Tag Archives: Carrie Vaughn

Review: Kitty Takes a Holiday

Kitty Takes a Holiday

So the actual time I finished reading Kitty Takes a Holiday was March 7th, but thanks to my Goodreads updates and some page skimming I think I recall my overall feelings on this installment of the Kitty Norville series. This is my third time reading this book, and it’s getting three stars from me (one star drop from the original rating I gave it.)

Basically, I was coming off of a high from Kitty Goes to Washington. The previous book had such a tight narrative. The pacing was good, and interesting things were happening just about all the time. In Kitty Takes a Holiday, that changes a bit. You see, after Kitty’s traumatic experiences in Washington, she decides to take a break from the public eye and hide out in a cabin in the middle of nowhere to write her memoirs. Naturally things don’t go as planned, and her writer’s block is interrupted by a dramatic visit from Cormac and Ben. Something terrible has happened, and Cormac needs Kitty’s help to keep Ben alive. I’ll avoid spoilers, but basically this is one of my favorite moments in the series.

What follows is a really interesting couple of days as Kitty works to handle this incredible dilemma the boys have set in front of her. She tries to keep everyone’s morale up, but of course, tempers flare and fur gets rubbed the wrong way. Eventually, things sort of plateau, and a calm point is reached–until that calm is once again shattered, as another problem demands Kitty’s attention: since she had arrived at her cabin, someone has been leaving dead animals on her porch–likely in an attempt to curse Kitty. Cormac brings in his witch doctor friend, and as that whole issue unravels, things seem to climax in my opinion.

I say seem to, because the trouble is this “climax” occurred around 190 pages in. After that? Things drastically slow down as we see Ben and Kitty wrestle with a legal battle in an attempt to keep Cormac out of jail for his latest actions. As they do that, feelings are wrestled with as an attraction that had been developing between our chatty werewolf and bristly lawyer sort of comes full circle. I really, really struggled with these remaining 110 pages. After enjoying the first half of the book so much, I was very disappointed by the sudden drag in pace.

Ultimately, my feeling is that, while Kitty Takes a Holiday is still a worthwhile read for any Kitty Norville fan, it just isn’t as good as the second book. Ironically enough, I feel this book is probably the most fitting (so far) of the “paranormal romance” tag that everyone seems so eager to attribute to the series.

If you like this review, please check out my other reviews on Goodreads!

And while you’re at it, why not give my own fantasy romance novel a try? It’s available on Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes!

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Review: Kitty Goes To Washington

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As with the first book in the Kitty Norville series, this is my third time reading Kitty Goes to Washington. That said, I am very familiar with this series, and my thoughts on this book are glowingly positive–even more than the first time, and I’ll list the reasons below.

In this book, Kitty Norville has fled from her home in Colorado and has taken her radio talk show on the road. She lives her life now as a werewolf without a pack, and she’s coping, but unhappy. Then she gets a surprising summons to speak at a congressional hearing regarding the Center of Paranatural Biology, or some such thing. She goes for it, of course (free publicity!) but as you might imagine, things go awry when she meets an arrogant vampire underling named Leo, and a bible-thumping senator, Joseph Duke.

My original rating for this book had been four stars, but I decided to change this to five because I really, just immensely loved reading this book. I was at the edge of my seat, turning pages like a madman. And the ending! What a great climactic ending! After three times around the track, that says a lot about a story. Carrie Vaughn, like any prolific writer, has her “good” stories and her…well…not so good stories. Dare I say crappy stories? Well this second installment in the long running Kitty series is definitely one of the better ones. Certainly better than the first book!

I even remember complaining about the Church of the Pure Faith story arc, which I mentioned in my first review. It finds its conclusion in Kitty Goes to Washington, and the first time I read the books, I thought its ending had been…anti-climactic? But I thought the fallout from Elijah Smith’s demise was fairly interesting, and it also served as a way of introducing Jeffrey Miles, TV personality and psychic. Jeffrey is a recurring character in the series. It also helped to deepen the character of Roger Stockton, the exploitative weird news journalist. Once I took these things into account, I looked on the Church of the Pure Faith story arc more favorably. It still isn’t one of my favorite Kitty adventures, but it certainly isn’t the worst.

That’s really the only complaint that I have for this book, and as you can see, it’s not really a complaint. Kitty Goes to Washington has a fairly tight plot. The action was fast paced. The mysteries were intriguing. I have stated that the Kitty Norville series has this side to it that I likened to nerds at D&D night, that side where the story goes down weird “what-if” avenues and paints a broad and colorful view of how the supernatural might exist in our world. In this book, I think the best example of that is displayed in Fritz, an old German werewolf with a sad and violent past. This is really important for people to realize about the Kitty Norville series: it tips its hat to old fantasy pulp magazines, wherein strange and speculative stories were published. Why else would Carrie Vaughn use the tongue-in-cheek title convention of “Kitty and the…” I sort of chuckle when I see people whine about Kitty’s ironic name, and the funny book titles. They’re missing the joke, and it’s a shame!

But that leads to my next point: this series is not for everyone. It revels in its pulp fiction qualities and giggles at the ironic situations it presents. It’s self-aware humor. Kitty’s narrative voice is witty and humorous, and she isn’t shy to point out the stereotypes that populate her world. She can get whiny at times, and she really, really loves to run her mouth. Her idealist beliefs might frustrate some readers too. Another thing that might turn people off is its lack of smut. As paranormal fiction goes, there isn’t as much romance as you might expect in the Kitty Norville series. I’d still classify this series as PNR, because I think the target audience is still the same, but I’d do so with the caveat that not all the Kitty books are smut-laced adventures so much as just…adventures with some occasional sexiness. This book is just such a case. Kitty Goes to Washington has a very sexy love interest in Luis, the were-jaguar, but he isn’t really a central character in the book (even if he is a recurring character in the series.)

The climax to this installment is leaps and bounds better than the last, so that’s another good point for it. Once I got to the end, I couldn’t stop reading. It feels satisfying, it feels significant. If you were frustrated by the downer ending of Kitty and the Midnight Hour you’ll be happy to know that Kitty Goes to Washington has a much more kick ass conclusion.

I’m actually surprised by how much I liked this book a third time around. Despite enjoying re-reading the first book, I was afraid this one would be stale, or perhaps just not be as awesome as I remembered it. Thankfully, this was not the case. How reassuring to know I had such great taste as a teenager!

If you like this review, please check out my other reviews on Goodreads!

And while you’re at it, why not give my own fantasy romance novel a try? It’s available on Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes!

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Review: Kitty and the Midnight Hour

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This is my third time reading this book. I first read it back in high school in 2006, when I was in the 11th grade. That was just a year after it was published. I’ve been following the series ever since, and these characters have become some of my favorites. That said, I obviously love the series, but I’m not blind to its flaws.

Since the series is almost finished (the final book releases this summer) I decided to read the entire thing from the start. It’s been a few years since I last read the first book, so it felt fairly fresh to me. There were a lot of things that I had forgotten. Kitty grows so much as a character, but right away I could remember the reasons why I liked her so much. In Kitty and the Midnight Hour, she was a submissive wolf on the bottom of the pecking order. She was timid and abused all the time, but when she accidentally starts a nighttime radio show talking about the supernatural, she discovers success, and with that success comes new confidence. Little Kitty doesn’t want to get pushed around anymore, and this disrupts the status quo.

Witty characters in PNR is hardly groundbreaking–in fact it’s a trope–but with Kitty it’s a little different. In many similar stories, a character might crack a joke, but it’s with too much gravity and disconnect from reality. It’s usually, I’m a “three dimensional character” wisecracking about the supernatural, but hey take me serious at all times because I’m in a dark and gritty world, and my story is art, understand!?Kitty, on the other hand, is a character who recognizes her own flaws, and is not afraid to comment on the absurdity of some of the typical situations you encounter in PNR. It’s self-aware humor, and this book pulls this off because the author herself is a great big nerd (and that’s a compliment!) All you have to do is go to Carrie Vaughn’s blog to see that she is the kind of person who loves all aspects of sci-fi and fantasy, not just the mainstream bits. She’s the kind of nerd who prefers Johnny Mnemonic to Elysium. The kind who recognizes how much Guardians of the Galaxy owes to the original Star Wars trilogy for its success. In short: she’s old school. And old school nerds know one thing: campy humor and fantasy easily go hand-in-hand.

Which is why Vaughn writes such great material. Kitty’s discussions on her radio show sound like the kinds of things fantasy nerds shoot the shit about over drinks on D&D night: “What does life imprisonment mean to a vampire? How can a human maintain a relationship with a werewolf?” These portions of the book are really fun and bring a lot to the story. Kitty utilizes her radio show as a source information at times, hoping to find answers to personal problems. Other times, the show is what introduces plot threads that Kitty finds herself wrestling with throughout the series. It’s really great, because it creates a sense of spontaneity that makes me think of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In that example, Joss Whedon often had multiple plots and subplots running concurrently in his show. For the Kitty Norville series, this keeps things fresh and interesting, allowing Vaughn to focus on interesting material and constant action instead of having to make us suffer through awkward filler.

But readers might find themselves frustrated by the basic concept of the book to begin with. Maybe the random radio talk show discussions might annoy you? After all, it’s essentially nerd-talk, and not everybody’s into that. Or perhaps Kitty’s initial submissive nature and gullible decisions might frustrate you? Like any well-rounded character, Kitty has less than admirable traits–including running her mouth and being overly idealistic. The introduction of so many sub-plots so early on might frustrate readers as well. It’s always been my belief that this show would function great as a television show, partly because it already feels like one. So many things are happening, and so many characters are getting tossed into the mix, that fans of the series have come to name and recognize certain story arcs (like my least favorite: The Church of the Pure Faith, which starts in this book.) Another thing that might discourage people is this book’s ending. It’s a bit sudden, and it can be frustrating. To this day, I’m surprised Vaughn decided to begin her series on the note that she did. It was definitely a risk for a first book.

If you think you can forgive some of those things, or if you think they won’t bother you at all, then definitely give Kitty and the Midnight Hour a read. These days, you can get the second book used pretty cheaply, and believe me, you’ll want to immediately after finishing this one!

If you like this review, please check out my other reviews on Goodreads!

And while you’re at it, why not give my own fantasy romance novel a try? It’s available on Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes!

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Review: Kitty in the Underworld

Kitty in the Underworld
Kitty in the Underworld by Carrie Vaughn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This review is for the 12th book in the series, so I’m assuming those reading this are at least somewhat familiar with the setting and characters. Also, when you read this review, don’t stop at the first or second paragraph.

I have been reading the Kitty Norville series since high school. Kitty and her friends have become very dear to me as characters, and my loyalty to their story has allowed me to stick with the series through some of its doldrums. Since the eighth book (Kitty Goes to War) I’ve felt that the Norville series has been meandering, either pitting Kitty against underwhelming antagonists (such as in Kitty Steals the Show, and Kitty Rocks the House), an unfocused plot (such as in Kitty’s Big Trouble), weak conflict/resolution (Steals the Show, Rocks the House, and Big Trouble), and Kitty’s personality maybe slipping a little too much into the Yin (meaning her tendency to talk and question everything turns grating instead of humorous; again, Big Trouble…guess which book is my least favorite of the series?)

A lot of people feel disgruntled with the focus of the overarching plot going global, and in some cases, I’ve even heard that some folks are dissatisfied with the attention being entirely supernatural and less to do with the rest of the human world at large (one of the reasons House of Horrors is so popular in the series.) Honestly? I don’t fault Vaughn for keeping the focus on the supernatural. I like how she focuses on the supernatural in many ways. I would’ve become annoyed if suddenly these ancient beings who are, in some cases, thousands of years old, become suddenly threatened by some angry human mortals. Sure, there’s danger in numbers, but these ancient beings become ancient by creating vast networks and organizations that ensure their survival. They have years of wisdom on their side. In my opinion, someone of that nature who wants to take over the world is much more dangerous than a disorganized swarm of humans. House of Horrors illustrated how one small group could take down some supernaturals, but they were ultimately defeated, and like many upstart cells, they failed to rally more to their particular cause. Thus, it stands to reason given the story’s context that the biggest threat is not human. It’s supernatural. Period. This threat isn’t even purely vampire in origin, as the story eventually begins to suggest…

Never when reading any of these books did I find myself hating the series so much to quit it. As I’ve stated, I love the characters too much, and honestly Vaughn does a wonderful job exploring aspects of the fantasy/supernatural world in such a way that most authors don’t even consider, unless they’re trying to crack a joke. (like–do working vampires over 65 collect social security?) It’s things like that which keep me coming back. It shows a deep love for the genre, and I’m happy to say…

MY FAITH HAS BEEN REWARDED!

Kitty in the Underworld may start off a tad bit slow, but things quickly get intense when Kitty is suddenly kidnapped by a shadowy group of individuals. Later she learns these people are a cult, and they wish to recruit her for their fight against Roman. The problem? They won’t take no for an answer!

Despite the majority of the book taking place in a silver mine, things don’t feel slow or stuck. There is good momentum and escalation of conflict. The book gets almost cerebral as Kitty struggles to keep it together–physically, emotionally, and mentally–as she’s near-starved and dehydrated. The narrative lapses into Kitty talking about mythological stories, because the girl is given a lot of time to think don’cha know, and we come to see the parallels between these stories and Kitty’s plight. These portions are perhaps my favorite. Names take on a whole new meaning in this book, making Kitty ponder the power of identity and what her true role is in the fight against Roman. The stakes feel raised, and there’s a palpable tension as Kitty rails against her captors. The end of the book felt appropriately climactic, and I felt like Kitty finally makes some progress in finding a way to stop Roman.

This book was a delight to read, and I blasted through it in a day. I’m really looking forward to the next book, just as I always will be for this series–because Vaughn is a great writer, and Kitty is a wonderful character.

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My favorite thing said to me today, taken completely out of context: “Cthulhu has no interest in controlling your uterus.”

—Carrie Vaughn

Read her awesome WordPress blog by clicking here!

Random Quote: Carrie Vaughn and Cthulhu

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Quick set up: Kitty Norville is an “out of the closet” werewolf who hosts her own syndicated late night radio talk show about the supernatural and all the things and people related to it. In the tenth installment of this series, Kitty has been invited to be the keynote speaker for the world’s very first International Conference on Paranatural Studies, taking place in London. Now enjoy the quote… 🙂

“Uh, hi, Kitty. Thanks.” He was male, laid back. He sounded kind of stoned, actually.

“You have a question or comment?”

“Yeah, so this thing’s in London, right? You’re going to London?”

“I think that’s what I’ve said about a dozen times over the last hour in a shameless bid for self-promotion.”

“Right.” He sniggered, like he was suppressing giggles. “So that’ll make you”—more sniggering—“an American werewolf in–”

I cut him off. “I’m sorry, I seem to have lost that call. And I’d better not hear any Warren Zevon references either. Sheesh, people. Let’s break for station I.D.”

I had a feeling I was going to be hearing lots of cracks like that over the next few weeks. I didn’t need to start now.

From pg. 13 of Carrie Vaughn’s, Kitty Steals the Show. Buy it on Amazon!

Read Carrie Vaughn’s fun blog here on WordPress!

I’m sorry, I seem to have lost that call.

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