Tour’s Books Blog

February 20, 2013

More New Authors and Some Well Established Ones

One of the good things about playing in games on PBS (PaperBack Swap) is the chance to ask a person you know what they think of a new author and/or series.  Many adult paranormal romance type authors actually write something between romance and UF – like Chloe Neill with her Chicagoland Vampire series.   That concept has become more and more the territory staked out by this new generation of paranormal writers.  For me, it’s like the difference between a Michael Connelly book and Janet Evonovich, both are mysteries, but very different.  Unfortunately, no new genre title has come along to go with this new style, so I’ll stick with UF for now.  One recent swap I played in was called Unusual Suspects – and the requirement was the lead character NOT be a vampire of any type of shifter, the two most popular ‘species’ – always excluding Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden, Wizard for Hire.

I won a set of books (you only get to pick one) from someone who has very similar reading habits and favorite authors as I do.  I don’t read as much historical fiction as she does.  So I requested a book I had never heard of but that looked quite interesting, providing it wasn’t ‘a sucky read’.  She assured me she enjoyed it a lot and it arrived about the same time as House Rules by Chloe Neill.  Yeah, I read House Rules first, but then I read not one but 2 books by new authors.

The upside, I really liked both books.  The downside, the next book in BOTH series will be released in HARDCOVER!  Now getting a new author and series off the ground in this crowed field isn’t easy.  Why publishers immediately jump to hardcovers is beyond me.  They’re doing it in cozies, they’ve always done with action thrillers and hardcore mysteries, and now they’re bumping up trade paperbacks to hardcovers.  Why?  Greed.  They want to milk fans.  Kind of the reverse logic to Barry Eisler releasing his self-published The Detachment as a cheap e-book 6 months before releasing a print edition in trade paperback.  I find the whole thing really annoying – and expensive!  Both books were published by TOR, so beware their trade sized first in series.  If it works out, they’ll do their level best to leech more money out of you to read the rest!

This Case Kill Me

This Case is Gonna Kill Me by Phillipa Bornikova is set in a world where vampires and weres came out during the Viet Nam war and both are exclusively male groups.  The Álfar are the beautiful ones – Fae.  They are attracted to acting where their glamour and unnatural beauty draws legions of adoring fans, something they love.  Vamps lean more toward law, and were to finance and things like protection and Spec Ops for hire.  Only the Álfar have females and propagate the usual way.  There are NO female weres or vamps.  Weres can still father children, normal human ones.  Not so vamps.  So if you’re born female and human, you’re out of luck in the whole ‘becoming immortal’ category – and the status that goes with it.  Being female also closes a lot of doors in firms run by vamps and weres – and those were the most successful ones.  This group of long lived supernaturals are referred to as The Powers, or by the slang word, ‘spooks’ – widely considered insulting.

Linnet Ellery was fostered in a vamp household and came third in her class at Harvard Law, but it was her connections to one of the partners at Ishmael, McGillary, and Gold that got her a job as an associate.  Too bad ‘Shade’ Ishmael is the only one who likes her.  Gold and McGillary want her gone.  The Ellery’s might be an old, well established, and well to do New England family with an ancestor who sat in the Continental Congress and signed the Deceleration of Independence, but she was nothing but a female who took a slot in one of the top two ‘White-fang’ law firms that was usually reserved for a male who stood a chance of making partner – and being turned.  Not only that, she was assigned to a long time lawyer who had only 1 real case, Chip Westin.  His first words to her, “This case is gonna kill me.”  He’s short, bald, out of shape, and at a career dead-end with a case representing the worst clients possible – the greedy and vindictive ex-wife of a human turned were who established a security and protection firm that is now worth close to a billion dollars.  Too bad he started his business after their divorce AND left a will leaving it to his ‘natural’ child, a man he turned were Deegan, who now runs the company.  Standing in her way is a Supreme Court ruling that supports ‘made’ children rights over natural children.  It’s been going on for 17 years, and the bitter window will not let it go.

Witnesses are dying of old age, people’s memories are failing, and Chip is stuck with once again taking this to court against a well funded corporation that has the largest private army in the world.  So not only is Linnet stuck with Chip, she’s stuck with a no-win case.  Chip has Linnet going through files, re-reading everything.  But he’s been getting mysterious phone calls and after an all-nighter he says thinks he’s finally found something, something that matters.  Just as she tries to get him to the elevators, they get attacked by a werewolf.  In a stroke of luck, Linnet falls and the wolf chasing her slides on the floor, through open elevator doors and down the shaft.  Chip, however, is dead.  Then she’s attacked again, at home, and again manages to kill a werewolf.  Her luck is more than just luck.

The firm PI is a changeling, a Áflar baby left in exchange for a human one.  John is as gorgeous as all Áflar, but is as grounded as any human thanks to his parents.  A former cop, he starts helping Linnet re-investigate the old case.  He’s also very attracted to her – and she to him, but then, he’s Áflar, so women tend to fall all over him.

The characters are well defined, the story flows well, and the world building is solid – that unique UF blend of the familiar and fantasy working very well together.  I have pre-ordered the next book in the series, despite it being a hardcover.

This Case is Gonna Kill Me was acquired thru an online book swapping site at no cost.  Trade is available at $11-$12 new and the mass market paperback will be available in July at $7.99.  Is it worth the price?  The MMPB, absolutely.   The trade size, I suggest buying used.  My rating is B+ (4.1*) and recommended.

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Royal Street

Next up is Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson with Book 1 in the Sentinels of New Orleans.  Set in New Orleans as Katrina approaches, it captures the city and it’s devastation, while spinning a tale about about those things that exist beyond the Boundaries that the Sentinels guard.  With the evacuation orders, Drusilla Jaco AKA DJ, evacuates, reluctantly leaving behind her mentor and substitute father, Gerald St. Simon.  Back in Alabama with her grandmother she watches as Katrina unleashes her fury on the Gulf coast – and the winds and rain get the better of New Orlean’s levee system.

Then Gerald goes missing.  Fearing he’s dead, DJ heads back into the city with fake credentials and finds nothing at his house except mud and transport circle of ash.  The Borders were shredded by the storm and Others were crossing over into New Orleans.  The Council of Wizards were working to reestablish the boundaries between the worlds, but something was working against them, and it had something to do with a series of ritual murders taking place – mostly National Guardsmen.  DJ is a Green Wizard, one the specializes in potions, not a powerful Red like Gerald, so the Council sends her unasked for help.

Among those coming thru the rifts in the boundaries is none other than Jean Lafitte, an ‘undead’ being who keeps getting back into New Orleans.  Now ‘undead’ here is not vampires, though they too were banished during the Wizard Wars in the 1970’s.  The ‘undead’ are the people from the past who ‘live’ in Old Orleans in eternal night.  They live because people remember them.  Obviously, Lafitte is well remembered well enough that he can ‘live’ in the modern world, not just Beyond.  And being a pirate, he keeps finding ways back.  She’d sent him back to Old Orleans just before Katrina.  Now he’s back and Alex shoots him.  Now the ‘undead’ don’t really die, but after a shotgun blast to the chest, he would be awhile recovering the strength to return – most likely mad as hell when he did.  Talk about getting off on the wrong foot.  Then to find out that not only isn’t Alex a wizard, he’s a ‘co-sentinel’, well, that really frosted DJ.  Yeah, she was young, and as a Green, not that powerful, but she didn’t need some gun happy alpha male bossing her around and ‘protecting’ her!  The fact he was also FBI meant they could get an inside track on the murders.

Then, a month after Katrina, the city is hit by a second storm, Hurricane Rita, tearing apart even more of the boundaries.  One of the legends to crossover is none other than Louis Armstrong, ‘Pops’.  Rather than send him back, DJ gets him a job at Jake Warin’s bar, Alex’s cousin, playing live, and tries using him as an informant about other undead and what’s going on with these murders.  Then she finally discovers that Gerry really has done the unthinkable, gone into Old Orleans to help a voodoo god gain power to destroy the boundaries and allow free passage between the two worlds.

Voodoo, music, pirates, and murder combine to make an interesting and very readable story, made even better by DJ’s wit and humor.  DJ’s growing pains and slow but sure blossoming of her power and self assurance is rocked time and again.  Yet it never went for cheap sentiment.  Royal Street was a book that surprised and entertained me and honestly deserves more attention than it’s getting.  I got so involved, I stayed up till I was done.  Then went and bought a discounted hardcover copy on book 2 in the series, River Road, unwilling to wait for the release of the trade paperback.  Like the previous book, this one was obtained through Paperback Swap, new author’s best friend!  Like all first books, it had flaws, mostly with building and maintaining suspense of the plot.  Many of the elements were easy to anticipate, even in the big climax.  But in all honesty, it didn’t really detract from my enjoyment.  My grade is B+ (4.2*).  The trade paperback is currently selling between $11-12 at discount.  I’d suggest buying used, but I did enjoy it $10 worth.

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house_rules

Third in this line up is the latest installment of Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland Vampires series, House Rules.  Previously, in Biting Cold, Merit, Sentinel for Chicago’s Cadogan House and house Master Ethan Sullivan finally got together.  His undead life fully free from the dark magic wielded by Merit’s best friend turned rogue mage, Mallory, now doing ‘time’ in a werewolf kitchen, forbidden to use magic.

Now Cadogan must deal with their decision to the Grand Presidium, the official vampire governing body.  The silence from the GP is deafening.  One thing Ethan was sure of, they were up to something.  The contracts between the house and the GP had no surprises, but upon a deeper look, his fussy librarian and researcher found additional agreements referenced in the primary contract – and that gives the GP most of the wealth of Cadogan House.

On top of that, the new Chicago mayor wants all vamps and weres to register.  And vamps are being killed – in gruesome ways.  The Red Guard is hunting for the perps, while a security consultant works with Cadogan to make sure their House will be secure once they break from the GP.  To really put things in overdrive, the mayor appoints the vamp and were hunter, McKetrick, to the office of Ombudsman, the position formerly help by Merit’s grandfather.  But her grandfather, Jeff the young were with a crush on Merit and a way with the river nymphs, and Catcher, another mage and Malloy’s boyfriend are still working with him trying to keep a lid on Chicago’s supernaturals calm and the mayor keeps making things worse.

With a three prong threat, from the city, from a vamp killer, and devious GP, Merit and Ethan work to keep the house together and city from going in flames – and find a way to keep the GP from causing complete financial ruin to Cadogan House.

While a good, quick read, House Rules lacks the interest and full tilt energy of the earlier books.  The best I could do is B- to c+ (3.5*) for this entry.  Is House Rules worth the $10.20 I paid for it from an online bookseller?  Only if you’re a fan.  But if you don’t need it right now, wait a bit and buy a used copy.

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Murder on Half Shelf

For a change of pace, I read Murder on the Half Shelf by Lorna Barrett, the most recent Booktown mystery featuring mystery bookstore owner Trisha Miles and her cookbook author sister Angelica.  In a recent Chamber of Commerce meeting, Angelica was one of the winners of a one night stay at the town of Stoneham, New Hampshire’s newest business, and bed and breakfast.  Of course, Angelica is in a snit with Bob, her on again, off again, boyfriend and head of the Chamber – and the person who fully expected to be spending this night with her.  So Tricia finds herself playing porter to Angelica as they enter the B&B.  Their hostess Pippa is less than thrilled to find Tricia and not Bob with Angelica and somewhat ungraciously show them to the master suite on the third floor.  A man, who makes a quick appearance, sees Tricia and turns and ran out must be the missing husband.

With her usual blithe disregard for rules, Angelica has smuggled in her dog Sarge and asks Tricia to walk him before they leave for a quick dinner in town.  After bickering, Tricia caves for the sake of her stomach and sneaks into the yard with Sarge.  Like all dogs, he finds something……. it’s Pippa with her head caved in.  Tricia is getting quite the reputation for finding bodies – this being her 4th in 3 years.

Hours pass with police and questions – and no food, then finally, Pippa’s missing husband puts in an appearance – and Tricia knows why he ran.  His name isn’t Joe Comfort, it’s Henry Tyler, a one hit wonder in the mystery world and her old boyfriend who supposedly ‘died’ in a boating accident 20 years ago.  Now she a serious suspect and her sort of boyfriend Grant, the new town Chief starts pulling away.  They’d been down this commitment road with him before.  The excuse is sort of valid, but She’s fed up.

Struggling to find a new store manager, and trying to help out Mr Everett  town lottery winner and benefactor, get his wife’s priorities straight, and solve a damn murder, again, Tricia finds Bob got bought off in the raffle for the free stays at the inn, the man running local nudist camp was being blackmailed, one of her fellow shop keepers orders from her store – convinced she chasing the woman’s husband, and her sister is part owner of the inn.  Oh yeah, she finds the killer too.

Lorna Barrett writes classic style cozies, small towns, limited suspect list, lots of small domestic/business issues fleshing out life, and she writes them well.  While I still find Angelica a grating personality, I am happy to see that Tricia demonstrates backbone, both with her old flame and Russ, her current one.  The who-done-it is better than usual and the why good too.

Murder on the Half Shelf was a good read with well drawn, if overly familiar characters, but is it worth the discount price of $15-16?  Nope.  This is a $7.99 that’s been published in the new small size paperback, even then it doesn’t quite reach 300 pages.   My grade is B- (3.8*) and a recommendation to get it from the library, buy used, or wait on the paperback.

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