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Kelley-Armstrong

Jane’s Reading List Ending October 31, 2011

Jane’s Reading List Ending October 31, 2011

Dear Readers,

It’s been three weeks since my last confession.  In that time, I’ve read two historicals, six paranormals (5 being about werewolves, the entire backlist of Meg Benjamin, and a couple of erotic romances.

Not Wicked Enough by Carolyn Jewel (ARC, release date Feb 7, 2012).  Enjoyed this different historical story of a wealthy woman who fell in love with a soldier.  She gave up her virginity to him and then he died before they could marry. She’s single out of choice because she never believed she could love again.  The hero is a former farmer found to be the male heir of a dukedom that was to revert to a crown. He needs to marry to gain respectability for his title.  Full review near release date.

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How the Marquess Was Won by Julie Anne Long (ARC, release date Dec 27, 2011).  I liked this one, but not as much as the previous release. I thought it was really well plotted, however, with the villains being truly awful but without being caricatures.  Essentially, a few of the young members of the ton decide to make a school teacher “popular” just to see if they can.  The hero, a Marquess, falls in love with the school teacher, but he’s supposed to be courting Isaiah Redmond’s niece.  If the Marquess marries the niece, he’ll get his mother’s dowry property back.  Full review near release date.

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Hot for Santa by Lacey Alexander (ARC, release date Dec. 13, 2011).  It was, well, Lacey Alexander without much of any emotional conflict or real plot.

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True Colors by Thea Harrison (ARC, release date December 13, 2011).  Harrison can write in the short story format and I think that fans of the Wyr series will enjoy this story featuring Riehl, who has spent ninety-six roaming years as a captain in the Wyr lord Dragos Cuelebre’s army and is ready to settle down and Alice, a different kind of Wyr.

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The Art of Seducing a Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper. In my quest for a good werewolf book, I thought I would give this a try.  The heroine is the Alpha of her pack and she’s smart mouthed and competent. The hero is a researcher who believes in werewolves.  I liked this book while reading it, but when I put it down, I felt no compulsion to finish. I may go back. I may not.

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Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades of Darker by E.L. James.  These two books are purportedly edited by some publishing house but I don’t believe it.  They are also supposedly Bella and Edward fan fiction.  I did not see the resemblance to the Bella and Edward storyline.  What I do see is that readers long for a full length emotionally charged erotic romance in a publishing field largely populated by novellas and shorts.  I believe that is why readers are responding to this series.  It’s expensive (and I paid for both $7.99 for one and $9.99 for the other) and you have to buy both to get the entire story as book 1 ends with a cliffhanger.  Book 2 starts up like a week after the two have separated.  Essentially it is a story about a young woman who is just graduating from college and a control freak young billionaire businessman. (He’s 27 and reads like he’s about 37.  She reads like she’s about 17)  Grey, the businessman, is into hardcore BDSM because of his scarred and unhappy childhood.   Anastasia isn’t buying into his hardcore activities and ultimately Grey’s redemption is his finding pleasure without the bonds.

I may review these two books but I haven’t finished them yet.  They are each about 100K words and it’s about 100K words too many.  The middle of Book 1 really dragged for me and I skipped to the end and then read the beginning to about the middle and end of Book 2.

Konisburg series by Meg Benjamin.  I started out with Brand New Me and liked it so much I had to read the entire series.  Jayne has reviewed: Be My Baby, and Wedding Bell Blues.   Venus in Blue Jeans is my other fave of the series:

After re-reading Beauty Dates the Beast, I asked Jill Myles  to recommend another werewolf book and she said that I should read the Darkest Powers series by Kelley Armstrong. It’s a YA series but the heroine, Chloe, is very strong and the hero, Derek, is like Clay Jr. (Clay is the male lead in Bitten, my favorite werewolf story). I did enjoy the series quite a bit. Chloe’s powers of necromancy are very strong, she doesn’t know how to harness them, she’s inadvertently raising the dead (even in her sleep), and she’s on the run with three other teens from a powerful research group.  The romance between Derek and Chloe developed slowly over the three books in a very charming manner.  The stories all end in a cliffhanger so I am glad that I was able to buy and read one after the other.  I don’t think that these three can be read on their own:

Ready to Run by Kinsey W. Holley.  Again, with the werewolves, right? This is the third book in Holley’s werewolf series and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I think it can be read alone because while it features cameos from her first book, reviewed here, it’s plot doesn’t have much to do with the previous two books.  In fact, that’s one criticism I have about this book.  It references a lot of different people and I wondered at the coherency of the worlds that she is developing in the books.  However, I loved the heroine in this book who was meek in the beginning and then grew a backbone and literally kicked the ass of the bad guy.  I’ll do a full review.

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REVIEW: Spell Bound by Kelley Armstrong

REVIEW: Spell Bound by Kelley Armstrong

Note: This review contains major spoilers for Waking the Witch, the previous book in the series.

Dear Ms. Armstrong,

I’ve been a fan of yours ever since Bitten was first published. In the years to follow, urban fantasy exploded as a subgenre which was great for you because your Women of the Otherworld series found a marketing angle. And while I think the peak of the urban fantasy trend is behind us, your adult urban fantasy books are ones I still pick up, even after I’ve long grown weary of the subgenre. There’s just something about your characters that I love.

Spell Bound by Kelley ArmstrongIn Waking the Witch, we were introduced an adult Savannah Levine. Savannah’s been a staple of the books, having been introduced at the tender age of 12. We’ve literally seen her grow up during the series. But even though we’ve seen her get into scrapes and dangerous situations, the one thing we’ve never seen is her be tested.

After the events of Waking the Witch, Savannah has lost her powers. And as the daughter of a powerful witch and sorceror, her powers were nothing to scoff at either. In fact, you could say Savannah’s grown accustomed to having them. Without her magic, she literally doesn’t know what to do.

So now Savannah has to find out why her powers disappeared and how to get them back. This on top of witch hunters who want to kill her, a task now made easier by the fact that Savannah has essentially become a normal human being. Throw in an underground group of supernaturals who want to reveal their existence to the entire world, and she’s got a lot to handle.

Looking back on it, I think I liked Waking the Witch in spite of the weak plot because of the characters. Your character portrayals have always popped off the page. That’s a quality I like in my books. Spell Bound has a much better plot but having read it, I realize these three final Otherworld books need to be treated as a trilogy. A traditional fantasy trilogy to be exact. I don’t know why I didn’t recognize that immediately. Traditional fantasy is my bread and butter, but I guess I wasn’t expecting to see the classic structure brought over into urban fantasy. What do I mean by the fantasy trilogy structure? This: the first book introduces the situation; the second book bridges the conflict and builds it up; and the third book (theoretically) fights the big battle.

Knowing that Spell Bound is the penultimate book in the Otherworld series, with the next Savannah book being the finale, made everything clear. I finished Waking the Witch feeling that the conflict resolved with little impact. I now realize that’s not true. The conflict of Waking the Witch didn’t resolve with that oomph you expect because it led directly into this book. The small case Savannah pursued leads her to something bigger, something that could change their world forever.

On the other hand, knowing what I do now, Spell Bound did read like a set-up for the climax book. It suffers from “middle book” syndrome. It bridges the introduction to the finale. With everything that was brought together, I hope the finale lives up to expectations. I did feel like there was a lot going on, so I don’t know how you intend to wrap everything up in the next book. Of course, I always feel that way about fantasy trilogies so that’s not unique to Spell Bound.

This book is definitely not a good entry point into the series. There are a lot of cameos of characters from previous books. For some of them, prior knowledge is unnecessary but for others, it absolutely was. I had to jog my memory a couple times to remember who some of them were and their significance to the world and other characters.

As for Savannah, I really enjoyed her internal conflict. It’s true. She’s never been tested. So when she loses her powers, she loses sight of who she is. She’s used to being known as the daughter of that bad witch and the Cabal sorceror, used to being the young woman with the strong powers. Take that away, and what does she have? Toss in the fact that she has unresolved abandonment issues, and it’s a mess waiting to happen. But it is a mess that needs to be faced and resolved in order for her to evolve. I definitely like it when characters are forced to grow and change. Savannah does that here in a very human way that I appreciate.

The Savannah and Adam angle is both sweet and frustrating. On one hand, I know that it has to progress slowly. She’s been in love with him since she was 12 so there’s the awkwardness of those feelings changing from those of an immature crush to something more mature and deeper. Then there’s the age difference between them. Does Adam still see her as a child? Will he only ever see her in a platonic light because of it? These are the doubts that eat Savannah and keep her paralyzed about acting on her feelings. But never fear, romance readers: there is progress. It’s subtle. No overt declarations for these two, but we’ve moving in the right direction. I suppose something has to be saved for the finale.

A part of me does wonder if I’m missing some context because I haven’t read the young adult novels set in this world. There were sections where I wondered if something I’d just read was a reference to those books or if I was simply projecting. I’d be interested in hearing from people who’ve read both series. If I was missing context, I don’t think it hurt my understanding or enjoyment of the novel. That said, I did get the sense that I was missing some connections and that sort of thing tends to bug me as a reader. (I unfortunately have completionist tendencies. Even if I swear off a series, I still look for spoilers to see what happens.)

While certainly not the place to start the series, Spell Bound was a great improvement over the previous installment. It doesn’t stand alone, but none of the Savannah books do. I’m looking forward to seeing how you plan to conclude this long-running series. There’s a lot of threads to bring together. Hopefully, it’ll be worth the wait. As for this book, it’s a B for me. Your characters are still magical for me, even after all these years.

My regards,

Jia

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