Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Dates from Hell anthology

She thought her date was out of this world.
Actually, he was not of this world . . .

We've all been on bad dates, nightmare dates, dreadful experiences that turned out to be uniquely memorable in the very worst way. But at least our partners for these detestable evenings were more or less . . . human!

Now Kim Harrison, Lynsay Sands, Kelley Armstrong, and Lori Handeland -- four of the very best writers currently exploring the dangerous seduction of the supernatural -- offer up dating disasters (and unexpected delights) of a completely different sort: dark, wicked, paranormally sensual assignations with werewolves, demon lovers, and the romantically challenged undead. Sexy, witty, chilling, and altogether remarkable, here is proof positive that some love matches are made someplace other than heaven.

I originally picked this anthology up because it had the next story in the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong included (it follows Haunted) . Two of the other authors seem to be authors that I only read in anthologies, and the third was new to me!

Undead in the Garden of Good and Evil

Kim Harrison takes us to the Hollows, where living vampire homicide cop Ivy Tamwood, investigating a string of very nasty murders, finds herself caught between two different men, who put every dating principle she holds dear to the ultimate test.

Kim Harrison is the new to me author in this anthology. I have had her Hollows series on my TBR list for a while now, with the intention of getting to it eventually. When I saw that this was a prequel to that series I thought it would be a fair introduction to the series. I really hope this story wasn't a good representation of what the series is like because I really didn't like it. What I suspect is that this prequel was written a fair way into the existing series, because there was little coherent world building, full of vampire politics, and I suspect a lot of assumptions made in terms of what the reader did and didn't know.

It also didn't help that I didn't really like Ivy as a character. Given that each of these novellas is around 100 pages long, I normally would have got through one of these stories in just over an hour - this one took my three nights. Ivy was meant to be this kick-ass heroine living vampire, but she ended up coming off as alternating between whiny and needy, and distant and aloof. The other strange thing is that the blurb says that she is caught between two men, but I counted three - the one who was the date from hell, the one that seemed to control her and she had a really unhealthy relationship with, and then the third man who she seemed to dominate (although he at least seemed to have genuine feelings for.

I will still give the series a go, but I wouldn't necessarily think that this is a good starting point for anyone else reading the series.

The Claire Switch Project
Lynsay Sands gives the power to shape-shift to a most resourceful woman, who uses it to her wickedly sexy advantage at her high school reunion.

I have read one book and one novella by Lynsay Sand previously, and it is fair to say her writing didn't really do it for me on either occasion, so I was a little sceptical when it came to reading her contribution to this book.

A young lab assistant works in a laboratory where they are doing testing on animals for molecular destabilisation. Due to the antics of a really bad guy, instead of the bunny getting stung by the ray gun, Claire gets zapped. Once her boss, who happens to be her best friends brother, and the (unrequited) love of her life since the time she was a teenager, finds out that she has been zapped he takes her home for the weekend. Her best friend has just been dumped and when she finds that Claire just has to look at a photo of someone and then she can shape shift to appear to be that person, she asks her to be her date to the school reunion that night, and take on the form of Hollywood heartthrob Brad Cruise (yes, really). Matters are complicated when Kyle (said boss) he then asks her out to the same school reunion (because she is the unrequited love of his life since he was a teenager). Of course, she agrees to go with both of them and much hilarity ensues.

Actually, I probably shouldn't have written the summary quite like that, because up to a point, this was an entertaining story with a fun premise, but instead of leaving it be, the author decided to take the hilarity a couple of steps too far in my opinion. Of course, humour is completely subjective, and so there are probably some that loved those extra couple of extra laughs, but for me it pushed it from the realm of amusing to silly.

I think it is time I just accepted that Lynsay Sands humour isn't for me.

Kelley Armstrong enters the Otherworld to help a beautiful half-demon tabloid reporter escape a disastrous blind date by giving her a hot lead...that leads to an even hotter werewolf jewel thief.

My main reason for reading this anthology and the best story out of the four!

Hope is a half-demon whose talent is for finding chaos. She can see it, smell it, taste it when there is any kind of chaos nearby, and she loves it! Craves it in fact. Having been raised outside of any kind of demon community, she was grateful when she was found, and given the task of assisting the Interracial Council by identifying when things are happening that shouldn't be.

Hope's blind date from hell is with a particularly arrogant and selfish man at a crowded museum gala, a man determined to belittle her chosen profession, and who doesn't even notice when she disappears having sensed something a little out of the ordinary going on in another part of the museum.

Having tracked her prey, she comes across a particularly debonair werewolf who is helping himself to a couple of the most priceless items from the museum. Little does Hope know but the chaos is really just beginning for her. The werewolf is Karl Marsten, who in some of the earlier books was something of a bad guy, but who seems to be mostly reformed now, and he is pretty sure that Hope really isn't working for who she thinks she is working for. Hope has to decide whether to trust him or not.

Let me tell you just one of the reasons why I liked this story so much. The whole story covers the event of just one night. There is no happy ever after, although there is a hint of a future happiness. Hope and Karl meet, are thrown into a situation, are attracted to each other, and to a certain degree they act on that attraction, but this is no hasty meet on page 1, kiss on page 50 and live happily ever after. Because the author is not trying to cram a whole relationship into a shorter than normal novel, you manage to get to know each of the characters better, and to get a well written story of the events of one momentous night. I am really hopeful that we will get to see more of the development of Hope and Karl's relationship during other books in the series.

Dead Man Dating
Lori Handeland gives the term "dating hell" a whole new meaning, when a Manhattan literary agent out on her first date in months, is forced to choose between a sexy devil, and the rogue demon hunter who's out to destroy him.

I have only read one other Lori Handeland story, and that was another novella in the Stroke of Midnight anthology. This one had a completely different premise and feel to it.

Kit Marinelli is a literary agent who is looking for love. Having given up on meeting a man any other way, she places an ad in the personals and is completely surprised when she gets a response, especially when he is a totally gorgeous man. Kit has been saving herself for true love, and therefore can't believe her sexual response to this man, and it is only when she is at the point of giving it up in a dark alley, and she is stopped by a rough looking demon hunter, that she starts to think there might be something strange going on. Her date is actually dead, and his body has been inhabited by an incubus who needs to sacrifice a virgin to sustain himself.

The incubus isn't really playing fair, in that he keeps on changing bodies, and almost getting to Kit before she can be rescued. She isn't totally helpless for her particular skill is ancient language and research and so while Chavez (the demon hunter) tries everything he can think of to kill the demon and not being very successful, Kit is able to contribution at least something to the puzzle, and that is not only the due to the fact she has to sacrifice her virginity. After all, if a incubus is desperate for a virgin, one way to keep her safe is to make sure she isn't a virgin any longer right! (Highlight for spoiler)

I did enjoy this one, even though it did have a couple of eye-rolling worthy elements in it! It could be an interesting premise for an urban fantasy type series.


  1. I can't remember if I have this anthology or not, isn't that terrible! If I don't your review convinced me I need to get it. I really like Kelley Armstrong and am looking forward to reading some Lori Handeland and Kim Harrison soon. Thanks for the review!

  2. Kelley Armstrong is right up there with my favourite authors now. Occasionally I will start a book not remembering how much I do like her and I am always pleasantly surprised to be reminded how much I really do like them.

    Have you read the first book of the other series she is writing?

  3. I haven't read any of hers for a while but should be reading Broken and No Humans Involved over the next couple of months. I haven't tried her new series yet though, but I do plan on reading it at some point.

  4. I completely agree with this review of this anthology. And the Lynsay Sands one.. if you haven't read "Holidays from Hell" yet - she continues this campy story in that anthology too, from the POV of the best friend. I enjoyed that one even less because she kept "Oopsy! forgetting to keep up her disguise and appearing naked in front of people!" way too many times for my patience.

  5. The Kelley Armstrong and Kim Harrison stories were why I picked up this anthology too. I really liked all the stories. I love Harrison and wasn't that impressed with the story either although I did like it. If you do read the series you HAVE to read them in order (take my word on it, I have personal experience lol) or you'll hate it. Ivy is still a main character in the series but she isn't the primary person.

  6. I will go on and try the Harrison books, and will definitely read them in order! I hate reading books out of order!

  7. I just read the first of the Harrison books, Dead Witch Walking. I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I actually have the anthology that you reviewed. I read the Lynsay Sands story (which is nowhere as good as her full books) and then put the book on a shelf. I had started the Harrison novella and felt as if I was missing something big. I plan to read the novella in the next week or so, now that I have read the first book. I am hoping that having been immersed in the mythology already, Ivy's story will make more sense.

  8. I would think that it should make more sense. I will be interested to hear what you think of it.