Tour’s Books Blog

March 4, 2011

Six New Paranormals – Short Reviews

OK, I’ve been doing a LOT reading, so here we go.  I’ll have more next week, including some erotic paranormals.

  • Title: Absolutely, Positively
  • Author:  Heather Webber
  • Type:  Humorous paranormal light cozy mystery
  • Genre:  Psychic finder of lost loves ends up in the middle of a murder
  • Sub-genre:  Young lovers want to re-unite, but a murder of their bully former foster father gets in the way
  • My Grade: B- (3.8*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Full novel – about 80,000$7.99
  • Where Available:  Available at most bookstores
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased from online bookstore

This lighthearted series tackles some serious issues in each book – here foster homes and bad marriages – along with the complicated family life of the Valentine family, Boston’s very best matchmaker.  Like the first two books in the series, the writing a combination of breezy fun and deeper, more serious issues, nicely balanced and fast paced.  It’s unusual to have a recurring male love interest, ex-fireman turned PI Sean, with a serious health problem, but Ms Webber makes it work.   Cupid’s Curse – the fact that Valentine’s own loves lives fail, is has Lucy scared of that commitment leap as well.

But it’s Lucy’s search for the lost love of Suzannah Ruggieri that turns things dangerous.  Enter a skilled art thief, a nasty, abusive foster father/husband, and a huge lie that the man told.  When he’s murdered, it’s Suzannah’s client and her boyfriend that are the prime suspects.  But Lucy is also involved looking for a missing artist friend for her grandmothers – and then there’s the unnerving development of  mom and dad rediscovering the spark after living separate lives for decades.

Ms Webber keeps the pace moving without descending into cheap, contrived humor, and the many stories twine together into a satisfying whole.  It might not be required that you read the earlier books, but it does help.

Was Absolutely, Positively worth  $7.99?  For anyone who enjoys a lighthearted mystery with a better tan average romance angle, this is a recommended series.  Good, fun read.

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  • Title: Red-Headed Stepchild; The Mage in Black; Green-Eyed Demon
  • Author:  Jaye Wells
  • Type:  Paranormal UF
  • Genre:  Sabina Kane series; Half mage, half vampire assassin seeks answers to her past and purpose in the present
  • Sub-genre:  How does a person overcome a lifetime of lies and brainwashing?
  • My Grade: B- (3.7*); C+ (3.2*); C+ (3.2*)
  • Rating:  PG-17
  • Length and price:  Full novels – about 80,000 per book for $7.99 each; discounts available
  • Where Available:  Available at most bookstores
  • FTC Disclosure:  Two of the 3 were from a book swapping website; one purchased from online bookstore

It took some time, but I FINALLY got Red-Headed Stepchild so I could read the entire series at once.  Here’s the good and bad parts.  Sabina Kane is not a very likable protagonist, especially when she kills another vampire who is a friend.  But things start falling apart when Sabina discovers lie after lie by her Grandmother, Lavinia Kane, alpha vampire of North America and head of the Dominae.  She’s been raised to hate her mage side, her talents undeveloped, but allows her Grandmother, her only living relative, to drive her life.  The lies begin unraveling when Sabin is sent to infiltrate a vampire splinter group that’s challenging the current order.

This UF book twists and turns like spy thriller, where no one is quite what they seem.  But at each turn, Sabin finds herself torn between trust in the only person who has guided her entire life, her Grandmother, and the shifting ‘reality’ of what she finds for herself.  it’s further complicated by mage Adam Lazarus, who sends a demon to kill her as a test.  The demon and Sabin end up forming an unlikely friendship of sorts – two professionals, neither of whom bear the other any sincere ill will.  Trusting in anything Adam says is much harder, especially when he tells her she has a twin sister who is the mage Oracle of New York.

In Mage in Black, the series falters a bit on certain mundane mistakes.  Home could someone on the run fail to have cash reserves?  I mean come on, ATM cards?  There are other failures as well, an they were somewhat distracting from Sabina’s claims about how good an assassin she was.  While much of the story surrounding Sabin’s difficult reuniting with her twin is done well, I was left with the distinct feeling the author hit a knowledge wall about just how assassin’s work.  She might have been better prepared had she read Barry Eisler’s John Rain series (brilliant action thrillers), or Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon series, at least the early ones, even Jack Higgins’ Sean Dillon books would have helped.  How could an assassin be so trusting?

Anyway, the paranormal aspects of the story about the impending war between mages, fae, and vamps gets more complicated and a secret society with an end of their own become involved.  The society has members in all 3 groups working together for a common end.  The mages don’t trust Sabina, and she seems to just stumble along a lot of the time, never fully analyzing what’s happening.  The ending is sets the stage for Green-Eyed Demon.

Without giving away to much of the plot, Maisie, Sabina’s twin, was captured by their scheming Grandmother Lavinia with the help of an insider among the mages.  The number of deaths all but destroys them and they head for Maeve’s Court for sanctuary.  But fae have their own priority.  Here Adam and Sabina end up at odds as Sabina’s goal of rescuing Maisie is put at risk by the fae queen.  Sabina does start developing her mage powers, but hasn’t had much training and she does things more by accident than design.  The search for Maisie takes them to New Orleans and a voodoo priestess friend of Adam’s aunt, Rhea.  It also puts them in a human conspiracy that is used by Lavina to her own ends.

As with Mage in Black, Green-Eyed Demon has some serious character issues with Sabina.  It’s as if she can’t learn from her past mistakes.  I found parts of it frustrating, especially Sabina’s lack of character growth in crucial areas.  The plot moves along and the big fight at the end was good, but Sabina seems to be a real slow learner.  She lacks the cunning, stealth, and ‘tradecraft’ of a true assassin.  As I read so many action thrillers in the international intrigue area, this kind of got on my nerves.

Is the Sabina Kane series, Red-Headed Stepchild, Mage in Black, and Green-Eyed Demon worth the price of $7.99 each?  Certainly the books had their moments, and the story itself was good, if rather predictable, but I’d recommend buying used.

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  • Title: Vampire Empire Book 1: The Greyfriar
  • Author:  Clay and Susan Griffin
  • Type:  Dark alternate world Steampunk paranormal
  • Genre:  Vampires rule northern Europe seek to capture the heir of the monarchy based in Egypt
  • Sub-genre:  Female heir to human empire is saved from vamps by legendary fighter, The Greyfriar
  • My Grade: C+ (3.1*)
  • Rating:  PG-17
  • Length and price:  Full novel – about 80,000$10-$11; list price $16.00
  • Where Available:  Available at most bookstores
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased from online bookstore

This is a book I was anxious to read and really looking forward to.  Unfortunately, it was a disappointment.  I was half way through the book and the writing quality was so uneven I nearly gave up.  The story has huge potential, but the crappy writing and obvious plot were major distractions.  The vampire mythology was very good, as was the development of the Equatorial Empire, but the characters were textbook and plot predictable.

Princess Adele and her younger brother, Simon are on the same airship bound for Alexandria when they are attacked by vampires led by the deadly Flay.  Adele is separated from her brother during the battle and is saved by the legendary Greyfriar, a kind of folk hero fighter for humans still on mainland Europe.  If you didn’t figure out what the Greyfriar was in the first meeting, you’d be an idiot.  Greyfriar spirits Adele away, but Flay is a determined commander – and an ambitious one and eventually captures Adele.

The action moves to the ruins of north Europe – Scotland mostly (Oh yes, Greyfriar Abby is you missed the association) where Gareth, the only real balance to his corrupt and despotic brother who rules the vampires clans, holds Adele hostage.  But Gareth oversees her stay and she grows close to the vampire.

Senator Clark, Adele’s arranged fiancee, comes after her, but it’s the Greyfriar who saves her.  There are the group of advisors and trainers for Adele in Alexandria who make all these mysterious plans and have prepared for some major (as yet unrevealed) event, yadda, yadda.  When Adele reaches home, it’s not Adel her father walks away with, but Senator Clark.  (eyeroll)  OK, maybe I’m being a bit irrational, but the honestly, the prose lacked any real style and at times read like the authors were using the Thesaurus for text revision.  Out of nowhere a word like ‘traverse’ would appear when ‘cross’ was more in keeping with the language level used in the book.  Though correct, it jarred given the lack of complexity of both language and grammar.  Then there was the whole Vampire kingdom – a ruin.  Come on, they lost their minds when the virus hit?  Are they are nothing more than animals with a few more brains, unable to build anything – or even maintain it, just living like parasites off the carcass of what humans left behind?  How could they be a serious challenge?  Frankly, they would seem to have doomed themselves by wallowing in mindless savagery rather than creating ……….. well, anything!  They cannot grow mentally?  There are no scientists?  Builders?  Gareth is one lone exception?   Jeeze, how have they not just killed each other?  THAT, was a really big stumbling block, because if history has proved nothing else, it has proved that technologically advanced cultures will win, even against the most vicious of mobs.  And if heat kills vampires, the reason given for their being restricted to cold climate zones, why fight with swords and not flames?

OK, so let’s just say I had ‘issues’.  I seem to be in the minority.  The Greyfriar was a decent read, if you kind of left logic out of it, and both Gareth and Adele we there good characters, but there were just many flaws for it rate the 4.5* you see on Amazon.

Was The Greyfriar worth the nearly $11 I paid for it?  Not really.  It certainly had a lot of color and the world building was decent, if illogical, but the quality of the writing was lacking as were certain logic issues.  I ended up ambivalent about the book as a whole, hence the C score.

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  • Title: Dead on Delivery
  • Author:  Eileen Rendahl
  • Type:  Paranormal UF
  • Genre:  Messenger gets involved in her deliveries
  • Sub-genre:  Supernatural community is Sacramento might be causing suicides and the messenger is delivering them
  • My Grade: C- (2.8*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Full novel – about 80,000 about$10.00; list price $15.00
  • Where Available:  Available at most bookstores
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased from online bookstore

I liked Eileen Rendahl’s Don’t Kill the Messenger, so I pre-ordered this book and read it as soon as it arrived this week.  Unfortunately, Dead on Delivery lacked the punch and edge that made it good and instead settled into a vibe that was more paranormal mystery romance as opposed to UF.

Melina Markowitz is now the owner of the dojo where she trained so many years under Mae, her mentor in both martial arts and the supernatural world that surrounds the ‘normal’ world.  She’s even training someone herself, another woman who died and was brought back, Sophia.  The story here is about Melina delivering two boxes to the small town of Elmville, only to have BOTH recipients commit suicide.  Boyfriend, police detective Ted Goodnight, questions her about the second delivery, but knows nothing of the first.   So Melina goes to the funeral and back to the house where she can feel something magical in dead man’s bedroom – the box she delivered.  Before she can retrieve it, she’s caught in the man’s bedroom and thrown out – into Ted’s arms and has some explaining to do.

The two suicides tie back to the murder of a Hispanic man 6 years early.  Three high schoolers, young men, were charged as juveniles despite the nature of the crime and let out of juvenile detention at the age of 21 – after serving just 6 years for the racially motivated beating death.  Now Melia is out to figure out who wanted payback and how they’re using her to get it.  Mexican witches, brujas, were about the new twist.  Not nearly as exciting as the first book and a lot of time is spent with family, relationships, and self discovery.  Not very exciting and not UF either.

Was Dead on Delivery worth $10? No.  Get it used or borrow it.

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