Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Howard Lovecraft and the Undersea Kingdom Animated Film, Plus Books 2-5 of the Kitty Norville Urban Fantasy Series by Carrie Vaughn

Talk About An All Star Cast!
Mark Hamill (Star Wars) is joining a voice cast that includes Jeffrey
Combs (Transformers Prime), Christopher Plummer and Doug Bradley
(Hellraiser) for the animated film Howard Lovecraft and the Undersea

adapted from Bruce Brown's and Dwight L. MacPherson's graphic novel,
Deadline reported. From Shout! Factory and Arcana Studios, the project
is written, directed and produced by Sean Patrick O'Reilly and is the
second installment of the Howard Lovecraft animated film series, after
Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom. It is set to be released later
this year.

I've been immersed, this past week, in reading Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville series. They're all in mass market paperback, which makes them easily accessible, and they're all old enough that the library doesn't have many holds on them, so I was able to get books 2-5 quickly, and I've got books 6 and 7 waiting for me at the Maple Valley Library. I'm going to try and review books 2-5 here, but the format might be a bit wobbly, so bear with me.
Kitty Goes to Washington by Carrie Vaughn is the second book in this urban fantasy series. Here's the blurb, from Barnes and Noble.com: Talk radio meets supernatural fantasy in Carrie Vaughn's second adventure to feature Kitty Norville, a popular late-night radio host who happens to be a werewolf. In Kitty Goes to Washington, the lovable lycanthrope is subpoenaed to attend upcoming Senate hearings regarding paranormal beings. After Kitty consults with her lawyer, she reluctantly agrees to go to Washington. As a rogue wolf without a pack and no territorial home (see Kitty and the Midnight Hour), her brief stay in D.C. may even be a kind of vacation. Upon her arrival, she is accosted by Alette, the vampiric Mistress of the City, who insists that Kitty stay with her. The matriarchal bloodsucker says that she fears for Kitty's safety and even assigns her bodyguards; but as the renowned radio host sees more of the city and meets a group of peaceable lycanthropes that include a hunky were-jaguar, she begins to realize that the Senate hearings are only the tip of the iceberg of the complex and highly volatile subject of supernatural beings. Are they human? Do they have the same rights as everyone else? Or are they a disease that should be eradicated? While pondering these issues, Kitty becomes a prime target in a dangerous political game that includes a witch-hunting senator, an unethical doctor, and a reporter who will do anything to get an exclusive interview with Kitty. Comparable to Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake novels (minus the X-rated sexual acrobatics), this lighthearted fantasy should appeal to fans of authors like Charlaine Harris, Julie Kenner, Kim Harrison, and Kelley Armstrong. While the Kitty books don't add anything new to the lycanthropic mythos, they are fast-paced, witty, and consistently entertaining.
Once again, I found myself being irritated by Kitty's stupidity, cowardice and passive "feminine" nature. She doesn't stand up for herself enough, and she ends up transforming into a werewolf on live TV and in front of a rabid racist politician, who in kidnapping her is trying to "prove" to America that all were-creatures are abominations who live only to kill "real" people and who should therefore be hunted down and eradicated. Of course Kitty proves to be a cowering little werewolf who won't harm anyone, and this drives the politician around the bend. I did like the fact that Kitty took a lover in this novel, and I also enjoyed reading about her radio show and the odd callers that she gets. I was also intrigued by Alette the master vampire of Washington DC, and the bar for werewolves and vampires that is a haven/sanctuary where these supernatural beings can co-exist in peace, not unlike the bar frequented by Harry Dresden in Jim Butcher's urban fantasy series. I'd give this book a B, and recommend it to anyone who has read the first book, Kitty in the Midnight Hour.  
Kitty Takes a Holiday is the third book in Vaughn's series, and this novel has Kitty in retreat to the cliche'd cabin in the woods to write her memoirs. Here's the Barnes and Noble blurb: The third installment of Carrie Vaughn's supernatural fantasy series starring lycanthropic late-night radio host Kitty Norville (Kitty and the Midnight Hour and Kitty Goes to Washington) takes an emphatically romantic turn when Norville, on hiatus from her popular radio show, is compelled to care for her lawyer friend Ben O'Farrell, who has been bitten and infected by a werewolf.
While hidden away in a cabin in the wilds of southern Colorado, Norville is finding it difficult to write her memoirs -- especially when someone keeps painting bloody crosses on her door and leaving mutilated animal sacrifices hanging in the surrounding trees. But her autobiography takes a backseat when werewolf bounty hunter Cormac Bennett shows up on Norville's doorstep with a bloodied O'Farrell in tow. While assisting Bennett on a case in New Mexico involving a rogue werewolf, O'Farrell was brutally attacked and, in less than four days, will experience his first Change. As O'Farrell struggles to come to grips with his new affliction, Norville and Bennett talk to locals in an attempt to uncover who is using arcane blood magic to intimidate Norville into leaving. But when the full moon inevitably rises and Norville and Bennett Change, the radio personality finds the unexpected: companionship, love, acceptance -- and the beginnings of her own pack. Featuring a strong and sexy heroine, this fast-paced and engaging saga will thoroughly engage fans of authors like Kim Harrison and Julie Kenner. It's a far-from-normal paranormal fantasy
In helping Ben, Kitty's lawyer and former werewolf/vampire hunter, Kitty discovers some hidden strengths within herself, and starts to develop more backbone, which is a relief and a surprise, after reading the first two books. She also discovers, in listening to a woman who has developed a radio program that is a blatant rip off of Kitty's program, that she is an inspiration, a comfort and a help to many were-creatures across the nation who are alone and afraid, and need someone to listen to them and give advice. Vaughn's prose is, as always, beautifully clean and clear, and her plots move on swift paws. I'd give this one a B+, and recommend it to anyone who has read the previous books.
Kitty and the Silver Bullet is the fourth book in the series, and in this one, Kitty's mother has cancer, and must undergo surgery, so Kitty has to return to Denver and face the abusive pack leaders she left behind. Fortunately, now Kitty has a mate in Ben, and she's developed strength and a bit of savvy about the world of the supernaturals in the past three books, so she's got allies to help take on this challenge. Here's the blurb: Kitty's radio show is as popular as ever and she has a boyfriend who actually seems to understand her. Can she finally settle down to a normal life? Not if this is just the calm before the storm. When her mother falls ill, Kitty rushes back to Denver—and right back to the abusive pack of werewolves she escaped a year ago. To make matters worse, a war is brewing between the city's two oldest vampires, threatening the whole supernatural community. Though she wants to stay neutral, Kitty is again drawn into a world of politics and violence. To protect her family, her lover, and herself, she'll have to choose sides. And maybe become what she hates—a killer.
Once again Kitty is put in an untenable situation by others, in this case Rick the second in command Denver vampire who wants to oust the Master vampire and the abusive werewolf pack leaders and take over the Denver area for himself (he wants Kitty and Ben to be take over as alphas from the evil Carl and Meg). Rick makes it clear that she has no choice in the matter, especially once the master vampire begins to threaten Kitty's mother in the hospital and her mate, Ben. Now that Kitty has allies, however, she utilizes Cormac the vampire/werewolf hunter and Ben's cousin to help her bring everyone together to stage a coup. Though its messy and lives are lost, Kitty manages to prevail, only to realize that Cormac must pay the price and spend time in jail for killing a skinwalker who was trying to take Kitty and Ben down. Still, the action never flags in this book, and the pace was breakneck. I enjoyed the growth of the characters, and watching Kitty become stronger and kicking arse was truly a delight. This book gets an A, and the inevitable recommendation to read it if you've read all the other books.
Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand is the fifth book in Carrie Vaughn's urban fantasy series, and in this book, Kitty and Ben are getting married in Las Vegas, and hoping for some rest and relaxation and time for gambling, of course. It seems that werewolves are superior poker players because they can smell the "tells" on the other players, and therefore they have an advantage. But of course, things don't go as smoothly, and Kitty ends up nearly becoming a sacrifice to an ancient were-goddess in her quest to help Ben escape some Vegas mobsters. Here's the blurb: Already the alpha pair of Denver's werewolf pack, Kitty and Ben now plan to tie the knot human-style by eloping to Vegas. Kitty is looking forward to sipping fru-fru drinks by the pool and doing her popular radio show on live TV, but her hotel is stocked with werewolf-hating bounty hunters. Elsewhere on the Strip an old-school magician might be wielding the real thing; the vampire community is harboring a dark secret; and the irresistible star of a suspicious animal act is determined to seduce Kitty. Sin City has never been so wild, and this werewolf has never had to fight harder to save not only her wedding, but her very life.
I didn't actually like the whole "radio show on TV" thing, and Kitty seems to revel in egotism about looking so good on camera and bringing her popular question and answer radio show to the glitzy Vegas neon lights. She worries that the were-creatures who are doing a show that involves some BDSM erotica aren't there of their own free will, and when she goes to investigate, she almost gets raped by a pack of skeevy weres ruled by an even skeevier pack leader. Of course they're described as being handsome and hot, but I found their cruelty and predatory behavior anything but attractive, and I was surprised that Kitty was so shallow that she fell for their blandishments in the first place. She should have known better. Still, the sleazy people get what they deserve, and Kitty and Ben finally tie the knot. I'd give this novel an A, and recommend it to anyone who has read the other books in the series. I'm looking forward to the 6th book, Kitty Raises Hell, and the one following that, which are waiting for me at the library. This is a fun, frothy series that provides an easy, escapist read for troubled times, which is exactly what I need right now, as I'm constantly horrified by the ugliness and political machinations of all the old racist, sexist white men who have taken over Washington DC, our nation's capital. So special thanks to Carrie Vaughn for the lovely distraction.

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