}

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Review: Red Fox by Karina Halle


Title: Red Fox
Author: Red Fox
Series: Experiment in Terror, Book 2
Genre: Horror Paranormal
Release Date: 24 March 2012

Perry Palomino and Dex Foray trade in the stormy Oregon coast for the unforgiving deserts of New Mexico.

In the for­got­ten town of Red Fox, New Mex­ico, a Navajo cou­ple is tor­tured by things unseen and by motives unknown. Wild ani­mals slink through their house in the dark, a bar­rage of stones pound their roof nightly, and muti­lated sheep car­casses are turn­ing up on their prop­erty. Armed with a cam­era and just enough to go on, Perry and Dex travel to the des­o­late locale, hop­ing to film the super­nat­ural occur­rences and add cred­i­bil­ity to their flail­ing web­cast. Only their show has a lot more work­ing against them than just grow­ing pains. Tested by dubi­ous ranch hands, a ghost from Dex’s past, and shapeshift­ing decep­tion, the ama­teur ghost hunters must learn to trust each other in order to fight the most ancient of myths…or die trying.

I'm incredibly conflicted about this book, and this series as a whole so far. I liked Perry in the first book. I understood her. She's insecure and unsure of herself, but at the same time she's not going to let anything - including herself - hold her back. I could relate. In Darkhouse Perry was straight-forward, honest, no-nonsense, and pretty sarcastic. What she wasn't, overly, was too-stupid-to-live.

I can't say the same for Red Fox. Perry made one stupid decision after another in this book to the point where I was beginning to wonder how she survived to her current age, much less how she was going to survive to the end of the book. From taking a drink from a shady, suspected-of-nefarious-deeds stranger, to wandering in the deserted hills alone when you know there's freaking animals (and possibly people) out there with the intent to harm...and that's not even the worst of it.

I went from respecting Perry to wanting to smack the hell out of her. What the hell right does she have to judge people and assume they're all women beaters? She makes these snap decisions about people she knows nothing about, all because of chance encounters. She, and Dex, apparently have a serious aversion to calling the cops. Broken down car, empty, in the middle of the road? Eh. Just drive on by. People disappear, get attacked and nearly killed? Meh. No big. We'll just get out of dodge. Seriously get attacked, bleeding and drugged? Oh, it's okay. Epic trigger rant coming up:



On top of all of that bullshit from Perry, there's a ton of inconsistent crap going on in this book. I, obviously, wasn't enjoying myself enough because my brain kept nit-picking at the little things. Pupils don't retract, for example. They constrict. If you're in and out of consciousness, it's unlikely you're going to remember a bit of nearly every step back to the house. Likely you wouldn't be able to piece them together in the right order or even understand what's really going on - I know, I've been there. Especially after a traumatic event. Then there's Perry, who is drugged, unable to stand on her own two feet or talk without slurring her words and suddenly, five minutes later, she can flat out run. Give me a fucking break.

My disbelief could not be suspended.

Dex is still Dex. I'm not sure what to make of him, or if I want to like him or hate him. I waffle back and forth between both. But I kind of like that about his character. What I don't like? Cheating. If you're interested in Perry, and it's more than obvious you are, fucking break up with your girlfriend. I swear to whatever gods there are that if you haven't broken up with her by the next book and this shit carries on, I'm going to flip the hell out. What I also don't like? Perry thinking Dex is the love of her life. Give me an effing break. Seriously? You've spent a grand total of maybe a week with him. And he's the LOVE OF YOUR LIFE? You have no credibility with me anymore.

I've ranted so much I'm not even sure I can talk about what's good in this book - and the mystery/horror/paranormal part (if I forgive the great big authorial hand I see pushing the characters into certain situations) is interesting and fun and I wanted more of the creep factor. But there wasn't enough.

And yet, I don't want to stop reading the series yet. I'll continue on to book 3. See where it leads. One of my friends said that Dead Sky Morning was the book that hooked her, another said ended up rage-quitting it. I wonder where I fall.

Grade: D

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Review: River Marked by Patricia Briggs


Title: River Marked
Author: Patricia Briggs
Series: Mercy Thompson, Book 6 (Mercy Thompson World, Book 9)
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 1 March 2011

Coyote shifter Mercy Thompson knows that life with her mate, the Alpha werewolf Adam, will never be boring, but even their wedding doesn't go as planned. Nevertheless, a ten-day honeymoon camping on the banks of the Columbia River, alone, just the two of them, should make up for it. But the trip - and the pimped-out trailer they're using - is courtesy of the fae. And nothing from the fae comes without strings attached...

Being a different breed of shapeshifter - a walker - Mercy can see ghosts, but the spirit of her long-gone father has never visited her. Until now. An evil is stirring in the depths of the Columbia River - and innocent people are dying. As other walkers make their presence know to Mercy, she must reconnect with her heritage to exorcise the world of the legend known as the river devil...

Mercy's going crazy. And it's not the fae, wolves, or vampires that are scaring her this time.

It's her wedding. More specifically, planning it with her mother. Who apparently thinks doves, pigeons, and butterflies would be a wonderful addition to the day. She's ready to elope. The honeymoon should make up for it all though, and be just what she needs. Just her, Adam, a camper and no one for miles for ten days. Bliss.

Unfortunately things don't go quite as planned and when they find a person with his foot bit off, Mercy's suddenly thrust into a mystery that brings her into much closer contact with her own personal history.

I loved this book. Loved it. I think that most fans will either love it, or not like it and be bored by it. It takes us away from all the secondary characters that we love in the Tri-Cities for most of the book, and focuses on Adam and Mercy, and Mercy's roots.

For 5 books I've been waiting to get some more in-depth alone time with Mercy and Adam. I think that this book really solidifies what they are to and for each other and I love that they fit so perfectly.

We meet some new characters, and one, in particular, is a favorite. He's fabulous, funny, smart, and just a little bit crazy. And learning more about Mercy's past - things she didn't even know - is fun and extremely entertaining. Especially watching Mercy try to assimilate this knowledge into herself, and come to terms with things that are a complete surprise to her.

There is a thing with these books that bugs me a bit. It doesn't bug me until I'm finished, but it does bother me. Near the end, when Mercy and Adam are getting ready to fight the "big bad" Adam's always, ALWAYS, knocked out of the fight somehow. There's something that prevents him from being there to help - and mostly this is probably because he'd wipe the floor with anything that was trying to hurt Mercy and Mercy needs to be the one that saves the day/herself/others etc. I get that, and I like that Mercy saves the day, but I wish this could be handled a bit differently so that it didn't feel like Adam was incapacitated every single book. A good example is Kate and Curran - Curran (Magic Bites) is obviously stronger, but Kate's essential and strong too. They work together to get what needs to be done, done. Anyway. Like I said, a minor bother, but I did want to bring it up.

Great book though. Strong interpersonal relationships, strong mystery story-line (with some great emotionally charged moments) and fantastic characters. This continues to be one of my favorite series, and Patricia Briggs a favorite author.

Grade: A-

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Review: Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs


Title: Silver Borne
Author: Patricia Briggs
Series: Mercy Thompson, Book 5 (Mercy Thompson World, Book 8)
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 30 March 2010

Being a mechanic is hard work. Mercy Thompson, for instance, just spent the last couple of months trying to evade the murderous queen of the local vampire seethe. And now the leader of the werewolf pack, who's maybe-more-than-just-a-friend, has asked for her help. A book of fae secrets has come to light and they're all about to find out how implacable - and dangerous - the fae can be.

OK, so maybe her troubles have nothing to do with the job. But she sure could use a holiday...

Mercy's newly mated to Adam and brought into their pack. There are some wolves that aren't at all happy about this, and use Mercy's unawareness of pack magic to make trouble. Maybe they just want Mercy out, maybe they want Adam out too and are using Mercy as a stepping stone.

When Samuel ends up seriously needing Mercy's help, she realizes she needs to take a step back and try to get a handle on everything. A call from Tad to look after that fae thing that was given her (and I just had a flash of the scene from Hackers "It's in that place where I put that thing that one time..."). Now Mercy's the target, along with the pack, of someone who wants it badly.

Lots of things going on in this one. The pack politics, followed closely by Samuel's story-line, were my favorites here. Which is what nearly makes it a five-star read for me. I loved how the pack stuff moved and was resolved (even if I'm a little grumpy at the light punishment some transgressions got).

Samuel nearly broke my heart, and that's pretty much all I can say without spoiling the hell out of it. I also liked that it wasn't dragged out for a long time (more than one book). I really liked that we got the further depth that we did into the wolf psyche in this one though. And that's about as non-spoilery as I can keep it.

Previously I said that the fae "mystery" story-line was probably the weakest. I thought it didn't hold my attention as much as everything else, like Adam&Pack/Pack&Mercy/Mercy&Adam/Samuel&Mercy/etc, dynamics going on with everyone else I cared about. But on this re-read it was made apparent to me that I enjoyed it a great deal more than the first time. It gives a nice counter-point to everything else that's going on, and it really showcases that Mercy can be smart and strong, and not rush into things in a too-stupid-to-live capacity (unlike quite a few heroines I've read).

I love how strong and smart Mercy is, but that's she's not infallible. She does make mistakes, but there are consequences for them. And she pays them without complaint. There is one mistake in particular that seemed to just be dropped when she was rescued - and I'm still irritated about it. It was irresponsible and dangerous and I can't believe it's never mentioned again. Just because I've come to expect it, I'm sure there was something that was said/happened because of this, but I would have really liked to see it. Otherwise it feels like a dropped thread that was put in there for no real purpose.

Overall, another great installment in the Mercy Thompson world with some minor things to niggle at me.

Grade: A

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Review: Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs


Title: Bone Crossed
Author: Bone Crossed
Series: Mercy Thompson, Book 4 (Mercy Thompson World, Book 7)
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 3 February 2009

In a world where "witches, vampires, werewolves, and shape-shifters live beside ordinary people" ("Booklist"), it takes a very unusual woman to call it home. By day, Mercy Thompson is a car mechanic in Eastern Washington. By night, she explores her preternatural side. As a shape-shifter with some unusual talents, Mercy's found herself maintaining a tenuous harmony between the human and the not-so- human on more than one occasion. This time she may get more than she bargained for.

Mercy's barely a week out from the tragic events that happened at the end of Iron Kissed when Stefan pops in at her feet, a blackened husk, whispering "She knows."

With vampires stalking her steps and pressing vague attacks on the werewolves in her life, Mercy decides to take a trip to help a friend with a ghost. Of course, it just couldn't be that simple and Mercy finds herself in a much scarier predicament.

Not quite as good as Blood Bound and Iron Kissed, but still a pretty solid read. The "mystery" story-line wasn't as appealing to me, but there's so much development with the characters (Mercy and Adam in particular, with quite a bit from Stefan) that I can't help but enjoy this every time. It's kind of funny that this is probably my least favorite book and it still doesn't get anything under 4 stars.

For me the story-line in this one sort of meandered. It was a little rough and didn't flow as naturally as I'm used to from Patricia Briggs. This could have been completely by design as Mercy's just out from some damn serious events that happened in Iron Kissed, and her reactions are a little off and unpredictable. The slight jagged edge to the story progress could be a direct comparison to Mercy's own progress emotionally. The more I think about it, the more I believe that's true, but it just didn't work as well for me. It left me feeling a little less engaged.

I didn't particularly like the 'big bad' in this book either. He was less a character than a caricature. Or maybe that's because it felt like when the fight scene finally did happen, it was over so quickly. That's not to say I wanted Mercy to get into a drawn out thing with him, I just found it a little hard to believe that it resolved as quickly as it did considering the power of the one she was going up against.

I feel like I'm talking a lot about the bad, and I don't mean to, I'm just trying to explain what didn't work quite as well as the previous books. This book's draw, for me, is all about the characters I've come to love. Mercy, Adam, Samuel, Stefan...They have completely ensnared me and keep me reading every single time.

Grade: A-

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Review: Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs


Title: Iron Kissed
Author: Patricia Briggs
Series: Mercy Thompson, Book 3 (Mercy Thompson World, Book 6)
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 1 January 2008

Mechanic Mercy Thompson can shift her shape - but not her loyalty. When her former boss and mentor is arrested for murder and left to rot behind bars by his own kind, it's up to Mercy to clear his name, whether he wants her to or not.

Mercy's loyalty is under pressure from other directions, too. Werewolves are not known for their patience, and if Mercy can't decide between the two she cares for, Sam and Adam may make the choice for her...

Seriously, this series has got some of the worst copy covers I've ever read. *frowns* What's up with that?

Mercy at one point thinks, in this book, that she's suddenly not quite so anonymous in the preternatural communities anymore. That after spending nearly 15 years without any significant contact with them, she's been absolutely embroiled in mess after mess for the past couple of years.

First it was helping Adam get Jesse back, then she owed Stefan for that one. After helping Stefan, she ends up owing the fae. And this is where we pick up Iron Kissed.

Fae are getting murdered on the reservation, and they have no idea who's doing it. Zee and Uncle Mike call Mercy in to sniff around and see if she can come up with anything. And she does. But then things go bad. Zee's arrested for murder of a human, the fae look to be leaving him to hang, and Mercy won't stand for it.

Patricia Briggs seamlessly builds her world, it's ever-evolving and growing and as more is revealed to us, the more in love I fall. In this book we learn quite a lot more about the fae, but also we get a much deeper look at the tensions between humans and the preternatural communities. It's the start of something that doesn't seem to really come to a head until much later in the series, a slow build of the tensions.

I loved this book. It's a page-turner for me to this day (several re-reads later), and I can never put it down or stop reading it. The mystery was intriguing and kept me guessing. We also get a lot more insight into Mercy's relationships with Samuel and Adam, and how Adam's claiming her as his mate affected him and the pack, in this book. And I'm glad to say I was ecstatic when she chose.

I don't want to say too much about this and risk spoiling anything because it's such a wonderful book. But I will say that there's some very hard moments in it. Heart-breaking, and wrenching, and they had me in tears several times. The climax is still incredibly difficult for me to read, but it's one of the best handled instances I've ever read of this particular situation (though it may still be a trigger for some (view spoiler)).

And it does end on one big cliff-hanger, though the main story is tied up. It was hell waiting for Bone Crossed to come out when I first read this. And I'll say that I was happy Bone Crossed took a step back from where things seemed to be heading in that final scene of Iron Kissed, as I thought it was far too soon.

P.S. I loved Ben from, nearly, the first moment we met him, but I have to say my love and care for him solidified in this book. He's so fantastic. On this re-read, I've nearly flailed all over him every time he shows up.

Grade: A

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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Review: Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs


Title: Blood Bound
Author: Patricia Briggs
Series: Mercy Thompson, Book 2 (Mercy Thompson World, Book 5)
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 30 January 2007

Mechanic Mercy Thompson has friends in low places - and in dark ones. And now she owes one of them a favor. Since she can shapeshift at will, she agrees to act as some extra muscle when her vampire friend Stefan goes to deliver a message to another of his kind. But this new vampire is hardly ordinary - and neither is the demon inside of him.

A quick note about the narration. This narrator is one of the few that I enjoy for one of my favorite novels. Her voice for Mercy is easy and comfortable. She does a fairly good job with the other characters voices, and the reading style is straightforward and simple.

What a fabulous sequel to Moon Called. Mercy continues to be the smart, capable, and still slightly vulnerable heroine that I grew to love in the first book. People she cares about really matter to her. She'd do damn-near anything for those she loves.

I said it in the review for Moon Called, and it continues here. The world-building is wonderful. Strong, compelling, and feels absolutely real. Briggs' wolves act like wolves, her fae are not sparkles and light, and the vampires - whom we get much better acquainted with in this book - are devious, powerful, and (most of them) likely evil.

The mystery in this one though is where it's even better than the first. The first book, I can freely admit, is a bit convoluted in the plot that is the main storyline. This one is much cleaner, building slowly, with a bunch of twists and yet doesn't feel too messy. The bad guy is seriously scary (creeped me out a bunch), and there's enough surprises that it kept me guessing.

Adam, Samuel, Stefan - *sigh* I love them all. I admit when I first read this I was a little worried about the 'love-triangle' turning into a 'love-square'...And though there are guys a-plenty that are interested in Mercy it's actually easy for me to understand why. She's pretty freaking awesome.

I never worried about the love-triangle (or square for that matter), because it was always obvious to me who she'd end up with. But I know that some have a serious aversion to love-triangles of any kind (I'm usually this way too), so I'll give a slight non-spoiler: there's a choice made in book Iron Kissed.

There's one other character I just have to mention. Ben. I love him. He can be such a misogynist, such an asshole, but I love him. More and more with each passing book. It started near the end of book 1, but everything in this book just continued to make it grow (and it only gets better as the series goes on).

Grade: A-

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Review: Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs


Title: Hunting Ground
Author: Patricia Briggs
Series: Alpha and Omega, Book 3 (Mercy Thompson World, Book 4)
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 25 August 2009

Anna Latham didn’t know how complicated life could be until she became a werewolf. And until she was mated to Charles Cornick, the son — and enforcer — of Bran, the leader of the North American werewolves, she didn’t know how dangerous it could be either...

Anna and Charles have just been enlisted to attend a summit to present Bran’s controversial proposition: that the wolves should finally reveal themselves to humans. But the most feared Alpha in Europe is dead set against the plan — and it seems like someone else might be too. When Anna is attacked by vampires using pack magic, the kind of power only werewolves should be able to draw on, Charles and Anna must combine their talents to hunt down whoever is behind it all — or risk losing everything...

A quick note about the audio and then I'm going to move onto the review of the book.

Of the first three audiobooks in this series, this is definitely the best. Charles has a more natural voice, and the weird pauses are almost entirely eliminated. I was able to sink into the story for the first time since I started the audio of the Alpha and Omega series. So, yay!

Now onto the story itself:
Of the first three stories (Alpha & Omega, Cry Wolf, and Hunting Ground) this is definitely the most romantic. The pacing of the story is tight and moves along quickly, and we really get a chance to delve into the politics of the werewolves - around the world. At the same time we get to know Charles and Anna even better, and watch their relationship grow, which is my favorite part.

Anna still has some issues with the abuse she suffered at the hands of her old pack. I love how Patricia Briggs handles this, it's not a constant fear, but it comes through at random moments and overwhelms her. She struggles against it, and talks herself past it frequently, but that's not always possible. It's shown beautifully at the beginning, Charles is drawing deeper and deeper into himself and his frustrations, and Anna has plans to bring him out of it by ambush. There's still that ingrained moment of hesitation about making him mad, what a much larger, more dominant wolf could do to her. Logically she knows he would never hurt her, and she knows that in her heart too, but it's hard to overcome what years of abuse will drill into a person. Even worried about that, Anna does it anyway - because she loves Charles.

Seeing their relationship grow, and deepen, is a true joy. The comfort, and easiness between them continues to grow. That she can tease him, tickle him, and have fun with him shows just how far Anna's come. That Charles plays with her, shares private jokes, and can generally be a "lovebird" is perfect.

I also really love how they're both adjusting to each other. They talk about it at one point and Anna asks if Charles is as confused as she is, and he says that he's not, but that he's differently confused because he'd had so long to settle into himself and being alone that the transition is different for him. Charles isn't a big talker, doesn't always trust his words to be what he wants them to be, but I love that he makes a real effort for Anna when she needs it.

The mystery part of it is interesting, though I don't think it's hard to figure out who the ultimate "bad-guy" is - I can't recall if I did my first time reading it.


I think I'll just add some favorite quotes here, nothing too spoilery, but be warned if you don't like to read anything like that :)

She gave him a happy look as he followed her out on the water-soaked wooden walk. "This could be fun," she said, then turned, took a running step, and did a couple of back flips - like a middle-school kid at recess. He stopped where he was, lust and love and fear rising up in a surge of emotion he did not, for all his years, have any idea how to deal with.

"What?" she asked, a little breathless from her gymnastics. She brushed her wavy heair out of her face and gave him a serious look. "Is there something wrong?"

He could hardly tell her that he was afraid because he didn't know what he'd do if something happened to her. That his sudden, unexpected reaction had brought Brother Wolf to the fore. She threw his balance off; his control - which had become almost effortless over the years - was erratic at best.

***

"You are a remarkable man, Charles Cornick."

He wrapped his arms around her shoulders and put his chin on the top of her head. "I know," he confided lightly. "And often under-appreciated by those who don't know any better."

She poked him with a finger and looked up at him. "And funny - though I expect that is another facet of your character that goes unappreciated even more often than your remarkableness."

"Some people don't even notice," he said in a mock-mournful voice.

***

"Do you remember when I told you that you were my mate - and you responded by telling me you didn't like sex?"

She giggled at his smug tone. "I thought it only fair to warn you."

***

She was on the far side, leaving two cold feet of mattress between them. He knew that she'd fall asleep like that...and then gradually move over until she was plastered against him. Then he could go to sleep, too.

***

"...I love your touch. Touch me anytime. Any place. Anywhere." It was heartfelt, and honest...

"Pet me," he told her. "I like it."

Grade (story): A
Grade (narration): C+

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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Review: Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs


Title: Cry Wolf
Author: Patricia Briggs
Series: Alpha and Omega, Book 2 (Mercy Thompson World, Book 3)
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 29 July 2008

Anna never knew werewolves existed until the night she survived a violent attack...and became one herself. After three years at the bottom of the pack, she'd learned to keep her head down and never, ever trust dominant males. But Anna is that rarest kind of werewolf: an Omega. And one of the most powerful werewolves in the country will recognize her value as a pack member - and as his mate.

Just a quick note about the narration - the issues that I had with the novella, Alpha & Omega, are mostly resolved here. The weird pauses the narrator reads with are greatly reduced (or maybe I just got used to them?), and the male voices are pretty good - with the exception of Charles (so disappointing). Overall, I can deal with it and enjoy the story.

My problem is that I got impatient and had to switch to my Kindle to actually read the book. I think this is at least, partially, due to the fact that I'm still pretty irritated with the the way the narrator chooses the characters' voices and to read the book.

Another reminder, this book picks up immediately following Alpha & Omega, so it is necessary to read that first.

Previous review of the story:
It's hard to review a book in a series that's become a favorite. Even while re-reading this book I couldn't help but think of the overall series, and world. Implications, and realities that are learned.

The first 1/3 is definitely slower than I'm used to in PB books, I think that's partly due to the fact of the beginning really starting in Alpha & Omega (the novella). I really enjoyed some of the conversations that took place there, and I like the way that Charles and Anna's relationship develop. They have a very different dynamic than Mercy and Adam, for example. Anna is a bit gun-shy (and watching her come out of that is one of the most satisfying things I've read) to start, and Charles is very unused to communicating his feelings.

Anna begins to learn to read Charles, listening to more than just his words including his body language, tone, and even her nose. Charles learns who Anna is, not someone that he has to coddle and protect, but someone strong-willed enough to enjoy all he has to offer.

This is an incredibly emotional book, more so on re-reads for me. The parts with Walter nearly always break my heart and choke me up. Asil too. And, of course, being obsessed with Bran, I love learning more about him. And we do get quite a bit more insight since the book takes place in Aspen Creek.

Cry Wolf is an eminently satisfying read with a strong romance and plenty of outside drama.

Grade (Story): A
Grade (Narration): C-

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Review: Alpha & Omega by Patricia Briggs


Title: Alpha & Omega
Author: Patricia Briggs
Series: Alpha & Omega, Book 1 (Mercy Thompson World, Book 2)
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 7 August 2007

In Cry Wolf, New York Times bestselling author Patricia Briggs started a new urban fantasy series set in the world of Mercy Thompson — but with rules of its own. Now, read "Alpha and Omega," the novella that inspired the new series, and see how it all began...

Anna Latham never knew werewolves existed, until the night she survived a violent attack... and became one herself. After three years at the bottom of the Chicago pack, she's learned to keep her head down and never, ever trust dominant males. But when she discovers wrongdoing in her pack, she has to go above her Alpha's head to ask for help.

Charles Cornick is the son — and enforcer — of the leader of the North American werewolves. Now his father has sent him to Chicago to clean up a problem there. Charles never expected to find Anna, a rare Omega wolf — and he certainly never expected to recognize her as his mate...

This novella was originally published in the anthology, On the Prowl.

I've reviewed this novella before, but as I spent most of that "review" giving a blurb on the story I thought I'd try again. I'll also get into my issues with the narration - as this is my first time listening to the audio-book.

If you've read Moon Called (Mercy Thompson #1) by Patricia Briggs, this novella takes place following the major events in the story. Charles, Bran's son and enforcer/executioner, is sent to Chicago to deal with some issues that have arisen there.

Anna's a member of the Pack in Chicago. Submissive, so she's been told, and abused by her pack, it took all her courage to call Bran and alert him to some of the happenings. When she finds out this is going to place her in the direct path of one of the most dominant wolves she's ever met, Anna's understandably worried.

Anna's not a kick-ass heroine, at least not right away. She's been beaten down, abused, hurt, and cowed. Three years of this has really done a number on her self-esteem and her reactions. I was nearly as angry as Charles when I would see her cringe from him, worried about how he might use his power over her, how he might hurt her. But, god, she's strong. They haven't buried her in herself yet. She still has a kernel, just a small tiny flame of her old self, defiance and pride and a knowledge of her own self-worth hidden away inside of her. Even still, her transformation to healthy and secure in herself takes time. Perhaps slightly spoilerish, but it's well into the 2nd full-length book, Hunting Grounds before Anna's pretty much shed all the abuse that was heaped on her. Her slow, gradual change is so incredibly believable to me. That she fights for herself, to get back what she's lost is something that I think is so incredibly strong. I can't help but love her.

Charles, what can I say about Charles? I admit that my opinion of him was a little skewed before I started this because of Mercy's thoughts about him. Charles doesn't say four words when one will do; doesn't share of himself too terribly much. So that left Mercy with little idea of how to understand and relate to him. He's such a refreshing surprise in this book. I love that, unlike the Mercy Thompson series (which is in 1st person POV), we get both Anna's and Charles' POVs here (3rd person POV). He's everything I expected of him, with little things that surprised me. I like those little things because they add character and nuance. They make him more real.

Though fated-mate/insta-bond is not my favorite thing, I do love how it's handled here. And I was rooting for them from the first moment. They're so perfect for each other, and I couldn't wait to see them grow together - to see Charles 'court' her.

Though this is just a novella, the plot was really interesting to me. I'm sure this has something to do with the fact that it's a resolution to another aspect of the events that happened in Moon Called. It's not drug out, and it's not rushed. It was nice to see how things are resolved in the Packs, how Bran deals with ruling and running all the Packs in North America and how seriously he (and his sons) take those responsibilities.

In my first review I said how I'd been nervous to start this series because I loved the Mercy Thompson series so much. I worried it wouldn't live up to it. That it'd detract from the world, or my love of the characters. I delayed reading it for YEARS. I was so, so wrong. This is just as good as Mercy - more romantic, especially right away - it might even be better. O_O

The novella does end rather abruptly, as it picks up immediately in Cry Wolf. I know that Patricia Briggs has said she'd never do something like this again, but if you look at this novella as a mini-story to start Cry Wolf I think everyone would be more satisfied.

Now. Onto the narration. This novella is narrated by Holter Graham. I was kind of bummed because I was hoping that the same person that does the Mercy Thompson series would do this one (as I was pretty happy with her narration in Moon Called). But I decided to just see how it went.

Good lord. The narration was awful to the point of distracting. Mr. Graham has this incredibly irritating pacing tic that had him taking odd pauses every few words. The speech pattern actually, quickly, reminded me of Christopher Walken's. Then I couldn't stop hearing that. But when he got to Charles' voice (not his narration, but when he actually spoke) I nearly rolled my eyes right out of my head. Who would have thought that a man would be so horrible at the male characters' voices?? It shocked the hell out of me, because I was actually pretty good with how he was doing the women's voices.

It seemed like he was trying to make Charles especially (but Bran's too) voice too deep, too slow, with those weird pauses it made him sound like he was translating in his head before speaking, like English was his second language (and I'm sure it's not his first, but he's lived in the US for 200 years I think he probably talks it about as good as anyone). So it frustrated and irritated me.

Read the novella. It's a nice cap to Moon Called, and definitely read it if you're planning to read the novels in this series. It's necessary and so much fun seeing Charles and Anna's first meeting.

Grade (Story): A-
Grade (Narration): D-

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Review: Moon Called by Patricia Briggs


Title: Moon Called
Author: Patricia Briggs
Series: Mercy Thompson, Book 1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 31 January 2006

Mercy Thompson's life is not exactly normal. Her next-door neighbor is a werewolf. Her former boss is a gremlin. And she's fixing a VW bus for a vampire. But then, Mercy isn't exactly normal herself.

Wow. So there's really not a good cover-blurb for this book. What the heck? I guess, if they're going for tease, it's hitting the mark. *frowns*

I can't remember who first told me to read this book. I wish I could because it has given me endless hours of entertainment over the years. Patricia Briggs is one of my all-time favorite authors, and I'm not sure I can do her books justice (which is why I haven't even tried to review them before now).

This book's fate rested squarely on Mercy's shoulders when I first read it. And, did she ever deliver. Mercy's nearly a perfect heroine for me (I do have a few - incredibly - minor issues that become more prevalent later in the series but I'm not going to get into them now). She's smart, can make mistakes, takes her share of blame, isn't uber-strong, isn't weak, knows when to back down in a world of stronger beings, knows when to fight, and even better she knows when to quietly sneak around the tough obstacle. She's loyal and caring, with a huge heart, but she's nobody's fool. I was immediately drawn to her.

For once I could see why all these super-sexy alpha men were attracted to her as well. I suppose one could say there's a love-triangle in this series. I never saw it that way, because for me there was only ever one option...however there is something like a triangle. And though I normally HATE love-triangles, I love how this one plays out. I love how Mercy handles both her suitors and maintains her integrity. She balances an incredibly fine line at times, but she does it perfectly.

At first glance the world may seem like a million other urban-fantasy worlds that have been created, but I'm incredibly impressed with the world that Patricia Briggs has created. Not only are there werewolves, but there are vampires, fae, humans, witches, and mentions of ghosts and demons. The politics in, and between, these groups makes for some awesome stories. Something that I always appreciate is consistency in the world. If you tell me something, I want it to be true. I'm not saying there can't be exceptions, but I want to know the 'rules' for lack of a better word - much like I know physics, laws and social customs for our world. The Mercy Thompson world is one of the most consistent worlds I've ever read. I am always comfortable here, even when I'm learning something new. I trust Patricia Briggs.

The mystery is the driving force of the plot, and while I was intrigued, I did feel it ended a bit abruptly. I was okay with that because I was able to dive into book 2 right away, but I do wish that there had been a little more time spent in the denouement. For me, though, this book is all about the characters and the world overall.

I love it. I find that I can't say anything better than that.

Grade: A

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