Friday, April 30, 2010

That Which Bites by Celia Rono

"That Which Bites" by Celia Rono

This is a very interesting story. The main character, Julia Poe, is a 22 yr. old woman. At the age of 8, she survived a strange fog that killed off most humans, followed by a vampire take-over which wiped out a lot more. The remaining humans fall into a couple of categories - cattle (think food), slave or willing servant. Poe, left to care for herself in the city when her entire family dies in one night, has managed to not be any of these things by hiding in a bunker. She is a physically scarred, emotionally & socially stunted, skilled vampire killer who helps out a small contingent of resistance fighters who attempt to free the human cattle. Thru this group, she has been befriended by an old nun and a black gay man. Things go terribly wrong in one raid/rescue, her friends die violently (because of her), and she is captured by a master vampire. She has to learn to survive all over again under completely different circumstances & trust the very creatures she has feared.

This is a story of survival against all odds, of trusting those who have done nothing to earn your trust, of acceptance and rejection. The story line is brilliant, but at times the jump from one character's POV, history & motivations to another's gets confusing (and maybe unnecessary). Still, I couldn't put it down - it was that good. The end was less that satisfactory in my opinion, but that's just my hang up. It made sense based on the story. (I just didn't want it to end that way).

Overall, I would say this is a story definitely worth reading. I went back & forth on whether to give it 3 or 4 stars & decided with 4, because despite my frustration with the character hopping, I will go out and buy a sequel if there is one. I want to know what happens to Poe (and I want to see her grow more).

Monday, April 26, 2010

10 New Urban Fantasy Authors to read...

In keeping with my last post (because there really are so many unknown or unenthusiastically promoted authors out there), I decided to do a 2nd list of newer authors. I've left off authors mentioned in my last post (so be sure to scan that too). And without further ado....

1. D.D. Barant - "Dying Bites" & "Death Blows" (Bloodhound Files series) Interesting story where humans are the minority. I'm not a fan of parallel dimensions, but this was interesting, well written & had clever dialogue.

2. Sonya Bateman - "Master of None". Story of Gavyn, an unlucky thief who ends up with Ian, a djinn. Gavyn stole something & lost it, now the bad guy wants it back (and wants Gavyn dead to boot).

3. Amber Benson - "Death's Daughter" & "Cat's Claw". Hey, she was Tara on Buffy! lol. I loved this story - it's at points funny, serious and just plain enjoyable.

4. Brom - "The Child Thief". Holy cow was this a spectacularly dark story. Its based on Peter Pan, but Brom puts a spin on it that will chill you and leave you amazed at the brilliance of it.

5. Harry Connolly - "Child of Fire". This is a great first book with the second coming out in August. The main character is a recruited criminal, his partner a punkish bad-ass. I can't read to read the next one.

6. Carolyn Crane - "Mind Games". A diabolically good story about Justine, a hypochondriac who is recruited by a secret organization to reform criminals thru her very illness. I thought I would hate it based on the premise. Instead, I found it one of the best books I've read in a long time.

7. Jennifer Estep - "Spider's Bite: An Elemental Assassin". Another fantastic new author. The main character is an assassin known as the spider. She is a cold-blooded, sociopathic killer - except when it comes to the people she loves. Lots of action, great characters and an amazing story.

8. Kelly Gay - "Better Part of Darkness". This is a good solid story revolving around Charlie, a mom & cop. I liked it.

9. Nancy Haddock - "La Vida Vampire" & "Last Vampire Standing". Enjoyable series about Cesca, a vampire princess, who has been rescued after being buried for hundreds of years. I'm currently reading the 2nd book & enjoying it. Love her hot boyfriend. Yum.

10. Julie Kagawa "The Iron King" (young adult). Meghan is a girl just trying to get thru live. She's totally forgettable - or so she thinks - until she discovers that faeries exist & she is one. Great story. Very interesting.

11. Kelly Meding - "Three Days to Dead" Evangeline is a hunter who was killed & then resurrected by her handler. Only she didn't end up in her body. She's got three days to figure out who killed her & why. This is an awesome story of love, loss and hope. Amazing.

12. Chloe Neill - "Some Girls Bite" & "Friday Night Bites" (Chicagoland Vampires series). I love love love this series. Merit is attacked & in an effort to save her life, a vampire leader turns her without her permission. Turns out she's a kick-ass newbie vampire. Oh, and man is the head vamp sizzling & infuriating. This is a must read.

13. Maggie Stiefvater "Lament" & "Ballad" A young adult series about faeries. The main character is a girl who is a musician who suffers severe stage fright. Just a great read.
"Shiver" & "Linger" (I happened to get an ARC of Linger, so I'm including it tho its not out yet). A tale of a girl and a werewolf. Its a very unique take on the whole myth. This story is heart wrenching & if you're a crier, make sure you have tissues with you at all times. I loved it because I just love angst. I couldn't even read another book for 2 days after finishing it, because I kept thinking about the story (its truly amazing).

14. Mark Teppo. "Lightbreaker" & "Heartland". This is a very solid story about mages (and no, most of them are not nice guys!). Lots of action. I haven't read the 2nd book yet (its in my TBR stack), but I'm looking forward to it.

15. Jaye Wells. "Red-Headed Stepchild" & "The Mage in Black". You won't think all grandmothers are nice after this story. Sabina is a mage/vampire who is raised among the vampires. I loved it.

16. S.L. Wright "Confessions of a Demon". This is an interesting story of a woman who attempted to help someone only to find herself taken over by a demon. Other demons are gravitating toward her because of her new, vulnerable power (they want to consume it). Definitely worth a read.

and last, but not least...
17. Skyler White - "And Falling, Fly". I honestly loved this book. I have to say there were points I got mad because it felt too philosophical & I felt like I was being lectured or talked down to. But I could NOT put it down. If you like Clive Barker type stories, this is probably one you'll enjoy. I'll definitely read the sequel.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

10 Urban Fantasy Authors you may not have heard of...

Today, I thought I'd cover some urban fantasy authors that seem to get buried in the shuffle either because they have smaller publishing houses (my guess) or because of their placement (what's the deal with slapping some in romance?) or their stories are too far off the "norm" (or as norm as you can be with UF).

1. Barbara Bretton - "Casting Spells" and "Laced with Magic". Now, I think her books end up in Romance, because she writes contemporary romance. And, while there is romance in them, I wouldn't categorize them as anything other than UF. Her stories center around a small Vermont town where the residents are anything but human. The main character is owner of a knitting store and a sorceress. There's a love interest (a cop who has no idea what he's dealing with) and a whole bucket load of humor. These are a great read.

2. Rachel Caine - I think she's best known for her teen vampire series, which is good. But her Weather Warden series revolving around Joanne (a warden) and David (a djinn) is phenomenal. I think a lot of people might be put off by the premise - a bunch of gifted people who can control the four elements and use djinn (genies) - the story is incredibly well thought-out & works. Her most recent off-shoot "Undone" and "Unknown" are my favorites. Cassiel is a djinn stripped of her powers and made almost human. Cassiel's POV is brilliant.

3. Angie Fox - "The Accidental Demonslayer" series. Again, its in romance. The main character is a preschool teacher who discovers she comes from a line of witches & she's the chosen to become a demonslayer. She has a talking dog that is crazy funny and a hot griffin boyfriend. The biker witches - her grandmother and a bunch of octagenarians - will have you howling with laughter. Yet the story has a depth of emotion mixed in that is just plain enjoyable.

4. Mario Acevedo - "The Undead Kama-Sutra" (Felix Gomez series). The titles of these books probably put most women off. The images of the original series are definitely geared toward men, too. The main character is Felix Gomez, a vampire. I like them. I think they're smart and interesting.

5. Tate Hallaway - "Tall, Dark & Dead" (Lacie Garnet series). Again with the romance section. This is a story about a witch who is possessed by a goddess. Her entire coven has been slaughtered by vatican assassins and she's in hiding. She falls in love with a vampire (created through alchemy). The story does revolve around their romance, but its so much more than a romance & it has a great sense of humor.

6. M.L.N. Hanover - "Unclean Spirits" (Black Son's Daughter series). This was in the horror section in my bookstore. It is definitely on the darker end of UF, which I happen to love. Vampires, weres & demons are created by 'parasite riders'. In the first book, the main character has just inherited all of her uncle's property. She's a bit of a drifter with a dark past. She discovers she's also inherited her uncle's job - taking care of demons, etc. Its a great story, fast paced with great action scenes and just keeps getting better. (I'm dying for the next in the series to come out.)

7. Erica Hayes - "Shadowfae" and "Shadowglass". A relatively new author. These are sexy stories. Its the story of an incubus and succubus, a chance at humanity, love, and all the unscrupulous characters that stand in their way. I'm not always a big fan of sex in books, but its essential for these books to work. And well done.

8. Mark Henry - "Happy Hour of the Damned" series. I haven't read the entire series yet, tho I do have them in my extensive TBR pile. These are zombie stories and I suppose for some people that might be off-putting (including me). But the author is so damn funny, I bought the books. I enjoyed the first one enough to invest in the rest.

9. Missy Jane - "They Call Me Death". This is a novel about a world changed. Shapeshifters and humans are living separate after an all out war where the population was decimated. The main charater Alexis lost her husband and son & is a kick-ass soldier who's tired of fighting. She meets a shifter who changes everything. An excellent read.

10. Carrie Jones - "Need" "Captivate". This book is in the young adult stacks. It's a wonderful story of a girl's journey as she discovers she's not exactly human and faeries (in this instance, pixies) aren't very nice. It doesn't fall into the standard girl-meets-supernatural boy crap that's out there. I loved it.

(Okay, I'm going over 10, so sue me)

11. Anna Katherine - "Salt and Silver". This was a very different story about a girl who lives & works in a diner where she & her friends opened a doorway to hell. A demon slayer shows up & moves into the basement to guard the door. Romance & mayhem ensue. It was unexpectedly entertaining with a fast paced and touching story.

12. Jackie Kessler - "Hell's Belles" series. Okay, these books ooze with sex. Jezebel is a succubus who flees from hell and is on the run. She meets a nice guy and falls in love. The story is clever, funny, heart wrenching and heart warming. I loved it.

13. J.F. Lewis - "Staked" "ReVamped" (Void City series). The vampire in this series ought to be totally unlikeable - he's kind of an ass - but I loved him. He runs a strip club, has a newly turned girlfriend he treats like crap, a daughter who is totally insane & sociopathic, a vampire car. There's some serious grossness in this. But it all just works.

14. C.E. Murphy - "Urban Shaman" Joanne Walker series. Joanne is a shaman just learning what she is. Her father is native american, her mother was irish. She has a tragic past & in the first book works as a mechanic for the police. The story is carefully woven and you can't help but love the characters from Billy, the cross dressing cop to Gary, a cab driver in his sixties who becomes her champion and friend.

15. Justine Musk - "Blood Angel" "Lord of Bones". Very very dark urban fantasy. Its a story of angels and demons that haunted me. I wish she'd write more.

16. Adrian Phoenix - "A Rush of Wings" Dante Baptiste series. This is by far my favorite series. Dante is the son of Lucian, an angel and a vampire. He's sexy, cajun and tortured. Heather is an FBI agent investigating a serial killer. She ends up in his club, and with him. I don't want to give anything away, but if Dante were real, I would totally be his groupie. Dark, haunting story of love and hope against overwhelming odds.

17. Eileen Rendahl "Don't Kill the Messenger". Terrific story of Melina, who because she drowned at 4 & brought back is changed - and is now a messenger for vampires and othersupernatural creatures. There's a couple of love/lust interests and a whole lot of action as she investigates things she probably shouldn't. I'm looking forward to more of these characters.

18. Margaret Ronald "Spiral Hunt" "Wild Hunt" - The story of Evie, a bike messenger who is also a Hound (think Wild Hunt). She finds things as a side job, which tends to get her mixed up in some bad-ass stuff. Good action, fast-paced and enjoyable.

19. Cynthia Leitich Smith "Tantalize" "Eternal" These are found in the young adult shelves. The first is a love story of a vampire & a werewolf. The second, a vampire & an angel. If you're looking for happy, feel-good endings, these aren't for you. They're filled with angst & emotion. I'm anxiously awaiting the third book, which is supposed to tie the two stories together.

20. Thomas E. Sniegoski "A Kiss Before the Apocalypse" series. I honestly didn't expect to like these. The first book started slow, but it quickly became a book I couldn't put down. Remy is a fallen angel who has taken on a mantle of humanity. He is mourning his dead wife. It's a great series.

21. Rob Thurman "Nightlife" series. This series is fantastic. Cal & Niko are brothers. Cal is half auphe (think really really bad demon). Niko is his protector, mother, father & teacher all rolled into one. This is a story of love - not romantic love, but the love that binds us to people we call family. There's lots of action, some seriously funny snark & great emotion. There is nothing that Cal & Niko won't do for each other, no matter how horrific it is. I'd buy these to give as gifts (and have). An absolute must read.

22. Phaedra Weldon "Wraith" "Spectre" "Phantasm" This a good, solid series of Zoe, a woman who can walk between astral planes.

Yikes, I went way way over!! Now I have to go make dinner. Crap.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Autism Awareness Month

Its autism awareness month and I thought I would take a little time to reflect on what autism means to me. My son is 15 and diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome.

A is for Advocacy. Because if I am not the voice for my child, no one is. I need to be able to tell school personnel, doctors, family, friends and strangers what he needs. As he ages, it means I also have to teach him how to advocate for himself.

U is for Unconditional Love. Not just love for him - he is my world. That part is easy. Its unconditional love for the people in our lives who don't get it & make hurtful statements, avoid him, treat him like he doesn't exist, and just generally are asses to him. If you think family and friends are understanding & helpful, you are sorely mistaken. Often, they are the most hurtful of all. (I won't even go into the horrible things strangers have felt the need to say to us.)

T is for Time. Everything takes time. Time to master new skills. Time to get his mind around a change. Time to prepare for things. It took him 4 years to memorize multiplication tables. 7 years & 4 therapists to learn to ride a bike. He had not yet learned how to wash his hair properly. Time is my friend. And my enemy.

I is for Information. Thank God I have a journalism degree. Thank God I know how to research. Thank God for the internet. I never accept things at face value. I question, I research, I learn. I don't know where we would be without my endless hours of searching for answers.

S is for Sorrow. There is more of it than you can imagine. The rejection we suffer is sometimes unbearable. I've had people act like my son has a contageous disease when they learn his diagnosis. I've had people suggest I'm a bad parent. I've watched my son rejected by other children because he isn't able to socialize as effectively as them. I've seen him rejected by kids because their parents urged them to stay away from him. I've watched him fall into bouts of depression. I've seen him struggle with life. Sorrow is my middle name.

M is for Miracles. Each time my son learns something that helps him cope with the world around him is a miracle. Many of our miracles came in the form of occupational therapists with endless patience & undaunted spirits. Some came in the form of teachers who could look past the obvious intelligence (my son is near genius) & could see the learning disabilities. Some came in the form of people who didn't care that he was different, who embraced his uniqueness and welcomed him into their lives.

A is for Anxiety. It rules our lives. The world is not user friendly for a child with autism, no matter how mild a form it takes. What follows is often cruelty & rejection. That leads to severe anxiety for a child who knows they don't quite fit.

W is for Will Power. Perseverence is something my son has taught me. Never back down. Never give up. Fight even when you don't see the point anymore. He is amazing.

A is for Acceptance. He's not neurotypical. He will never be neurotypical. But he will find a place in this world where he will be okay.

R is for Respect. Too many people seem to have forgotten how to be respectful, kind, accepting. A little respect for someone's differences goes a long way toward making that person feel like they're wanted. Too little can crush a person.

E is for Exclusion. We have been left out of family & friend get-togethers, social & school events. And when we are invited, we have to decide whether its something that's do-able or something that will end in disaster. Sometimes that means cancelling well in advance, sometimes its last minute. Autism is isolating.

N is for Neurotypical. If you have a neurotypical kid, you celebrate typical milestones - walking, talking, t-ball, birthday parties, dances, dates. The milestones I've celebrated - when my son first learned personal space boundaries, when he rode that bike at 13 for the first time, when he braved going back to regular school. You have no idea.

E is for Empathy. The general theory is people on the spectrum don't have it. I say they're wrong. My son has asked to have money that goes to his Christmas gifts instead be used to buy gifts for Toys for Tots. He's even picked out the toys he wants to buy to donate - toys that he loves. He's stood up for other kids being bullied. He's helped out strangers. Yet, he doesn't always understand other's emotions or respond appropriately.

S is for Sensory Issues. Taste, touch, smell, sight and sound. Holy hell. Who knew that unexpected touch could hurt? That sound could be amplified to levels of pain? That too much input could cause complete brain meltdowns? That food texture or color could make you nauseous? Imagine living in a world where the brush of someone's hand against you can send you into a fight/flight reaction the magnitude of an unexpected car crash.

S is for Selflessness. I know more about this than I ever wanted to. Sometimes I want to be selfish. I'd like a wardrobe that isn't ten years old. I'd like to go out for drinks with friends. I'd like a job. For me, that's not to be. But I don't dwell on it. There will be time for me one day. It's just not today.