Archive for Books

Paranormal Books and Series: Best to Worst

I like when people make lists of the paranormal books that they’ve read, sorted by loves and hates.  I love the genre so much right now that I’m forever looking for more in the hopes I’ll find some new fandom to obsess over.

The thing is, it isn’t necessarily enough to check out posts of recommendations, because one person’s 5 star favorite might be my idea of empty, meaningless drivel.  That’s why I like the complete list, so I can see which side of the fence my favorites (and least favs) fall on, and thereby whether or not I have compatible taste.

So here’s my list, in case anybody is looking for one.  It’ll be a work in progress that gets edited from time to time.  Books on my first list are my favorites that I consider buy-worthy and rate between 4 and 5 stars on Goodreads.  The second list are books that I still consider entertaining, mostly rated between 3 and 4 stars.   If it falls under Comfort Food, that means the plot is probably fairly predictable or possibly derivative but will pass the time if all else fails.  Obviously with the last category, I’m just trying to get you to save your money for something better—no matter how sexy the cover might be.

Before you begin, you should note that I am essentially a fan of urban fantasy and I generally try to avoid paranormal romance, which I think is just regular romance wearing vampire teeth and a cape.  That kind of stuff generally falls under “Comfort Food” if it makes this list at all.

The BEST:

Adult:

  1. Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter Series, (only 1-9, mind you), by Laurell K. Hamilton
  2. Rachel Morgan, The Hallows Series, by Kim Harrison
  3. Mercy Thompson Series, by Patricia Briggs
  4. Song of Ice and Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin
  5. Otherworld Series, by Kelley Armstrong
  6. Sookie Stackhouse, Southern Vampire Series, by Charlaine Harris
  7. Kitty Norville Series, by Carrie Vaughn (*book 10 just dropped from a 4 star rating to a 3…concerned about possible series decline)
  8. Anna Latham, Alpha and Omega Series, by Patricia Briggs
  9. Eric Courtney, Void City Series, by J. F. Lewis (1st book incredible, think I’m done after the 2nd though)
  10. Odd Thomas Series, by Dean Koontz (don’t be scared off by his other fare, this is a standout series)

Teen:

  1. Katniss Everdeen, Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
  2. Claire Danvers, Morganville Vampires Series, by Rachel Caine
  3. Clara Gardner, Unearthly Series, by Cynthia Hand
  4. Darkest Powers Series, by Kelley Armstrong
  5. Jenny Thornton, Forbidden Game Trilogy, by L. J. Smith
  6. Elena Gilbert, Vampire Diaries (can only swear for 1-4), by L. J. Smith
  7. Bella Swan, Twilight Saga, by Stephanie Meyer
  8. Shari Cooper, Remember Me Trilogy, by Christopher Pike
  9. Nightworld Series, by L. J. Smith
  10. Kaitlyn Fairchild, Dark Vision Trilogy, by L. J. Smith
  11. Tamsin Greene, Once a Witch and Always a Witch, by Carolyn MacCullough

The Pretty Good:

Adult:

  1. Alex Craft Series, by Kalayna Price
  2. Joanne Baldwin, Weather Warden Series, by Rachel Caine (Gets better with time…)
  3. Merit, Chicagoland Vampires Series, by Chloe Neill
  4. Harper Blaine, Greywalker Series, by Kat Richardson (Liked the first 2 a lot, the 3rd…eh)
  5. Anton Gorodetsky, Watch Series, by Sergei Lukyanenko
  6. Riley Jenson, Guardian Series, by Keri Arthur
  7. Chess Putnam, Downside Ghosts Series, by Stacia Kane
  8. MacKayla Lane, Fever Series, by Karen Marie Moning
  9. Victoria Nelson Series, by Tanya Huff
  10. Meredith Gentry Series, by Laurell K. Hamilton (at least the first bunch)

Teen:

  1. Clary (Clarissa) Fray, Mortal Instruments Trilogy, by Cassandra Clare
  2. Luce (Lucinda) Price, Fallen Series, by Lauren Kate
  3. Rose Hathaway, Vampire Academy Series, by Richelle Mead
  4. Madison Avery Series, by Kim Harrison

The Comfort Food:

Adult:

  1. Sophie Garou, Tales of an Urban Werewolf Series, by Karen MacInerney
  2. October Daye Series, by Seanan McGuire
  3. Dark Hunter Series, Sherrilyn Kenyon
  4. Cat Crawfield, Night Huntress Series, by Jeaniene Frost
  5. Georgina Kincaid Series, by Richelle Mead
  6. Cassandra Palmer Series, by Karen Chance
  7. Joanne Walker, Walker Papers Series, by C. E. Murphy
  8. Joanna Archer, Signs of the Zodiac Series, by Vickie Pettersson
  9. Luna Wilder, Nocturne City Series, by Caitlin Kittredge
  10. Sisters of the Moon, by Yasmine Galenorn
  11. Sabina Kane Series, by Jaye Wells
  12. Atticus O’Sullivan, Iron Druid Series, by Kevin Hearne
  13. Harry Dresden, The Dresden Files Series, by Jim Butcher

Teen:

  1. Liza, Bones of Faerie, by Janni Lee Simner

The Library if You Must:

Adult:

  1. Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter (10 & beyond), by Laurell K. Hamilton
  2. Jaz Parks Series, by Jennifer Rardin
  3. Faythe Sanders, Shifters Series, by Rachel Vincent
  4. Diana Tregarde Series, by Mercedes Lackey
  5. Carpathians Series, by Christine Feehan
  6. Betsy Taylor, Undead Series, by Mary Janice Davidson
  7. Lily Yu, World of the Lupi Series, by Eileen Wilks

Teen:

  1. Nora Grey, Hush, Hush Series, by Becca Fitzpatrick
  2. Wendy Everly, Trylle Trilogy, by Amanda Hocking
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Spoiling “Discord’s Apple” (No, Really…Spoilers Here)

I mean it when I say spoilers.  Go no further if you haven’t read the book.  It isn’t my intention to ruin this book for others.

Judging by most of the posts on this blog, one could easily assume I’m more into TV shows than books.  That’s actually not the case; it’s just way more convenient to review all the books on Goodreads and slap a link on the blog.  Except with Carrie Vaughn’s new book Discord’s Apple, that just won’t be satisfying enough.  I need to go into detail, and then I have to hide it there, and what’s the fun in that?  I had to bring it to my world.

I bought this book without looking into it because Carrie Vaughn is on my list of “safe” authors that I buy without checking.  So I was pretty disappointed when I realized this was one of those books where mythical legends (in this case, the likes of Odysseus, Apollo, and King Arthur, among others) are real people, mixing in with a society set not far in our future.   In general I’m not a fan of that, but it is handy that I just took a mythology class which covered Homer, Virgil, and Ovid, among others.  I was ready to catch Vaughn if she messed with the classics, but she was faithful, carefully fleshing out the characters in exciting and modern ways without actually changing their stories (unlike Sherrilyn Kenyon, who turned the virgin huntress Artemis  into a needy, clingy sex fiend who only cares about making a man love her.  Her books are fun though.)

Of course, there is room for fans of Homer and the like to disagree—for instance, in this story other gods tease Athena for being in love with Odysseus, whereas I always preferred to see her as the only goddess who didn’t fall all over herself in love with him, yet saw him as an equal…a friend.  Digressing, hard.  Sorry.

Vaughn gives you a lot of fascinating fantasy material, but around it she creates a world that is very realistic—and very frightening.  Main character Evie lives in our future, if all countries reach a point where they are at each others throats, terrorism is rampant as each tries to force its own agenda on others, and nobody is safe.  Evie’s friends and the neighbors from the small town she grew up in act as if armed checkpoints in and out of every town are to be expected.  Evie has a friendly chat with her school friend, who casually reminds her to report any strangers.  She has also lost her mother in a terrorist attack.  I’m not explaining this well enough, but I felt like Vaughn took my current worst nightmares and made a world out of them.

Also disturbingly authentic, Evie’s father has terminal cancer and he is refusing treatment.  I am fortunate enough to say I haven’t experienced anything like this, but Vaughn draws such an unflinching picture of what it would be like to watch a loved one, someone as vital as a parent,  slowly succumb to cancer.  It was heart wrenching.  Cancer is certainly another one of the scariest monsters in our world right now.

On these points, I was an absolute fan; I became completely engrossed in this world.  The mythological heroes are actually necessary comfort, like solutions that we might wish to have when facing sometimes seemingly unsolvable challenges life currently offers.  But there were some sticking points for me.

Evie writes for a comic book series, and wants to write a novel about the characters.  The unfortunate part is the story stops several times to tell that one instead, and I wasn’t interested in it at all. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still on subject as far as the characters are soldiers who fight terrorists.  I just didn’t feel like reading another story within this story. This is a small issue.

The second thing is a personal problem, but I bet I won’t be alone.  I’m a lapsed Catholic with an open mind, but…I believe in Jesus, I believe He is God, I believe He made miracles.  As such, it was tough to get past Jesus appearing as a character in this book, and in a pretty harsh light.  In Vaughn’s world, there are no gods, only magic and those (ordinary humans) who wield it and become so powerful that they act like gods.  Then they either sacrifice themselves so the power can go back into the world and allow people to master their own fates, or they spend their time building more power so they can shape the world to suit themselves.  Jesus is depicted here as the former, so at least he’s a good guy, but he is just a guy—and a bit of a liar.  He did believe he’d come back from the dead (he was wrong), but only because he knew Zeus had done something similar.  Problem here being that if he knew the entire time the second coming was just a really hard magic trick he was trying to imitate, then his preachings were complete lies.

It was mentioned once but I winced and powered through, only to have an immortal character reiterate it in detail (“Trust me, I was there, he’s nobody.”)   Zeus was treated with more reverence.  I choked on it a bit, but I tried to look at it as a part that Vaughn felt necessary to make her world consistent and create a reality where humans really are completely alone.

I still finished the story.  This is clearly a thoughtful novel, and it’s saying something I haven’t heard before.  I felt like I identified with the fear and frustration, the idea that our futures might be shaped by a few powerful, arrogant voices.  Despite the cynicism, this book can’t be a complete downer because Vaughn is way too talented at creating engaging characters.  I loved them all—good guys, bad guys, and even the big dog named Queen Mab—so it was no hardship to follow them through what would could be considered a trying story.  I also appreciate when someone is willing to tell a story with complete honesty, whatever the reactions might be.

For the most part, Carrie Vaughn is still on my “safe” list.  I’m glad I read it but I shouldn’t have bought it, because it just isn’t a world I’d want to revisit.  Next time  if it isn’t “Kitty Norville”, I’ll just look into it a little bit more first.

 

 

 

 

 

Quick Note for Brooding Monsters with Tortured Pasts

So I just finishing up watching New Moon.  I love the series, even though I don’t love everything about it.  The ending is pretty great.

Anyway, it made me think about the books I read, the movies I watch based on those books or not, and TV shows, too, and I just wanted to say that if someone wants to play a hero with a dark side who falls in love with someone despite himself, I know where he should get his notes from.

Christopher Eccleston as Doctor Who, Series 1.

I’m sorry, but I don’t think anybody else does it as well. Wait, I have a second person in mind, but I’ll try to stick where I am for a minute.  I know if you’re a Ten fan, you’re probably thinking I’m nuts to leave him out, but I’ll always feel like Ten had gotten his act together to the point where he knew being in love with Rose wasn’t really the greatest idea, so he sort of held himself in check and went about his business as much as he could.  Therefore, if he really was in love with Rose, it was way too subtle.  It almost seemed like he showed his feelings more when she wasn’t around to witness them.

Now look back to Series 1.  There was a Doctor who wasn’t about to feel something for a human.  Captain Tortured Past, coming right out of the Time War, lost his entire species, completely bitter…he invited Rose along because she persisted and finally  impressed him, plus he was seriously lonely.  But I don’t think he intended to feel anything for her at all.  It just sort of…happened.  Anyway I just liked his emotional intensity and brutal honesty towards her, and the way you could tell that she became precious to him, though he never did anything about it.  I don’t think I’m wording this right, but it isn’t like I planned this.  Just a thought.

Second example has to be Jason Dohring as Logan Echolls in Veronica Mars.

From what I read, they never even meant for him to be a main character, and then he took over the freakin’ series.  Tortured past?  Abusive father, neglectful mother, getting dumped by his girlfriend who then turned up murdered…you don’t always need paranormal circumstances to fit the bill.  His was a different version, starting the series with the intention of hating and torturing the heroine, only to unexpectedly develop powerful feelings of the exact opposite kind.

These are the two best examples that I can think of, and right now I feel like everybody else falls flat.  Yeah, this means you, Edward.

The Untimely Demise of Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter

Let me begin by saying that the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter Series by Laurell K. Hamilton was once my ultimate, all-time favorite.  So much, that when the Southern Vampire Series was optioned for an HBO series (hello, True Blood), I remember feeling that Anita Blake had been overlooked.  I didn’t blame HBO, I blamed the author.

If you aren’t familiar with this series but you love vampire fiction, you really should try them and start at the beginning with Guilty Pleasures.  For the first 9 books, you’ll find truly exceptional plots starring a tough, wry heroine who raises zombies for a living and works for the police on the side, putting her firmly in between humanity and the monsters.  These books have everything; mystery, romance, drama, and of course, blood, guts, and all the scary beasts you can imagine.  Each book is better than the one before.

At least, until book 10, Narcissus in Chains.  Then it becomes porn.

Of course, if that’s what you’re into then that’s fine.  But these are very light on plot, with a quick turn for the heroine from a woman with a strict Christian background and sexual hangups to someone who has sex with almost every stranger who crosses her path.  Practically every scene is a sex scene, and that’s only part of the problem.  The first 9 books show Anita struggling with unwelcome feelings for the local vampire Master of the City and, after book 3 (Circus of the Damned, fantastic story), a powerful but troubled werewolf.  Don’t worry, nothing Twilight about it.  The sexual tension builds between them slowly, with a lot of feelings and inner turmoil involved.

Then in Narcissus in Chains, Anita is suddenly bestowed with a “power” that forces her to “feed off of sex”, whatever that means.  Off the bat, she has sex with a stranger and a previously abused, much younger, former male-prostitute named Nathaniel that she’d rescued in a previous novel, Burnt Offerings.  Beyond this novel she starts having sex with almost all the other powerful men that she knows and/or meets.  I know that characters in long-term series need room to grow and change, yet this new Anita is IMO completely incomparable with her previous self.

Even if you could look beyond the drastic character change, the plots have gone down the tubes.  The  police don’t trust the new Anita and her harem so there are no more crimes for her to solve, which had always been a big part of the original 9 stories.  Her regular job as a zombie raiser is forgotten  for the most part, for no real reason that I can see.  Most of the books deal with long distance “psychic attacks” from European monsters or Anita fighting off animals in her head, and the solution to and/or result of both problems usually involves Anita having sex with more friends and strangers.

So why do I keep reading them?  Because the first 9 books were so fantastic that I guess part of me is still waiting for the old Anita, the old Laurell K. Hamilton in fact, to resurface.  But you can bet I’ve stopped buying them; library or nothing for me.

All and all, I will always recommend this series, despite the eventual flatline. The replacements that I’ve found since can only pale in comparison with this series’ original potential.