On this blog, you'll find reviews for books that fall under what I call the Dark Fantasy genre. These are books that typically take place in modern times and center around dark, supernatural themes. Though my horizons are very broad when it comes to books, these are the books I adore the most, and those will be the books I review.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn

Kitty Norville is the midnight-shift DJ for a Denver-based radio station. She is also a werewolf, the omega wolf of her pack and when Kitty and the Midnight Hour opens, the heroine is still trying to keep these two worlds separate. Until one night when, sick of the same old lame song requests, Kitty turns her show into a call-in advice program for the supernatural beings in the world. It starts out as a joke, but soon the local vampires are putting pressure on Kitty and her pack, and go so far as to hire an assassin to take her out. Meanwhile, murders have been occurring around town and when Kitty is called in as a specialist, thanks to her show, all clues lead to a fellow werewolf.

Now, Kitty and the Midnight Hour is a short book, but it is also a very entertaining read. Kitty has a sarcastic, sometimes self-deprecating wit that keeps the story light while readers are brought into darker and darker territory. You find yourself feeling for Kitty in her plight because she seems so helpless against those stronger than her; the local vamps, her assassin, and even her own werewolf pack. In fact, that is the one intolerable part of Kitty's personality and it bugged me throughout most of the story. Because she is the omega werewolf, the weakest in the pack, she takes abuse from everyone else. Kitty isn't your typical, ass-kicking supernatural heroine. She gets pushed around...a lot! Readers who are used to Anita, Sookie, Rachel Morgan, and others, will find themselves screaming for Kitty to stand up for herself. It got extremely frustrating, but the book does redeem itself. Kitty is not just another story about a tough, take-no-crap, supernaturally enhanced babe-with-brains-and-supernatural-firepower. This is a story a new werewolf finding her teeth, learning how strong she really is, and becoming so much more in the process. The action in Kitty and the Midnight Hour is equalled by it's character development, and luckily this is the first in a series, which means we get to continue watching Kitty grow as she has more adventures in the world of werewolves, vampires, witches, and radio call-in shows.

Kitty and the Midnight Hour comes out in November 2005 from Warner Books.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris

If you're looking for character development, you won't find it in Charlaine Harris's newest novel, Grave Sight. You won't find the endearing southern humor of Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series either. But I don't care; I liked it. The first book in a new series for Ms. Harris, Grave Sight is a quick read starring Harper Connelly, a young woman who can sense the dead and uses her gifts to track down missing persons for a living. She keeps her jobs strictly professional until she and her stepbrother Tolliver are forced to stay in the small town of Sarne, AK while a mystery unfolds around her. When her life is put in jeopardy, Harper realizes she has to help solve this crime or she'll never be able to leave this small town behind.

Now I have to admit, I was extremely excited for this book to be released. I've been a big fan of Harris for a few years now, and I really liked the premise behind this story. I have to admit, I wasn't disappointed a bit by what I found. Grave Sight is a mild mystery, though Harper uses her paranormal gifts enough to appease fans of dark/paranormal urban fantasy. But if you are reading this book looking for that Sookie Stackhouse wit, you will be sorely disappointed. Harper Connelly is presented from the start as being the complete opposite of Harris's infamous telepathic barmaid. Receiving her powers when she was struck by lightning, Harper is skittish and weak, though not lacking in intelligence. She relies on her stepbrother, Tolliver, beyond measure, and though it isn't obvious, there are undertones that suggest Harper and Tolliver feel more for each other than a brother and sister should.

Harper Connelly is also somewhat detached, and is often indifferent to the feelings of those in mourning. She displays none of the polite, charming characteristics that Sookie Stackhouse is known for. But Harper is a compelling character who is used to being shunned because of her abilities, and prefers to get in, get out, and get on her way as soon as she can. In Grave Sight she finds herself tied down and her intense vulnerability becomes apparent when she is separated from her brother, her rock. However, when Harper becomes backed into a corner, we find that she's not as weak and needy as we think she is.

With a flowing plot, a sarcastic, apathetic main character and interesting interactions with the townsfolk of Sarne, this novel draws the reader into Harper's world. You bond with Harper not because she is particularly charismatic (she's not), but because her narrative pulls you into this world of isolation, where the solitude of a small town is 10 times more lonely and where friendly faces hide potentially deadly secrets. Harper is compelling because of the experiences she has gone through to get where she is at the start of Grave Sight, and you can't help but wonder where her abilities will lead her next.

Sookie Stackhouse she ain't, but I'm one fan who would like to see the Harper Connelly series continue to grow. I am anxious to see how her adventures in Grave Sight have changed Harper, and I would like to see what Charlaine Harris plans to do with these two nomadic siblings next. I was pulled in by the story, the characters (main and supporting), and found myself biting my nails while I mulled over the mystery. Grave Sight provides a good amount of backstory while putting them in the middle of a small-town mystery (Harris's specialty). Now that we know them, I only hope Harris brings them back for longer mysteries with greater hijinks.

Grave Sight was published by Berkley Prime Crime in October 2005.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Suggestions Welcome

I think the next review I write is going to be for Charlaine Harris's Grave Sight.

On a semi-different note, if there are any new or upcoming dark fantasy novels, or any authors (new and/or old) that you would like to see me review, please feel free to email me with suggestions. The email addy is midnightpages@gmail.com

Friday, September 30, 2005

Bitten & Smitten by Michelle Rowen

When I first picked up Bitten & Smitten by Michelle Rowen, I didn't know what to expect. I'm the first person to scoff at romance "novels," and the term paranormal romance doesn't exactly have me running to the nearest Barnes & Noble for a copy, but something told me Bitten & Smitten would be different.

At first glance, this novel seems cutesy. Loopy fonts with tiny cartoon bats to dot the I's floating over a woman in a spaghetti-strapped "Diva" tank-top. But Bitten, a first novel for Rowen, is much more than just a cutesy vampire romance novel. In fact, I'd be hard-pressed to call this book a romance at all.

Set in Toronto, Bitten follows Sarah Dearly, a sassy, fashion conscious administrative assistant who wakes up after a bad date to find that she's been turned into a vampire. Unfortunately, her "sire" promptly finds himself on the sharp end of a wooden stake, and poor Sarah is forced to flee a group of overzealous vampire hunters before she's even had a chance to accept this new transformation. Luckily, Sarah stumbles onto Thierry de Bennicoeur, a sexy, 600-year old vamp bent on ending his supernaturally long life. Thierry takes Sarah under his wing and agrees to teach her how to survive as a vampire, on one condition. She must help him end his life.

Now I'll just come right out and say it. I loved this book. The story is told through Sarah's point-of-view, and Rowen did a fantastic job of developing her voice. The outcome is a feisty heroine who isn't afraid to speak her mind, who fights for her life when backed into a corner, but still manages to take note of good fashion while running for her life. Sarah is confused and lost in her new role as creature of the night, but still manages to be strong and self-confident in spite of it all.

Overall, I'd say Michelle Rowen did a bang-up job at presenting us with a character who is both strong and real. Sarah is never too strong, too powerful, or beyond accepting help from other characters; but what I loved most about this story were the vampire hunters. Bitten turns the age-old battle between vampires and vampire hunters on its ass. Readers can't help but route for Sarah, who is no more evil than you or I, as she is pursued by the genocidal vampire hunters she can't stop running into.

My biggest problem with this book, published under Time Warner Book Group's Warner Forever imprint, is that this is really not a romance book. Aside from some light kissing and minor romantic undertones, Bitten & Smitten gives no reason for its classification as a "paranormal romance." Hopefully Warner Forever won't miss the mark with this title, turning romance readers away with its vampire themes and shunning vampire fans who, like myself, are wary of the romance stigma. If anything, I hope fans appreciate this book for what it really is: a light, hilarious, contemporary take on the struggles of a newly turned vampire trying to get by in a modern world.

Bitten & Smitten comes out in January 2006 from Warner Forever.