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Must Love Hellhounds
Ilona Andrews
I preordered this one because this anthology of four paranormal stories featuring hellhounds has a couple authors I like in it.

Buy: Amazon | B&N

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1) Magic Mourns by Ilona Andrews: This is the third story in the anthology but I read it first. :)

The Premise: This is a story set in the same world as the Kate Daniel series, but this time the first person narrator is Kate's best friend, Andrea.  Andrea is filling in for Kate one day, when a call comes in about a member of the Atlanta Pack being chased after by a giant, three-headed hound. Andrea goes out to help and is dismayed to find Raphael, a were-hyena is the Pack member in trouble. Raphael has been pursuing Andrea for a while but Andrea is afraid he's only interested in her for her novelty, not for herself.

Excerpt of Magic Mourns

My Thoughts: It's probably better to have read the Kate Daniels series before reading this short story because much of the back story on Andrea's origins and her relationship with Raphael is in those books, but that's also reiterated in this story, so it's not hard to understand what's going on. I thought Andrea's personality was similar to Kate's (independent woman, hiding something, and doesn't trust easily), but her voice was different enough from Kate's (more wry humor I think) to make the story interesting. I enjoyed reading this one, because the pacing was just right to me, with a good balance of urban fantasy action and romance. I could savor it slowly. The reader already knows what will happen between Andrea and Raphael, especially if you've been following the Kate Daniels series, but it's satisfying anyway. I also liked how well the story intersects with the Kate Daniels series and reveals a couple of things for people paying attention, but you don't have to have read that series to follow this story (and there are no spoilers).

Overall: I'm a big fan of Ilona Andrews so no surprise: I liked this story a lot. A must read for Kate Daniel's fans.

P.S. Is anyone else noticing some re-occurring themes in Andrews stories? Like the protection of children? Not that this is a complaint, I just find it interesting.

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2) The Britlingens Go to Hell by Charlaine Harris: This is the first story in Must Love Hellhounds, and by one of the two headlining authors (the other is Nalini Singh).

The Premise: Batanya and Clovache are both part of the Britlingen Collective, highly trained bodyguards for hire, who are assigned an unusual client. Crick wants Batanya and Clovache to protect him in Hell while he retrieves an item that he'd been hired to steal but he was caught the first time he was there.

My Thoughts: It's a quirky, odd tale and not quite what I was expecting from Charlaine Harris. It takes some time to figure out who the Britlingens are and they use a combination of high tech and magic for their jobs, and hell is a bizarre place with a mixture of mythical creatures in it. Their client and others they run into are oddball people, and the whole tale uses a rather cheerful, matter of fact tone no matter what is happening. An example of bizarre is that someone has 2 penises. TWO PENISES!! It's half-funny and half-I-don't-know-what.

Overall:
I'm not sure if this will appeal to everyone depending on their sense of humor or level of tolerance for the off-beat. I didn't dislike it, but it didn't love it either. So I suppose it was in the "OK" to "good" range for me.
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3) Angels' Judgment by Nalini Singh: Set in the same world as Singh's Angel series, this story centers on vampire hunter Sara Haziz.

The Premise: Sara Haziz's job is to bring back runaway vampires to their angel masters. Her latest retrieval is of a vampire whose head was almost cut off. Word is that a rogue hunter who has killed other vampires this way is responsible, and Deacon, the Slayer, is brought in.

Excerpt of Angel's Judgment

My Thoughts: This was a straightforward whodunit with two ass-kicking characters and romance between them. The world building was interesting, and I didn't have any problems following what was going on even though I haven't read any of the novels set in this world yet. I couldn't tell where this novella fit in the timeline of the Angels' series though. At first I thought it was after Angel's Blood, the first book, and was concerned that I was being spoiled, but then later on it sounded like Elena, Sara's best friend and the heroine of the series, hadn't met an archangel yet, so maybe this novella is supposed to happen before the series starts. The biggest issue I had with this was the repeated references to the sexual attraction of the two main characters, which made the romance very physical and not mental enough for me. Deacon bluntly tells Sara he wants to take her to bed within a very short time of knowing her and they pretty much sleep together while on a job together.  In the middle of their investigation when Sara is going to be the next hunter Guild Director? I also found it silly that Deacon was so big that he couldn't fit into Sara's car and had to follow on his motorcycle. Other than my inability to suspend disbelief at these things (and I think I'm in the minority from what I've seen), the story itself was relatively enjoyable.

Overall: Not bad but the romance was too predictable and physical for my tastes, but I think it would appeal to those who like a little steam in their stories.

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4) Blind Spot by Meljean Brook: This one is another story linked to a series I haven't read, which is the Guardian series.

The Premise: Maggie is the equivalent of a butler for a very wealthy and powerful family, and her boss happens to be a vampire. When Maggie's employer's niece, Katherine, is kidnapped in New York, Katherine's brother, Goeffrey Blake goes to get her, but he runs into some trouble and Maggie is sent over. Maggie and Geoff must work together (along with the family's hellhound, Sir Pup) to find his sister.

Excerpt of Blind Spot

My Thoughts: I haven't read the Guardian series, but I have read another novella set in this world in the Wild Thing anthology. I remember liking the worldbuilding in that story, but this one is even better. I think this author has grown, and I'm impressed! I felt like I was seeing Geoff and Maggie get to know one another and that although they each had an interest in each other they were aware that finding Katherine was more important. The attraction is shown more subtly, like their mutual curiosity for each other, and in gestures, like Maggie's quick looks everywhere but pauses on Geoff's mouth and hands. Meanwhile, Geoff's thoughts reveal that he has known and thought about Maggie far before they ever met, which pulled me in because I wanted to know why and how that happened. The fantasy elements, such as Sir Pup the shape-shifting hellhound, and interesting abilities (really cool but I don't want to spoil you), were unique and fascinating but also help along the story. I adored Sir Pup, the half-scary chaperone and  comic relief.

Overall: Really enjoyable blend of the fantastic and romantic. I liked this more than I expected to: it ties with the Ilona Andrews novella as my favorite in this anthology.

Other reviews:
The Good, The Bad, and The Unread - I think I consistently have a very different opinion from this reviewer, just like now, but we agreed on the Meljean Brook story. She's also misinterpreted Andrea and Raphael's relationship prior to when the novella takes place, IMHO.
Literary Escapism - I'm somewhat in line with her thoughts, but probably liked the Singh story less than she did.
Smexy Books - Same as above.
Shaymless Aymless at Babbling about Books and More - also in line with LE and Smexy books

Originally posted on janicu.vox.com

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
estara
Oct. 17th, 2009 10:59 am (UTC)
I haven't read the Harris one as I bought this for the other three authors and haven't read any Harris myself yet.

Some additional information and thoughts:

The Kate Daniels world novella: I LOVED the way that were-hyenas court their mates and the fact that his installation in her flat/house? was explained in more detail, I also loved the crossover with Greek myth with regards to the hellhound and the introduction of this huge rip in the earth (and an inside view at the training of necromancers). I wonder if something else will be set there.

Angel's Judgment is definitely set before the first book, because in the first book Sara has just had her first baby and is married to Deacon.

Re: Guardian Series. What you haven't been reading this?? It's like a really well written supernatural tv series with romance. I can't call it urban fantasy as each book focuses on one romance and those people get together and keep on fighting the good fight against the baddies. She has the whole arc planned already and in the newest one - Demon Forged - we're obviously on the way to the climax as a major catastrophe has happened to mobilize the powers of good and evil into all out competition. The Guardians (while storywise being connected to Angels) come across as a superhero team that most of the world doesn't know about. Sir Pup doesn't belong to the vampire family but is on loan from a former human-turned-demon-turned-human again and her former human-turned-Guardian-for-8-centuries-turned-human once more: these two basically run the earth-bound part of the Guardians (the also have a home dimension-city called Caelum - like a Batcave idea ^^). The sex is always steamy, so if you don't like that well. Meljean Brook was discovered writing Batman/Wonder Woman fanfiction, and she's gotten better with the writing in ever book and novella, but her character and plot work were excellent from the beginning.

She ought to be at least as popular as Nalini Singh, I believe.
estara
Oct. 17th, 2009 11:02 am (UTC)
her .... husband! I ought to mention. The first novel is about their courtship and introduces the whole setup which makes it somewhat unwieldy for readers who don't like a lot of fantasy in their romance.
estara
Oct. 17th, 2009 11:06 am (UTC)
For the connections of the various novellas and novels see this page:
http://meljeanbrook.com/books/the-guardian-series

Oh and if you don't like a taste of horror or graphic violence don't read this. When the confrontations of the good and bad happen it can get very gruesome, and there's one Guardian with spider sidekicks (which I had the most problems with *shudder*)
janicu
Oct. 17th, 2009 01:26 pm (UTC)
Hehe, cool. Thank you. You know your Meljean Brook!
estara
Oct. 17th, 2009 08:43 pm (UTC)
When she had more time and less deadlines her blog was hilarious, especially her twin reviews of romance with her twelve year old self, Missy. I think I ran across her on Smart Bitches first.

http://meljeanbrook.com/blog/archives/category/missy

She also does hilarious image manipulation on Odd Shots, the new friends blog of Ilona Andrews, Nalini Singh, Jill Myles, Meljean, etc.
janicu
Oct. 18th, 2009 12:34 am (UTC)
Oh yeah I already know about Missy and the Odd Shots. :)
janicu
Oct. 17th, 2009 01:25 pm (UTC)
The Harris one was kinda weird. It had a quirky tone that feels like a odd fit for this anthology, and I don't think it's a good example of her usual work. I think she was experimenting.

Oh I love the different courtship rituals of the Pack! So cute that someone has to prove their worth in some way for their object of interest. I recall Kate going over these in the series, but go over it again well here too.

Yeah I think I have the first book of the Guardians somewhere in the TBR. Or is it 2nd? I should read this. I keep hearing good things, but you know how it is.. SO many books, so little time. If her writing is like THIS in her books, I would be perfectly fine with steamy. I just like the mental falling in love along with it, rather than mainly steam and attraction based on lust.
estara
Oct. 17th, 2009 08:46 pm (UTC)
Guardians again
As far as I remember all the sex scenes happen in connection to the storyline.
I really need to start rereading them and see if I managed to overlook certain hints towards the current situation.

And she does brilliant damaged people finding love (and a half-Indian hacker heroine with a most-beautiful cursed vampire hero who hates his curse ^^ - not to mention making me like the heroine who likes spiders *double shudder*).

blodeuedd83
Oct. 17th, 2009 07:02 pm (UTC)
Hm sounds ok, thought not a big fan of short stories, still...hm
Good that you liked it :)
christine_reads
Oct. 19th, 2009 06:25 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the review! I finally have this anthology and now just have to find the time to read it! I'm really looking forward to it, too, because I already read the series' by Brook, Singh and Andrews, so I won't worry that I might be missing some important knowledge surrounding the world or anything.
rambhai
Oct. 20th, 2009 10:23 am (UTC)
I loved to read this one and really enjoyed a lot while reading it, i like these kind of love stories and this time i found a book named : 2 States: The Story of my marriage, it is being written by Chetan Bhagat, the great indian writer.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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