Paranormal

What I’m Reading: Richard Kadrey – Sandman Slim

This is the first volume in a Paranormal Fantasy series – by a male author, so unsurprisingly there is not much in the way of Romance here. This is mostly in the vein of Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden novels, except considerably trashier and even closer to the Noir roots of the genre. In fact, even though there are many supernatural elements (magicians, demons and angels, for the most part), Sandman Slim reads more like a noir pulp novel from the fifties than a paranormal fantasy from the early 21st century – there is no private detective here, and law enforcement in general is mostly absent,  but the novel’s protagonist – back on earth after eleven years in Hell (literally) and out to get the people who put him there – is on a mission of vengeance and he has few, if any, scruples to remove anything out of the way that gets between him and his revenge.

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What I’m Reading: Carrie Vaughn – Kitty Steals the Show

This is the tenth entry in Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series, and Kitty is visiting London this time to take part in the first International Conference on Paranormal Studies where she is supposed to deliver the keynote speech. To sum it up in advance, it’s a solid, quite entertaining entry in the series but nowhere as good as some previous volumes.

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Book Diary: Kelley Armstrong – Forbidden

Even after her Women of the Otherwold series has officially come to an end with 13, Kelley Armstrong does not seem to have given up on the series (there is another novella out, too, but it is an e-book only release, and for some reason Subterranean Press refuses to sell it to anyone not living in the US – I have ranted about this subject before, and and this (pardon my English) utter bullshit is making me very grumpy towards a publisher I used to like).

Forbidden is sold as a novella, but it is long enough that it could have passed as a short novel back when that did not mean 300+ pages minimum – one could even imagine it (with the addition of some sub-plot and maybe a sex scene or two thrown in) as a full-length addition to the series. Like her previous novella, Hidden, it is about and mostly told from the point of view of Elena, female werewolf and alpha-elect of the North American pack; the illustrations are done by a different artist though, and I have to say that while I’m still not all that keen on them, I like them somewhat better this time, because they at least do not look like wannabe comic panels. And like always with Kelley Armstrong, we get a highly entertaining adventure with excellent characterisation – here, most notably Morgan who we first encountered in Frostbitten and who has decided to leave his isolation and give joining a try. His uncertainty about where exactly his place is and his being torn between his previous life as a loner and his desire to belong somewhere is very well described, and as usual Armstrong manages to convincingly pull off her unique mixture of wolf and human psychology.

All in all, Forbidden might not be the most exciting entry in the series, but it is nice to see Armstrong still returning to the characters and it is overall a solid and very enjoyable read for readers of the Women of the Otherwold series. It is maybe a bit more fanservice-ish than even the earlier novellas (I admit I already have to struggle a bit to remember what the main plot was about), but being a fan myself I don’t really have any issues with that. And I would really like to read her new e-book novella as well, but as I’m not a US citizen

What I’m Reading: Marjorie Liu – The Mortal Bone

The previous novel in Marjorie Liu’s Hunter Kiss series brought the main story arc that had been spanning the first three volumes to a close and revealed quite a few of the mysteries that had been teasing the reader’s curiosity. Not every question was solved though, not every thread tied neatly off, and so The Mortal Bone, the fourth instalment in the series answers some of the questions left open and asks a copious amount of new ones, starting what I presume will be a new story arc.

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What I’m Reading: Carry Vaughn – Kitty’s Greatest Hits

Not so much Greatest Hits as Collected B-Sides, this volume contains mostly stories that have appeared in various anthologies over the years. Not all of them (indeed, only the minority) have Kitty Norville as their protagonist, but they are all set in the same universe as the Kitty novels and the reader of this collection will encounter many familiar names. Like with all good B-sides there is a lot of experimentation going on here, where Carrie Vaughn strays from the familiar Kitty formula and tries new things, plays with different sounds and reaches for different modes of expression.

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What I’m Reading: Kelley Armstrong – 13

So now it is finally over. Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series was the first Paranormal Fantasy I ever read and it has remained my favourite over its now complete run of 13 volumes (plus some novellas). While I respect Kelley Armstrong’s decision to finish the series while it was still going strong, I can’t help but be a bit sad about it because I never had the feeling that the series was going stale or its author growing tired of it – maybe due to the ingenious device of having different protagonists for the novels and thus making the series very much of an ensemble thing, it always remained fresh and exciting (helped, of course, by Kelley Armstrong’s talent for creating and handling characters, keeping them plausible and convincing even as she throws them into hair-raising, supernatural adventures).

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Book Diary: Nicole Peeler – Tempest Rising

Tempest Rising (Jane True) by Nicole PeelerNothing really exciting here, but still a fun paranormal fantasy (and I still remember having read it four weeks later). One can tell that it is a first novel, because writing and construction are a bit clunky at times, but for the most part it is quite entertaining. There are not many half-selkie heroines around, and the glimpses we catch of the world Tempest Rising is set in are quite intriguing, with a generous amount of hints scattered throughout the novel that there are larger things afoot and more mysteries to be unveiled in later volumes.

I for one thought it was a nice touch that Nicole Peelter attempted to make the intimate scenes between Jane and her lover Ryu realistic rather than perfect, i.e. introduced some humour and some awkwardness into them. While the execution did not always live up to the intent there, overall it was quite delightful to read about sex that was not ohmygod-the-skies-shook all the time, but somewhat more down to earth.

Mostly, though, what carries Tempest Rising through is its charm, and that seems to me based on a certain naiveté – of the heroine’s wide-eyed wonder (and occasional terror) at the magical world she is finding herself to be part of, but also the author’s, whose enthusiasm for writing the novel infuses every page of it. I hope Nicole Peeler will be able to hold on that enthusiasm as the series continues and at the same time manage to polish her writing skills, this might turn out to be a very delectable series if she does.

Book Diary: Larissa Ione – Sin Undone

Sin Undone (Demonica, Book 5) by Larissa…Sin Undone is the fifth and nominally last in Larissa Ione’s Demonica series. Nominally, because the author’s current series, Lords of Deliverance, is set in the same universe and apparently shares some characters – in fact, there is some overlap in this novel already, with one of the titular Lords making his appearance here, and thus ensuring a seamless transition between the series.

As a result, Sin Undone does not convey much sense of an ending – sure, there is an apocalyptic plague that threatens to wipe out not just the werewolf population, but possibly all life, demonic and human alike. But our protagonists of course prevent that from happening (with a little help from characters from previous novels), and overall it feels very much business as usual for the series – another instalment in the ongoing saga rather than its epic culmination.

Which is not to say that the novel reads at all like a routine effort – it has the same mixture of twisted plot, steamy sex scenes and bizarre, over-the-top worldbuilding that made the rest of the series so much fun, and is every bit as enjoyable as the first four. I was just hoping for a bit more closure than “Now everyone in the family is happily partnered”, kind of more of a bang and less of a whimper (although I suppose it’s rather a moan, and a long and lustful one, at that). In the end, though, this is just a very minor niggle, and it likely won’t be too long before I start on reading Eternal Rider, the first novel in the follow-up series…

What I’m Reading: Carolyn Crane – Head Rush

It’s rather sad to see how so many of the best and most interesting series in the Paranormal / Urban Fantasy genre seem to get discontinued by their publishers – T.A. Pratt’s Marla Manson, Moira J. Moore’s Lee and Taro (I know, not really Paranormal, not even really Fantasy, but it kind of reads like it was), Harry Connolly’s Twenty Palaces… Apparently the same thing happened to Carolyn Crane’s Disillusionists Trilogy which got dropped by Spectra after two volumes – which was particularly nasty as the second installment ended on an evil cliffhanger, and readers were left gnashing their teeth in frustration at the prospect of never finding out how it all resolves. Thankfully, there was a happy ending in store and the final volume in the trilogy was picked up by Audible and Samhain, so that we can now read (or listen to, if we’re so inclined) the finale fate of Justine, Packard, Otto and the others.

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Book Diary: Molly Harper – Nice Girls Don’t Date Dead Men

Nice Girls Don't Date Dead Men by Molly…I was in the mood for a bit of light reading, and Molly Harper’s Jane Jameson series is about as fluffy as it gets, basically the literary equivalent to an almond meringue – absolutely no nutritional substance at all, but irresistibly delicious. (The novels do get one better over the pastries though, in that they are also very funny.)

There is a theory that humour is a product of the clash of the ideal with the real, and Molly Harper’s is a very nice illustration of that, as a signifcant portion of the profuse amount of giggles, chuckles and outright laughter reading Nice Girls Don’t Date Dead Men elicited from me happened when the ideal of vampirism or werewolfhood as featured in countless paranormal fantasies crashed into real life (do vampires need a special toothpaste? how exactly do werewolves mark their territory?).

Nice Girls Don’t Date Dead Men is not just a spoof on Paranormal Romances, though, but in addition is populated with a host of bizarre and generally hilarious characters (among them quite a few quite horrible relatives of the heroine and her friends – one might almost get worried about the author’s family relationships), as well as lots of witty banter and entertaining snark. For the most part, the book reads like a series of connected episodes rather than a novel with an overarching plot (what there is revolves mostly around the heroine’s best friend’s wedding to a werewolf), but I can’t say that I missed it – I was enjoying myself too much to even notice (and the few times I might have, I was far too busy chuckling to care).