Review: Hunt the Moon by Karen Chance

Hunt the Moon (Cassandra Palmer, #5)Hunt the Moon by Karen Chance
My rat­ing: 3 of 5 stars

Chance must have thought read­ers were bored with the Cassandra/Mircea match, because much of this book is spent with Cassie falling for Pritkin with­out real­ly being aware that she’s get­ting into dan­ger­ous ter­ri­to­ry.

Palmer isn’t one of my favorite char­ac­ters. She isn’t an ass-kick­er, but she’s prob­a­bly some­what more real­is­tic than most para­nor­mal hero­ines for that fact. She’s com­ing into her own by stand­ing up to Mircea more in this vol­ume, but she does it in child­ish ways. I find her annoy­ing par­tial­ly because I’d hate to try pro­tect­ing her from her­self, much less any­one else.

I don’t hon­est­ly under­stand why Mircea and Pritkin are attract­ed to her, either, but part of the romance for­mu­la is the hero­ine has to be irre­sistible to at least one, prefer­ably more than one man. I do find Mircea and Pritkin inter­est­ing (they just have bad taste in women), so they and the plots hold my inter­est.

To be fair, Cassie seems to be grow­ing up a lit­tle bit. Not entire­ly, but she’s grow­ing a lit­tle. She does vehe­ment­ly claim to care about whether or not oth­er peo­ple get hurt try­ing to pro­tect her.

This book also serves as back­sto­ry time for Mircea and Pritkin, as we learn a lot more about their pasts. Things drag a bit while they relate their sto­ries, and in fact there seems to be lit­tle point in what we hear from Mircea (read­ers of the series already know a lot about his fam­i­ly and his­to­ry).

Alto­geth­er, I wouldn’t have read it if I weren’t already so far into the series. I do wish Chance would switch focus to anoth­er char­ac­ter. (I’m aware of the Dori­na Basarab series set in the same uni­verse, and con­sid­er them to be bet­ter books in gen­er­al). I sup­pose that’s unlike­ly, see­ing as it’s the Cas­san­dra Palmer series.

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Review: Shady Lady by Ann Aguirre

Shady Lady (Corine Solomon, #3)Shady Lady by Ann Aguirre
My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars

I have to give a fair­ly high rat­ing to a book that involves a woman who large­ly saves her­self from mul­ti­ple assas­sins (nat­ur­al and super­nat­ur­al) sent by the head of a drug car­tel. There are sexy men in her life (three, in fact), but she’s def­i­nite­ly the hero­ine here, not a cling­ing vine. That’s a refresh­ing approach.

To be hon­est I don’t think this book should be shelved with para­nor­mal romances at all. It deserves to be called urban fan­ta­sy, or some­thing along those lines, because rela­tion­ships are not the main focus of the plot.

Corine has changed a great deal from the begin­ning of the series, and we learn much more about her back­ground in this vol­ume, explain­ing some of her behav­ior. The expo­si­tion is nev­er tire­some or with­out rea­son — it’s worked into the plot very nice­ly. I enjoy see­ing char­ac­ter devel­op­ment, and get­ting more of the “why” helps the read­er make sense of her deci­sions.

This vol­ume feels like the end of the series, but it was a nice lit­tle tril­o­gy and well worth read­ing.

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Review: Moon Fever (anthology)

Moon Fever (Includes: Primes, #6.5)Moon Fever by Susan Size­more
My rat­ing: 1 of 5 stars

This was one of those “I fin­ished the last thing I was read­ing and I’m bored, what’s already loaded on the iTouch?” reads. It was on there because the anthol­o­gy includes Lori Han­de­land’s “Cob­webs Over the Moon” (Night­crea­tures, #10) and I read all of that series a while back. I didn’t care to read the rest of the anthol­o­gy at the time, but I hadn’t got­ten around to delet­ing the book. Ah, hap­py dig­i­tal pack­rat am I!

If I’ve read any­thing by Susan Size­more oth­er than “Tempt­ing Fate” (Primes #6.5), it was emi­nent­ly for­get­table. I’m absolute­ly sure that I haven’t read any­thing else in her Primes series, because I prob­a­bly would have thrown said mate­r­i­al firm­ly into the near­est hard sur­face (or what­ev­er the equiv­a­lent is with bytes) because of the insane­ly annoy­ing num­ber of times Size­more feels it nec­es­sary to remind us that her vam­pires are Primes! Alpha Primes! They are! Real­ly! And that means they fight a lot! Espe­cial­ly over women! Oth­er­wise, it’s a Mary Jane sto­ry set in New Orleans. I have a strong feel­ing that most of the Primes series is Mary Jane-ish, but I may at some point be trapped and forced with the prospect of star­ing at the inside of my eye­balls or read­ing more of Sizemore’s stuff. I’m not sure which would be worse right now. I’ll get back to you on that.

The Dark­ness With­in” by Mag­gie Shayne feels ter­ri­bly famil­iar, although I’m sure I haven’t read it before. I have, how­ev­er, read oth­er Shayne novel­las in oth­er antholo­gies, and this sto­ry fol­lows a famil­iar pat­tern. Sexy gal who doesn’t think she’s attrac­tive has had a run of hard luck and may lose the house she has bought rel­a­tive­ly recent­ly and loves. Said house has a spooky past that she didn’t know about when she bought it. Stal­wart too-sexy-for-her man gets involved some­how, prefer­ably in a way that allows her to ques­tion his motives. They are inex­plic­a­bly drawn to each oth­er and screw like bun­nies (or near as makes no dif­fer­ence), then blame their lapse in judge­ment on what­ev­er weird­ness is going on in the house. (Yep, that’s what they all say — and no safer sex any­where! Does para­nor­mal activ­i­ty pre­clude dis­cus­sion of sex­u­al his­to­ry and pre­vent STD trans­mis­sion?)

Cob­webs Over the Moon” by Lori Han­de­land (Night­crea­tures, #10) isn’t the most log­i­cal entry in that series. Nei­ther is it the most illog­i­cal — but by the tenth entry, the series’ mythol­o­gy has got­ten a bit ridicu­lous, so I don’t know why I even both­er bring­ing up some­thing as irrel­e­vant as log­ic. Sil­ly me! In every book, we’re intro­duced to a woman who is in some way tan­gled up with were­wolves, then to a man who is tan­gled up with her and/or the crea­tures and, of course, whose loy­al­ties are uncer­tain. There is always an ele­ment of dan­ger to add spice to the romance that has to grow between the two. The for­mu­la nev­er changes at all. There are always evil were­wolves, but some­times there are also good ones. If you like pre­dictabil­i­ty in your para­nor­mal romance, Night­crea­tures is a great series for you.

I sup­pose Cari­dad Piñeiro’s “Crazy for the Cat” isn’t tech­ni­cal­ly any bet­ter or worse than any of the oth­er three sto­ries. There’s more vari­ety in the shapeshift­ing and the main set­ting is the Ama­zon jun­gle. I couldn’t get past the big­otry and colo­nial­ism, though. Dark is bad, light is good, of course! Those poor benight­ed natives couldn’t pos­si­bly han­dle a few rogues with­out that white woman, could they? Spare me.

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Review: The Watcher Series by Lilith Saintcrow

Mindhealer (Watcher, Book 5) Mind­heal­er by Lilith Saint­crow

My review


rat­ing: 3 of 5 stars
I’m actu­al­ly review­ing all five of the Watch­er books. They’re quite short—novella length, really—and very much inter­re­lat­ed (espe­cial­ly the first four). I read all of them in about a day and a half, despite doing oth­er things. I do advise tak­ing them all in row, which is the equiv­a­lent of read­ing one “nor­mal” nov­el.

Dark Watch­er opens in San­ti­a­go City (aka Saint City), with a quar­tet of witch­es. Mind­heal­er is the only book that takes place out­side of San­ti­a­go City, which seems to be the pri­ma­ry set­ting for all of Saintcrow’s nov­els (from what I’ve read in their descrip­tions).

Theodo­ra, earth witch and heal­er, runs the Caul­dron, an occult book and sup­ply store. Mari­amne Niege (water witch, prog­nos­ti­ca­tor) and Elise Nichol­son (fire witch) work for her in addi­tion to being, respec­tive­ly, a grad­u­ate stu­dent and a musi­cian. Suzanne (air witch, I don’t believe we ever learn her last name) is Elise’s fos­ter moth­er and their teacher, some­thing of a high priest­ess to the lit­tle group.

The four women know that they’re psy­chic and that “mag­ick” is real. They don’t know that they are “Light­bringers,” that there are groups and crea­tures in the world that hunt them, or that a group called Cir­cle Light­fall trains and sends out “Watch­ers” to pro­tect (and recruit) Light­bringers in order to coun­ter­bal­ance the dark­ness in the world.

Watch­ers are for­mer­ly wicked men with some psy­chic tal­ents who have been giv­en a chance to redeem them­selves. They are bond­ed with a tanak, a dark sym­biote that gives them super­nat­ur­al speed, strength, heal­ing pow­er, and longevi­ty. The tanak also makes it pos­si­ble for them to sense dark­ness, but it caus­es the Watch­ers to expe­ri­ence pain when­ev­er they’re around Light­bringers.

The catch is that for every Watch­er, there is one Witch whose pres­ence and touch will be intense­ly plea­sur­able instead of tor­tur­ous. The hope of find­ing that one witch is what keeps each Watch­er going, fight­ing and sur­viv­ing hor­rif­ic wounds for one chance at hap­pi­ness.

The use of the tired soul­mate meme (though that spe­cif­ic word is nev­er used) is annoy­ing, and it detracts from what is oth­er­wise a fair­ly orig­i­nal con­cept. The fact that there are only male Watch­ers, though there are a few (most­ly queer) male light­bringers, is a big­ger dis­ap­point­ment. The rea­son­ing giv­en is that women do not have the vicious­ness to kill with­out hes­i­ta­tion. That’s sim­plis­tic, at best. Male light­bringers are also paint­ed as weak­er than females, and that, in com­bi­na­tion with the pedestal upon which Watch­ers place Light­bringers, unbal­ances the nov­els.

Theodo­ra is the main sub­ject of the first book. Mari­amne is the focus of Storm Watch­er. Fire Watch­er, of course, is pri­mar­i­ly about Elise. We meet a new air witch, Anya Har­ris, in Cloud Watch­er. And final­ly, Mind­heal­er is about Caro Rob­bins, whose broth­er plays a small part in Fire Watch­er.

The books should cer­tain­ly be clas­si­fied as romances first, although they do have very strong para­nor­mal themes. Every book fol­lows the clas­sic romance nov­el for­mu­la. The fact that I kept read­ing despite my dis­like of romances is a tes­ta­ment to Saintcrow’s tal­ent.

I sus­pect that the author either is pagan, or is very famil­iar with pagan prac­tices. The rit­u­als in each nov­el are nice­ly done, and I wouldn’t be sur­prised to hear peo­ple using some of the invo­ca­tions used in Cir­cle.

I do have to pro­pose the Watch­er drink­ing game. Take a shot every time there’s any men­tion of treat­ing a Watch­er “dread­ful­ly,” and every time a Watch­er moans about how unwor­thy he is to be in the pres­ence of a Light­bringer. You’ll be past notic­ing any for­mu­lae in no time!

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Book Reviews: Magic Burns and No Rest for the Witches

Magic BurnsI read two short books Wednes­day and Thurs­day. The first, Mag­ic Burns by Ilona Andrews, was great fun and very well writ­ten. It’s book two of her Kate Daniel series, and it cer­tain­ly left me eager to read book three (which has just been turned in to the pub­lish­er, as I under­stand it).

I think I’m miss­ing some­thing, though. There are ref­er­ences to an ex-almost-boyfriend, Max­imil­lian Crest, in Mag­ic Burns. I just read Mag­ic Bites at the end of March, and I don’t remem­ber Crest at all. I don’t remem­ber Kate hav­ing a love inter­est at all, in fact. Only a fool could miss the sex­u­al ten­sion between Kate and Cur­ran, but that’s unre­solved. I don’t remem­ber any pri­or encoun­ters with a teenaged urban shaman, either. So did I just miss some things, or are there sto­ries set between the books that I don’t know about?

I do rec­om­mend these books to any­one who enjoys the urban fan­ta­sy genre. This one played around with Celtic mythol­o­gy, which I also enjoy.

No Rest for the WitchesNo Rest for the Witch­es con­tains four novel­las. Mary­Jan­ice David­son is the head­lin­er, since she’s appar­ent­ly the best-known of the four authors. I don’t remem­ber how this book end­ed up in my hold queue at the library, but there it was with the oth­ers, so I checked it out.

Davidson’s con­tri­bu­tion is “The Majic­ka,” which might or might not be set in the same world as her Bet­sy Tay­lor and Wyn­d­ham Were­wolves sto­ries (maybe even the mer­maid series, although I haven’t read those so I can’t be sure). You real­ly need a good rea­son to toss a fairy, a vam­pire, a were­wolf, a woman enchant­ed into a vehi­cle by her arch­mage ex-SO, and a dryad into one novel­la. I didn’t real­ly buy the expla­na­tion, hon­est­ly. I didn’t find the main char­ac­ter inter­est­ing or attrac­tive, nor did I see any rea­son for the oblig­a­tory love inter­est to find her irre­sistible. But it’s a romance novel­la, and one of the absolute neces­si­ties seems to be peo­ple falling into love at first sight.

The set­up of “Voodoo Moon” by Lori Han­de­land was a bit bet­ter, although that main char­ac­ter should turn in her FBI badge and for­get hav­ing any career in law enforce­ment. The first guy she meets should have been wear­ing a red shirt, because it was way too obvi­ous that he wouldn’t last long.

Cheyenne McCray’s “Breath of Mag­ic” needs to be rela­beled “erot­i­ca” instead of “para­nor­mal romance.” Even if the hot guy does whis­per sweet noth­ings to the main char­ac­ter, this novel­la is about the two peo­ple bump­ing fuzzies. There’s an intri­cate plot set­up for absolute­ly no rea­son, as it cer­tain­ly wasn’t nec­es­sary for them to get naked togeth­er, and there isn’t any res­o­lu­tion to any of the plot threads. The only way the sex scenes could have been more explic­it would have involved wiring the two up to mea­sur­ing devices, as inch­es and degrees are the only details not giv­en. From the teas­er of one of McCray’s books, it seems that the intri­cate plot is explored more thor­ough­ly in at least one book. I got the feel­ing that the sex would be sim­i­lar, as well.

Any Witch Way She Can” by Chris­tine War­ren opens with much grous­ing by the main char­ac­ter about her spin­ster­hood. She then pro­ceeds to try a love spell, but does a lot of ingre­di­ent sub­sti­tu­tion and doesn’t fol­low the instruc­tions prop­er­ly. Unsur­pris­ing­ly, it doesn’t work as expect­ed. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, she doesn’t expe­ri­ence any dread­ful con­se­quences as a result of toy­ing with things she doesn’t under­stand, either. And of course she, like the char­ac­ters in two of the oth­er novel­las, will end up in bed with a guy she meets right after meet­ing him.

I need to go through my hold queues at both libraries to be sure there aren’t any more romances hid­ing there, because I obvi­ous­ly have a very bad atti­tude about them. I know that there’s a for­mu­la, and it seems that all of these novel­las do fol­low it. But I don’t like for­mu­la­ic fic­tion, and I don’t know that it could be writ­ten well enough to real­ly please me.

On to Blind­fold Game by Dana Stabenow. That should pro­vide a nice change of pace.

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Review: Bump in the Night by J.D. Robb, et al.

cover of Bump in the Night
This para­nor­mal romance anthol­o­gy con­tains four novel­las. I’d nev­er heard of three of the authors, but I haven’t real­ly looked to see what else they’ve writ­ten, either.1 They may be well-known to romance fans. I fell into read­ing J.D. Robb’s books because of the sci­ence fiction/mystery angle, and didn’t ini­tial­ly know that J.D. Robb is a pseu­do­nym for well-known romance author Nora Roberts.2 Her romances may be great, but I’m not inter­est­ed in them. I’m actu­al­ly get­ting pret­ty damned tired of the para­nor­mal romance thing, but since any­body who writes them seems to be able to get a book con­tract, I doubt they’ll stop flood­ing the mar­ket any time soon. I try to stick to the ones that have more plot than romance, but some­times it’s hard to tell where a book will fall. Lau­rell Hamil­ton, for instance, began writ­ing real­ly good dark fan­ta­sy books that got a lit­tle sexy, and now she’s writ­ing romance nov­els that hap­pen to have vam­pires and were­crit­ters in them.3

It’s often said that we read fic­tion to get more of some­thing that’s miss­ing in our lives. I’m gift­ed with a part­ner who is one of the most roman­tic, lov­ing peo­ple in this world, and, to be blunt, we have a great, um, pri­vate life, which may explain why I don’t find romances or erot­i­ca much of a draw. I don’t have many mys­ter­ies or much out-and-out adven­ture in my life (thank­ful­ly!), so I enjoy read­ing about them in fic­tion­al char­ac­ters’ lives—especially if they take place in set­tings com­plete­ly unlike my own world.

Any­way, on to the review.

The book opens with “Haunt­ed in Death” by J.D. Robb, which her read­ers will imme­di­ate­ly rec­og­nize as an Eve Dal­las sto­ry4 Robb/Roberts is a pro, and the sto­ry is a decent read. But! Is it just me, or are the Eve-Roarke fights and rec­on­cil­i­a­tions get­ting more and more bor­ing? They’re always about the same thing!

Poppy’s Coin” by Mary Blayney was my favorite of this anthol­o­gy. Yes, it was obvi­ous from the couple’s first encounter how the rela­tion­ship would go, but that’s the way it is with the entire romance genre, isn’t it? I might actu­al­ly look for more of Blayney’s work at some point. After look­ing at her web site, I don’t think I’ll be read­ing any of her nov­els. I learned that there’s anoth­er anthol­o­gy fea­tur­ing these same four authors, Dead of Night, and that the pub­lish­er has con­tract­ed them for a third vol­ume, as yet unnamed. Blayney’s piece in the sec­ond col­lec­tion seems to be con­nect­ed with “Poppy’s Coin,” so I’ll prob­a­bly take a look at it. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, hav­ing read this one sto­ry and the descrip­tions of her nov­els, it seems that she’s stuck in some­thing of a rut. I can’t say more with­out giv­ing spoil­ers for this sto­ry, so I’ll leave it to you to vis­it her site if you want to know more.

Ruth Ryan Lan­gan’s “The Pas­sen­ger” was okay, I guess. Maybe. Some­thing about the male pro­tag­o­nist set my teeth on edge right away, and I would have kicked his oh-so-self-assured butt out of my abode as soon as he referred to him­self by his famous moniker. Then again, I’d also tell the female lead to put on her big girl panties and get on her with life, as she comes across as way too emo for my tastes. Lan­gan needs to remem­ber to “show, not tell.” I might have giv­en her a bit of a pass in a short sto­ry, but this is a novel­la. She had plen­ty of word-count in which to show us some­thing pos­i­tive about her char­ac­ters, instead of label­ing them.

I near­ly stopped read­ing the book when I got to “Mel­low Lemon Yel­low” by Mary Kay McCo­mas. I was total­ly dis­in­ter­est­ed in read­ing about anoth­er whiny chick, right after Langan’s sto­ry. I didn’t feel any con­nec­tion at all. I fin­ished out of sheer dogged­ness, and will prob­a­bly for­get the sto­ry and the author very quick­ly. I can hope, any­way.

If you’re a com­pletist, as I am, and you read the In Death books, you’ll want to read this vol­ume. If I col­lect­ed the nov­els5, I’d buy this one used if at all pos­si­ble. As it is, I’m glad I checked it out of the library instead of invest­ing any mon­ey in it.


1 Well, I hadn’t done so before I began writ­ing this review. I looked up their web sites to link to them, obvi­ous­ly.

2 Well-known to romance fans, any­way. I hadn’t heard of her before read­ing the Robb books. Come to think of it, the first thing I read by Robb was anoth­er anthol­o­gy, Out of This World, which I picked up because of the Ani­ta Blake novel­la in it. That was before I real­ized that all such novel­las are real­ly the first chunk of Hamilton’s next nov­el, and if I read them it spoils some of the plea­sure I’d oth­er­wise find in that nov­el.

3 I con­sid­er the Ani­ta Blake books to be her first nov­els. That hor­rid Night­seer thing is just a bad tran­scrip­tion of somebody’s role­play­ing cam­paign. If I were Hamil­ton, I would have acquired and destroyed every copy in exis­tence, then prayed that the world would for­get about it.

4 They’re all enti­tled “(some­thing) in Death.”

5 I don’t, as I don’t antic­i­pate ever want­i­ng to re-read them.

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