Bite by Chloe Neill
Sure, the life of a graduate student wasn't exactly glamorous, but it was mine. I was doing fine until Chicago's vampires announced their existence to the world-and then a rogue vampire attacked me. But he only got a sip before he was scared away by another bloodsucker... and this one decided the best way to save my life was to make me the walking undead. Turns out my savior was the master vampire of Cadogan House. Now I've traded sweating over my thesis for learning to fit in at a Hyde Park mansion full of vamps loyal to Ethan "Lord o' the Manor" Sullivan. Of course, as a tall, green-eyed, four hundred year old vampire, he has centuries' worth of charm, but unfortunately he expects my gratitude-and servitude. Right... But my burgeoning powers (all of a sudden, I'm surprisingly handy with some serious weaponry), an inconvenient sunlight allergy, and Ethan's attitude are the least of my concerns. Someone's still out to get me. Is it the rogue vampire who bit me? A vamp from a rival House? An angry mob bearing torches? My initiation into Chicago's nightlife may be the first skirmish in a war-and there will be blood...
Some Girls Bite is the debut urban fantasy novel by Chloe Neill, the beginning of her Chicagoland Vampires series. This is a strong and captivating first novel with terrific world-building and is a perfect example to demonstrate that there is plenty of life and originality still to be mined in the vampire oeuvre. I liked Merit, the smart sexy protagonist a lot. Torn from her human life and turned, she must face and accept the change in her life and I love the way her humanity still shines through in this thought –
As I shivered, naked and damp, in front of the bathroom mirror, I raised my eyes skyward. “I hope we’re still okay.”
Some Girls Bite is populated with strong and fully realized characters such as Merit’s roommate, and Ethan the vampire master of Cadogan House, the vampire fiefdom to which she is now sworn. House rivalries and a mysterious rogue provide much of the action and intrigue while we observe Merit adapt and navigate her new dark and dangerous existence. Highly recommended and likely one of my top debut picks for the year. Friday Night Bites, the next Chicagoland story is due in October. Chloe Neill was here as guest a while back and you can read her post here.

Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs by Molly Harper
Maybe it was the Shenanigans gift certificate that put her over the edge. When children's librarian and self-professed nice girl Jane Jameson is fired by her beastly boss and handed twenty-five dollars in potato skins instead of a severance check, she goes on a bender that's sure to become Half Moon Hollow legend. On her way home, she's mistaken for a deer, shot, and left for dead. And thanks to the mysterious stranger she met while chugging neon-colored cocktails, she wakes up with a decidedly unladylike thirst for blood. Jane is now the latest recipient of a gift basket from the Newly Undead Welcoming Committee, and her life-after-lifestyle is taking some getting used to. Her recently deceased favorite aunt is now her ghostly roommate. She has to fake breathing and endure daytime hours to avoid coming out of the coffin to her family. She's forced to forgo her favorite down-home Southern cooking for bags of O negative. Her relationship with her sexy, mercurial vampire sire keeps running hot and cold. And if all that wasn't enough, it looks like someone in Half Moon Hollow is trying to frame her for a series of vampire murders. What's a nice undead girl to do?
Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs is hands down the funniest urban fantasy I have read this year. Luckily I didn’t read this anywhere in public because I am sure my constant chortling would have been deeply disturbing. As you can see from the blurb, Jane Jameson librarian is not having a good day, but she is definitely a glass half-full kind of girl and has a terrific and sometimes warped outlook on life that allows her to deliver an endless supply of funny observances. Here are some of my favourite lines from the book -
JANE: “What’s a vampire pet?” I asked, suddenly overwhelmed by visions of a humans on giant hamster wheels.

GABRIEL: “I’ve lived through two world wars and the disco era. I think I can manage.”

JANE: “There’s a handbook!” I asked, plucking it from the pink-wrapped cornucopia. “Thank God.”

JANE: I expected the local council to be a cross between the Lions Club and a Scorsese-esque panel of mafiosi.

JANE: I’d had post-apocalyptic nightmares like this, dreams of walking into the library and finding it ravaged, abandoned to scavengers and possibly, to zombies.
Each chapter is also prefaced with delightful quotes from “The Guide for the Newly Undead” -
New vampires are discouraged from trying to return to their normal human routines. Especially if those routines include tanning or working as a fireman. Your day will not end well.
-From the Guide for the Newly Undead.
Gabriel and Jane are well matched and the romance angle is well done. Solid pacing and an engaging story. What more can you ask. The next two books scheduled in the series are Nice Girls Don't Date Dead Men (Aug 25, 2009) and Nice Girls Don't Live Forever (December 29, 2009).

Demon Can’t Help It by Kathy Love
A Demon...Not Just In Bed - Practical Josephine 'Jo' Burke has no patience for the paranormal - even if she's been having some strange visions lately. But if she is losing her mind, at least it would explain her new attraction to her co-worker, the least suitable man she could ever fall for...Maksim Kostova has no idea why he's so drawn to feisty mortal Jo, but he does know how she feels about the supernatural. Forget about her accepting him for what he really is, she'd never even believe him in the first place. Or would she? When Jo confesses to him that she's been seeing visions of a dead girl, it seems anything's possible...
Set in New Orleans, Demon Can’t Help It is a paranormal romance from Kathy Love. A standalone story it does embrace the background and some secondary characters from previous novels. Except for the main character Maksim being a demon, this could almost be considered a contemporary romance. Jo’s visions add a nice spooky element to the story and the romance is played out in an appealing fashion with some very erotic encounters. A secondary story arc surrounding Maksim’s search for his missing sister also contributes to the supernatural ambience although the reader recognizes the connections long before the main characters do. If you are looking for a milder paranormal, violence free, give this a try.


  1. Nice! I just finished Maria V. Snyder's Storm Glass(right after reading all 3 Study books) and I think I might agree with you on it being a bit more YA than the previous 3. Then again, I only found out they were repackaged as YA after having read all 3 but before Storm Glass so who knows, maybe I'm in the same boat as you. Loved it all the same.

    It also just happens that I'm currently on page 262 of Mike Carey's The Devil You Know and I think it's great so far. :)

  2. I have Secret Life of a Vampire and the Demon Can't Help It on my TBR pile. I have not read anything by Mike Carey yet - I'll have to give him a try...thanks for the reviews.

  3. Hi Pissenlit. Agreed regardless of classification Snyder tells a great story and I really like her characters and world-building.

    Cyberclipper the Carey books were top notch. I will definitely be doing a full review on the next book.


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