Blood Bond by Jeanne C. Stein

Blood Bond
Blood Bond by Jeanne C. Stein
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is not at all what I expected from the last installment in the Anna Strong series. For that matter, it’s not what I expected from any Anna Strong book. Although, in retrospect, it makes sense that this would focus on the human side of Anna’s life — her love life, her family, her friends.

Yes, there’s a supernatural storyline — almost perfunctory, and even when it takes center stage in the novel, it does so under the shadow of the personal storylines. If this wasn’t the last in the series, it would seem that Stein was introducing a large, shadowy group that Anna and her allies would wrangle with for awhile. But, that doesn’t appear to be the case. There’s a new vampire character introduced that Anna becomes awfully chummy with far too quickly for someone in her position (vague, yeah, but trying to stay spoiler-free) Again, if there were more books to come — I’d fully expect this new pal to reveal himself to be just cozying up to her to find her Achilles’ Heel. Regardless, it was a quick and painless story that really only served to keep this book in the Urban Fantasy camp.

Stein’s focus was on the human/emotional stories, giving each major character some sort of resolution as the curtain comes down (although Culebra was given pretty short-shrift) — and in each scene apart from the Vampire story, it feels like Stein is trying to channel the spirit of the mid-80s long distance telephone company commercials and make you reach for the kleenex box every chapter. Big emotional moments and conversations, a lotta lovey-dovey faces, and tears being jerked.

Which sounds like a complaint, but it’s not — somehow Stein pulls it off. It’d be easy for this to be overly-sentimental and sappy — and she gets right up to that line, but she doesn’t cross it. Granted, it’s not the kind of book that I’d want to read all the time, but it worked this time. It let her leave Anna in a good place — or at least a place she could find a measure of peace and happiness for a time. But we all know Anna well-enough at this point to know that can’t last, she’ll find trouble/it will find her soon enough. We just won’t get to see it.

Dusted Off: Legacy by Jeanne C. Stein

Legacy (Anna Strong Chronicles, #4)Legacy by Jeanne C. Stein

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was almost disappointed by this one, on second thought, maybe I was disappointed by this installment in the Anna Strong series.

Stein introduces us to her version of werewolves (different, a la Meyer, than the shapechangers we’ve already met). Her take on the species isn’t my favorite, but I dig what she’s doing with them and the backstory for vamps/werewolves/demons she worked up.

I wasn’t crazy about how Anna “solved” the real world job (which she really didn’t do), but I thought she handled the supernatural “case” okay. On the whole, though, this book showed Anna at her most clueless, which may be what Stein intended–as long as she’s denying one side of her nature, she can’t be what she needs to be, etc.–but I doubt it.

For a page or so I thought we were done with the Max subplot after book #3, but no. I thought we were done with the Gloria thing, but no. I thought the David stuff had turned a page and onto something new there, but no. And so on.

Basically, this book served to shuffle the characters around a bit to (potentially, hopefully) do something with next time around.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m back for (at least) #5 and #6. Just hoping I don’t regret it.

Dusted Off: Blood Drive by Jeanne C. Stein

Blood Drive (Anna Strong Chronicles, #2)Blood Drive by Jeanne C. Stein

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is not the follow-up to The Becoming Anna Strong Chronicles 1 that I expected, it’s a lot better. Something struck me odd about the way Stein included the detail about our heroine’s dead brother in the first book, and I should’ve realized she was planting a seed.

The seed, no pun intended, is what just may be her brother’s heretofore unknown daughter. Her brother’s girlfriend at the time of his death appears, asking for Anna’s help tracking down her runaway daughter, claiming it’s Anna’s niece. Before Anna can start looking, the girl’s best friend turns up murdered in a grisly fashion with hints of the supernatural. While looking for the girl and trying to find the murderer, Anna deepens her understanding and awareness of the supernatural world that she’s now a part of, and is reminded that perhaps the greatest monsters are merely human.

Great pacing, taught writing, good action–and even though I knew the identity of the bad guy at least one hundred pages before Anna did, I was on the edge of my seat.

The big issue that Urban Fantasy writers have to deal with his how to treat vampires (at least those authors that deal with vampires). Some leave them as horrid monsters, most find some way of toning down the whole vicious, blood-drinking, killer aspect. Stein doesn’t do that, yet. If Anna ends up toning down the animalistic nature of her protagonist, it will be as a result of a lot of trial and error, and stubborn choices she makes. While I hope Anna never becomes someone that I want Ms. Summers and the Scooby gang to track down, I hope she doesn’t turn off that aspect of her nature like a light switch.

I’m more than a little bothered by the dynamics between Anna and her boyfriend, and Anna and her partner, if Stein doesn’t resolve or change them soon, it’s really going to drag the series down. But I’m inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt.

I don’t know why I keep comparing this series to the Rachel Morgan books as I read them, but I do. And, Anna Strong comes out looking better and better each time I do. I’m really looking forward to seeing where she takes this.

Dusted Off: The Becoming by Jeanne C. Stein

The Becoming (Anna Strong Chronicles, #1)The Becoming by Jeanne C. Stein

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(3.5 actually, but goodreads won’t let me do that) This was just what the doctor ordered, over the last couple of months, I’d tried out a handful of new (to me) urban fantasy series, and had to force myself to finish them. Not this one. A fun ride from start to finish.

It’s the kind of start to a series that reminded me of Kitty and the Midnight Hour — and judging by the fact that of Carrie Vaughn books are now on my shelves at home, that’s a good thing. It’s very much a start to a series, a good ol’ origin story. Butt-kickin’, independent woman (with family issues), is out with her partner doing their bounty hunter thing, and unbeknownst to them, try to take a vampire into custody. Hilarity, er, blood-swapping ensues, and you’ve got yourself a butt-kickin’, independent vampire (with family issues).

Sure, our hero, Anna, has a heckuva learning curve in front of her–which Stein uses well to introduce the reader to her vampire rules, society, hunters, history, and whatnot. A good healthy mix of tradition and nouveau vamp lore.

It is a setup novel, so it’s hard to predict what form the future installments will take, once Anna’s more settled into her fangs, things will be different. But it’s a good start, with a likable cast, and a couple of good threads to follow in future books. Sign me up for more.

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