Tour’s Books Blog

July 14, 2010

Short Reviews – 3 New Releases in Urban Fantasy and Erotic Paranormal

May and June are big release months for ‘beach reads’.  That includes lots of romance, mystery, urban fantasy and paranormals.  I read my way thru some good ones and a below average one from a writer I generally like a great deal.  I am often amazed and pleasantly surprised by some authors – good and bad:

  • Title: Twice Bitten
  • Author:  Chloe Neill
  • Type:  Urban fantasy
  • Genre: Werewolf and vampire in an uneasy alliance; Chicagoland Vampires Book 3
  • Sub-genre:  Schemes and plots; should the world know about shifters?
  • My Grade: B-  (3.9*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Full length novel; about 90,000+ words for $15.00 list but discounts available ($I paid 8.85)
  • Where Available:  book available at any book store
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased book from online bookstore

The Chicagoland Vampires is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. It isn’t quite the type  story I like, but I was surprised to find that Chloe Neill is getting better with each installment.  Hardcore UF readers will justifiably complain this is UF light.  True, but I think UF light has broader appeal than the noir style stories while maintaining just enough of an edge keep from sliding into paranormal chick-lit.

Twice Bitten picks up where Friday Nite Bites left off, with the Apex of the North American shifters calling the packs together in Chicago.  I a very unusual move, Gabriel Keene asks Merit, the Sentinel of Cadogan House, and Ethan Sullivan, the master of Cadogan, are asked to provide protection for the pack gatherings.  The first meeting is in the back room of a shifter bar where the 4 Alphas meet and agree to abide by the vote of the conclave.  The differences between shifters and vamps is pronounced and in this book, the author starts developing a second society of supernaturals.

The relationship between vamps and shifters is a very rough one.  Vamps feel the shifter community abandoned them to ‘the cleansing’ when humans hunted and killed vamps in huge numbers hundreds of years ago.  On their side, shifters have ties only with other shifters.  They ‘pass’ for human, but shifters are magic.  Vamps give off magic, but aren’t magic users like mages, warlocks and witches.  Shifters ARE magic.  Ms Neill creates an interesting concept here, but it lacks something to help fully understand the ideas she has.  The relationship between the two groups has bitterness and resentment on both sides.

The attraction between Merit and Ethan has been playing out through the story line and it is a fair part of the story here.  It’s used to underscore the very different world views and philosophies of shifters vs. vamps.    In play here is the decision by the shifters to either stay in place or do what they’ve done before, retreat from the world to their home in Alaska and wait out the results of inescapable human vamp confrontations.  The mages and and many other supernaturals simply don’t have the numbers that the shifters have.  Should they choose to retreat from the world, the vamps will likely be hunted down.  What humans fear, they kill.

Gabriel understands the mutual animosity – and the fact that the long lives of vamps means they were there the last time the shifters retreated and left them on their own.  But he will abide by the will of the Pack.  This tension, and the sexual tension between Ethan and Merit, and Ethan’s struggle to reconcile the political needs of his house and his personal desires make for good reading.  Lots of action and some sex, well balanced so that the story line played into each aspect of the various relationships.

The weakness here was the supposedly big denouement where the ‘traitor’ is revealed.  It lacked proper build up.  It would have made for a more interesting and intense read had the whole hunt for traitor been played better.  Instead, it took a back seat to the romance.  That took what could have been a really exciting, tension filled story and brought it down to just better than average read.

My recommendation – Twice Bitten enough plot and action to rate a ‘give it a read if you like UF light’.  It’s currently in the $10.00 range in stores and on websites.

*******************************************************************

  • Title: Insatiable
  • Author:  Lauren Dane
  • Type:  Futuristic quasi-erotic romance
  • Genre: Book 3 of the Phantom Corps series
  • Sub-genre:  Princess escapes from insane tyrant father and falls for handsome rescuer
  • My Grade: D (2.1*)
  • Rating:  PG-13 to NC-17
  • Length and price:  Full length novel; about 90,000+ words for $15.00 list but discounts available
  • Where Available:  book available at any book store
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased book from online bookstore

If Chloe Neill seems to be improving with each book in the Chicagoland Vampire series, Lauren Dane is slipping with each book in her Phantom Corps series.  Insatiable is anything but.  Admittedly, I have not been a big a fan from the beginning, mostly due to weak storytelling beyond romance and way too many arch-typical plot devices and characters, but this entry was just LAME!  Trite characters, no real tension, an over the top bad guy that barely makes an appearance, and a romance that felt like a transplanted Regency.

I had occasion to go back and read Ms Dane’s Thrice United, a book in her Witches Knot series.  It reminded me just how much better she used to be.  Insatiable reads like a contemporary semi-romantic suspense novel, weak on the suspense part, with a not particularly interesting female lead and a hero that lacks any of the really hard edges and inner conflicts that make books like Suzanne Brockmann’s Over the Edge or Out of Control so good. And by the way, I did not find it ‘erotic’, just mildly warm in a few places.

Insatiable just can’t decide what it wants to be.  Daniel Haws is handsome and brave.  Carina Fardelles is the beautiful, sheltered, virgin daughter of an insane tyrant that’s about to be given as a bride to one of his sexual deviant supporters.  So Carina and her mother decide she must seek the aid of the Federation and escape carrying information on some horrible germ warfare development that her crazy father has developed.   To smuggle out the information, Carina’s mother inject a chip encoded with the data, still encrypted, into her body.  Now  you’d think this would be the start of a kick-ass escape.  Alas, not. 

Insatiable is  not suspenseful or exciting enough to compete with any of the UF books out there, like Linda Robinson’s Seph Alcmedi series or Diana Rowland’s Kara Gilligan series.  But neither is it a great romance in a futuristic setting.  The characters are too cookie cutter and bland.  Stick them in breeches, Hessians and ballgowns and we could be waltzing in some mindless Regency England romance.  The whole ‘forbidden love’ angle was pretty much a non-starter since the whole ‘class difference’ thing was done to death in her previous installment, Relentless, about Abbie Haws and Roman Lyons.  The ‘Great Escape’ was so plodding and dull it left me wondering when and if the action would really start – which it never really did.

Sorry folks, Insatiable was a snooze fest and only the most ardent fans of this generally below average series will enjoy this lightweight space fluff.  My recommendation, either wait for a cheap used copy, borrow it from a friend, or just give it a miss.  Don’t waste $10+ on this one.

****************************************************************

  • Title: Dopplegangster
  • Author:  Laura Resnick
  • Type:  Urban fantasy
  • Genre:  Mystery meets UF as an actress in NYC gets involved with magical events
  • Sub-genre:  Funny heroine gets mixed up with mob deaths and magic
  • My Grade: B (4.0*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Full length novel; about 90,000+ words for $15.00 list but discounts available
  • Where Available:  book available at any book store
  • FTC Disclosure:  This book was from a book swapping site

Well color me shocked.  I haven’t been paying attention to Laura Resnick, a well established romance and si-fi fantasy writer  – and daughter of Mike Resnick, an editor and si-fi writer of considerable talent – and 5 Hugo Awards.  Dopplegangster is actually second in the Ester Diamond series, but enough of the events in the first book – published 5 years ago and currently out of print – are recapped in the opening chapter that it reads just fine as a first book.

Dopplegangster, a fast, funny, clever book, was such an unexpected surprise that I found myself delighted and entertained from start to finish.  Esther Diamond is a mid-west girl trying to make it on Broadway.  When her off-Broadway show closes without notice, she’s once again left doing what most aspiring actors do, waiting tables.  Her suspicious detective “maybe potential boyfriend”, Connor Lopez, realizes the tables she’ll be waiting on are at a mob hangout, Bella Stella, in Little Italy – a big problem for their budding relationship given he’s just been promoted to the Organized Crime task force.  And there have been two hits there in the last few months.  But Ester needs the flexibility – and the big tips – that job gives her.  Besides, Stella is very understanding of actors needs when it comes to casting calls.

But life as a waitress takes a strange turn when Chubby Charlie Chiccante, a Gambello crime boss, is murdered in front of her.  A shaken Ester finds that Lopez is one of the cops.  She hasn’t seen him since he left for special training several weeks before and now she has to explain that’s he’s her ‘cop boyfriend’ she’s used to keep the amorous advances of the mob guys at bay.  Too bad she hasn’t had a chance to tell him before he arrives at the crime scene.

It’s bad enough that Ester is mixed up in another very strange murder, but she’s also surrounded by wiseguys, including the aging, but still famous hitman, Lucky Battistuzzi.  The forensics team soon discovers that unless bullet go around corners, the shot that killed Chubby Charlie was impossible – and the cops are convinced Ester HAD to have seen the shooter – despite all the other eye witness accounts agreeing with hers.  Ester is confused, and she gets more confused when she remembers what Charlie was telling her just before he died about seeing his double.  The more she thinks about it, the more she becomes convinced he DID see his double.

Ester finds herself suddenly under Lucky’s wing as she investigates.  His job is to take out Charlie’s killer – but he had no idea that Ester would involve him in magic.  Ester turns to Max, an absent minded mage and books store owner and the three set out trying figure who has the power to summon dopplegangsters and commit murders without being seen.

Read and enjoy this entertaining UF romp.  It’s not so far into card core UF that mystery fans would be completely put off, and several of the scenes – including the one where Lopez sees Ester for the first time in weeks at the scene of Chubby Carlie’s murder – are a hoot.  There might not be any Grandma Mauser, but it does have the lighthearted feel mixed with the edge of a determined killer that reminded me of the early Stephanie Plum books.  A nice balance of fun, mystery, and magic.

My recommendation, buy Dopplegangster and enjoy.  The third book in the series is due out in Dec and will be on my auto buy list.

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