Tour’s Books Blog

September 23, 2010

Misc Book Reviews – Paranormal/UF Series

Let’s start with a very ‘chick’ book that’s second in a series, then on to two Urban Fantasy series entries.

  • Title: Deeply, Desperately
  • Author:  Heather Webber
  • Type:  Paranormal mystery lite
  • Genre:  Psychic gets involved in missing person’s case
  • Sub-genre:  Second in the Lucy Valentine series
  • My Grade: C (3.0*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Full novel about 80,000+ words for $7.99
  • Where Available:  book available at any book store
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased book from online bookseller

This harmless bit of fluff is lightly entertaining and will appeal to those who enjoy the Molly Harper Jane Jameson books.  Not a lot of substance, very fast read, and pleasant characters.  Unlike Truly, Madly, the first book in this series, the mystery plot is weak and really predictable.

Valentine, Inc. is Boston’s premier matchmaking firm with a 90% success rate, but the gift comes with a curse.  The Valentines will not find true love themselves.  When Lucy valentine was a child, lightening struck her and she can no longer see auras, but she gained the ability to ‘see’ lost objects.  That doesn’t help matching people looking for love, unless it’s Lost Love, reuniting old loves that have lost each other.  It’s trickier than matching auras because it involves a lot of routine detective work, but that OK, because Lucy has just the man for the job, Sean Donovan, a former fire-fighter turned PI.  Now part of Valentine, Inc for the first time, Lucy is contending with an 84 year old vet looking for the woman he fell in love with during WWII and pushy reporter Preston Bailey.  For reasons known only to her father, Preston has been granted access to Valentine’s Inc for a series of articles.  Having tangled with Preston in Truly, Madly, Lucy is less than thrilled.

The plot has lots of different story arcs, but none are tension builders or likely to leave you guessing.  Lucy gets pulled into a missing person case that’s gone cold.  The wife of a cop who went missing and is assumed to be a victim of of a cop with a temper.  Once you meet the cop, you know they’ve got it wrong.  Lucy and her friend work on getting their third friend unengaged so she has a chance with hunky police detective Aiden.  Sean and Lucy finally manage to get together for the night -no details, so this stays PG-13.  And Lucy has to figure our what’s going on with her wandering father, and Sean’s ex-fiance who comes back in his life, as well as getting some creepy threatening letters resolved.

Sounds like a lot going on, but trust me, it’s all about as straight forward as it gets.  Mysterious this book isn’t.  Still, it was fast, fun, fluff read and a pleasant enough way to send an afternoon.

Was Deeply, Desperately worth $7.99? hummmmm…………. I’d say no unless you go for ultralight chick-lit romance with a hint of mystery, and I do mean the very barest hint.   Harmless and mildly entertaining fluff.  It does NOT belong in the mystery section.

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

  • Title: Unperfect Souls
  • Author:  Marc del Falco
  • Type:  Paranormal /UF
  • Genre:  A druid with a dark core works to save the Weird
  • Sub-genre:  Fourth in series;  Murder and conniving in fantasy Boston
  • My Grade: C+ to B- (3.5*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Full novel about 90,000+ words for $7.99
  • Where Available:  book available at any book store
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased book from online bookseller

Connor Grey’s fourth outing finds him caught between two warring factions in The Weird, a part of Boston where all manner of supernaturals live, all are considered Fay.  Among them is Connor Grey, a Druid who can no longer command his power.  Somewhere in his mind is a deep dark spot, one that holds great power, but at a price.

The nature of supernatural beings gives off ‘essence’ and this ‘essence’ must be carefully filtered out of everything to keep it away from normal people in other parts of Boston.  The truce between rival factions of Fey is threadbare.  Connor wants to stay out of it, but his loyalty to his old boss – the head of the supernatural peackeepers, if you will – ask a favor of him to keep an eye on things, while a very normal human friend police Detective Murdock, also asks for help with investigating a ‘body’ in the sewer system of the Weird.

The story is intricate and almost too quickly paced to follow coherently, unless you’re a dedicated fan of the series.  There are many key players here and Connor finds himself smack in the middle of a battle between two powerful Fey.  It leads him to tap into that dark mass he keeps walled off in him mind.  The ending is satisfying, but clearly the series has a ways to go and things are not exactly settled in The Weird.

Oddly enough, I read Deeply, Desperately and Unperfect Souls back to back.  Both take place in Boston, but The Weird has little to do with the everyday Boston we and Lucy Valentine inhabit.  In a way, it perfectly showcases the vast differences that can be found in the very broad “Paranormal” genre.  From light fluff to dark and gritty urban fantasy.

Was Unperfect Souls worth $7.99?  Yes, if you’ve been following the series.  No if you aren’t.  Like many fantasy and Urban Fantasy books, these need to be read in order for the reader to follow the story arc and characters.  Otherwise confusion sets in.  I confess I haven’t read these books in order and yes, it was like trying to envision a patchwork quilt when all you have are a few pieces.  Still, it has nothing on Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, so if you can swing a three year wait between impossibly complex stories, this is a walk in the park.  Entertaining in a noir way.

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

  • Title: Deader Still
  • Author:   Anton Strout
  • Type:  Paranormal mystery/UF
  • Genre:  Paranormal enforcement agency works quietly with NYC cops and politicians
  • Sub-genre:  Second in Simon Canderous series; former crook works with the good guys to control
  • My Grade: C+ (3.4*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Full novel about 90,000+ words $7.99
  • Where Available:  book available at any book store
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased book from online bookseller

I read the third book in the series before this one and, like most PI series, each book has enough of the back story included in the opening chapters to make what follows completely understandable.  I really liked Dead Matters, so I picked up Deader Still.  Taking place earlier in the evolution of Canderous in his transitioning from  the wrong side of the law to the right side.

Strout creates an interesting version of New York City with a semi-secret paranormal law enforcement group where Canderous is a rookie.   He finds himself dragged back into his illegal activities by a former gang member from his youth who demands his help.  This creates a huge problem for him.  He wants to keep his job, one he’s already come to value deeply, but the blackmailing thief, Mina,  has too much on him that he’s afraid it will cost him his hard won new life.  So he tries to do a balancing act – but someone seems out to get him.

Your day never starts well when a piece of magical equipment used to do the final test before he becomes a full fledged agent malfunctions nearly causing his death.  The Gypsies that own it can’t or won’t explain what happened.  So Canderous and his older partner – who is crankier and more distracted than usual – get a lead from a special, and very dangerous, criminal they put away.  One of his top men is behind what’s happening to Canderous.  Then Simon makes the mistake of challenging the Gypsy brothers and one of them curses him and suddenly, he looses his power to read things he touches.  This is a HUGE problem when he has to help steal the painting The Scream for Mina.  Plus he’s convinced the people on the tour boat were killed by a vampire.

Strout takes the various threads of the story, throws in issues with Simon’s girlfriend and recovering bad girl Jane, his baffled and conflicted relationship with his partner Connor.  Godfrey Candella, the resident OCD archivist plays a key role and Simon’s realization that the decidedly non-magical Godfrey actually has talent, he just doesn’t know, nor can he be told about it, is nicely done.

Two key things were lacking – Mina was not especially credible nor was the ‘threat’ she posed.  The other problem was the ultimate ‘bad guy’, who gets away.  He’s not developed well enough as a character to have any substance.  Strout does well with the young, reckless, and self-doubting Simon, the tormented, older, experienced Connor and he really shines Godfrey, but Mina is just two dimensional.  I sort of get her motivation, but it made only limited sense.  The ‘bad guy’ psychotic needed work on so many levels.  Creepy, but not enough and more importantly, not a significant enough presence in the story.  While the final ‘battle’ was fun, several of the outcomes were less than satisfying, including Mina’s.

I really enjoy this series, shortcomings and all.  Dead Matters was better than Deader Still, so I will take that as a sign that Strout is evolving and improving as a writer.   This is one series I shall keep up with.

Was Deader Still worth $7.99?  Yes, in my opinion it was.  It does help to read the books in order, but unlike the Connor Grey series by Marc del Falco, it isn’t essential.   A good read that delivered what I enjoy and with a little work on Mina and the bad guy, it would have been a B-.

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