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Book Review: Beverly Hills Demon Slayer by Angie Fox (Series, #6)

September 24, 2014 3 comments

A woman holding a sword stands near a dog wearing star sunglasses.Summary:
Lizzie and Dimitri are back from their honeymoon and are all moved in to their new California oceanfront home.  Lizzie is loving married life, even if she has to deal with keeping her talking dog Pirate’s pet dragon out of trouble.  But one night someone dumps a purgatory creature on their beach, and their search for who did it and why leads Lizzie right back to two of her worst nemeses: a big bad demon and her birth father.

Review:
I was really excited to be able to get an advanced reading copy of this book, since I’ve been a fan of the series from book one.  I also was happy to see that Fox wasn’t going to stop the series just because Lizzie got married.  I think more urban fantasy needs to acknowledge that you don’t have to be single or have a dramatic love life in order to be bad-ass.  This book demonstrates quite well that just because Lizzie got married doesn’t mean that the series will stagnate.

The book’s strength is its opening sequences demonstrating Lizzie’s married life, as well as the first time we see the biker witches’ new permanent digs.  Both show that while everyone is still the characters we first met and fell for, they are also progressing and changing as their life situations change.  The scenes of Lizzie and Dimitri’s new married life are a pleasure to read, seeing them settled into being a partnership and Pirate accepting of the fact that he is now banned from the bedroom.  It’s also pretty hilarious to see them trying to hide the supernatural from their homeowner’s association.  Similarly, the biker witches are still quirky and funny but now they have made a real home out of a motel, including a surprisingly beautiful magical courtyard out back.  These are the characters we love in new situations, and it’s quite well done.

The plot is a bit meh this time around.  We’ve seen this big bad demon multiple times before, as well as the problems with Lizzie’s birth family.  It feels a bit like a recycled plot, in spite of some of the finer details being different.  I think it’s high time Lizzie gets a new big bad to fight.  Additionally, I think a lot of readers will have a problem with the direction the plot goes at the end of the book.  Fox pulls up this thing that is earth-shattering to readers, and should be to the characters, but they kind of just brush it off and don’t really deal with the consequences.  I’m hoping that they will in the next book, but even if they do, it’s still a rough plot for this book.  It starts out ho-hum as something we’ve seen before then in the final third goes suddenly off the rails in a direction a lot of readers won’t like.  Kind of a difficult plot to deal with when it’s wrapped in such cute characters, scenes, and overarching series developments.

*spoilers*
For those who’ve read it, I seriously question the plot having Lizzie kill Pirate with such vehemence when she’s possessed, only to have him brought right back to life.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the idea of having Lizzie possessed after all of her loved ones were possessed by the same demon in the prior book.  That’s an interesting direction to go.  But having Lizzie actually kill Pirate? Gut-wrenching to read.  And then she faces no consequences because he is just brought back to life, and everyone instantly forgives her?  It felt like Fox ripped my heart out for no reason, and then I didn’t forgive Lizzie as fast as her family and friends seemed to.  It was a tough ending to the book.
*end spoilers

The sex scenes are the perfect level of sexy and romantic. They feel just right for newlyweds but also don’t overwhelm the plot.  One character from a prior book is explored more in-depth, and a new character is added.  I wasn’t a fan of the latter, but I enjoyed the former.

Overall, this book handles its urban fantasy heroine’s new married life quite well, balancing the romance with the fighting, dangers, and sexiness readers expect.  Some readers may be bothered by the fact that the plot starts out feeling like a do-over of previous plots, and some may be bothered by the ending of the book.  However, fans of the series should definitely pick this one up to see where Lizzie and the gang are heading, and they will be left wanting to pick up the next one as quickly as possible.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Netgalley

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Previous Books in Series:
The Accidental Demon Slayer, review
The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers, review
A Tale of Two Demon Slayers, review
The Last of the Demon Slayers, review
My Big Fat Demon Slayer Wedding, review

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Banner for the RIP IX challenge.

Book Review: Succubus Revealed by Richelle Mead (Series, #6) (Audiobook narrated by Elisabeth Rodgers)

January 8, 2014 1 comment

Woman in white and wearing a cross standing in front of a foggy sky.Summary:
Seattle’s succubus, Georgina Kincaid, is incredibly happy to be back together with her previously ex boyfriend, Seth Mortensen.  But getting back together with him came at the price of hurting his once-fiancee and having to leave her previously loved position managing the bookstore.  It’s all worth it to be with Seth, though.  But then a transfer notice comes in, sending her to her dream job in Las Vegas.  It’d be a dream come true, except Seth can’t come with her because his sister-in-law has cancer.  Georgina starts to wonder just why so many elements seem to keep coming together to try to drive her and Seth apart.

Review:
A breathtaking conclusion to the series that reveals not just Georgina’s entire life story but also that the series itself is more than originally meets the eye.

It was obvious in the prior book that a much larger overarching plot was going to be revealed in the final entry in the series.  Mead reveals this plot through an artful combination of the characters investigating, flashbacks, and a court case.  Normally, I’m not a fan of courtroom drama, but Mead pulls it off beautifully, really playing up the supernatural elements and keeping it moving along at a rapid pace.  While I had pretty much already figured out what the big reveal would be, how it was revealed and how the characters reacted was unexpected and complex.

A running theme in the series has been that the characters are not perfect and life doesn’t hand out easy answers or resolutions.  The resolutions to the various problems and questions in the plot and in Georgina’s life follow these guidelines as well.  It is not a simple reveal that places perfection into Georgina’s life.  She has to address her issues, how she has dealt with herself and other people, and she must face the supernatural community as well.  It was refreshing to see characters in an urban fantasy have to work toward resolution instead of having it handed to them by virtue of just being lucky or having the right powers.

The romance is in full-swing in this book.  Georgina is much more focused on her love life than on being on a succubus.  Thus, most of the sex scenes we get are hot in an entirely romantic way.  Once again, though, I was more focused on the quality of the plot and characters than on the quality of the sex scenes.  The story of Georgina overpowered the juicy bits, and that’s a sign of a great urban fantasy.

The book brings to light the questions of good versus evil, love and what it takes to make a relationship work, soul mates, and the qualities of humanity.  And it does it with humor, brightly written characters, sexy sex scenes, and creative settings.  An ending to the series as satisfying as a rich dessert that will leave the reader wanting to re-read the series as soon as possible.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Audible

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Previous Books in Series:
Succubus Blues, review
Succubus On Top, review
Succubus Dreams, review
Succubus Heat, review
Succubus Shadows, review

Book Review: Deadly Row to Hoe by Cricket McRae (Series, #6)

November 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Summary:
Sophie Mae and her best friend decided to join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) as soon as the opportunity popped up in their small town.  One day when they’re volunteering at the farm, a dead body is found in the compost heap.  Sophie Mae is determined not to get involved this time, after all, she’s got enough on her plate with her soap making business and trying to make a baby with her husband, Detective Barr.  But Barr’s boss asks her to help identify the body by talking to the folks in the community , and she just can’t say no.

Review:
Cozy mysteries consist of a mystery (that’s not too explicit or bloody) paired with an unlikely investigator, some sort of crafting, a good dose of humor, and a punny title.  In other words, they were basically made for me.  (Some even come with recipes!)  So when this one popped up on NetGalley, I snatched it up, and I’m so glad I did!  McRae successfully pulls together everything that makes a cozy great.

The plot is excellent.  The murder mystery isn’t too gory, but is also realistic.  The body is found in a compost heap, yes, but it’s just a dead body.  There aren’t slashed off heads hanging out in tea kettles or something.  Everyone is appropriately disturbed by the finding.  There’s no ho-hum just another day element at play.  Although I admit I had figured out whodunit before the end, the why and when were still a mystery.  Plus I never felt that Sophie Mae was being stupid and just missing something.  Why it was taking her a bit to see whodunit made total sense.  I also really appreciate that GLBTQ people are included in the plot without a big deal being made out of it.  They are just another character, which is just how I like my diversity in genre literature.

The characters are fairly three-dimensional for a cozy.  Everyone had something I liked and didn’t like about their personality, even the heroine, which is key to characters seeming realistic.  There were also a wide variety of people present from Sophie Mae’s best friend’s daughter to an elderly friend of the family.  This range is something that is often missing in literature, and I liked seeing it here.

What I really come to cozies for, though, I admit, is the integration of crafting.  In this case the theme is participating in a CSA, so parts of the book are devoted to how a CSA works from acquiring your weekly allotment to figuring out how to use it to cooking with it.  I really appreciated the quips about having so much of a certain produce that they’re coming out your ears.  I also really enjoyed the scenes that discussed taking real time out to cook dinner and what that feels like, such as talking about how garlic smells when you first throw it into a hot pan.  I know not all readers enjoy this, but honestly that’s part of the point of a cozy.  Taking the time to linger on crafts and talents that take time to cultivate but are well worth it, and McRae incorporated this element very smoothly into the book.  I do wish some recipes or CSA tips had been included, but it’s possible I just didn’t see them since I had an advanced copy.

Overall this book has a dash of everything enjoyable about a cozy mystery.  Recommended to cozy fans, particularly those in or considering a CSA.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: NetGalley

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Previous Books in Series:
Lye in Wait
Heaven Preserve Us
Spin a Wicked Web
Something Borrowed, Something Bleu
Wined and Died

Book Review: Y: The Last Man: Girl on Girl by Brian K. Vaughan (Series, #6) (Graphic Novel)

March 6, 2012 1 comment

Two women holding each other.Summary:
We catch up with Yorick, 355, and Dr. Mann on board a freighter headed for Australia by way of Japan.  They seem to have abandoned their hunt for Ampersand the monkey for now.  The captain of the ship is gorgeous and has the hots for Yorick, but trouble arrives in the form of an Australian submarine.  Is it the freighter or the submarine that is the pirates?

Review:
So the title is sort of a double entendre.  We do get an excellent lesbian sex scene (inter-racial no less!), but we also have the war between the submarine of women and the ship of women.  Haha, well played, Vaughan!

The great thing about this entry in the series is that by itself it has a lot of very cool elements, but it also moves the plot forward.  We find out some about what’s been happening on the other side of the globe since the men died, characters hook up, and we get some really good action.  It gets us places (specifically moving across the ocean), but it doesn’t feel like a filler book the way #4 did.

Plus, the Pacific Islander ship captain is really hot and badass.

Overall, this is an excellent entry in the series that is entertaining and moves the plot forward.  Fans will not be disappointed.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Public Library

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Previous Books in Series
Y: The Last Man: Unmanned (review)
Y: The Last Man: Cycles (review)
Y: The Last Man: One Small Step (review)
Y: The Last Man: Safeword (review)
Y: The Last Man: Ring of Truth (review)

Book Review: The Walking Dead, Book Six by Robert Kirkman (Series, #6) (Graphic Novel)

February 13, 2012 2 comments

Carl in orange against a pile of zombies.Summary:
The group continues to slowly lose their collective minds, although it is quickly made evident that they haven’t gone as crazy as some groups when they find themselves stalked by living cannibals.  Toss in a preacher who failed to protect his flock and what turned out to be a pack of lies from the scientist, and it’s no wonder the group is suspicious when a couple of men approach and offer them refuge in an idyllic community just outside of DC.  They in their state of PTSD can’t stop seeing danger around every corner and don’t even realize the dangerous ones just might be themselves.

Review:
You know how they say you can always find someone in the world worse off than you?  Well, the first part of book 6 seems to be all about proving that’s true, perhaps in a way to humanize the group prior to how abundantly evident their loss of humanity is in contrast to the DC compound.  That isn’t to say I particularly enjoyed the cannibalism plot-line.  I can see its value, yes, but I also feel like we’d already seen how bad humanity can go in Woodbury, and if people are going to be eating people, that’s what you have zombies for.  So the first half of the book is kind of meh to me.

On the other hand, seeing our group in the DC compound is delicious.  I think one of the pieces of artwork in the appendix at the back explores the contrast eloquently.  Michonne is dressed up talking to a group of women at a party, but she’s hiding a sword behind her back.  The group has become so used to constantly being turned on and at war with the zombies and other survivors that they cannot relax.  Classic PTSD.  It’s fascinating to see how even Carl can recognize that they are no longer like these people who’ve been able to have downtime in the zombie war.  Anybody who understands war and trauma at all would know that these people need special care.  Even just the way they clump up and sleep all together in spite of being offered separate quarters is a symptom of PTSD, and yet the DC group makes Rick a cop.  Um….ok.  A seriously questionable choice there, but then again, the mayor of DC did used to be in politics.  And we all know how smart those types can be.  *eye-roll*

In any case, it’s obvious that this book is setting things up for a show-down between our traumatized group and the DC folks.  I’m enjoying seeing our main guys turn slowly evil, and I’m curious to see how far Kirkman is willing to take it.  That said, the first half of the book with the cannibals seemed kind of unnecessary to me.  I’d rather have seen more zombies.  Overall, it moves the plot forward, but that plot momentum is left mostly to the second half of the book.  Worthy of the series and hopefully book 7 will live up to the build-up.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Public Library

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Previous Books in Series:
The Walking Dead, Book One (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Two (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Three (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Four (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Five (review)

Book Review: The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M. Auel (Series, #6)

May 30, 2011 40 comments

Woman standing in cave looking out at scenery.Summary:
All of Ayla’s unique life situations–from being adopted by the Clan to living in a valley by herself to her long Journey with Jondalar–have been combining to make her into a great, powerful woman.  In this final entry in the Earth’s Children series we witness her transformation from Ayla to Zelandoni shaman of the Zelandonii.

Review:
As a fan of the Earth’s Children series since the age of 15, there is just no way I can review this epically disappointing, long-awaited finale to the series without spoilers.  So, be warned, this whole post is going to contain spoilers, because there is just no way I can possibly not talk about  everything that went horribly awry here.

First there is the incredibly huge issue of plot.  The book is divided into three sections.  The first section is entirely Ayla wandering around looking at caves with Zelandoni.  Which would be fine.  If the caves had anything particularly unique about them or anything exciting happened in the caves or if we weren’t told repeatedly “here’s a horse painting, here’s a cave lion painting, here are dots that mean something to the Zelandoni but I won’t ever tell you what they mean because where would the fun in that be?”  Oh sure, there are hints that something more exciting might happen, but nothing ever does.  It’s like Auel thought about putting action in, but then decided it’d be way easier to talk more about the badly painted and scratched in horses in these caves that for some reason the Zelandonii think are so incredibly sacred.  Oh yeah.  I remember why.  Because they’re supposedly the vagina of the Earth Mother.  Think about that for a second.  These people are worshiping in sacred vaginas.

Then we have the second section which mysteriously jumps forward four years in Ayla’s acolyte training because for some reason we couldn’t possibly be interested in that, oh no, there’s nothing interesting about ceremonies or studies.  Instead, we get to jump ahead four years and go on Ayla’s Donier tour.  Do you know what Ayla’s Donier tour is?  Going around Zelandonii territory to look at MORE CAVES.  This traveling could possibly be interesting.  We have foreshadowing multiple times that something bad is going to happen to Ayla, particularly that a band of evil bad rapist men are going to kidnap her and drag her off.  But no.  They grab her and Jondalar somehow miraculously goes from in front of the evil band of rapist men to behind them, breaks the leather-thong assisted choke-hold the dude has on Ayla, and saves her from them.  Then the Zelandoni beat them to death in an instance of mob justice.  Well.  At least something sort of happened?

The third section jumps ahead two more years (skipping almost all the rest of Ayla’s acolyte training) to yet another summer meeting, which Ayla has to come to part-way through because she had to stay back to complete her final assignment of training.  Ayla has a vision in a cave (oh, we’ll get to that in a minute) and then goes to the summer meeting where she walks in on Jondalar getting naked sexy head from the one woman in the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii immune to liking Ayla.  No, I am not joking.  Jondalar, the oh I am Ayla’s soulmate and we will be together forever and I love her so much has totally been cheating on her for almost the entire last two years of her acolyte training.  Because she was busy.  Because a man has needs.  Because the ho offered herself to him and why on earth would Jondalar say no?  I am not joking, that is the tone of the book in the whole revelation of cheating thing.  PLUS, the whole cave knew about it and hid it from Ayla to protect her feelings.  Ayla, naturally, knows jealousy is taboo in Zelandonii society, so instead of confronting the cheating bastard she first has sex at a Mother Ceremony (ahem, orgy) with the dude Jondalar hates most in the Ninth Cave, and then she decides life isn’t worth living and tries to kill herself with the Clan root.  This from a woman who has three horses, a wolf, and a freaking 6 year old daughter to look after.  The only thing that saves her, naturally, is Jondalar’s undying love.  It took all of my self-control not to throw my kindle across the room.  Well, and also my intense love for my kindle.

So for two-thirds of the book nothing really happens, and then in the last third our two heroes both turn into loathsome people.  Good. Times.

Ok, so, the plot takes a complete nose-dive off Niagara Falls without a barrel while holding your beloved kitten.  What about the supposedly key element of the book and series?  What world-changing thing does this special woman, this powerful shaman, bring about?  Allow me to quote the new verse of the Earth Mother’s Song that is revealed to Ayla at the climax:

Her last Gift, the Knowledge that man has his part.
His need must be spent before new life can start.
It honors the Mother when the couple is paired,
Because woman conceives when Pleasures are shared.
Earth’s Children were blessed.
The Mother could rest. (page 540)

Yes. That is right, people.  The reason for this woman existing is to reveal to these dim-wits that sex, not the Earth Mother mixing spirits, causes babies.  Allow me to repeat that.  Ayla’s big contribution to pre-historic society is to teach these people the birds and the bees.

I wish I could say it gets better from there, but it doesn’t.  First Ayla has to convince the other shamans (Zelandoni) that this is true.  They, naturally, don’t want to believe it.  The lead Zelandoni convinces them that they must tell the people in a huge ceremony, because this will be life-changing.  Then we have, quite possibly, the most eyeball-widening, face-palming, head:desk inducing passage I have ever read.  The ceremony, meetings, and Mother’s Celebration that go along with it.  I won’t put you through the pain of all of it, but allow me to show you a good sample.  The passage in which the lead Zelandoni explains what to call the men who are also parents:

He is a far-mother, a fa-ther. It was also chosen to indicate that while women are the Blessed of Doni, men may now think of themselves as the Favored of Doni. It is similar to ‘mother,’ but the fa sound was chosen to make it clear that it is a name for a man, just as ‘fa’lodge’ is the name for the men’s place. (page 676-7)

I just…..there are no words for the inanity of it all.

Then, of course, all the men overnight turn into possessive, abusive, over-aggressive douchebags since now they know that their sperm has magical powers.  The book ends with the very heavy-handed suggestion that this revelation is what caused the move from matriarchy to patriarchy.

Oh, but it gets better.  To put one final touch of absurdity on the whole thing, we also finally get to find out what happened to the Neanderthals (Clan).  Ayla still has the black stone that contains a piece of every Clan member’s spirit in it from when she was a medicine woman for them.  A vision reveals to her that when Broud cast her out with the death curse, she forgot to leave the stone behind and thus caused the death of the entire Clan.  Yeah. Really. That’s what happens.  All of this build-up, and we find out that Ayla reveals the birds and the bees, kills matriarchy, and kills the Neanderthals.  What. The. Fuck.

As if the meandering plot and completely inane and horrifying huge reveals weren’t bad enough, something happened to Auel’s writing style.  I like to call it “let me give everything really long names and repeat myself a lot”  Just one example of the plethora of overly long names is “Zelandoni Who Was First Among Those Who Served The Great Earth Mother.”  That would be less painful, maybe, if Auel didn’t also repeat herself all the time.  Almost every time the lead Zelandoni shows up, we are reminded that she is a very large woman.  Almost every time Ayla speaks, someone notices her foreign accent.  Almost every time someone sees Jonayla (kill me now with that name), someone notices that she has Jondalar’s eyes.  Enough already!  We know! Stop telling us!

Between the meandering plot, completely what the fuck ending, and simply bad writing, I can’t recommend this book to anyone.  My best advice to fans of the series, or those interested in it, is to pretend that it ends with The Mammoth Hunters and Jondalar riding off into the sunset with Ayla.  Just pretend it stops there.  Ignore his people.  Ignore Ayla’s calling.  Ignore the Journey.  Just ignore the whole thing.  Take the characters and world back from Auel who completely mistreated them and let them exist in your mind the way they were at the end of The Mammoth Hunters.  Do not waste your time or hurt your brain reading this book. Just…..don’t.

1 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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Previous Books in Series:
The Clan of the Cave Bear
The Valley of the Horses
The Mammoth Hunters
The Plains of Passage
The Shelters of Stone 

Book Review: Song of Susannah by Stephen King (Series, #6)

August 10, 2010 5 comments

A bench in a bunch of blue fog.Summary:
The ka-tet faces three challenges: keep the chap from the Crimson King, save Susannah, and get Tower to sell them the rose.  With the help of the Manni, they get the door to open two final times, and it sends Eddie and Roland to Maine to see Tower and Jake, Pere, and Oy to NYC in a final desperate attempt to save Susannah and the chap.  Meanwhile, Susannah must face not only the foreign woman inside her, Mia, but also the figurative demons of her past and her personality in her mind.

Review:
There are elements of this book that are beautiful and quite literary, primarily everything to do with the title.  There are of course two songs about Susannah.  One is immediately evident.  Each chapter ends with a stanza of a song, remarkably like the commala songs sung in the previous book, but of course the content of the stanza references what happened in that chapter.  There’s also a song from Susannah’s past that winds up showing more about who she is and what her life has been than anything else in the books has done.  What makes that beautiful is that it’s just a traditional folk song and wasn’t written by King for her at all.

Of course I’d consider this book a failure if all it did was develop Susannah’s character.  The Dark Tower is about characters and the quest equally.  Thankfully, this entry in the series addresses both.  Various mysteries are addressed such as what the Low Men are, who Mia is, how Pere wound up in a book from another one of the worlds, and more.  Plus a few new mysteries are added.  But in the end the main questions remain: will the ka-tet make it to the Dark Tower and will the Dark Tower fall?

In spite of the well-written action sequences and character development, there is one aspect of this book that rubbed me the wrong way.  King writes himself in as a character, but not just any character.  He is the Crimson King’s opposite.  In other words, he’s the essential good guy.  For some reason when he writes his stories they have an impact on the worlds, so he must stay alive and keep writing the Dark Tower series if the ka-tet is to have any hope.  The whole thing just reads as egotistical.  Plus it forced me out of the story.  I can suspend my disbelief for other worlds, but to suspend it enough to believe that the author is not only vaguely aware of these worlds but also his writing impacts them, well, it leaves you going “huh?” and kind of takes the escapism out of it.  So I skimmed over the parts featuring King and tried to just focus on the ka-tet.  It wasn’t that hard to do, so the King bits definitely didn’t ruin my experience; they just dulled it a bit.

Overall, this is a very good entry into the series.  The characters and the plot move forward, and there are some wonderfully memorable scenes that will stick with you for a long time.  If you’ve stuck with the series and enjoyed it this far, you’ll definitely enjoy this book.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Borrowed

Previous Books in Series:
The Gunslinger, review
The Drawing of the Three, review
The Waste Lands, review
Wizard and Glass, review
Wolves of the Calla, review

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