Saturday, February 23, 2008

Hey! This Series Will Get You Too

I'm Jaz Parks. CIA assassin. Black belt. Belly dancer at the Corpus Christi Winter Festival. The last is cover for my latest mission: retrieve a vital piece of biotechnology by killing the maniac who stole it. The thief is not your run-of-the-mill nut job, either. He's Chien-Lung, an obsessive vamp who's invulnerable while wearing his armor-which is constantly.

Then there are the reavers, ancient fiends who murder innocents and eat their souls. Only I can sense them. So it's not long before they'll want me dead, dead, dead.

And did I mention the nightmares? They're not your garden-variety sit-up-and-screamers. These suckers may actually kill me before the reavers do.

Title: Another One Bites the Dust
Author: Jennifer Rardin
Series: Jaz Parks, Book 2
Published: 2007
Publisher: Orbit Books
Pages: 328
Genre: Contemporary Paranormal-Fantasy

Besides being a really good Queen song, Another One Bites the Dust is Jennifer Rardin’s second book in her Jaz Parks series. It’s a modern day paranormal story featuring a heroine with a Buffy/ Bond personality who, along with her rag-tag little team (a psychic, a technological genius, a PI, and of course Vayl the vampire) take on all sorts of bad guys.

I love the world and background stories Rardin has made for her characters. It makes them all so much more relatable, especially Jaz with her tough, sassy talk (although she can back it up!) but she’s still a vulnerable person who really depends on her friends.

I also really like how her vampires are portrayed. Most writers take the vampire persona (drinks blood only, can’t stand sunlight, extreme strength, sometimes evil, hates garlic, crosses, etc.) and either slightly tweaks it or removes only a few things but they always drink blood and only blood. Not this author! Of course her vamps drink blood but they also can eat real food and even have somewhat of a soul (like Jaz’s friend and boss, Vayl). However they are sensitive to sunlight but don’t really have to sleep in coffins (Vayl sleeps in a tent that sets up on top of the bed).

Yet the things I like the most about the entire Jaz Parks series is the humor in the midst of the action-packed plot. I mean, here is a group of people that could easily be wore thin in this novel what with all the soul and blood-sucking bad guys running around but they still can believably get along. Not an easy feat in an RV, no matter the size!

Some of my favorite parts took place while they were staying in said RV. Like the doormat zapper scene (I’d love to get one of those!) and this part:

I admit we nearly got caught, because we were giggling like maniacs throughout the whole exercise. (Okay, Vayl wasn’t even smiling at first. But once we convinced him we had the higher moral ground, even if it was only by an inch, he at least showed occasional signs of fang). But it was good for us, Cole especially, to imagine the faces of the others-are-not-our-brothers protesters when they discovered Lung’s and Pengfei’s coffins hooked to the bumper of their hate-crimes van in the morning with JUST BURIED spray painted in big white letters across the lids. We made it back to the RV with just enough time for Vayl to stagger to the bedroom, pop up his tent, and crawl inside. Such a silly exercise. But it had helped Cole shed his shell and rediscover his hilarious old soul.

Mission accomplished.

There isn’t too much information on Jennifer Rardin and her books because she’s still a fairly new author but this is a fun interview with the author posted on a blog and the person who originally got me interested in this series, Chelle has a great review available. Don’t forget to visit the author herself's website either! She updates almost daily and she has an excerpt from Jaz’s “Top Secret File” which explains more about her background.

The Jaz Parks Series:

  • Once Bitten, Twice Shy
  • Another One Bites the Dust
  • Biting the Bullet
  • Bitten to Death (8/08)
  • One More Bite (3/09)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Buffy+ Bond= Jaz Parks

I'm Jaz Parks. My boss is Vayl, born in Romania in 1744. Died there too, at the hand of his vampire wife, Liliana. But that's ancient history. For the moment Vayl works for the CIA doing what he does best--assassinating people. And I help. You could say I'm an assistant assassin. But then I'd have to kick your ass.

Our current assignment seemed easy. Get close to a Miami plastic surgeon named Assan, a charmer with ties to terrorism that run deeper than a buried body. Find out what he's meeting with that can help him and his comrades bring America to her knees. And then close his beady little eyes forever. Why is it that nothing's ever as easy as it seems?

Title: Once Bitten, Twice Shy
Author: Jennifer Rardin
Series: Jaz Parks
Published: 2007
Publisher: Orbit
Pages: 291
Genre: Contemporary Paranormal-Fantasy

Jennifer Rardin has created an incredible world with great characters in her action-packed debut book Once Bitten, Twice Shy. It is the first story in the Jaz Parks series although the author has promised there will be many more and soon.

Paranormal adventure series with tough heroines have become fairly commonplace over the past couple of years and although Jennifer Rardin’s Jaz Parks series fits perfectly into that
category, the characters are a bit more complex. Especially Ms. Jaz Parks herself! She has the essential sassy attitude that is required of a heroine in her shoes but she’s also terrified that her co-workers, family, and friends will find out about her secret. A secret she’s scared to admit even to herself!

I enjoyed the characters, the biting wit, and how my interest never once waned in the entire course of the book. I found some of the paranormal events a little odd but also essential to the plot and I liked how Once Bitten, Twice Shy is set up to continue the series but also give you a satisfying ending.

A fellow blogger did a
great review on this book that interested me enough to start the series and now I’m hooked. Here is a really interesting interview with the author at about the characters and the series itself. The publishing company Orbit Books also has a page on the book that includes an excerpt.

The Jaz Parks Series:

  • Once Bitten, Twice Shy
  • Another One Bites the Dust
  • Biting the Bullet
  • Bitten to Death (8/08)
  • One More Bite (3/09)

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Beginning of Pooh's Disney Career

Edited from three 20-minute shorts -- "Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree" (1966), "Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day" (1968), and "Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too!" (1974) -- The Many Adventures takes us inside the Hundred Acre Wood and introduces us to the characters from A.A. Milne's book series. Winnie the Pooh - "short, fat, and proud of that" - gets stuck in Rabbit's door after a satisfying quest for honey leaves him rounder than normal. In the second episode (Best Short Oscar winner "Blustery Day"), Pooh meets Tigger, who warns the silly old bear of honey-stealing Heffalumps and Woozles. Pooh and Piglet find themselves swept away in a storm. The third act finds Rabbit hatching a plan to deal with Tigger's bouncing once and for all. The magically imaginative adventures conclude with one of the most touching scenes ever animated.

Title: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Release: March 11, 1977
Genre: Animation
MPAA Rating: G
Writer: A.A. Milne (books), Winston Hilber (supervising), Larry Clemmons, Ken Anderson, Ralph Wright
Director: John Lounsbery & Wolfgang Reitherman
Produced By: Wolfgang Reitherman
Distributed By: Buena Vista Pictures
Run Time: 74 minutes
Official Site

A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh has been one of the most beloved characters for a very long time but it wasn’t until Walt Disney recreated him and his pals in several animated featurettes called Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, and Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too! All of which were later compiled into one feature called The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh that takes inside Milne’s famous book (the characters hop across pages and everything!).

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is comprised of three featurettes that are based on real the real Pooh stories but whomever edited together all of them did a fantastic job because if I hadn’t been told that they were originally released individually I wouldn’t have guessed. I love how Disney and his animators used the original Pooh artist, E. H. Shepard’s work as inspiration for the final look of the film. You can especially tell with the backgrounds.

One of the things that I found bothered me the most about Disney’s early Pooh characters was how the audience is reminded repeatedly that they’re just stuffed animals. In one of the first scenes Pooh keeps his head stationary and turns completely around which is just kind of creepy! Thankfully I got to grow up with a Pooh that for the most part is a lot more life-like.

That’s not the only thing that has changed about Pooh since this film was made. In all three featurettes he was voiced by the talented actor Sterling Holloway who is probably most well-known for being the voice of the Cheshire Cat from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. He was also the voice of several other Disney characters too. By the time I was born though Pooh’s (and sometimes Tigger too, who was originally voiced by Paul Winchell) voice was by Jim Cummings so understandably the voice bothered me at first.

That didn’t stop me from enjoying the cute little songs that the whole movie is just chock full of! They’re catchy and hummable whether they are singing about being Rumbly in the Tumbly, Little Black Rain Clouds or Heffalumps and Woozles so it came as no surprise to me when I found out that they were created by my favorite duo of songwriters, the Sherman Brothers.

Although the Winnie the Pooh gang’s general appearance and even sound has slightly changed over the years they have always remained the same sweet cuddly characters that the whole world loves and hopefully they always will.

Wikipedia has tons of
articles on this film and the featurettes that make up the whole film. Even one on the Disney theme park ride based on the film. also has a page on the film with trivia and here is a fansite with songs from the film.

Pooh Songs:

Tigger's Song:

Many Adventures of Pooh Special:

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Icy Number Three

Museum curator Summer Hawthorne considered the exquisite ice-blue ceramic bowl given to her by her beloved Japanese nanny a treasure of sentimental value– until someone tried to kill her for it.

The priceless relic is about to ignite a global power struggle that must be stopped at all costs. It’s a desperate situation, and international operative Takashi O’Brien has received his directive: everybody is expendable. Everybody. Especially the woman who is getting dangerously under his skin as the lethal game crosses the Pacific to the remote and beautiful mountains of Japan, where the truth can be as seductive as it is deadly...

Title: Ice Blue
Author: Anne Stuart
Published: 2007
Publisher: MIRA
Pages: 378
Genre: Romantic-Suspense

Committee member Takashi O’Brien’s story takes place during the third book in
Anne Stuart’s Ice series called Ice Blue. He was a minor (but important) character in the second book of the series Cold as Ice and he is one of the best operatives who never lets anything or anyone get under his skin. Until American Summer Hawthorne that is!

All of the books in the series so far pretty much have the same plot line: tough as nails Committee operative has a mission that puts them in the path of some innocent female and finding that they can’t make themselves kill said female they begin to fall in love. All while escaping from and trying to stop bad guys who want global domination or global annihilation.

Even with such a well-worn plot line, each story and character manages to be unique and exciting in it’s own way (kind of like the Committee members themselves!) with the charged and sometimes dark ambience making it even more so. Somehow I felt like Summer had even more depth to her than all of the other women in the series although that still didn’t stop her from doing a few stupid things.

One of the things I like most about the Ice series is how the minor characters aren’t really all that minor at all. Mainly because they will star in their own book eventually and this gives you time to be introduced. Takashi’s wild cousin Reno is a minor but important character in the book and I just adore him! I can’t wait until he gets his own story. In the books, its said that he took his name and look from a video game character (I found out later that it was from Final Fantasy) so I just pictured him as Axel from Kingdom of Hearts. Turns out that they have a lot in common physically but I still like the Axel look best!

I discovered the Ice Series through several blog reviews but it wasn’t until
J. Kaye wrote about Ice Blue and held a raffle for this book (which I won!), that I actually picked up all of the books. They are all incredible! Anne Stuart has an excerpt from the book available on her official site and naturally, Wikipedia has an article on the author.

The Ice Series:

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

St. Patrick's Day in the Burg

Looking to get lucky?

Stephanie Plum is back between-the-numbers and she’s looking to get lucky in an Atlantic City hotel room, in a Winnebago, and with a brown-eyed stud who has stolen her heart.

Stephanie Plum has a way of attracting danger, lunatics, oddballs, bad luck ... and mystery men. And no one is more mysterious than the unmentionable Diesel. He’s back and hot on the trail of a little man in green pants who’s lost a giant bag of money. Problem is, the money isn’t exactly lost. Stephanie’s Grandma Mazur has found it, and like any good Jersey senior citizen, she’s hightailed it in a Winnebago to Atlantic City and hit the slots. With Lula and Connie in tow, Stephanie attempts to bring Grandma home, but the luck of the Irish is rubbing off on everyone: Lula’s found a job modeling plus-size lingerie. Connie’s found a guy. Diesel’s found Stephanie. And Stephanie has found herself in over her head with a caper involving thrice-stolen money, a racehorse, a car chase, and a bad case of hives.

Plum Lucky is an all-you-can-eat buffet of thrills, chills, shrimp cocktail, plus-size underwear, and scorching hot men. It’s a between-the-numbers treat no Evanovich fan will want to miss!

Title: Plum Lucky
Author: Janet Evanovich
Published: 2008
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pages: 166
Genre: Mystery

Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series has become one of the most popular best-selling romance/mystery series ever and to keep everyone’s appetite whetted for the next book, Evanovich has created the Between-the-Numbers novella series (which actually only has the characters in common with the “real” series). In them Stephanie teams up with a mysterious (maybe even magical) man known as Diesel and helps him track down his skips which are usually “magical”... or at least they think they are which is the case with the guy in Plum Lucky. He thinks he’s a leprechaun who can talk to animals.

Stephanie Plum is a lucky, lucky girl! Morelli, Ranger, and even Diesel all have a thing for her but luckily for Morelli and Ranger, Diesel only pops in during the Between-the Novels series and (maybe because of Diesels' magic?) the main men only make very minor appearances although Ranger and Diesel seem to know one

I always love any Plum book but Plum Lucky was a really good one. Between Grandma Mazur, Lula, and Snuggy I was laughing so hard it made me cry! One of my favorite parts (besides the horse being in her apartment) is when Stephanie found one of her skips in Atlantic City:

“Outta my way,” Lula said.
I rolled off, and Lula sat down hard on Major. Major let out a woof of air, farted, and went inert.
An old man looked down at Major. “He’s dead.”
Lula got off of Major, I attached the second cuff, and Major still didn’t move. We took a closer look.
“I might have seen him breathe just then,” Lula said.
“I got a defibrillator on my Rascal,” someone said. “You want to try to jump-start him?”
“I got oxygen,” someone else said.
Lula got her foot under Major and turned him over. His eyes were open. His lips pressed together.
“Christ,” Major said through clenched teeth.
“He’s just breathless,” Lula said. “I have that effect on men on account of I’m a supermodel.”

Since Plum Lucky has only recently come out there isn’t too much information available (at least none that I could find). However,
Wikipedia has information on Janet Evanovich as well as a complete bibliography of her works.

Between-the-Numbers Series:

  • Visions of Sugar Plums
  • Plum Lovin'
  • Plum Lucky

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Merciless Faeries

"I could smell her fear, and it satisfied something deep inside me that had been writhing under her cool, superior gaze. I curled my upper lip so she could get a good look at my sharp teeth. I might only weigh thirty or so pounds in my coyote shape, but I was a predator..."

Mechanic Mercy Thompson can shift her shape- but not her loyalty. When her former boss and mentor is arrested for murder and left to rot behind bars by his own kind, it's up to Mercy to clear his name, whether he wants her to or not.

Mercy's loyalty is under pressure from other directions, too. Werewolves are not known for their patience, and if Mercy can't decide between the two she cares for, Sam and Adam may make the choice for her...

Title: Iron Kissed
Author: Patricia Briggs
Published: 2008
Publisher: Ace
Pages: 304
Genre: Paranormal-Dark Fantasy, Adventure

In the third and current novel Iron Kissed, of Patricia Briggs’ best-selling series, mechanic and coyote skinwalker Mercy Thompson is back and like in the previous books, someone needs Mercy’s special talents and since the Fae are the only species left that haven’t played a major role in one of the stories, they’re it.

After the last fiasco in the second book Blood Bound, Mercy has understandably developed a healthy fear of vampires so there aren’t any in Iron Kissed, not even Stefan. Thankfully it doesn’t take away from the story so there was much more time spent with the werewolf pack and resolving some of her feelings as well as hunting down bad guys.

I’d like to warn without spoiling for some: there is a pretty ugly, emotionally graphic scene near the end of the book that I thought was totally out of character for Patricia Briggs, at least judging by the other stories I’ve read by her. It is important though and it also helps the reader to get to know one of the characters (Ben) that Mercy has disliked from the very beginning of the series. Hopefully everyone will heal and it won’t leave too many mental wounds for the author to prod in the next book in the series.

Patricia Briggs’ official site, has recently been updated in more than just looks! Her What’s Next? Page has her new works in progress on it like the first book in the series parallel to Mercy’s called Cry Wolf starring Samuel’s brother that comes out in August 2008 and I’ve recently learned that the Mercy series is being turned into a graphic novel courtesy of Dabel Brothers Publishing. Wikipedia has Briggs’ complete bibliography available as well as more information on the author too.

The Mercy Series:

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

No Mercy to Vampire Scum

Under the rule of science, there are no witch burnings allowed, no water trials or public lynchings. In return, the average law-abiding, solid citizen has little to worry about from the things that go bump in the night. Sometimes I wish I was an average citizen...

Mechanic Mercy Thompson has friends in low places-and in dark ones. And now she owes one of them a favor. Since she can shapeshift at will, she agrees to act as some extra muscle when her vampire friend Stefan goes to deliver a message to another of his kind.

But this new vampire is hardly ordinary-and neither is the demon inside of him.

Title: Blood Bound
Author: Patricia Briggs
Published: 2007
Publisher: Ace
Pages: 292
Genre: Paranormal-Dark Fantasy, Adventure

Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson -a mechanic who happens to be a coyote skinwalker- returns in the second book, called Blood Bound in her dark fantasy adventure series. In it, Mercy repays a favor to the local vampires (they helped her in the first book, Moon Called) and soon becomes wrapped up in vampires, demons, and werewolf politics as well as juggling her feelings about certain males in her life.

Like I said in my previous post about Moon Called, there is plenty of sexual tension in Patricia Briggs’ stories but so far absolutely no sex. Which actually isn’t really all that big of a problem because the world she lives in is just one big whirl-wind of adventure in which the little skinwalker always seem to be smack-dab in the middle of. What I would like to know is how Mercy finds time to sleep!

I truly like all of the characters in the Mercy series (well the good guys anyway) and was pleased
at how many characters from the previous story showed up and played important roles in Blood Bound. I think that the fact although Mercy is incredibly independent, she can ask for help when she needs it makes her a stronger heroine. She’s definitely not at the top of the food chain, and she knows it but she (or someone else) always seems to pull her tail out of the fire in the nick of time.

Wikipedia has a small article on Patricia Briggs but you can find more information on her official site including an excerpt from Blood Bound and author comments.

The Mercy Series:

Monday, February 4, 2008

My New Favorite Series

Werewolves can be dangerous if you get in their way, but they'll leave you alone if you are careful. They are very good at hiding their natures from the human population, but I'm not human. I know them when I meet them, and they know me, too.

Mercy Thompson's sexy next-door neighbor is a werewolf.

She's tinkering with a VW bus at her mechanic shop that happens to belong to a vampire.

But then, Mercy Thompson is not exactly normal herself... and her connection to the world of things that go bump in the night is about to get her into a whole lot of trouble.

Title: Moon Called
Author: Patricia Briggs
Published: 2006
Publisher: Ace Books
Pages: 288
Genre: Paranormal-Adventure, Mystery

Moon Called is the first book in Patricia Briggs’ amazing urban fantasy, adventure series about Mercedes Thompson, (Mercy to her friends) a coyote skinwalker VW mechanic who was raised by werewolves. Like most coyotes, she also has a nose for trouble too... especially when her friends are threatened!

It’s been a long time since a series has been able to capture me so completely. Patricia Briggs is an amazing author who has that rare talent of making the reader empathize with the characters as well as build a believable world for them to live in. I just love Mercy! She’s funny, sassy, and brave yet vulnerable, the perfect person to have as a friend and to help guard your back.

That said, there were a few things that annoyed me about the story but my biggest issue is th
e fact that it seems to be almost edited like a PG-13 movie. There is absolutely no sex whatsoever in Moon Called although there are some vague references to the fact that werewolves can mate and there is a sexual attraction between Mercy and some of the characters. Hopefully Mrs. Briggs will lose her squeamishness in a future novel.

I have many people to thank for turning me onto this series but I actually never would have picked it up in the first place if it wasn’t for
Darla D.’s review. If you would like more information on Patricia Briggs and her books, Wikipedia has an excellent page available and here is an interview with the author that talks a little about Moon Called.

The Mercy Series:

  • Moon Called
  • Blood Bound
  • Iron Kissed

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