Tag Archives: #paranormal romance

Dead Witch Walking (The Hallows book 1) by Kim Harrison.

Stars: 4 out of 5.

Dead Witch Walking is a solid first novel in a brand new series. I loved the characters and the world Kim Harrison has created and I thoroughly enjoyed the story as well. I have only one gripe with this book, but it’s big enough to deduct a whole star out of the score.

Rachel Morgan is a witch and she has a big problem, because until she finds a way to pay off her contract with I.S., she is literally a dead witch walking.  Nobody has breached a contract with this organization and survived long enough to tell the tale. But she has a plan – with the help of Ivy, a living vampire bounty hunter and Jenks, a pixie bodyguard, she will track and shut down the biggest illegal Brimstone operation in Cincinnati.  That ought to get I.S. off her back, no? Either way, it’s not like she has much of a choice…

Welcome to a world where a virus hiding in genetically modified tomatoes wiped out 3/4 of the human population… which made things rather complicated for the supernatural races who turned out to be immune. With the population numbers shrinking, they cannot hide in the shadows anymore and had to make their presence known.

Thus Cincinnati has been split into two very distinct cities – on one side of the river is the “normal” town, where most of the human population lives, and the other side belongs to the Hallows, where everything supernatural gathers and thrives. Oh, humans can take a walk on the wild side and venture into the Hallows, but they are not guaranteed to come back in the same state as they entered, or come back at all.

It’s a rich and interesting world, even if the premise for the apocalypse is rather silly. A tomato responsible for the end of the world as we know it, really? But the new world in which Rachel lives is complex and fascinating, with real problems and engaging characters.

Speaking of characters, a series cannot be popular without a good protagonist, and I absolutely love Rachel Morgan. She is a kick-ass heroine. No matter how many times she is kicked down, she always finds the will to get up and keep going.

I loved Ivy and Jenks. They are just as complex and interesting as Rachel and both have their own sets of problems. I like how those 3 very different people chose to stick together and help each other get through this very difficult situation.

My only complaint is that I didn’t like Rachel’s love interest. I tried, I really did, but he just rubbed me the wrong way almost from the moment he was introduced. He is too nice, too good, too everything to be believable and likable. I kept thinking that he has just assumed this “nice guy” persona to get closer to Rachel and that he will turn out to be somebody awful in the end, because of how unbelievably nice he was. Nope, seems like that’s real. Works for some, I guess, but for me, his character definitely lacks depth, especially compared to the rest of the cast.

But other than that, Dead Witch Walking is an excellent read that I would definitely recommend. I already bought the second book in the series and I can’t wait to dive into it as well.

Wicked Misery (Miss Misery book 1) by Tracey Martin.

Stars: 2 out of 5.

I’m always apprehensive when I start a new series, because you never know if you will like the world and the characters. And I usually try to stick with the series for at least 3 books or so before I decide to drop it, because the first book has the difficult and thankless task of introducing the reader to a brand new world. So even if I am not particularly trilled with book 1, I am more than willing to discount some of my misgivings and give the series another chance by reading book 2… That is if I like the protagonist enough to stick with him / her for another book.

Unfortunately, that is not the case with Wicked Misery.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I loved the worldbuilding for this series. The fact that we have a different kind of supernatural beings than vampires or werewolves is rather refreshing. It’s also interesting to read about a world where the preds and other supernatural beings are known and more or less integrated into society.

My problem with this series is the protagonist, which is a deal breaker when you are stuck observing the whole story through her eyes. Jessica Moore is a classic case of how the character has to constantly do stupid sh@t to drive the story along. I mean, I understand that the protagonist has to make mistakes, get burned and rise to the challenge, but a good protagonist also has to LEARN from those mistakes and get better, or at least not repeat them over and over again.

In Jessica’s case, she doesn’t seem to learn. AT ALL. And while this might be endearing the first time or two, it gets extremely annoying by the end of the book. She is in deep trouble, framed for a series of gruesome murders, wanted by all sorts of powerful people because of that. Yet, she absolutely refuses to listen to the people who try to help her with this problem. People whom he ran for help in the first place, I might add. It’s like she landed this whole mess on the satyr’s lap, then can’t seem to manage to stay put and let them deal with it. They tell her to hide and lay low, but she runs off to meet with a goblin who might or might not have pertinent information for her instead… without telling anyone where she is going. Ok, that might work once as a plot device, but later on in the book she pulls the same trick again and goes barging into a Fury bar on her own without telling anyone about again, in the middle of a Griffon raid designed to find her btw.

That’s not endearing anymore, that’s called having a death wish. The fact that she seems to emerge from those encounters unscathed and with no consequences at all indicates poor planning on the author’s part. The fact that Jessica’s little escapades are the only thing that drives the story forward also makes me want to put the book down.

My other problem with this book is the romantic relationship between Jess and Lucen, or what will probably become a romantic relationship between them in later books. It doesn’t work, at least not how it’s written. He is a satyr, so a pred whose whole nature is to incite lust in humans. Jess feels that and despises him for it. In fact, even though she run to him for help, all she does during the whole book is belittle and denigrate him, at least in her head (and since we are in her head, we get to read all of it). Then by the end of the book, after a plot twist I won’t tell you about, her ability to sense preds is dampened and she realizes that she still lusts after Lucen. Light bulb moment for our protagonist – so that wasn’t entirely him, I really want him! So it’s okay to finally be with him. News flash, honey, the fact that you want to jump his bones does not a strong relationship make. Especially since you haven’t really changed your opinion on what he is and what he does.

I think that’s my biggest problem with this book – Jess hasn’t really evolved by the end of it. As a person, I mean. Sure, she learned a bit more about her powers and decided that she would use them for good rather than evil, but that’s as far as the character development went. And since she wasn’t a character I was particularly interested in following at the beginning, it doesn’t make me want to follow her into the next book.

So my verdict for Wicked Misery is – interesting world building, but the protagonist is not my cup of tea. I wouldn’t recommend this series to my friends. There are plenty of other excellent series to read instead.

Cry Wolf (Alpha and Omega book 1) by Patricia Briggs.

Stars: 4 out of 5.

While this book is the first in the Alpha and Omega series, it’s set in the same world as the Mercy Thompson books and has a prequel in the form of a short story that explains how Charles and Anna met. I haven’t read either of those. Cry Wolf was my first introduction to this world and these characters, and I was surprised at just how much I loved them.

I think it mostly has to do with the fact that their relationship is exactly the sort I like to read about. It’s a solid partnership between two mature, albeit damaged people who make actual efforts to work through their problems together and gain each other’s trust and acceptance. Amongst the sea of one-sided, often abusive relationships we see in the paranormal romance books nowadays, stories like that are a sip of fresh water on a parched throat.

It also has a lot to do with how wonderfully complex those two characters are.

So many things could have gone wrong with this relationship. Charles is his father’s Enforcer. He has the reputation of a ruthless killer, ready to put down anyone who threatens the Alpha’s rule and the safety of the pack and not lose sleep over it. He is feared and even covertly despised even by his own pack because of what he does and how seemingly remorseless and even emotionless he is about it.

He rescues Anna from a horrible situation, but at the same time, he yanks her out of a town where she had at least some kind of support system: a job, a few acquaintances that might have been friends, the familiarity of the big city. Now she has no job, no money and is in a werewolf village in the middle of nowhere with nobody to help her if things go wrong. In other words, she is absolutely and totally dependent on him.

When I first picked up the book, I was scared that this would turn into one of those toxic and abuse relationships with Charles being the typical “alpha male” – possessive and jealous, disregarding Anna’s wishes and opinions and depriving her of her own agency for her own protection. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case at all.

Charles might lead a violent life and be forced to do horrible things out of duty to his Alpha father, but he is always treats Anna with respect. She is his mate, but that doesn’t put her in a subservient position in his eyes. To him, she is an equal partner in this relationship. She has a voice and an opinion that he listens to.

Anna is also not your typical female protagonist. She doesn’t go through life kicking ass and taking names. In fact, she is not a fighter at all. And, surprise of all surprises, she actually thinks before she opens her mouth, can assess a situation and knows when saying nothing might be the best course of action. She is the slow and steady river current to Charles’ firestorm. A soothing presence that can ground him. She helps him remember that no matter what the rest of the pack thinks of him, he is not a monster. That all those glances of fear and barely veiled contempt are directed at the façade he has created, not the man that hides behind it.

It’s never a one-sided relationship, because they both give as much as they take. They complement each other and manage to build something beautiful out of the broken pieces of their lives.

… and this is the first review in which I managed to wax poetic about a love story while saying absolutely nothing about the actual plot! It’s not because the plot was lacking depth, I can assure you. It’s just that it paled in the face of those two wonderful characters, at least in my eyes.

So would I recommend his book? Definitely. But I would suggest reading Alpha and Omega short story in the On the Prowl anthology first, otherwise the beginning of the book might seem a bit confusing.

 

Magic Bites (Kate Daniels #1) by Ilona Andrews.

Stars: 5 out of 5.

Did I mention that I love the “alsobought” section on the Amazon site? I discovered a lot of books I fell absolutely in love with through that. Magic Bites was one of them. I had just posted a review on one of October Daye’s books by Seanan McGuire, and I was browsing through that section for something similar to read when I saw Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews.

Well, I can say that I’m glad I bought it because I loved this book. It has several of the components that I look for in a paranormal romance series, and all of them are done just right. So you can say that Magic Bites was a feast for sore eyes.

First of all, the worldbuilding. I loved this world where magic and technology come in alternating waves. I also like that the author set her story a long time after those waves first started happening, so it’s not a post-apocalyptic  story at all. Society has adapted to the new world and takes the changes in stride: they have both electricity and magic lights which switch on automatically depending on the wave; every garage or stable in Atlanta has both cars and horses.

The different magical beings and factions are also well-integrated into the society. I mean, when a magical wave can strike at any time and last for days, nobody would be very surprised to see witches, necromancers or shifters in the streets anymore.

So even in the first book of a series, we are introduced into a complex world with several different layers, a past and even a distinctive mythology. And the introduction is done progressively, without the dreaded infodumps that usually make me skip ahead or just close the book and never pick it up again.

So just for that, I would have already been happy with Magic Bites. But the good surprises didn’t end there. Kate Daniels is a strong female protagonist how they all should be – strong, smart, not afraid to make tough decisions and used to relying only on herself. Yes, she can come across and stand-offish and over-confident sometimes, but I think it has more to do with her upbringing and backstory, which is hinted upon, but not entirely explained. Which is also good, because it makes me want to pick up the next book in the series to learn a bit more about her.

Kate is a loner. She had been brought up to think that she cannot trust anyone but herself and that getting attached to other people is a weakness. So she tries to act accordingly. But she was also brought up with an inane sense of justice, so she can’t help but intervene when she sees something as being wrong. Which has a tendency to land her in a world of trouble.

Since it’s a paranormal romance, I can’t write a review without mentioning the romantic interest as well. Those of you who had been following my blog for some time know that the romance has to be very well written and feel “natural” for me to like the book. So that’s another point in this book’s favor – the romantic component is there, there are hints, but I have a feeling that it will develop gradually through the course of several books.

I also liked the fact that the romance does not take the driver sit in the story. Both Kate and Curran feel attracted to each other, yes, but that attraction is in the background. I have read way too many novels where the romantic interest seems to exist only when the protagonist is around and has no life / goals / desires outside of that. I’m glad that Curran isn’t like that. You can feel that he has his own life, his responsibilities and passions that have nothing to do with Kate or the case they end up investigating together. In other words, he is a well-rounded character on his own.

So yes, I loved this book and I love this series. And I will strongly recommend it to anyone who is looking for an engaging story, wonderfully fleshed-out world and complex characters.

P.S. And I think that Kate’s first encounter with Curran is hilarious. I mean, “Here, kitty, kitty?”