I managed to read 7 books for the challenge (total of 8 for the month), when for the past 5 months I’d only managed 2-5 a month, so I think I achieved what I set out to do and that was to get over this slump and read more.
The Outlaw Demon Wails by Kim Harrison
This was a book I had in my TBR box for a while, mainly because someone had spoilt something in the previous book, For a Few Demons More, so I was a bit put off reading that one and not about to jump ahead. I finally read For a Few Demons More before the challenge and decided to forge ahead with The Outlaw Demon Wails while the details of the last book were still fresh in my mind.
Rachel Morgan is determined to squash her inner adrenaline junkie and make wiser decisions that won’t land her and her friends in so much trouble. But a request for her help in obtaining an elf DNA sample from the ever-after leads to a revelation of Rachel’s true origins and changes her perspective on family and risk-taking.
I enjoyed seeing Rachel’s character grow, and there are also some developments in the world as a consequence of the previous book that are still playing out. Rachel isn’t the only one to have grown. Trent Kalamack, who seems to live in the grey area despite holding some very black and white beliefs, gets his eyes opened as well and we get a better understanding of why he does some of the things he does. For the first time that I can remember, I finished reading the book without the usual feeling that things will get worse for Rachel before they get better.
At the end of the book, there is a short story about the demon Algaliarept and how Ceri came to be his familiar.
Some recollection of previous books is required because references to earlier events are frequently made and characters do play parts in later books. They are definitely not to be read as stand alones.
Dance with a Vampire by Ellen Schreiber
Raven Madison is a goth who stands out in her home town dubbed Dullsville. Nothing happens until the arrival of a boy around her age whom no one ever sees, especially in daylight. She barges into Alexander Sterling’s world and charms the pants off him (well, not literally because this is YA—Raven has slept with Alexander in his coffin, but there’s no mention of any extracurricular activities). His arrival brings complications that run their course over several books, and Dance with a Vampire is the fourth in the series.
A young vampire boy, who is the younger brother of Alexander’s enemy, has latched onto Raven’s decidedly un-Goth little brother, but no one else seems to realise that Valentine is different from other boys his age.
Raven and Alexander try to set traps for Valentine and track him down without letting anyone know that he and Alexander are real vampires, while Raven prepares for prom, makes time for her best friend (who now also has a boyfriend), has verbal skirmishes with her nemesis Trevor Morgan (who seems to have had a crush on her until he realised that he would have to disregard his friends’ opinions and his own need for peer acceptance to be with her), and romanticises her future with Alexander until she is shown that she is not yet ready to give up her humanity after all.
I would describe the series as a soft YA because Raven overly romanticises her future with Alexander, not to mention the aforementioned lack of extracurriculars in the coffin. She’s not quite as wholesome as the teenagers in YA fiction I’m complaining about in my description of Vampire Academy, but she’s decidedly quite innocent and much less independent than Richelle Mead’s teenagers.
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
I bought this book solely because I was planning to go to Richelle Mead’s book signing at Galaxy and didn’t want to meet her without having read something she’d written. Although I don’t read much YA fiction anymore, I chose Vampire Academy over her other 2 series because I have been a vampire fan for well over a decade. Actually, the main reason I had avoided these books up until now was that they have been published in C format size, which I find annoying. What’s wrong with publishing them as normal-sized paperbacks?
What I enjoyed most about Vampire Academy was that it wasn’t written in the same style as the YA fiction published when I was a teenager in the 90s. Back then, high school students were written with more maturity than many adults have developed today. They were insightful and didn’t write people off because they didn’t understand them. Their hearts beat faster from holding someone’s hand or a simple kiss and most of them never even thought about sex. These people on the verge of adulthood referred to fellow students their own age as ‘kids’ and girls were attracted to ‘boys’. Does that bear even the slightest resemblance to ANYONE’S high school experience? It sure as hell wasn’t mine.
Enter 17-year old Rose Hathaway. She swears, drinks, sneaks out, breaks rules and flirts simply because she enjoys male attention. She also has a crush on her 24-year old mentor. Her best friend Lissa is popular and gifted, but depressed and cuts herself to release emotional pain. The behaviour isn’t glamourised but simply presented as part of how these teenagers cope through what can be a dark time in many people’s lives.
Rose and Lissa were forced to escape St Vladimir’s Academy and the story opens when the Guardians track them down and drag them back to the campus. There they deal with following someone else’s rules again, reaction from the rest of the academy’s population (not all of which is positive and awe-stricken), separation and some very cruel pranks while figuring out whom they can trust.
As far as a recommendation goes, I hadn’t even finished this book before deciding to buy the rest of the series.
Seducing Mr. Darcy by Gwyn Cready
Flip (born Phillippa) Allison is divorced and unhappily childless. Her discussion at a cafe about Pride and Prejudice’s MrDarcy and the likely heat of his passion is overheard by Austen professor and literary snob Magnus Knightley, who immediately looks down on Flip for her crass comments and casual bird-watching field uniform (complete with bird shit), in full imitation of art by art.
After a massage during which she imagines herself with Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, she rereads the book and, this time, there’s a reference to the character she played in her dream. Even worse, the antique edition on display is even more adulterated. Flip could really do with the help of an Austen scholar. If only we had one of those floating around the place…
Meanwhile, Flip’s ex likes having sex with a string of young, rich and entitled interns on Flip’s desk and after one such encounter, he and his current partner discover an extinct bird in Flip’s purse from her encounter with Darcy. The ex tries to blackmail Flip and undermine her chances of being selected for an expedition they’re both applying for, while the rich bitch does some sneaking around of her own to see how she can turn the situation to her advantage.
Seducing Mr. Darcy won the RITA for Best Paranormal Romance Novel in 2009, which cemented my decision to read it, and I’m really glad I did. The story was a lot of fun and the banter between Magnus and Flip was pretty hot. I can honestly say that I had never found the game of Scrabble to be even the slightest bit sexy until I read this book. The Scrabble scene alone should get another award!
In some ways the deviations made to the characters are even more out there than in Lost in Austen and I didn’t always find them very convincing. Maybe it was to evoke a sense of wrongness that makes it more urgent for Flip and Magnus to fix the book, or maybe it’s because we all might infer different things about how certain characters might react from how they are presented in the original work. But if you have faith that the story won’t get murdered, this book is well worth the read.
Nice Girls Don’t Date Dead Men by Molly Harper
I just found out that this is actually a closed-ended series, which, for those who have never heard these words used together, means that it actually has an end—something that is almost unheard of in the current paranormal romance climate. I’m so sceptical that I’m going to cover my arse and say that Harper described her debut book Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs on her website as ‘planned as the first in a three-book series.’ Plans can change is all I’m going to say.
Nice Girls Don’t Date is the second book in the series. Jane is a former librarian who was turned by the hot vampire Gabriel to save her life. Before her death, she may not have been the most exciting, kick-arse character, but realistically I think most of us can relate to her love of books (particularly Austen—she named her dog Fitz after Fitzwilliam Darcy), intelligence and snarky, sarcastic sense of humour. Jane’s character and a recommendation from Sofia at Galaxy were the reasons I started reading this series.
Jane has adjusted to her new life as a vampire, living with her dead Aunt Jettie’s ghost, helping her best friend plan his wedding, having a relationship with her sire, and coping with her family’s denial of her condition, so don’t expect Jane to be the focus of the book this time, despite its being a first person narrative. There are strange happenings, but no murder plot. The threats are less overt so it feels as though this book ran at a slower pace and wasn’t quite as exciting as Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs, but it is still a good read and left enough questions unanswered for me to read the third (and final?) book, Nice Girls Don’t Live Forever, to be released January 2010.
This Duchess of Mine by Eloisa James
As the central romance began as a subplot throughout the Desperate Duchesses series, readers of the series already know that Jemma left her husband Elijah, Duke of Beaumont, after she found him fornicating with his mistress on his desk during his lunch hour after having left the marital bed that morning. He asked her to return home as he has cardiac arrhythmia and needs to beget an heir. Only when she arrives, he keeps finding reasons not to bed her. She wants Elijah to love her, so arranges for another woman to pursue him as well so that he can feel as though he has options, but he is expected to choose her over her rival. Somehow she never saw the obvious flaw in her plan and was both surprised and annoyed when he appears to be flirting with her rival. Adding insult to injury, she had to compete for his attention against his work.
In theory, I would be hesitant to accept the redemption of a cheating husband, but from the beginning James established Elijah as having good, solid intentions, and his (one-off?) adultery was easier to forgive because the encounter took place years before the book is set, he is shown to be pathologically honourable in every other respect, and Jemma is well known for creating scandals of her own. At the risk of sounding like a cop-out, Elijah didn’t really want to have sex with his mistress and compartmentalised this business transaction separately from sex with his new wife.
Despite touching on the adultery hot button, James did the right thing in having them get to know each other during a courtship period, which they hadn’t had before they were married and they were able to show that they had developed real feeling for each other and that made me forgive their flaws.
A Duke of Her Own by Eloisa James
Eleanor loves Gideon. Gideon loves Eleanor but married Ada instead. So Eleanor declared her loyalty to Gideon by stating to the ton that she would not marry less than a duke. Enter the Duke of Villiers, who has more bastards than the classic Thredbo ad and needs to marry a duke’s daughter. Everyone assumes the match will take place—after all, the only other duke’s daughter is insane.
Villiers really doesn’t care what the ton thinks and neither does Lisette. Her fiancé has spent the past six years overseas to avoid marrying her or paying back her dowry and she’s in no rush for him to return. She’d much prefer to paint and stage plays for the local orphans to perform in. Villiers sees her as the perfect mother for his six illegitimate children and wants sweet, delicate Lisette in his nursery, and her friend, the sarcastic, sexy Eleanor in his bed.
I was glad that Villiers finally got an HEA of his own after getting dumped at least twice in the series. I enjoyed his banter with Eleanor, and his eldest son provided some comic relief as well. But warning to Kat: There is a love polygon of sorts and some characters end up alone. That’s all I’m going to say.