This was actually the last book I read on Day One, but I didn't have a chance to write a review before the clock ran out. So I'm writing it now that the clock has started up again.

He's a former car thief and current psychic investigator with angst about an abusive childhood, a dead sister, and the pyrokinetic powers he can no longer due to events in an earlier book which I either never read or totally forgot about! She's a half-dragon children's book artist lurking in the subway tunnels with angst about her permanently dragoned left arm, her dead parents, and the pyrokinetic and dragon-shifting powers she can no longer control due to the events surrounding her parents' death! Together, they angst, bond, make out, burst into flames, burst into flames while making out, meet up with characters from previous books, and fight wife beaters and a cabal of blood-drinking witches!

For fans of the Dirk and Steele series, which I like to describe as "The X-Men done as genre romance," I could just say, "This is Eddie's book." For me, that was both the draw and disappointment. It focuses almost exclusively on Eddie's angst, when what I liked about him in previous books was his charm. As a romance novel about the romance between an angsty pyrokinetic and a were-dragon, it's quite satisfying. As a novel about Eddie, it's not quite what I wanted.

The first two-thirds have too much repetitive push-pull between Eddie and Lyssa about "I need to protect you from bloodsucking witches"/"Go away, I trust no one!" The last third, however, brings in some excellent drama, action, and plot surprises. There's also a nice supporting role for the gargoyle and amnesiac from an earlier book. (He's a gargoyle in disguise! She's an amnesiac covered in blood! Together, they battle the Queen of Faerie!)

Within the Flames (Dirk & Steele)
Via [personal profile] telophase, Georgette Heyer's Cotillion is free on Kindle, no doubt for a very limited time. It's one of my favorites of hers, very funny and unusual for its genre. (Please don't spoil in comments.)

Also on Kindle, some nice deals on Marjorie Liu's cracktastic romance series about a detective agency of psychics, shapeshifters, etc. You can read my reviews of individual novels by clicking on the tag for her. I haven't read the latest, In the Dark of Dreams: A Dirk & Steele Novel, yet, but it's on Kindle for $1.99. Shadow Touch: A Dirk & Steele Novel, the one with the angsty psychometrist who meets a sad psychic healer while imprisoned in a laboratory (and then they take a train across Russia with a were-dolphin), is selling for $2.99. Eye of Heaven, the one with the Iranian-American electricity-powered hero and the lioness shapeshifter heroine who investigate an organ-legging ring while she continues her day job as a lion-tamer at a circus, is $4.99.

But I also frequent used bookshops and thrift stores! The latter are especially good sources for completely obscure books. My latest haul:

Beginner's Luck, by Oriel Malet (1952). Looks Noel Streatfeild-ish, about siblings in a pantomime troupe.

Captured, by Beverly Jenkins. African-American historical romance between "the most notorious privateer ever to command the high seas" and the "stunning slave" he rescues from a British frigate.

Under The Southern Cross, by Claire McNab. Lesbian romance.

THE DEADLY AFFAIR aka Call for the Dead, by John Le Carre. Very short George Smiley spy novel.

Tightrope Men, by Desmond Bagley. Suspense novel. I think I vaguely heard of the author? I grabbed it because I like "I woke up with amnesia" novels.

Anyone read or heard of any of these?
The list of currently nominated fandoms is up here. It closes at 9:00 PM, USA Eastern Standard Time.

If you are planning to participate, what are you thinking about requesting?

I am thinking about Marjorie Liu's "Dirk and Steele" series, Willo Davis Roberts The Girl with Silver Eyes (now there's a novel that begged for a sequel), George R. R. Martin's "Thousand Worlds" series, my perennial request for Diane Duane's "Door" series, my other perennial request for Modesty Blaise, and the Carter and Grammar song "The Mountain." Last year I wrote a story based on the Carter and Grammar song "The Disappearing Man," and I think that anyone who would even offer "The Mountain" could probably write something good. (Click the tags for more details on the stuff I mentioned here - I recommend it all.)

Note: I know that many of you hate fanfic, hate Yuletide, hate AO3, hate the (bizarre) new rules on determining what constitutes a rare fandom, etc. This is not the post to say so.
Not part of her cracktastic Dirk & Steele series, this novel is part of someone else's series but stands on its own and is actually rather less cracktastic, featuring vampires and werewolves (plus a demon ex machina) rather than mermen, the Ferie Queen, organleggers, and gargoyles.

Keeli is a pink-haired werewolf with anger issues; Michael is a 300-year-old steppes nomad vampire executioner of vampires. Together, they fight crime!

I don't have a ton to say about this, but I enjoyed it. See it on Amazon: A Taste of Crimson (Crimson City)
I report with sorrow that I have now finished all of Liu's Dirk & Steel series, and can't read any more till her new one coms out. Apparently that one's about a dragon prince! Too bad, I was hoping for one about Eddie, that little angst-muffin.

These two books, the first a stand-alone and the second a novella in the book Dark Dreamers edited by Christine Feehan, make an unintentionally good paired reading set. Both are about a non- or part-human man enchanted and enslaved by a witch, and rescued by a bi- or multi-racial human woman.

I loved "A Dream of Stone and Shadow." It might be my favorite Dirk & Steel yet. The short length kept the focus clean. D&S agent Aggie is a bad-ass pre-cog who rescues children from sexual abuse. She is contacted by a gargoyle who is imprisoned by a witch, along with his three brothers who have been turned to stone, and can only escape into the astral plane when the witch cuts out his heart and eats it with a nice Chianti. He and Aggie bond, rescue a little girl, and have psychic orgasms. Amiri guest-stars. And it's even more awesome than it sounds!

Dark and gruesome as a fairy tale, it's also full of black humor and action. Aggie is excellently tough and sweet, the gargoyle is charming, and while the finale was a borderline nonsensical deus ex machina, I didn't even care.

Click here to buy it from Amazon: Dark Dreamers

I knew Soul Song was "the one with the merman" but for some reason I thought that meant the hero was amphibious and/or could turn into a dolphin. No, he's a merman with the traditional fish tail! He's the abused slave of a witch who forces him to work as a prostitute and assassin, and who is ordered to kill Kit Bell, a biracial violinist who can see when people are about to die. There are bad cops, a vampire, a society of merpeople whose bones are too soft for them to live on land, and cameos by assorted D&S agents.

I liked Kit a lot. Alas, M'Cal, the merman, has lots of angst but little personality. There's a lot of running around and a storm at sea, but to little purpose. Enjoyable but not one of Liu's better works. Though it did have one truly excellent moment...

Read more... )
The best description of Liu’s novels comes from [ profile] meganbmoore, who described them as “The X-Men as genre romance.”

Dirk and Steele is a high-priced, high-class security agency… because its agents are all secretly shapeshifters, telepaths, and other mutants! Each novel is a romantic thriller featuring psychic powers and/or magic, plus some truly cracktastic plotting.

Liu’s prose is ordinary at best, though her dialogue is good, and can veer into ultraviolet. Her plots tend (quite endearingly, in my opinion) toward “everything and the kitchen sink.” Her cast is multiracial and multicultural, and both her heroes and heroines tend to be sweet and tough, wisecracking and angsty. The romances are frequently interracial, though so far I think they’ve all been person of color/white person.

I like her because her romances ring true and don’t make me want to take out a restraining order on the heroes, I love psychic powers and angst and she has lots and lots of both, there’s plenty of action and wry comedy, and I enjoy her enthusiastic approach to plotting (“And then he runs away to the circus, and there’s an old woman who can turn into a dragon, and then they all get on a train to Russia with some immortal dude. And then a mummy attacks.”)

Here’s a quick run-down on her novels. They don’t need to be read in order (and I don’t think I’ve listed them in order.) Like Suzanne Brockmann, there’s a large cast of recurring characters and the supporting ones tend to get their own books and own romances eventually.

Eye of Heaven. Blue is an Iranian-American agent with electrical powers and tons of family angst, including a brother who ran away to join the circus. Iris is a white circus performer who can turn into a lion. Together, they fight organ-leggers! Someone loses an eye, or maybe an ear; I forget. Great fun. Click here to buy it from Amazon: Eye of Heaven (Dirk & Steele, Book 5)

Shadow Touch. Artur is a Russian psychometrist. Elena is a healer. They’re both held captive in an evil laboratory and must bond on the psychic plane to escape. This one is super-angsty. It was the first I read, and got me hooked on the series. Click here to buy it from Amazon: Shadow Touch (Dirk & Steele, Book 2)

Tiger Eye. Dela is a psychic who opens a magic box. Hari is the ancient shapeshifter who pops out of it after being imprisoned for thousands of years as the slave of the owner of the box. The novel avoids accidentally creepy power dynamics by having the characters realize how creepy and horrible Hari’s situation is, and do their best to free him. Sexy and sweet. Click here to buy it from Amazon: Tiger Eye (Dirk & Steele, Book 1)

The Wild Road. He’s a gargoyle disguised as a human. She’s an amnesiac covered in blood who tries to steal his car. They go on the run and end up squared off against the Queen of Elfland, if I remember correctly. The combination of two stoic, quiet, brooding characters is surprisingly entertaining. Click here to buy it from Amazon: The Wild Road (Dirk & Steele)

The Red Heart of Jade. Loved the main couple, but the plot crossed the line from wacky to incomprehensible. Some funny bits, but overall skippable. Click here to buy it from Amazon: The Red Heart of Jade (Dirk & Steele, Book 3)

The Last Twilight. Rikki is a virologist investigating a hot zone. Amiri is a mild-mannered former teacher and current agent by day, and a cheetah whenever he feels like it. They fight biological weapons-makers in Africa. I loved the main couple and the supporting character (Eddie), and appreciated Liu pointing out that Africa is a very big and diverse place, and that just because Amiri is from Kenya doesn’t mean he knows anything about the Democratic Republic of Congo. Given that, it’s too bad that the actual plot centers around every African cliché from Ebola to hatchet-wielding rebels. I think I would have also bristled at the African hero having an animal form if this had been the first Liu book I read, but since it was about the fifth and the series has multiple shapeshifters of various races, I didn’t. Your mileage may vary. Overall, though, I enjoyed it a lot. Click here to buy it from Amazon: The Last Twilight (Dirk & Steele)

I haven’t yet read the last two on this list, but you can still click to buy them from Amazon!

The one with the merman: Soul Song (Dirk & Steele, Book 6)

The one that isn’t Dirk and Steele: A Taste of Crimson (Crimson City)
rachelmanija: (Book Fix)
( Feb. 6th, 2009 12:17 pm)
I am having so much fun with this! This project combines three of my favorite things: reading books (with an extra helping of "discovering awesome new authors"), doing online reading projects where I'm part of a book-discussing community, and social justice.

How about you all? Having fun yet?

Now reading: Marjorie Liu's The Last Twilight. That's the one with the cheetah shapeshifter. As opposed to "the one with the merman," "the one with the gargoyle and the amnesiac," "the one with the circus and the nose-biting," "the one with the living tattoos," etc. [ profile] meganbmoore had the best description of these: "the X-Men written as genre romance." Eddie is such a sweetie. Does he have his own book yet?
Help me prioritize my to-read stacks! Please comment to tell me which I should read first and why, and if there's anything I should avoid and why.

Note: This is just the first poll.

Other note: I have already read and enjoyed other books by Butler, Myers, Johnson, and Liu.

[Poll #1342964]


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