Monday, August 29, 2011

Kitty's Greatest Hits

Series: Kitty Norvile (Side-story)
Genre: Anthology
Author: Carrie Vaughn
Publisher: Tor

A while back, I shared with a friend my opinion that Carrie Vaughn was a short story writer applying herself to novels. Hence, she produced novels that are really collections of 2-5 shorts woven together into an intricate tapestry. "Well," my friend opined, "maybe the short story collection she has coming will be the best Kitty Norville book ever."

I wouldn't go that far. But still, Kitty's Greatest Hits is an excellent addition to the world Vaughn has created, steeped in the uncommon layer of realism that keeps her fans coming back. Where other authors of urban fantasy are satisfied making pulpy escapism, Carrie Vaughn reaches higher, giving us characters who are human beings instead of cliches, conflicted instead of angsty, and ultimately just trying to get by the same as everyone else.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Teen Wolf (Season 1)

Medium: TV Series
Airs: Mondays, 10/9c (currently in reruns); previous week's episodes streamed on
Official Webpage

I was initially a little leery of MTV's attempt at a werewolf TV show, largely because it was on MTV. They're not exactly what you'd call a bastion of quality cable programming. They've had successes, yes. In the field of animation, they've given us Beavis and Butthead, Daria, Aeon Flux, and Celebrity Deathmatch. They arguably invented reality TV with The Real World, and their unscripted shows are still above average for the genre. But for every success, there are at least three failures, and they have never produced a successful scripted drama. Still in all, with the internet having more or less annihilated the market for music videos on television, they're faced with an "evolve or die" situation. So Teen Wolf emerges as part of the first wave of a series of scripted drama and comedy programs. And as it turns out, it's not too shabby.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Series: Nightshade (#2)
Genre: Adventure
Author: Andrea Cremer
Publisher: Philomel

I object to the cover art on general principles.

The original Nightshade cover was fantastic. It was colorful and eye-catching. It jumped off the bookshelves to hit you between the eyes and make your brain say "Huh, interesting." The original Wolfsbane cover was done in the same style, and while not quite as eye-catching it was well-designed and nice-looking. But now, by publisher fiat, those covers are out and we have three new ones with generic composition over dull black covers, the same as half the other covers in the YA paranormal section. What was wrong? My assumption is that the public couldn't tell that these were werewolf books. Hence the not-very-subtle Nightshade cover, the wolf on Bloodrose, and the full moon hanging over a bored-looking model for Wolfsbane. While I can understand wanting to put a selling point front and center, I think someone at the publishing house doesn't get this series. While the Nightshade books have werewolves, that's pretty much all they have to do with the current vogue for paranormal YA. They're more accurately defined as fantasy novels placed in a modern environment -- evil wizards, noble orders of mage knights, swords and bows as the weapons of choice, and a strong focus on the personal evolution and development of it's main character.

Monday, August 1, 2011

My Mother, The Lycanthrope

Series: Lykoi Chronicles (#1)
Genre: Horror
Author: W.W. Lengeman
Publisher: Self-published (via Smashwords)

(Review copy provided by the author)

When dealing with a self-published novel, there's always a 500-pound question lurking in the room: "Why couldn't this novel find a publisher?" There are a number of possible valid answers. Maybe the genre is in a slump, or the industry expects it to go into a slump soon. Maybe it's too edgy or controversial for the big boys. (Not as common as you'd think; controversy sells.) Maybe the author's new, and doesn't have the right combination of writing skill, networking skill, marketing skill, and luck to get it through the system. Maybe he does, but the recession has hit him hard and he needs money now, rather than the year or two it will take to get a book to shelf in the old model. Or, maybe the author prefers the self-publishing model. Maybe he thinks it'll give him a better profit margin, or he wants full creative freedom, or he's got an impulse to stick it to the man. All too often, however, it's something far simpler -- and more depressing -- then any of these: the book just isn't good enough.