Review – Blood Lines by Eileen Wilks

042521344701_aa_scmzzzzzzz_v60649605_.jpgBlood Lines is one of the 2007 books I’ve been waiting for, and I’m glad to say it didn’t disappoint.

Blood Lines is the third book in Eileen Wilks’ Lupi series, Tempting Danger and Mortal Danger being the first and second books respectively.  There’s also a novella that sits between the first and second books, and gives some additional backstory, but it’s not strictly necessary to read it in order to follow the overall story arc.

Random bits and bobs:  Firstly, the cover’s really striking – there’s a foil-effect on the blue background, and the online image doesn’t really do it justice.  Also, if you’re interested, here’s the book synopsis from Ms Wilks’ website and here’s the excerpt.

From the back cover blurb:

Touch-sensitive FBI agent Lily Yu and her werewolf bond-mate are recruited by the Secret Service to help identify elected officials that have accepted demonic pacts.  But Lily must turn to fellow agent Cynna Weaver for help when Cynna’s former teacher, a demon master, emerges as the main suspect behind the pacts.

After a demon commits a gruesome murder, sorcerer Cullen Seabourne joins the team racing the clock to find the apprentice of evil who uses the demon to kill.  Cynna and Cullen must work together – a challenge indeed when each has good reaso to ignore the desire simmering between them.  But passion and events both spiral out of control as an ancient prophecy is fulfilled – and the lupi’s greatest enemy sets her sights on total devastation…

Right, the back cover blurb is slightly misleading, as it isn’t really Cullen and Cynna’s book – I would say that Lily and Rule take up equal time.  And actually, there are so many sub-plots going on that it would be near impossible to summarise on a back cover.

Here’s why I loved this book:

Ms Wilks’ Lupi series stands out from all the other urban fantasies out there.  It’s not just your average wallpaper werewolf romance – it’s a very well thought out and detailed otherworld.  I love her explanation of the tie between werewolves and the moon, and depth of werewolf traditions and rituals.  Added to that is the fact that one of the main characters, Lily Yu, is Chinese-American, which allows her to incorporate bits of Chinese culture that ring true to me.

If you’ve read the second book, you’ll know why Lily and Rule’s relationship has hit a slight bump in the road.  The scenes in this book where they dealt with the aftermath, both singly and together, were lovely.  I liked the fact that while they still loved each other and were bonded as mates, they had to work to get their relationship back to where it was – there wasn’t a quick-fix solution. 

I’ll be honest – it isn’t a perfect book.  The world-building wasn’t as smooth as it could have been – Ms Wilks sometimes fell back to the old device of having people describe Lupi traditions to Lily and Cynna (who are relative newbies) to explain her world to the reader.  And the POV transitions were not always smooth – I found myself re-reading some scenes just to understand whose POV we were seeing.  And oh dear, the multiple plot threads.  Nuff said.

But… ah heck, I don’t read this series for the plot, I read it because I love the characters, the relationship between Lily and Rule, and yes, Cynna/Cullen are growing on me.  There are lots of questions I really hope Ms Wilks will address in the next book (where the main characters will be Cynna and Cullen).  I want to know: 

  • How is Cynna going to handle the Rhej position and its implications?  My guess is that she’ll probably dragged kicking and screaming into the fold of the Nokolai clan (especially considering other events)
  • How is Rule going to handle the dual mantles?  Some potential for inter-clan rivalry and politics, methinks – heck, even inter-family
  • How is Rule and Toby’s relationship going to develop?  Aaaah, this should be interesting…

And you know what – I don’t really care about the Codex Arcanum and the potential end of the world.

Overall, this book was a great read, but misses out on the A category for me, because it wasn’t really a stand-alone book and there were just a few too many plot threads.  I half-wish that she could have gotten rid of some of them, and focused more on the intriguing ones.  For example, I would have liked more about Rule’s struggles with his werewolf half, and wouldn’t mind not having Lily’s grandmother in this book (don’t get me wrong – I love Li Lei, but didn’t really think her scenes contributed much to this book).

I wouldn’t start reading this series with this book, and it definitely helps if you’ve recently re-read the first two, just so that you can remember what’s happening.  Having said all that, I can’t wait for the next book (Night Season, due March 2008), but I really really hope Ms Wilks wraps up some of the open questions and starts streamlining the story arc soon before it becomes too much of a mess.

Grade: B+

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I Want…

I really wanted to get Patricia Briggs‘ new urban fantasy novel Blood Bound, but it wasn’t out in the bookstores yet.  Sigh.  It’s officially due out in February, but I was hoping that some stores may have received their copies early… 

ontheprowl300.jpgOn the news front, according to her website, she’s writing a story for an anthology called On the Prowl coming out in August this year, with these authors:

  • Eileen Wilks – I’m halfway through Ms Wilks’ new book Blood Lines and really enjoying it.
  • Karen Chance  – I re-read her debut novel, Touch the Dark (urban fantasy, with a clairvoyant getting mixed up with vampires) the other day, and liked it even better the second time around.  Her next book, Claimed by Shadow, is out in April.
  • Sunny – I’m reserving judgement on her books until I read one of her full-length novels, as her contribution to the Over the Moon anthology was more of an interlude between her two novels than a story.  I’m waiting for her first book, Mona Lisa Awakening, to be issued in mass market paperback before buying.

Judging by the title and the cover, it’s going to have shapeshifters as a common theme.  It’s definitely going on my To Buy list.

New Additions to My TBR Pile…

Right, four books arrived today – hurray!  Now, all I have to do is find the time to read them…

042521344701_aa_scmzzzzzzz_v60649605_.jpgBlood Lines by Eileen Wilks – Third book in Ms Wilks’ Lupi series – the first two books in this series (Tempting Danger and Mortal Danger) focused more on Lily Yu, an homicide cop turned FBI agent, and Rule Turner, a werewolf prince.  I’m excited because this book (based on the back cover blurb) has Cullen Seabourne playing a major part.  Cullen’s a werewolf sorcerer (okay, now there’s a phrase I never thought I’d type), who appears as a slightly shady and mysterious character in the first two books.  Which, of course, are the most interesting ones.  This book probably goes to the top of the my TBR pile. 

045122007201_aa_scmzzzzzzz_v37901437_.jpgThe Rest Falls Away by Colleen Gleason – This is Ms Gleason’s debut novel, which has been described as Buffy in the Regency era.  It’s the first book in what Ms Gleason has called the “Gardella Vampire Chronicles” – Victoria Gardella is a debutante who finds out about her family’s vampire-slayer legacy during her first Season.  I’m guessing this is a light read, and am looking forward to seeing how vampires fit into the Regency period!  On a side note, I love the cover – the corset, the stake and the red-orange theme (and I generally don’t like red covers).

045002154802_aa_scmzzzzzzz_.jpgGaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers – For a complete change of pace, this is a mystery with strong romantic undertones (hopefully!).  I’ve all of Ms Sayers’ short story collections, plus Busman’s Honeymoon, which is the last in the Peter Wimsey series, and had Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane starting off their marriage with a dead body being found in the cellar of their new house.  I’m pretty sure that Gaudy Night is the one where Peter proposes to Harriet.  It’s set in Oxford in the 1930s, and Harriet is accused of murder.  It’s quite a long book – 564 pages – so I’ll probably be dipping in and out for the next week or so (unless of course, it hooks me completely).

009949349702_aa_scmzzzzzzz_v56603381_.jpgThe Private World of Georgette Heyer by Jane Aiken Hodge – Finally, a non-fiction book (and my first of the year).  This is a biography of Georgette Heyer.  It’s quite a slim book, but just a quick flip through shows that many of Ms Heyer’s novels are referenced – I therefore suspect that I’ll be re-reading many of my Heyers while reading this book.  I’m hoping that this book gives added context and background to my favourite Heyer books.

Review – Stardoc by S.L. Viehl

045145773001_aa_scmzzzzzzz_v38206462_.jpgI’ve just finished reading Stardoc by SL Viehl, and was left wondering why I’ve never picked it up before. Possibly because I previously read one of the books Ms Viehl writes under her Lynn Viehl pseudonym (If Angels Burn), and didn’t get into it. While she classifies her Lynn Viehl books as dark fantasy, I rather think that they are paranormal romance instead (or certainly the book I read was shelved as one). And as a romance, it didn’t really work for me.

Moving on to her SF Stardoc series, I loved Stardoc (which is the first book) and will definitely be getting the rest in this series.

The main character, Cherijo Grey Veil, is a surgeon who moves to a distant colony outpost to practise medicine. Ms Viehl has a vivid imagination, which comes into play when describing the different alien species that Cherijo comes into contact with in the ER. And there’s a whole lot of them. The first part of the book describes how Cherijo finds her feet on this new planet, which nicely introduces the reader to this world as well.

I found Cherijo engaging and wanted to read more about her. Sure, she may very well verge on the edge of being a Mary-Sue, but still, I liked her. It’s SF, but there’s not a huge amount of hard science in it, making it an easy read. It’s probably not one for the SF purist, though.

There are some weaknesses, for instance, the romance part certainly struck me as underdeveloped. It’s similar to the relationships in some of Anne McCaffrey’s SF books where I’m left thinking “Where the heck did that come from?”. In this book, Cherijo and her partner, Kao, met, went out a couple of times, and the next thing I know, they’re swearing eternal love. Maybe I’m just used to romance books, where there’s a definite build-up of tension and chemistry between the h/h, but this jarred me slightly. On the other hand,

<POSSIBLE SPOILER>

… maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t get too attached to Cherijo’s partner…

</POSSIBLE SPOILER>

There are also some slightly disturbing scenes, which may be a showstopper for some. Note this is definitely not a romance, even though there are strong romantic elements. And oh, if I start thinking about it properly, the character development somewhat lacking, especially some of the secondary characters…

But having said all this, I read this book straight through in one sitting, I’m intrigued and I want to know where this series is heading. A B+ for me.

On a side note, I’ve updated my 2007 Book List page and realised that I’ve actually read a lot. To be exact, 27 books since Jan 1 (and that’s not counting re-reads). And it’s been a good mix of books from the romance, SF, fantasy, and mystery genres. Or all four in one.

A Couple of Reviews…

Well, I’ve read quite a few books lately… and bought even more!  It’s an addiction, I tell you.  But anyway, what I’ve been reading:

042521347101_aa_scmzzzzzzz_v60650474_.jpgI finished reading Demon Angel by Meljean Brook.  I’m not going to do a full review, because there are tons floating around the internet.  Suffice to say, I thought it was a really good book.  What I loved:

  • Hugh and Lilith – I completely bought into their relationship and their feelings for each other.  And in a romance, that is absolutely the most important thing.
  • The originality of Ms Brook’s world – This isn’t a run-of-the-mill demon/vampire/whatever urban fantasy setting, which is pretty impressive considering that the number of books published in this genre nowadays.
  • Sir Pup and Colin and all the other supporting characters – I never thought I’d find a three-headed dog sweet, but there you go…

Minor quibbles (because I always have them): 

  • I thought the story dragged in the parts towards the end – however, that could just be due to the fact that I was trying to finish it at 2am, so I could go to bed at a decent time!
  • I couldn’t help noticing how light-heartedly Hugh and Lilith were taking things – I’m not sure if that was due to their past experience (after 800 years, you’ve probably seen it all), but you know, they just seem to laugh at inappropriate times.  Or grin with mirth.  Or have their eyes fill with amusement.  Maybe this was an example of the author telling, not showing, but I started noticing it a lot in the second half of the book. 

All in all, this is a B+ for me – fantastic debut with great writing.  I’ll definitely buy Ms Brook’s next book, Demon Moon, coming out in June 2007 (set in the same world, with Colin and Savi being the main couple).

080955653701_aa_scmzzzzzzz_v49811924_.jpgI also read the anthology Best New Paranormal Romance, edited by Paula Guran.  I’ll be honest – not all the stories qualified as romance stories from my point of view.  In a way, it’s a good thing the whole online debate happened, because if I had read this collection expecting it to be err… paranormal romance (funny that), I’d be rather disappointed.  Out of the twelve stories, I would say that only two were romance:

  • Catherine Asaro’s The Shadowed Heart – I liked this, but then I’m already a big fan of her Skolian Empire books, so no big surprise there 
  • Rebecca York’s Hero’s Welcome was also a romance – Unsurprisingly, as she writes mainly romance

A couple of others that I really liked, but would not classify as romance stories were:

  • Heather Shaw’s Single White Farmhouse – It’s a quirky story that made me smile 
  • Deborah Coates’ Magic in a Certain Slant of Light – Umm… upon re-reading, maybe it is a romance, it certainly ends on a happy note, but still…

Also, I suppose I would question the use of “paranormal” in the title.  This collection struck me very much as speculative fiction, rather than paranormal – oh well, to each his/her own!  I will still look at upcoming Juno book releases, but will definitely make sure that I know whether it’s a romance or not before starting… (and yes, that may mean reading the last page before buying!).

Authors Websites…

Remember those days before the internet?  When the first time you heard about an upcoming book was when it was actually out on the bookstore shelves?  Or was that just me… 

Anyway, it’s incredibly easy nowadays to find out about upcoming releases on the internet.  And the easiest way to find more information is by Googling the author.  Because practically every single author nowadays has a website.  The basics include a bibliography, maybe some bio and FAQs.  A bit about upcoming books and works in progress.  And some even have lovely free stories or deleted scenes or behind-the-scenes type stuff.  Blogs are always interesting, but a “Latest News” page works just as well – obviously, provided it’s updated regularly!

And then you get those without any web presence whatsoever.  Arrrrgghhh.  Main offenders…

034548652801_aa_scmzzzzzzz_v47569509_.jpgLinda Howard – I so wish she would start a website.  Look at this book.  Doesn’t the cover look great?  Don’t you want to find out more?  Yes and yes.  All I can find out is that it’s a hardcover, out in June 2007, and by the looks of the cover, it’s probably a contemporary romantic suspense.  Err… okay, that’s way more than I would have known before the days of the internet, but still, some indication of the storyline would be good.  I want the back-cover blurb! 

Sharon Shinn – The closest I’ve found is this unofficial website, which is more or less up-to-date (and the owner appears to be in contact with Ms Shinn).  There is also a pretty comprehensive interview with Ms Shinn up at the Dear Author website (dated Oct 2006).

Some snippets of information from both of these sites:

  • The fourth book in her “Twelve Houses” saga will be released in Oct 2007. This book is tentatively titled “Reader and Raelynx”.  Hurray – I can’t wait!
  • A new YA title, tentatively titled “General Winston’s Daughter”, is planned for this coming fall.  From the Dear Author website:

This one, also a fantasy book, takes place in a world that’s roughly equivalent to the 19th century era when Britain ruled the world. A young girl travels to a fabulous and unfamiliar place that has just been invaded by the armies of her home country; her father is the general leading the troops, and her fiance is the second in command. But the longer she lives there, and the more she comes to care about the country, the more uneasy she is made by the realities of imperialism. 

I love her YA books as well – heck, I just love everything she writes!  I think the title isn’t that descriptive though, I wonder if it will change before publication?

  • There will be at least two collection/anthology inclusions, including the next “Powers of Detection” collection (edited again by Dana Stabenow) – probably 2008.  I wonder if she’ll set them in Samaria?

Sigh… For what it’s worth, the FantasticFiction.co.uk website is great at listing bibliographies for numerous authors, together with lists of books coming soon.

Around the Internet

Naomi Novik (of “Temeraire” fame) has posted a deleted scene from book four (yet untitled) on her LiveJournal (via SFBC).  I’d forgotten how completely adorable Temeraire is!  I’m so looking forward to this book coming out in autumn this year.  Ms Novik also has a couple of short stories up on her website, if you haven’t already seen them.

Sherwood Smith is a YA fantasy author (though her latest book, “Inda”, is not YA).  I’ve all her books, so it’s pretty obvious that I like her writing!  The first book of hers that I read was “Crown Duel”, an omnibus version of her “Crown & Court Duet” duology.  It’s a sword-and-sorcery fantasy, which reminds me somewhat of Sharon Shinn’s “Summers at Castle Auburn” – there’s a strong female protagonist and a sweet romance running through it.  My only quibble with Ms Smith’s books is that she likes to make up new words, when existing ones would work just as well without making you remember a new language!  Anyway, to get to the point, she has a short story up on the Coyote Wild speculative fiction website.  I haven’t read it yet, but it looks good!

Review – Plum Lovin’ by Janet Evanovich

PlumLovingWell, I whizzed through Janet Evanovich’s Valentine’s Day novella.  “Whiz” being the right word – I think I finished all 176 pages in an hour, and that’s counting interruptions.

From the jacket blurb:

Mysterious men have a way of showing up in Stephanie Plum’s apartment.  When the shadowy Diesel appears, he has a task for Stephanie – and he’s not taking no for an answer.  Annie Hart is a “relationship expert” who is wanted for armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon. Stephanie needs to find her, fast.  Diesel knows where she is.  So they make a deal: he’ll help her get Annie if Stephanie plays matchmaker to several of Annie’s most difficult clients.  But someone wants to find Annie even more than Diesel and Stephanie.  Someone with a nasty temper. And someone with “unmentionable” skills.  Does Diesel know more than he’s saying about Annie Hart?  Does Diesel have secrets he’s keeping about Stephanie and the two men in her life-Ranger and Morelli?  With Stephanie Plum in over her head, things are sure to get a little dicey and a little explosive, Jersey style!

Plum Lovin’ is set in-between the “normal” Plum books which come out every June.  As such, it’s understandably difficult for Ms Evanovich to really progress the overall story arc, as not all Plum fans will shell out for this novella.  She gets around this by bringing back Diesel, who was one of the main characters in her Christmas novella, Visions of Sugar Plums (another “in-between” story in the Plum world). 

Diesel and his gang of friends have superhero-type powers.  The relationship expert Annie Hart is pitched as a sort of Cupid character, who is on the run just before Valentine’s Day.  Stephanie steps in to pick up Annie’s caseload, which involves sorting out various love matches for the usual kooky characters that populate the Plum novels.  Which, as you can imagine, set the stage for some great scenes.  And there is a loose plot, which is tied up rather nicely.

Unfortunately, let’s face it – the Stephanie-Morelli-Ranger love triangle is one of the main attractions of the Plum series.  Stephanie-Diesel doesn’t even come close (especially when I can barely remember VoSP).  When you add in the fact that this is a Valentine’s Day tie-in, a book without Morelli and Ranger is a total let-down.  There is a nice Lula/Tank vignette, though, and oh, there was progress on the Valerie-Albert front.

Overall, this is one only for hard-core Plum fans, i.e. those who *have* to read all stories set in the Plum world.  Avoid if you’re new to the series, because this is in no way a good introduction.  Avoid if you’re a casual reader because this really isn’t a great addition to the Plum series and there are better books to spend your money on.  Finally, avoid if you are one of those who are already completely frustrated with the lack of progress in the Morelli-Ranger direction – for obvious reasons!

Sigh.  It’s not that bad, really.  I’m just grumpy.  The publisher is completely exploiting the popularity of this series by bringing this out in hardcover.  I suspect this may make a re-appearance as a “free” story in one of her hardcovers (the same way VoSP was, I believe) or maybe (almost definitely, I would say), it’ll be re-issued together with VoSP as a holiday anthology.

Grade: C

Hurray – More Books from Amazon…

PlumLovingAmazon may just go bankrupt without me!  Another delivery today…

Janet Evanovich’s Plum Lovin’ – *sigh* I’m still thinking that this was an utter waste of money…  I’m such a sucker.

044024284301_aa_scmzzzzzzz_.jpg

You May Now Kill the Bride – The fifth book in Deborah Donnelly’s Wedding Planner series – FINALLY.  See yesterday’s post on cliffhanger endings that should never ever be allowed. 

080955653701_aa_scmzzzzzzz_v49811924_.jpgAnd heh.  The infamous Best New Paranormal Romance anthology edited by Paula Guran.  Taking a quick look at the authors, I only recognise a couple of names – Catherine Asaro (I’ve all of her SF Skolian Empire books, but haven’t really been impressed by her fantasy novels for Luna), Elizabeth Bear (I’ve seen her books around in the SF / F section, but have never bought one) and Delia Sherman (she co-authored “Fall of the Kings” with Ellen Kushner).  I’m keen to read this and see how many of these stories I would classify as Paranormal Romance. 

On a related note, quite a few SF / F authors nominated for Romantic Times awards are blogging about it.  Elizabeth Bear has listed all the nominees, this is John Scalzi’s reaction and here’s Brandon Sanderson’s.

It’s interesting to see how the RT awards are viewed from the other side of the fence – there’s a bit of “Hey, didn’t know my book was considered a romance”, but there’s also a bit of “Great, romance readers will now know my name…”.   All in all, it’s a really positive reaction!

As for the nominations themselves, I’ve read a good number of the Fantasy books but none of the SF ones.  I reckon I actually read less SF than I think I do…

What I’m Reading Now

I meant to post some reviews this week, but work (and dodgy Internet connections) got in the way. So while I’m not sure when I’ll actually have time to write them up properly, here are some one-paragraph summaries of the books I’ve been reading lately.  Full reviews to come…

042521343901_aa_scmzzzzzzz_v58782347_.jpgOver The Moon – Paranormal romance (let the debate commence continue) anthology with Angela Knight and Mary Janice Davidson as the lead authors.  The other two are Virginia Kantra and Sunny (new author who is slightly controversial, see her Amazon reviews).  The only author I’m familiar with is Ms Davidson, and she delivers what you would expect, if you’ve read any of her Betsy or Wyndham (werewolves) stories.  Overall, just so-so (i.e. I didn’t feel the need to run out and get any of the authors’ backlists!).

044023703301_aa_scmzzzzzzz_.jpgDeborah Donnelly‘s Wedding Planner series – Okay, I’m officially hooked on this series, which starts with Veiled Threats.  I really like Ms Donnelly’s voice and I love the romance developing between the main character (Carnegie) and her partner (Aaron).  But (and this is a big BUT), she does cliffhanger endings.  And I mean cliffhanger.  Okay, the ones in books two (Died to Match) and three (May The Best Man Die) weren’t that bad, but the last sentence in book four (Death Takes a Honeymoon) nearly led me to have a “Book, meet wall; Wall, meet book” moment.   Especially since Amazon, in its infinite wisdom, decided to send book five (You May Now Kill the Bride) separately (yes, I ordered her entire backlist).  Book six (Bride and Doom) had a very nice wrap-up, so Ms Donnelly may have decided to change the way she ends her books (please say so!).  So great series, but if you do start, make sure you have the next books handy.  Especially if you’re hooked on the Carnegie/Aaron romance storyline.

042521347101_aa_scmzzzzzzz_v60650474_.jpgDemon Angel (Meljean Brook) – Well, I had to get this because of the huge online buzz!  Currently I’m still in the medieval bit where Hugh and Lilith are still getting to know each other, but I’m really into it (and halfway in love with Hugh).  This is shaping up to be a pretty good book and I’m completely buying the relationship between Hugh/Lilith – fingers crossed it continues along the same path…