books

Carole Nelson Douglas

Books

Dancing with Werewolves (2007), Brimstone Kiss (2008), Vampire Sunrise (2009)

Anthologies: Murder by Magic (2004), Unusual Suspects (2008), The Best Paranormal Crime Stories Ever Told (2010), Hex Appeal (2012)

 

Dancing with Werewolves (2007)

Dancing with WerewolvesI picked this book up, then let it languish on the shelf for awhile. Primarily because something about the cover bugged me, although I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is. But I decided to pick it up, and was in for a surprise. This book was simply a lot of fun.

Delilah Street is many things, reporter and orphan being the most important of the two. After the Millennium Revelation, when supernatural beings were discovered to be real, Delilah eventually discovered that she could make a life covering the supernatural beat. At least until things went terribly wrong for her.

Although this book had lots of things that sometimes annoy me (lots of sex and romance and an animal sidekick for two) in truth I found the whole thing extremely enjoyable. First off, it was written with a sense of humor–and a good sense of humor. Second, although there was a major romantic element, Delilah’s past was so miserable I couldn’t help but root for her to find happiness. And more importantly, there was no series of misunderstandings keeping Delilah and Ric apart. They simply got to know each other better over the course of the story, while the mystery was at the forefront of the story. That in and of itself was a nice change of pace.

Additionally, I very much liked how the romantic element was dealt with. Ric wasn’t a jerk, he treated Delilah very well, and neither assumed the worst of the other. Their romance was simply one element of the story, but it wasn’t the center of the story.

The supernatural elements were also very interesting and a lot of fun. There are vampires and werewolves and Delilah and Ric seem to have their own magical powers of a sort, they were done with a light hand, and although they could be scary, they weren’t overwrought. Basically, the story didn’t take itself seriously, but was instead a fun romp–a nice change from most of the supernatural mysteries I’ve read recently.

There were a few times where I really wasn’t sure where the plot was going or why, but like I said it was a fun romp, and that what was what I liked most–it was simply fun to read. Additionally, although the story arc was completed in the book, there were many mysteries left, but they were the type of mysteries that may remain unresolved through a person’s life, so I thought that was a nice touch that left the door open for more books, but didn’t leave you hanging. As I’ve said before, I want a story and characters to draw me into a book, not plot points left hanging.

If you’re looking for a fun supernatural mystery, then I recommend Dancing with Werewolves.
Rating: 7/10

Brimstone Kiss (2008)

brimstone_kissI’ve had Brimstone Kiss on my shelves for awhile, but had put off reading it.

Now I know why.

The fastest way an author can piss me off is to leave me hanging at the end of a book.

Guess what Carole Nelson Douglas did at the end of Brimstone Kiss?

Which is really too bad, because otherwise this was an enjoyable book. Nothing amazing, but a nice fun romp, and everyone needs those in their lives.

But no, she takes a relatively solid book and ends it leaving you hanging.

Yeah, there was a lot of boinking, but I knew that starting the book, so no big deal. Because there was also an interesting mystery–one that still is not resolved, only we’ve added into the mix one of the characters in limbo.

Right now I’m annoyed enough that I don’t know if I’m going to pick up the next book in the series if and when it comes out (I noticed that a sequel isn’t listed on Amazon, despite the fact this book came out seven months ago.) Because although I’d like to see the mystery resolved, and I’d like to know what happens to the characters, I really have no interest in being strung along for who knows how long in a series of indeterminate length.

So despite amusing characters and an interesting mystery, I cannot recommend Brimstone Kiss because of the aggressive lack of resolution.
Rating: 5/10

Vampire Sunrise (2009)

vampire_sunriseThings pick up immediately where the last book left off. Ric is still unconscious after almost being killed, Delilah continues to be wracked with guilt over kissing Snow, and Lilith–Delilah’s twin or perhaps Doppelganger–remains a mystery.

On of the things I’ve enjoyed about this series is that it doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s fun, at times it’s silly, and although Delilah (and Ric for that matter) has a damaged past, she doesn’t dwell on the past–too much. And she’s trying to get past her problems.

And that’s how this book started out. But at some point towards the end it felt like things went completely off the rails, and I actually stopped reading and went, “What the fuck is going on here?” Although there was eventually an explanation, I can’t say that even after it made a whole lot of sense, nor did the scene that I felt went so wrong even feel necessary to the story. It seems like many other things could have been done to get Del where she ended up. But what did happen–as well as Del’s reaction–made almost no sense.

Now the story did pick itself back up and recover, and although there are still big mysteries that remain unsolved, we were not left hanging at the end of this book the way we were at the end of the last.

But the bizarre scene that threw me out of the story and confused the hell out of me remains (to me) a major weak point in the story.

I like Del, and I’m curious as to what happens to her, but I’m not so much in the mood for the extreme weirdness that we got towards the end of this book.
Rating: 6/10

 

Anthologies

 

Murder by Magic (2004) edited by Rosemary Edghill

I love fantasy, and I love mysteries, so I figured that this should be a great short story collection. After all, I’ve read some excellent fantasy mysteries recently, such as those written by Charlaine Harris and Simon R. Green. This collection, however, was a mixed bag. For one thing, it look me about three months to read. I’d zip through a couple of stories, and then get bogged down in a story that took days to read, and then I set it aside for something else that looked more interesting.

The problem with several of the stories seemed to be that the ability to write good fantasy does not mean the ability to write good fantasy, and vice versa.

But there are some excellent stories in this collection.

Piece of Mind - Jennifer Roberson
Special Surprise Guest Appearance by... - Carole Nelson Douglas
Doppelgangster - Laura Resnick
Mixed Marraiges Can Be Murder - Will Graham
The Case of the Headless Corpse - Josepha Sherman
A Death in WOrking - Debra Doyle
Cold Case - Diane Duane
Snake in the Grass - Susan R. Matthews
Double Jeopardy - M.J. Hamilton
Witch Sight - Roberta Gellis
Overrush - Laura Anne Gilman
Captured in Silver - Teresa Edgerton
A Night at the Opera - Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
A Tremble in the Air - James D. Macdonald
Murder Entailed - Susan Krinard
Dropping Hints - Lawrence Watt-Evans
Au Purr - Esther M. Friesner
Getting the Chair - Keith R.A. DeCandido
The Necromancer's Apprentice - Lillian Stewart Carl
Grey Eminence - Mercedes Lackey

Rating: 5/10

Unusual Suspects (2008) edited by Dana Stabenow

I own and read Dana Stabenow’s first fantasy/mystery anthology, Powers of Detection and found it a mixed bag. But when I saw Unusual Suspects and saw it had stories from Sharon Shinn & Simon R. Green, I knew I would have to have this anthology.

In general, I enjoyed it more than the first anthology. Unlike the first anthology, the Sookie story was not on of my favorites. I fear I’m becoming annoyed by Sookie. Hopefully the next book I get will repair my goodwill towards her. And I didn’t dislike the story, I simply didn’t care one way or the other about it. The primary mystery itself was actually interesting, but I suppose I felt like the story wandered all over the place; perhaps I like my short stories to be a little tighter. But again, it wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t as good as other short stories I’ve read by Charlaine Harris.

Lucky - Charlaine Harris
Bogieman - Carole Nelson Douglas
Looks Are Deceiving - Michael A. Stackpole
The House of Seven Spirits - Sharon Shinn
Glamour - Mike Doogan
Spellbound - Donna Andrews
The Duh Vice - Michael Armstrong
Weight of the World - John Straley
Illumination - Laura Anne Gilman
The House - Laurie R. King
Appetite for Murder - Simon R. Green
A Woman's Work - Dana Stabenow

The Dana Stabenow story was odd, and actually felt like it belonged in the MZB Sword & Sorceress anthology. There were a few things that frustrated me, the first being that if individuals are being sent to dispense the King’s Justice, don’t you think they’d know just s teeny-tiny bit about the area they’re visiting? I was also somewhat disconcerted by the partners who seemed to know each other not at all. Weird. Although I’m not sure I believed the resolution, it was still interesting.

I quite liked Sharon Shinn’s story, “The House of Seven Spirits.” A woman moves into a house with seven ghosts, and eventually tries to figure out why they’re all tied to the house. There’s something refreshing about a woman who isn’t the least bit frightened by moving into a house full of ghosts, and who acts rationally in response to their existence.

The other “haunted house” story, Laurie R. King’s “The House” would have been better had I not read a very similar Charles de Lint story. There was even a similarity between the storytellers in the stories, with their primary difference being age. (Mind you, the Charles de Lint story wasn’t a haunted house story. It was the twist that was the same in both stories.)

“Spellbound” by Donna Andrews was a very good story that I thoroughly enjoyed, once I realized that it wasn’t going to have the apprentice being all in love with the magician with whom she works (it had that feel initially, so I was a bit wary starting out). The mystery was good, I liked the characters, and the tiny twist at the end–even though I saw it coming–was very amusing.

Another favorite story was Simon R. Green’s “Appetite for Murder.” Even though I saw some of the clues, I ended up wasting brain power trying to remember bits and pieces about Ms. Fate and Tommy and Larry Oblivion, and so was surprised at the end, even thought the pieces were there all along. And shockingly for a Simin R Green story–no one seemed to describe anything as appalling.

If you’re a fan of fantasy mysteries, this anthology is a good introduction to some authors I particularly like, and although it had some weak spots, was better than its predecessor.
Rating: 7/10

The Best Paranormal Crime Stories Ever Told (2010) edited by Martin H. Greenberg & John Helfers

I wouldn’t say the best necessarily, but it’s not a bad selection of stories. And the fact that I got to read it for free probably helped.

Appetite for Murder - Simon R. Green
Star of David - Patricia Briggs
If Vanity Doesn't Kill Me - Michael Stackpole
Grave-Robbed - P.N. Elrod
The Judgement - Anne Perry
Surprise Special Guest Appearance by... - Carole Nelson Douglas
Occupational Hazard - Mike Resnick
She's Not There - Steve Perry
Hostile Takeover - Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Doppelgangster - Laura Resnick
The Necromancer's Apprentice - Lillian Stewart Carl
The Night of their Lives - Max Allen Collins
Road Dogs - Norman Partridge
Ninja Rats on Harleys - Elizabeth A. Vaughan
Stalked - Kelley Armstrong
Corpse Vision - Kristine Kathryn Rusch
The Unicron Hunt - Michelle West
Rating: 8/10

Published by Skyhorse Publishing

Hex Appeal (2012) edited by P.N Elrod

As I was expecting, this collection was a mixed bag. Luckily, the good stories were very good, and worth the price of the anthology.

Retribution Clause - Ilona Andrews
Bigfoot on Campus - Jim Butcher
Holly's Balm - Rachel Caine
Snow Job - Carole Nelson Douglas
Outside the Box - P.N. Elrod
How Do You Feel? - Simon R. Green
There Will Be Demons - Lori Handeland
Cherry Kisses - Erica Hayes
The Arcane Art of Misdirection - Carrie Vaughn

I bought the anthology first and foremost because it had an Ilona Andrews story, “Retribution Clause”.

I love Ilona Andrews.

This story is set in the same damaged world as her Kate Daniels series, however, it’s set in Philadelphia, so there were no appearances by familiar characters (although Saiman was name checked).

Adam Talford and his partner Siroun work for POM Insurance. Neither is human, but we’re never told what Siroun is. They’re given an emergency case, and told that the company can’t afford there to be too many casualties. And that’s about it.

This was a very interesting story. If it weren’t for the fact that I track very closely what they have coming out, I’d think this was going to be the start of a new series, but, it isn’t, so enjoy it for what it is. A fun story.

The second author I bought the book for was Carrie Vaughn. Her story, “The Arcane Art of Misdirection,” is set in her Kitty the werewolf world, and Odysseus Grant makes an appearance. Like the Ilona Andrews story, there was no sex.

The last author I bought the series for was Simon R Green. I love Nightside, and “How Do You Feel” is a Nightside story.

Dead Boy is wandering around, getting into trouble and trying to feel something (anything really) when Walker tells him him information about the man behind his death, who caused him to become Dead Boy. I really liked learning Dead Boy’s story. But then, I love Nightside.

No sex, but we learn about Dead Boy’s girl friend finally.

P.N. Elrod’s story “Outside the Box” was another boink free story, and although it’s set in the same world as her Vampire Files series, it’s in the current time, and the magical and undead world have caught up with the times.

I quite enjoyed this story.

Jim Butcher’s story, “Bigfoot on Campus” had lots of boinking, but it wasn’t, well, it didn’t involved Harry Dresden, and it wasn’t particularly romantic. It reminded me quite a bit of the Buffy episode “Where the Wild Things Are,” which I admit wasn’t one of my favorites, but I found this story interesting.

“Holly’s Balm” by Rachel Caine was okay, but I am unfamiliar with that world, and felt kinda lost through some parts of the story. Lots of sex. Lots of thinking about sex.

Not really my thing.

The Carole Nelson Douglas story reminded me why I quit reading her Delilah series.

I read a few pages into “Cherry Kisses” and moved along to the next story, and “There Will be Demons” I speed read through.

But all in all, it was well worth the price of admission for the stories I did like.
Rating: 8/10

Published by St. Martin’s Griffin

 

 

Carole Nelson Douglas' website