Sunday, February 05, 2017

Happy 12th Birthday Butterfly Books! Plus, Books 6-9 of Kitty Norville by Carrie Vaughn

Twelve years ago today, during the Super Bowl, which I had no interest in watching (and I still don't have much interest in it, unless the Seattle Seahawks are involved), I sat down to my iMac computer and my husband Jim helped me set up this blog, Butterfly Books, so I could review some of the many books that I read over the course of a year.
At the time, It was just an entertaining distraction for the afternoon. It has become my only creative outlet in the last few years, as journalism is in its death throes, and old school print journalists, like myself, move on to other jobs, retire, or spontaneously combust from reading all the typos in online newspapers and other media. Seriously, though, as I age and have more difficulty controlling my Crohn's Disease and asthma, my life has become smaller, and I've come to rely on this blog as a place of self expression and discussion about my passion, books (and the beloved authors who write them.)
By the end of this year, I will have over 600 posts tallied up, and, oddly enough, I've gained followers from America, Canada and Russia, of all places. I'm still a bit thrown by that last one, as I have no idea what Russians would find illuminating about my particular brand of book reviews. But, as the teenagers say, WHATEVER. Welcome, Russian bibliophiles!

I've been reading the Kitty Norville series by Carrie Vaughn for the past couple of weeks, and I've made my way through the following:

Kitty Raises Hell (book #6), which involves Kitty having to deal with the fire spirit sent to kill her by the goddess Tiamat (who is really a vampire). Here's the blurb: Sometimes what happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas.
Kitty and Ben flee The City That Never Sleeps, thinking they were finished with the dangers there, but the sadistic cult of lycanthropes and their vampire priestess have laid a curse on Kitty in revenge for her disrupting their rituals. Starting at the next full moon, danger and destruction the form of fire strikes Kitty and the pack of werewolves she's sworn to protect.
She enlists the help of a group of TV paranormal investigators - one of whom has real psychic abilities - to help her get to the bottom of the curse that's been laid on her. Rick, the Master vampire of Denver, believes a deeper plot lies behind the curse, and he and Kitty argue about whether or not to accept the help of a professional demon hunter - and vampire - named Roman, who arrives a little too conveniently in the nick of time.
Unable to rely on Rick, and unwilling to accept Roman's offer of help for a price, Kitty and her band of allies, including Vegas magician Odysseus Grant and Kitty's own radio audience, mount a trap for the supernatural being behind the curse, a destructive force summoned by the vengeful cult, a supernatural being that none of them ever thought to face.

Though my husband is a huge fan of "Ghost Hunters" and other paranormal "reality" shows, I am not, and I think, after watching them, that they're excruciatingly dull and full of people who startle at the drop of a hat. The fact that it's been proven that most "reality" shows are not real, and are scripted well ahead of time, makes them even more fake and ridiculous to watch. Of course our talk show host (and werewolf) Kitty can't pass up the opportunity to get involved with the people on this show, one of whom, it turns out, has a small talent for conjuring the spirits of the dead. All hell breaks loose, and the restaurant Kitty owns nearly burns down, but everyone is saved in the end, and Kitty learns about a kind old female vampire named Alette, who takes in stray vampires and tries to help them adjust. I thought this particular book was interesting, and as much fun as most of the previous books, so I'd give it a B+ and recommend it to anyone who has read the other 5 books in the series.

Kitty's House of Horrors puts Kitty right into a reality show herself, with a bunch of other supernaturals, including two vampires and another were-creature (a selkie) and a skeptic who turns out to be a coward and an idiot. Here's the blurb:
Talk radio host and werewolf Kitty Norville has agreed to appear on TV's first all-supernatural reality show. She's expecting cheesy competitions and manufactured drama starring shapeshifters, vampires, and psychics. But what begins as a publicity stunt will turn into a fight for her life.
The cast members, including Kitty, arrive at the remote mountain lodge where the show is set. As soon as filming starts, violence erupts and Kitty suspects that the show is a cover for a nefarious plot. Then the cameras stop rolling, cast members start dying, and Kitty realizes she and her monster housemates are ironically the ultimate prize in a very different game. Stranded with no power, no phones, and no way to know who can be trusted, she must find a way to defeat the evil closing in . . . before it kills them all.
I knew the plot device in this 7th book after about 10 pages, mainly because it made sense that the fanatics who hunt supernaturals would want to get them all in one place and kill them off and record it for everyone to see, so they can "prove" that regular humans are still the superior species and predator. What happens in most of this book is a bloodbath, and, as usual, no one is there to help Kitty from her own pack, including her husband, so she has to go it alone against a well armed group with a ton of weaponry and cunning on their side. Of course she triumphs, but it's at a high cost to others, with a high body count. I found the skeptic guy to be a real waste of ink, and a pain in the rump, but I assume that Vaughn put him there as a stand-in for "everyman," or regular people who just can't accept supernatural beings as real. Due to my allergy to reality shows, as in the previous review for book 6, I hated it even more having Kitty in such a fake environment with all the hyped up drama between those living in the house in the woods. So I'd give this book a C+, mainly because it felt too contrived.

Kitty Goes to War is the 8th book in the series, and this one was for the troops, as it involved werewolves that had been used as super soldiers in Afghanistan and then treated like criminals when they returned home. Here's the blurb:
Kitty Norville, Alpha werewolf and host of The Midnight Hour, a radio call-in show, is contacted by a friend at the NIH's Center for the Study of Paranatural Biology. Three Army soldiers recently returned from the war in Afghanistan are being held at Ft. Carson in Colorado Springs. They're killer werewolves—and post traumatic stress has left them unable to control their shape-shifting and unable to interact with people. Kitty agrees to see them, hoping to help by bringing them into her pack.
Meanwhile, Kitty gets sued for libel by CEO Harold Franklin after featuring Speedy Mart--his nationwide chain of 24-hour convenience stores with a reputation for attracting supernatural unpleasantness--on her show.
Very bad weather is on the horizon.
It turns out that the evil ancient vampire who appeared several books ago is back, and this time he's using the Speedy Mart CEO to create a super snowstorm in Denver to try and kill off Kitty and her friends. Unfortunately, while this weather wizardry is going on, Kitty is also trying to save the werewolf soldiers from being warehoused and experimented on for the rest of their lives. While it was obvious that she was pretty naive in thinking she could save men who had been used to violence and killing and dominance for years, it was heartening to note that she was able to help one young soldier learn to control his "wolf" enough to lead a normal life. My only problem with the book is that, after 8 novels, I was hoping that Kitty would be a bit smarter, less naive and immature than she's been previously. She's had a lot of things happen to her to toughen her up, but she still acts like an idealistic teenager sometimes, and it's embarrassing for an adult to act that way after they're out of their teen years. So I'd give this book a B-, and, as always, recommend it to anyone who has read the other books in the series.

Kitty's Greatest Hits isn't actually book 9, it's sort of out of the timeline because it's a compilation of all the Kitty Norville (and other characters in the novels) stories that Vaughn had sold to anthologies and were printed elsewhere. Here's the blurb:
The first-ever story collection from the New York Times bestselling author, including two all-new works!
Kitty Norville, star of a New York Times bestselling series, is everybody's favorite werewolf DJ and out-of-the-closet supernatural creature. Over the course of eight books she's fought evil vampires, were-creatures, and some serious black magic. She's done it all with a sharp wit and the help of a memorable cast of werewolf hunters, psychics, and if-not-good- then-neutral vampires by her side. Kitty's Greatest Hits not only gives readers some of Kitty's further adventures, it offers longtime fans a window into the origins of some of their favorite characters.
In "Conquistador de la Noche," we learn the origin story of Denver's Master vampire, Rick; with "Wild Ride," we find out how Kitty's friend T.J. became a werewolf; and in "Life is the Teacher," we revisit Emma, the human-turned-unwilling-vampire who serves the aloof vampire Master of Washington, D.C.
This entertaining collection includes two brand-new works: "You're On the Air," about one of Kitty's callers after he hangs up the phone; and the eagerly awaited "Long Time Waiting," the novella that finally reveals just what happened to Cormac in prison, something every Kitty fan wants to know.
I was delighted that the final story of this collection detailed how Cormac came to have a sorceress/witch spirit inhabit his body, so that he can help Kitty vanquish bad spirits once he's out of prison for "good behavior." I enjoyed learning that background on Cormac and Ben's relationship, and I loved learning more about Rick and Kitty's early years at the radio station. All in all, it was an engrossing and fun collection. I look forward to reading books 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13. I'd give this short story collection an A, and recommend it to anyone else who is addicted to Kitty Norville's world.

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