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REVIEW:  Deadshifted by Cassie Alexander

REVIEW: Deadshifted by Cassie Alexander

DeadshiftedDear Ms. Alexander:

I am a confirmed fan of your Edie Spence series. I got in on the ground floor and have thoroughly enjoyed watching Edie negotiate the near constant threats of her world, sometimes with exasperation, sometimes with blind terror, but always with a sort of scrappy determination I find uniquely hers. She’s a survivor, which means she’s not above crossing the gray line between what is strictly ethical and what is . . . not. It’s what I like best about her. In a sea of heroically noble (and powerful) urban fantasy heroines, Edie is painfully human. She has no hidden powers. She’s not the long-lost heir of anyone. She’s a night nurse with a messed up family and a serious case of sleep deprivation. Her up close and personal knowledge of the supernatural doesn’t make her special. Rather, it seems to isolate her even further. But she refuses to throw in the towel. And after the fairly catastrophic events of the last book, Shapeshifted, I wondered what in the world could come next.

A cruise isn’t exactly Edie’s idea of a relaxing vacation. But she’s trying to be a good sport and share in her boyfriend Asher’s excitement at this chance to get away from the inner city clinic where they both work, to say nothing of the lingering trauma from the events of six months ago. It seems they’ve been granted a rare period of peace, and she means to enjoy not being alone anymore. So all aboard it is. And things actually seem to go rather swimmingly until Asher spots a face he hoped to never see again. A face from his altogether dodgy past. Edie knows he wasn’t always the fairly straight and competent doctor he pretends to be nowadays. But the fact that he retains the memories of all the people he touched as a shapeshifter does tend to get in the way sometimes. Especially when she has something important she needs to tell him and has no idea at all how he’ll respond. But when the face he spots turns out to belong to a particularly ruthless villain, Asher is determined to find out what he’s doing there. But before they know it, an epidemic breaks out aboard the ship. Passengers are being felled left and right, in inexplicably gruesome ways. Edie finds herself using every nursing skill she has to outrun the disease and keep Asher from being sucked back by the demons of his past.

I was surprised to find this one set several months after the end of the last book. I guess I expected to ease into things along with Edie and Asher. Instead, they have a very comfortable feel to them from page one. And initially I felt as though I was playing a little bit of catch-up as to the status of their relationship. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been on board with Asher from way back. I couldn’t wait to see how they were as a couple. And on that front, I felt incredibly rewarded with this installment. It felt right. They felt right. The fact that they were for all intents and purposes stowed away on an ocean liner allowed them a level of intimacy and a reprieve from prying eyes that they never would have been afforded at home. I appreciated the trust and space they gave each other. Neither of them are shy violets. And yet they share a history of isolation, of loneliness. In each other, they seem to have found acceptance, if not absolute security. Their interactions are full of care and, if  Asher is a bit reckless by nature, I felt safe in his feelings toward Edie. Of course, all too soon the training wheels are ripped away and the thrill ride begins in earnest.

This series has never shied away from the gruesome, and Deadshifted makes a bid to be the grisliest of the lot. The vacation becomes a living nightmare as the epidemic victims behave in increasingly bizarre ways before succumbing in an alarmingly short period of time. Everything about this book felt chilled. In fact, it felt a bit like I was on the sinking Titanic, with doom hanging directly overhead and an unnamed horror just below the surface of every pool of water. The collective ambiance was effective in the extreme, at once gripping and claustrophobic. As always, Edie is an absolute force. True to her nature, she’s in no way content to stay put while Asher tracks down his man. Determined to do anything she can to save lives, her own and Asher’s included, she tracks down the makeshift infirmary and plunges in. Asher is not the only one being followed. As things creep closer and closer to complete anarchy, fascinating alliances and relationships develop between the few desperate passengers who are still standing. This forthright attention to the way mere humans react against a backdrop of mythic disaster remains one of the most compelling strengths of this series. As is the fact that consequences always play an extensive role. In this case, the consequences are sure to be myriad, as the shuddering, game-changer of an ending opens a whole new can of blood-sucking worms. A-



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REVIEW:  Hungry Like a Wolf by Christine Warren

REVIEW: Hungry Like a Wolf by Christine Warren

Dear Christine Warren:

Logan is restless. His best friend just mated with a human.  He’s feeling resentment toward his alpha, a man as close as a brother. Because his alpha has what Logan wants – his own pack and a stunning mate.  Conveniently so that Logan doesn’t have to fight his brother for dominance, The White Paw Clan in Connecticut has lost its alpha to cancer.

hungry like a wolf christine warrenI wish that there had been more in the story about Logan’s struggle for power within his own clan.  His wolf is rising up and wants to challenge Graham, the regional alpha.  It was the internal fight between Logan’s humanity that sought to hold onto his bonds of brotherhood and friendship and his wolf who sought power and dominance that was so interesting in the beginning.

But situation with the White Paw Clan was interesting because Honor, the daughter of the old alpha, becomes the alpha in fact.  Female pack members are smaller and it is commonly known that physiologically they cannot compete in alpha challenges, yet Honor is not only meeting her challenges but defeating them.

I liked the unsentimentality of the pack challenges.  Honor was challenged by one of her close friends and she had to maim him.  I would have liked to have seen her kill him. Not because I’m so bloodthirsty but because I felt like her giving her opponent grace showed weakness.  Her dad, for example, would have killed the challengers. And indeed, her failure to kill her challenger becomes problematic later in the story.  Logan also notes that the unwillingness to kill her challengers was viewed as a weakness by her pack and every other outsider.

I was also frustrated with Logan’s interference with Honor’s rule over her pack, ordering her pack while ostensibly measuring her suitability to remain the alpha of the White Paw Clan.  Every time he spoke up and gave directives in front of Honor he was diminishing her already precarious standing.  To a great extent this is a story about how a female can rule in a man’s world and the balancing of Honor’s desire to lead the pack and Logan’s desire for his own pack was a great emotional conflict.  But Logan isn’t an enlightened male.  He is off spouting mine, mine, with twenty four hours of meeting Honor.  He didn’t stand and observe. He ordered and took charge so the scenes always came off as if Logan was allowing Honor to be alpha instead of having the power and ability in her own right.

I wasn’t super enthusiastic about how the conflict was resolved but I appreciated that the subject was tackled at all.

I had forgotten how much I enjoyed this series. It’s not a serious book and there are some cringe worthy lines  “Logan, you need to learn that whether she’s a werewolf, a shapeshifter, a witch, or a human, women are women. They all need to be fl attered and coddled and made to feel special.” I wished the feminist issues were tackled better.    But overall, it was a pleasant read about clan politics which are a favorite part of a shapeshifter read for me. Nothing too earth shattering but sometimes that’s just the right thing at the moment. C+


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