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Skin Trade
Skin Trade
by Laurell K. Hamilton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 12.99

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Still not very good..., 30 Jun 2009
This review is from: Skin Trade (Hardcover)
RATING: 1.5 stars.

In this 17th book of the series, Anita Blake receives a human head in the mail. It seems an old foe, Vittorio the vampire is back to wreck havoc, this time in Las Vegas. So, Anita has to go to Nevada to give chase. US Marshals Bernardo, Edward and Olaf go with her.

This book was eerily reminiscent of "Obsidian Butterfly" (book 9 in the series) in a few aspects: Anita Blake travels to a new city and the characters that go with her are the same ones that appeared in book 9 (Edward, Olaf and Bernardo). This group of US Marshals is trying to capture Vittorio, a deranged vampire who once (some books ago, I forget which) left a high body count in St Louis.

At first it almost seemed like we were back in one of the first books: there was some gore, a new mystery to solve and fortunately the recurrent cast of characters were left behind (which I hoped would cut back on the endless relationship-related talks and angst).
But it got bad real fast. You know how this book has about 496 pages? Well, I think that if the author/editors had cut down the paragraphs and paragraphs describing weapons and it's uses; the scenes where Anita Blake bitches at men and women to "prove" that she's better than everyone; the boring sex and the endless info-dump-ey or just plain meaningless conversations, the book would have roughly 200 pages. And that would be a good thing as it would make the book a lot less boring and the story more coesive and interesting.

Also, I didn't see any improvement on the part of the main character (Anita Blake) after 17 books. She is still the same woman she was when the series first began in the early 90's, where it concerns gender roles and sexism. There is no evolution and that is why the character is still having manly staring contests with male police officers and other assorted military. I think this attitude is... a bit outdated.

Another thing I didn't like is how Anita Blake was all powerful (has been, really, for the past 5 or 6 books). I dislike those kind of characters, because who wants to read about them? I actually prefer to read about people who win against the odds. Humans going against vampires and other supernatural creatures and having to really fight their way through; not just wave their hands around and beat all the villains.

The ending was pretty ridiculous too. This was mostly a waste of time. Still a bit better than the latest books, even if there were some parts that I thought were a bit creepy and possibly poor taste.


Blood Noir: Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter Novel vol 15
Blood Noir: Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter Novel vol 15
by Laurell K. Hamilton
Edition: Hardcover

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not the worst of her latest books, but still quite weak plot-wise, 10 Jun 2008
Federal Marshal and Vampire Hunter Anita Blake goes with her werewolf friend Jason to his hometown so that he can visit his dying father. Once they get there Jason is confused with a distant cousin of his, which brings all sorts of problems for the duo.

Blood Noir, book 16 of the Anita Blake series is similar, in style, to the more recent novels. The flare of the first few books, where Anita Blake, vampire hunter was a though-as-nails heroine and actually killed some dark creatures is definitely gone.

In this book, much like in previous ones, there is little mystery and detective work but much talk of relationships and feelings. The Anita Blake series is now more your average "chick lit" where angst and sex abound and women worry if they are making the right choices than "urban fantasy".
That said, this book is a little better than previous installments like Incubus Dreams, Cerulean Sins or Danse Macabre (I must confess to not having read "The Harlequin" yet). While there were too many descriptions of clothes and appearences and too much small talk (of relationships and anger and love and feelings) once you get into the book, it's not so very hard to read.

The plot, as described above, revolves around one of the many characters of the Anita Blake books: Jason the werewolf stripper. Of course while the story is supposed to be about Jason it ends up being about Anita Blake.

Now while this plot is a little overused (Sweet Valley High, anyone?) it could have gone somewhere if properly explored. But Hamilton doesn't do it. She is quickly sidetracked by her little creation, "the ardeur", and lets this plot thread drop as if it were nothing. The real plot, of course, is Anita Blake's sex life, Anita Blake's doubts, Anita Blake's new powers; so there isn't much story aside from that (to clarify, most of the book takes place in a hotel room).

To be fair Hamilton picks up this part of the story (the "mixed-up" between Jason and his cousin) again in the last few chapters; but in the meanwhile there is no investigative work, no Anita tracking bad guys, no real development... Blake gets her info from a phone call and the matter is resolved in the last two, three chapters. Not what I'd call a well developed plot.

In terms of writing, it is clear that an editor is needed to weed out scenes that can be reduced in size or incorporated into other parts of the story. The first few chapters come to mind. Also there are a few too many grammatical errors and the author seems to favor some "phrases" she overuses throughout the book, to the point where we wish said expression won't come up again. Ever.

Overall, Blood Noir is definitely a step in the right direction. While still resolutely in the same tone than Hamilton's latest books (from Narcissus in Chains to Danse Macabre) Blood Noir adds a little to the general plot. Still, like everything else in this series, the main plot moves slowly.
I wish Ms. Hamilton would move on with the story to the most expected showdown between the two super-females in the books. Or, if she insists on doing things slowly at least put in some real mysteries that would add more spark and action to the books... there is only so much girl-talk a reader can handle and frankly I believe most readers expect more from this series than just endless relationship problems or how Anita Blake will manage to "juggle" all "the men in her life". I'd buy typical, honest-faced romance novels/chick lit if I wanted that.


Marked (House of Night Novel)
Marked (House of Night Novel)
by P.C. Cast
Edition: Paperback

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good start in a new series, but not to be read as a stand alone, 22 Sep 2007
16-year-old Zoey Montgomery (also known as Zoey Redbird, due to her Indian heritage) never asked to be "Marked". When the creepy "dead guy" (read: vampyre) appeared next to her locker, it changed her whole life: she lost her best friend, her almost-ex-boyfriend Heath and she had to move to vampire school. But even as she starts over in the "House of Night" she realizes that not only isn't everything all right in the school but also that she is a very special fledgling... her vampire mark and her unnatural lust for blood seem to indicate that she is much more powerful that your average newly born vampire. That is why Zoey is the right person to save the school from the beautiful and mean Aphrodite, the senior that is the leader of the Dark Daughters, a very exclusive and powerful group within the House of Night.

"Marked" is the first of "The House of Night" books, a new supernatural series for teens.

It was, I guess, mildly interesting. I mean, it's a fairly quick read and the story is not all bad. The take of the authors on vampi(y)rism is more out of your regular sci-fi book than fantasy, but hey, at least they were trying for original.

But... the story, it was definitely lacking in... well, lacking. It was a simple plot, that reeked of Harry Potter undertones (but without it's complexity): you have the 'special' kid, who is special even among all the special kids (read: the main female lead, who is the most powerful of all of them, vampyres); the sidekicks (usually outcasts that join the hero(ine) and turn into super-duper-popular people overnight - literally, was we are talking of vampires) ; the evil, blonde bully (*cough* Draco Malfoy *cough*) and a powerful, older figure that supports the hero(ine)'s decisions (kind of like... hummm... Dumbledore?). The story in itself has little to recommend it. It ends up being about little more than high-school rivalry, with the popular, evil kid/bully being beaten by the hero(ine).

Still, I am giving this book a 4 stars. This because I liked to read the book (it was well written) and because this is the first novel in a series, so I am giving the authors the benefit of the doubt and hoping this is just an introductory book meant for us to know more about the characters. At the end, it is hinted that there are bigger mysteries yet to be revealed, so I'm expecting something good... although I pretty much suspect who the bad guy in this series is going to be, my curiosity is picked. That's why I gave it 4 stars.


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7) [Adult Edition]
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7) [Adult Edition]
by J. K. Rowling
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 12.23

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice ending to a popular series, 26 July 2007
The situation in the Wizarding World is deteriorating, with Voldemort and his Death Eaters on the loose. While the Dark Wizard gains power and followers, the members of the Order of the Phoenix fight with despair to preserve hope in a hopeless world. Meanwhile, Harry Potter waits with anxiety the night of his 17th birthday... for it is then that the protection afforded by his mother's sacrifice ends and it is then that he will become a hunted man... even more so than before. Harry knows he and his friends have only one year to complete the mission given to them by Dumbledore... or else everything is lost, for the Dark Lord is on the way to becoming the sole Master of the World.

Harry Potter's final installment, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows", has a slightly different structure from the previous books. This time, Harry and his friends skip school to embark on a journey and complete an important mission, so we read little of Hogwarts in this book, although it still plays a part in it all, of course.

I liked the story and all, but it didn't exactly leave me at the edge of my seat. It seemed... tame? There was certainly little tension. Although times were dark in the book, you couldn't feel it much. The Epilogue was seriously corny and there were a few parts that I am sure every Harry Potter fan had already guessed for months (just read any discussions dating back two years), so the book was a little predictable. Also, Rowling didn't seem to stray much from your typical fantasy-type-quest where you have a bunch of heroes that are in search for something and travel from place to place. The quest itself left much to be desired; there was a lot of luck involved and little intelligent deduction.

Harry Potter, as a character, was a bit of a disappointment. I suppose, Ms Rowling intended to show us that a simple wizard could turn into a hero, but when (and here are a few small spoilers) your amazingly gifted female friend gets you out of most sticky situations it gets a little boring.

One positive point was the ending. I really liked it, especially because it went against what so many people thought would happen. Rowling managed to surprise me at that point, for I had always hoped for the ending she actually provided. And she used all these little clues from other books, going back to the triumphant expression on Dumbledore's face at the end of book four.

Overall, I liked the book, but I guess I was expecting a little more action and suspense. It was great having all the answers one was expecting and I guess most things fit together quite well too! ^___^


Blood Bound (Mercy Thompson Novels)
Blood Bound (Mercy Thompson Novels)
by Patricia Briggs
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: 5.24

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very nice sequel! They just keep getting better and better!, 29 Mar 2007
Mercedes Thompson, car mechanic in the Tri-Cities and a Walker, is woken up at an ungodly hour of the morning by a phone call; her vampire friend, Stefan, is in need of a favour. Since Mercy just happens to owe him one, she has to agree. Stefan needs her to be his partner while he oversees to some vampire matters. Simple right? Wrong. It seems there is an unknown vampire running amok in the Tri-Cities... one that has a terrific power and loves to leave his trail full of corpses. While the werewolves and the vampires are on the case, Mercy soon realizes that she is the most qualified person to find and neutralize this threat.

The sequel to 'Moon Called', this novel focuses more on vampires. While Ms Briggs fails yet again to bring something new into the characterization of the vampires, this second book has a more well developed plot and a few complex characters. Mercedes grows a lot as a character in 'Blood Bound' by discovering some new abilities just as the reader does. The story is interesting and the mystery is more complex. Overall, it's an entertaining read and you can see that it is also the start of something for Mercy, who seems to be a lot more than meets the eye.

This book is a step up from the first one. I can't wait for the third novel! :D


North & South (Complete BBC Series) [DVD]
North & South (Complete BBC Series) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Daniela Denby-Ashe
Price: 4.25

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic mini-series!, 25 Mar 2007
Margaret Hale is the daughter of a clergyman and lives in the South, in a peaceful little village called Helstone. Certain circumstances force the family to move up north to the industrial city of Milton. There, the Hales will make the acquaintance of the Thorntons, a family who owns a mill and lives of trade. The differences between the two families and the interactions between John Thornton, the master of the factory and Margaret are the focal points of this 4-episode mini-series based on the novel by Elizabeth Gaskell.

Like so many people, I confused 'North and South' with the American Civil War series that has the same name. While I am a history buff and quite like period dramas, I must confess the American civil war doesn't really appeal to me. So, when a friend lent me this mini-series, I was suspicious... I didn't really know what to expect because my friend really liked it but I was pretty sure I wouldn't. I was pleasantly surprised when she showed me the DVD cover and I understood it wasn't the North and South with Patrick Swayze in it, but rather the BBC adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's novel. I happily prepared myself to watch it.

I was thrilled with it. This series is pretty much perfect. While I never read the book, I was enchanted by the depiction of the realities of 19th century Victorian England. The nuances of society, the difference between Old World's education and the new industrial way of thinking; it was all there. Also, the harsh realities of the new working class, the proletariat, are very clear. The historical value of 'North and South' is undeniable.

Also, I really liked the interaction between the two main characters; it was intense and believable and it made me go 'awww' a few times. The actors were fantastic and managed to build a tension throughout the series that made the end seem extremely satisfactory.

'North and South' is one of the best historical dramas I've ever seen. I cannot judge it in terms of adaptation, because I haven't read the book (though, now, I dearly want to), but I can still see it as valuable when it comes to historical accuracy and entertainment value. This Mini-series has earned his place amongst my favourites, along with the BBC adaptations of 'Pride and Prejudice' and 'Persuasion'.

Very recommended! It is worth at least a watch.


Dead Witch Walking (Hollows)
Dead Witch Walking (Hollows)
by Kim Harrison
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great debut!, 17 Mar 2007
Rachel Morgan is a young earth witch working with the Cincinnati division of the I.S., an agency that specializes in catching supernatural criminals. Still, the red-haired, temperamental witch is unhappy with her job: things haven't been going smoothly and her boss hates her. So she decides to leave the I.S. dragging with her Ivy, a 'living vampire' who was her former partner and Jenks (a male pixie), her current back-up. Trouble is... you don't leave the I.S.; it's a contract for life.

This novel is the first for author Kim Harrison and also the first in her 'Rachel Morgan' series (currently at five books). While it doesn't have a very complex plot (it's your standard story of the heroine running for her life), it sets the stage for future books as it introduces the major characters and the world they move in. Strangely, the central figure of the story, Rachel, is not the most developed character in this book. Ivy, the vampire roommate and Jenks, the pixy are much more complex and tri-dimensional.

The book starts out slow and is even boring for the first five or six chapters, but the pace picks up and it becomes interesting enough. The writing style contributes to this; you can see a positive evolution throughout the book.

In the end, this book is worth more as a prequel for the novels to come than for it's story. If it was a stand-alone, it wouldn't be very good, as it has no complex plot and the heroine is quite weak, as if the author merely sketched her instead of fully drawing her. Rachel Morgan comes to life in future books as does the story. Dead Witch Walking is certainly not meant to be read by itself.


Tempting Danger (Berkley Sensation)
Tempting Danger (Berkley Sensation)
by Eileen Wilks
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: 6.19

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Coundn't get into it..., 6 Mar 2007
Lily Yu is a though detective from Homicides in a world where dark creatures (like shape shifters) walk hand in hand with the Humans. One night, she is called to a crime scene. The victim, a human, seems to have been killed by a werewolf and her prime suspect is Rule Turner the son of the Alpha of the local pack. She interviews Turner, who is a notorious celebrity and a ladies man; surprisingly, Rule agrees to help and they become partners in the investigation. While they uncover bits and pieces of what seems to be a conspiracy, Rule tries to figure out a way to tell Lily that she is his Chosen.

This book is a fairly typical paranormal novel. It had the though (and rather unlovable) female lead, the sexy and mysterious male character and all the usual baddies, plus a few deaths. Lily has a few 'powers' and Rule is a big bad werewolf.

Overall, the plot was not that bad. The writing isn't the best I've seen, but it's not that boring either. The romance scenes were truly awful, but the rest of the story was okay. I didn't particularly liked Lily; I thought she was rude and petulant and didn't understand how anyone could like her that much. So I kind of pitied Rule Turner for being stuck with her. As for Turner he was a perfect stereotype for male supernatural characters in this kind of book.

So we have an average story, below average characters and poorly written romance. Only recommended if you're really, really into werewolf stories.


Sunshine
Sunshine
by Robin McKinley
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good!, 18 Feb 2007
This review is from: Sunshine (Mass Market Paperback)
Rae Seddon, nicknamed 'Sunshine' is as normal a girl as you'll ever see. She works at her stepfather's coffee shop making cinnamon rolls; she has her own house, a nice old landlady, a boyfriend named Mel and a very annoying mother. Seems like your typical twenty-something woman, right? Wrong. After a particularly tiring day, Rae, wanting to escape from her life a bit, drives over to 'the lake'. There, she is captured by a band of vampires and offered as food to yet another one... the mysterious Constantine, who, as she soon discovers is also a prisoner. Fearing for her life, Sunshine discovers a whole new side of herself. With that she makes a strange friend, and attracts the wrath of the evil master vampire, `Bo', who sent his goons out to capture her. She has to fight him, with the uneasy help of Constantine, if she is ever to regain her old life back.

I have mixed feelings about this one. I know a good piece of literature when I see it. And "Sunshine" is superb, a truly well written book, a masterpiece of its genre. Ms McKinley idealized a world and described it with such vivid detail we can actually imagine ourselves living in it. Sunshine is a believable character. Even Constantine, as different as he might be from most of the vampires that appear in fiction today, is believable. This book also has an amazing character development, not to mention a story that while not original in its essence, is told in a very peculiar and interesting manner.

That said, I couldn't get into it as well as I would like. It took me almost a week to finish it. I'd say the first part (the book is divided in four) is not very appealing; this is probably the book's only weakness, as the first chapters are very important; if these chapters fail to capture the reader's attention, he or she might never pick up the book again. I thought the first part of this book, up until the scene of the lake very boring and too descriptive. Don't get me wrong; when the action takes place in a parallel world, you have to do some description... just try not to spend too much time on cinnamon rolls. Still, after those first few boring pages the book was fantastic. A little too descriptive at times, but fantastic nonetheless. I can agree wholeheartedly with the praise on the cover that says that "Sunshine" is 'Pretty much perfect'. A worthy read, fundamental for lovers of contemporary fantasy.


Moon Called (Mercy Thompson Novels)
Moon Called (Mercy Thompson Novels)
by Patricia Briggs
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay... but unremarkable, 10 Feb 2007
Mercedes or Mercy for her friends, is a car mechanic living in the Tri-Cities. She leads a relatively quiet life, except for the fact that she knows a faerie and is herself not quite human; she is a walker, a person who can change into an animal (in her case, a coyote) at will. She is doing okay for herself until a young werewolf named Mac (I kid you not) appears on her doorstep. Between Mac's inexperience at being a wolf, the local pack's Alpha, some unknown enemies, an old love and crazy vampires, Mercedes begins to think she might have bit more than she can chew.

First book I've read by Ms Briggs and I enjoyed it immensely. I loved her writing and thought it captivating. The main character, Mercedes, is a good character: likeable, though (without being stupid) and very cool when she goes all 'cute puppy' on you. I even enjoyed the plot.

The real problem with this book is that it is... too mainstream. Briggs didn't really add anything new to the genre. She recycled most of the ideas that urban/contemporary fantasy authors use. Her description of the werewolves' skills and characteristics is quite common. The only original element (I mean truly original, the plot is new too) is the whole story of the Walkers. I know that coyotes and wolves and Indians are all connected, but I'd never seen it used in urban fantasy before. So, points for that. As for the vampires, I didn't see any appeal to them as a 'race', but then again the story focuses on werewolves so it's possible that might be it. I hear 'Blood Bound', this book's sequel focus on vampires... let's see their characterization then.

The story was enjoyable, yes, but again, unremarkable. It was a paranormal action/adventure book with a very run of the mill storyline. Even in terms of 'mystery' the case the characters had to solve wasn't that interesting. It wasn't something you went all 'Ah! So that was it!' about. The romance (the little that was) was well done and it adds charm to the story.

Overall, this was an 'okay' book. I enjoyed reading it, thought it good when compared with other works of the genre. It is not a work of art, but it's a nice read. If you're a fan of supernatural fiction, give it a try... just don't expect much.
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