Tales of the Otherworld by Kelley Armstrong

I love the Women of the Otherworld series and this is an excellent addition to the mix.

When Armstrong began her career, she wanted to do something to thank her readers so she put free fiction on her website. Readers loved it but they asked her “When will they be in a book?” Armstrong waited until she could do it with a charitable project, which she did with Men of the Otherworld. Tales of the Otherworld is the second collection of eight short stories and all of the proceeds from the sale of the book will go to World Literacy of Canada, which is “dedicated to promoting international development and social justice.”

The first story, Rebirth, tells the story of how Aaron became a vampire. I have to tell you that I didn’t know who Aaron was until I read the last story of the book. I really need to reread some of the earlier books and make notes so I can keep track of all of the characters! Aaron is the second in command of the north American vampires, working with Cassandra. It’s quite a short story so to tell you more would give away too much. Let’s just say Aaron wasn’t that excited about being a vampire.

Bewitched is the story of how Eve met and fell in love with Kristof, thus producing Savannah. And, how it came to be that Kristof didn’t know about Savannah until after Eve died. Dime Store Magic and Industrial Magic are my favorite of the entire series, so I was happy to see this one included. I always thought there had to be more to Eve and Kristof than we first thought.

Birthright is Logan’s story. At least the story of how he came to the Pack. He was raised with his mother and never knew anything about his father until, on his 18th birthday, he receives a letter with nothing more than the name of Jeremy Danvers and his address. Logan assumes that Jeremy is his father and, despite the changes he is going through, never suspects that he is a werewolf. Just as his father must have wanted – Logan has a lot to learn and now he has someone to teach him and give him a place in the werewolf world.

All of us who are fans of Women of the Otherworld know that Clay bit Elena and that is how she became a werewolf. What we didn’t know is what Beginnings is all about. As the name suggests, it’s the beginning of their relationship. This is one of the longest of the stories, which makes sense as Elena and Clay have a long history. Elena is a college student when she meets Clay – who is a visiting professor. For reasons he can’t explain, he gives her a job when he doesn’t need an assistant and, gradually, they develop a relationship. Elena has been in foster care most of her life so she is slow to trust and slower to love, but eventually she does love and trust Clay. Clay, however, hasn’t told Elena that he is a werewolf, so there is some tension.

As it’s not a secret that Clay bit Elena, I will tell you this: it wasn’t premeditated, it was an impulse. He’d taken Elena home to meet Jeremy, thinking that once Jeremy saw that Clay had met his mate, then Jereamy would lift the ban on long-term relationships. Clay and Elena got engaged and almost no one in the Pack knew about her. Jeremy isn’t happy about it and when Clay thinks that Jeremy is going to send Elena on her way, he bit her.

The short story pretty much ends there but the rest of it is in the early book, Bitten and more is told along the way in the other books that feature Elena and Clay as well as in Men of the Otherworld.

Expectations is a quick & dirty version of Lucas Cortez’s first meeting with Eve Levine and the lessons she teaches him.

Given that we read the beginning of Clay and Elena’s relationship just a few pages earlier, Ghosts was sort of disconcerting as it takes place after Clay and Elena are married. Jeremy, the lead of this story, also has memories of Elena just after she is bitten, so it gets a little confusing. In this story, though, Jeremy is dealing with a potential challenger for Alpha and facing the consequences of some of his choices as Alpha.

Wedding Bell Hell features my favorites: Paige Winterbourne, Lucas Cortez and Savannah Levine. Paige and Lucas are getting married and being supernatural does not mean that things always go smoothly – or that Lucas’ father will not try to highjack the wedding and turn it into what *he* thinks it should be. Eventually, though, they do end up married – Paige and Lucas, that is – and no one’s father is harmed in the doing of it.

The Case of El Chupacabra is the first nonprequel novella that Armstrong wrote. It also features my favorite witches and sorcerer, along with Cassandra and Aaron, the werewolf from the first story.

Sean Nast is in a gay bar when he finds a body – and the man appears to have been killed by a vampire. He hires Lucas Cortez to find out what happened, hoping to keep his own name out of the press and to keep his family from finding out he’s gay.

Benicio Cortez, Lucas’ father, is intent on getting Lucas to join the family business, which Lucas is dead set against. They finally come up with a solution that will make both Lucas and Benicio happy.

Sean struggles with coming out and eventually does come out to his uncle. Unfortunately, he does not get a positive response. I have to say, the struggles that Sean has with coming out are fairly realistic. It’s easy to say “you should come out!” (and, for the record, I believe you should) but the actual doing of it can be tricky and there are frequently consequences. A person has to be prepared for them. Sean seems determined to find a way to reconcile his personal and professional lives and to be his own man, regardless of how difficult that might be.

The next book (due out in August) is Waking the Witch, which features Savannah, who is Sean’s half-sister. I suspect we are going to be seeing more of Sean in that book, as he is the only Nast who acknowledges Savannah.

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Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs

I can always count on Patricia Briggs to write a story that I have to read from start to finish – without stopping! Silver Borne is a perfect example of that.

Mercy always seems to find herself in dicey situations. She’s a coyote shapeshifter mated to the werewolf Alpha, which sort of makes her Alpha female by default & the werewolves aren’t all happy about that. She has friends who are prone to getting into trouble and in Silver Borne, of course someone does exactly that.

Mercy’s friend Phin loans Mercy a book and then disappears. He sends her a message via a mutual friend to “take care of the thing I gave her.” Mercy knows the only thing is the book, so she tries to find Phin – which is how she finds out he has gone missing. She hides the book and then tries to find out what happened to her friend.

While she’s busy with that, her long-time friend, Samuel, who is a werewolfe, tries to kill himself. As werewolves age they sometimes lose control of themselves and Samuel is afraid of that. He also feels that he has no place in the world and that his work, as a doctor, doesn’t really help anyone. Sounds more like basic loneliness to me. In any event, Samuel’s wolf takes over and Mercy has to hide him. If it becomes known that the wolf is in charge, the powers that be (namely Mercy’s mate and the Marrok – sort of the President of the werewolves) will kill him.

Along the way, Mercy gets into and out of trouble, someone tries to set Adam up to be killed, the mother of Mercy’s teenage employee – Gabriel – refuses to let him work there any more and, oh, yeah, someone in the Pack is trying to get rid of Mercy.

What I love about the Mercy series is how Mercy herself, I guess. She’s someone I would want to know – except that she would drive me to drink! Such a good heart but so stubborn and not trusting. As the series goes along, Mercy is developing more fully as a woman and she is learning to trust not only Adam but herself. And the Pack.

Every time a new Mercy book comes out, I want to re-read the entire series so I can remember who everyone is relative to everyone else. The downside to reading as much as I do is that I get fuzzy on the details. I have a sister who can remember every single character and their significance in each of the 1000-page + books in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. I’m lucky to remember the main characters and the primary secondaries! These books are so good, though, that I want to remember who everyone is and how they relate to Mercy because I root for Mercy and I want to know who is on her side and who isn’t.

If you haven’t read any of the rest of the series, I highly recommend that you begin at the beginning with Moon Called. This book can be enjoyed if you have no background because Briggs is excellent at filling in details but I think that having the background will make things make more sense.

The Diva Paints the Town by Krista Davis

This was a hard book to write about. The story was okay and only okay. I enjoyed the previous two books of this series but this was not my favorite. The storylines seemed disjointed and I never got caught up in the whodunit this time. I just didn’t seem to care.

Sophie really needs to get over this patheticness with Wolf. Am I the only woman in the world who is direct and would just ask what the hell was going on? I know I am not. I’m not sure why Sophie doesn’t just check things out.

The fourth book in this series, The Diva Cooks a Goose, presumably a Christmas story, is due out in December 2010.

The Girl Who Ate Kalamazoo by Darrin Doyle

Go on over to Curled Up with a Good Book to see what I thought about this book!

The Diva Takes the Cake by Krista Davis

Hannah’s wedding to Craig is still on and just a day or so away when things start to go awry. Natasha, of course, interferes and tries to change some – all!- of Sophie’s plans, including the wedding venue. The wedding is called off, back on, and off, then on. There are myriad reasons why Bridezilla (also known as Hannah) is freaking out and Sophie hopes beyond reason that she will come to her senses and NOT marry Craig. Does she or doesn’t she? You’ll have to read it to find out!

It wouldn’t be a cozy mystery if there weren’t subplots as well. There seems to be tension between Sophie and Wolf but Sophie doesn’t know why. She finds out and they resolve it – but it’s so silly. I can’t believe a grown man would be upset about this specific thing and not just ask about it. Of course, I’m a lesbian, so what do I know?
Natasha and Mars are having relationship drama, too. Oh – and an entire group of characters show up for the wedding and THEY all have stuff going on too. It’s a wonder anything gets done around there.

I enjoyed this book but, I have to tell you, I was relieved when Sophie finally told Natasha off. I swear to GOD, I would never have been so patient … or possibly so doormat-ish. While I’m complaining, let me say this: Sophie’s mom needs to knock it off. Sophie does not need to lose weight or wear more lipstick or anything else. Further, if Sophie’s mom thought that Natasha stole Mars from Sophie, why on EARTH is she friendly with that woman? That makes no sense. I’d kick my mom’s butt if she were friendly with my “arch enemy.” Natasha calls Sophie her best friend at one point – and Sophie didn’t even laugh. Best friend? Wow. I’d hate to see how she treats her enemies.

The next of this series is The Diva Paints the Town, which is the last of the series, thus far. It was just published in February, so it may be a minute before there’s another one. That’s okay. Once I finish The Diva Paints the Town, I have other series to read! Still, I hope Ms. Davis finishes the next book before February 2011!

The Diva Runs Out of Thyme by Krista Davis

The first time I tried to read this book, I only read about half of the first chapter and I put it down. The fault clearly was with me because the second time I picked it up, I enjoyed it quite a bit.

So here’s the basics: Sophie Winston is a Washington, DC event planner whose childhood rival is a local celebrity – the Martha Stewart of Washington. Sophie’s family is at her house for Thanksgiving – stressful enough, right? Then someone is killed, someone is poisoned, other crimes are being committed and Sophie has to find out what the heck is going on before she ends up the one charged with the initial murder and who knows what all else?

Sophie is an interesting woman – sort of an Everywoman, if you overlook her penchant for ignoring the police and getting involved in homicide investigations. She is friendly with her ex-husband but can’t believe he’s dating her rival, she loves her parents but has had enough of the family visit and wishes her sister well while (not so) secretly disapproving of the sister’s new fiancé. She keeps inviting people into her home because she’s warm and friendly – but also can’t figure out how to get out of it. Things we all have experienced.

There are a couple of clichés in The Diva Runs Out of Thyme (such as the romantic interest being a detective) but overall it’s an excellent cozy mystery. I liked it enough that I immediately went to amazon.com and bought the other two books in the series. The Diva Takes the Cake is up next!

The Proof is in the Pudding by Melinda Wells

For once Della thinks Phil Logan, publicist for In the Kitchen with Della, had found her a publicity opportunity that would be relatively simple. All she had to do was wear a fabulous designer dress and judge a cooking contest. How much simpler could it get? Of course, things are never what they originally seem when one is reading a mystery novel!

Della’s honorary daughter, Eileen, gets her heart broken the day before the Celebrity Cook-Off Charity Gala, where Della is to be a judge. The sticky part? One of the contestants is the man who broke Eileen’s heart – and tries to blackmail her to boot. Eileen gathers herself, though, and along with her parents, John and Shannon, and Della’s other best friends, Libby and Bill, she attends the Gala to support Aunt Della.

Things seem to be going well until John decks Keith Ingram, the contest who had the ill-fated realationship with Eileen. The evening goes downhill from there – there is a fire and once the smoke has cleared, Keith Ingram is found dead. Naturally, given the altercation he had with the murder victim, John is a suspect. To make matters worse, the detective who is assigned to the case is convinced that John is the murderer and basically doesn’t pursue any other leads. Della can’t let this happen to her friends, so she sets out to investigate.

Of course, we find out who the real killer is and it isn’t John. I have to say, Ms. Wells fooled me. I was surprised by the actual murderer in the end. I always like that! There were a couple of places where I laughed right out loud – I think Della is a hoot. I also love her relationship with Liddy and also Eileen. Della is someone I’d love to hang out with – if only she were real! Of course, I’d probably end up arrested if I hung out with Della too long!

The Proof is in the Pudding just came out in February 2010, so it doesn’t look likely that another book will be published soon. I’m going to add a “Upcoming Books from My Favorite Authors” page soon, so check back and as soon as I know when book 4 is coming out, I”ll be sure to let you know!