Molly Harper: How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf

How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper

Title: How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf
Author: Molly Harper
Genre: Paranormal Chick-Lit
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Pocket Books

Back Cover Copy:
Even in Grundy, Alaska, it’s unusual to find a naked guy with a bear trap clamped to his ankle on your porch. But when said guy turns into a wolf, recent southern transplant Mo Wenstein has no difficulty identifying the problem. Her surly neighbor Cooper Graham—who has been openly critical of Mo’s ability to adapt to life in Alaska—has trouble of his own. Werewolf trouble.

For Cooper, an Alpha in self-imposed exile from his dysfunctional pack, it’s love at first sniff when it comes to Mo. But Cooper has an even more pressing concern on his mind. Several people around Grundy have been the victims of wolf attacks, and since Cooper has no memory of what he gets up to while in werewolf form, he’s worried that he might be the violent canine in question.

If a wolf cries wolf, it makes sense to listen, yet Mo is convinced that Cooper is not the culprit. Except if he’s not responsible, then who is? And when a werewolf falls head over haunches in love with you, what are you supposed to do anyway? The rules of dating just got a whole lot more complicated. . .

My Thoughts:
How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf had me laughing so hard I got more than a few strange looks from my husband. Molly Harper really knows her way around a good punch line, and this book was a shining example. She also knows how to build an engaging story. From the first descriptions of Grundy, Alaska she pulled me into the world of the book. I wanted to hang out with Evie and belly up to the bar in the Glacier.

Mo is a strong, independent woman. She’s open-minded but not stupid and has no trouble standing up for herself. I enjoyed her joking and sparring with the various characters in Grundy. As for Cooper, what can I say? Sexy, tortured, secretive, protective. Did I mention sexy? Mo and Cooper have great chemistry too, and the sex scenes between the two of them are hot. Harper did a great job of integrating her wolf culture with Cooper-as-guy. She really developed a believable werewolf without his sexiness simply hinging on his looks. I really enjoyed Cooper’s personality. He’s a little on the possessive side (okay, that might be an understatement), but it didn’t bother me as it fits with his wolfiness.

The plot includes a mystery which Harper executes beautifully. I also really liked the development of the love story. The tension and the attraction between Cooper and Mo is palpable right away, and Mo’s confusion about Cooper builds steadily so that when we get that great payoff, it’s really great. There are a couple of times where I thought, “This is it! Now they’re going to get together!” but Harper is only teasing, tantalizing the reader for the yummy big event. There were quite a few twists that I didn’t expect, but they fit with the story and added a layer of depth that I really enjoyed.

While the resolution of the book doesn’t come easy to the characters, it felt a bit fast for me. That might be because I knew there was a second book in the series. Since I didn’t want to spoil this book, I didn’t even read the cover copy of book two, so I didn’t know it’s not about the same couple. I was expecting a build to an open ending that would lead to further relationship developments for Cooper and Mo, and I was really excited for that. So when their story was wrapped up, as wonderful as the ending was,  I was still a bit bummed. On the upside, I’m pretty psyched for book two. Maggie is kind of a mess, so she’s a perfect candidate for a messy romance. Thankfully, I won’t have to wait long. Book two, The Art of Seducing a Naked Werewolf, is out next month!

My Halloween Reading List

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I love the modern incarnation with kids in costumes, trick-or-treating and jack-o-lanterns, but I also love the history of the holiday, the idea of thinning of the veil between the world of the living and the dead, and the centuries-old honoring of the balance between death and life. Here are a few of my favorite Halloween-related books:

Title: The Halloween Tree
Author: Ray Bradbury
Genre: Paranormal, All Ages
Publisher: Knopf

This is my all-time favorite Halloween classic.  I re-read it almost every year.

From the jacket copy:

“join the sinister Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud as he takes eight trick-or-treaters on an unforgettable journey to find their missing friend, Pip.  Travel through space and time, from the tombs of ancient Egypt to the gargoyles of Notre Dame cathedral, all the way to the cemeteries of Mexico on El Dia de Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead!  Is Pip still alive?  And if so, can hid friends save him before it’s too late…”

Title: Bunnicula, A Rabbit Tale of Mystery
Author: Deborah and James Howe
Genre: Paranormal, Kids 8-12
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing

Bunnicula is the first in a series about a pet rabbit that is suspected of sucking the life out of vegetables. At least that’s what the series’ narrator, Harold the family dog, believes. Harold, the puppy Howie, and the smarter-than-dogs cat Chester, are completely convinced of Bunnicula’s vampiric ways, and have all kinds of adventures with the cute little veggie-sucking bunny. The illustrations by Alan Daniel are fantastic and really add to the feel of the book.

This series was a favorite of mine growing up, and isn’t any less fun now that I’m an adult. I especially love the notes from Howard’s editor, the relationship between Howard and Chester, and, of course, Bunnicula himself.

Title: The Mystery of Grace
Author: Charles De Lint
Genre: Fantasy, Adult
Publisher: Tor

This isn’t your stereotypical Halloween tale. Grace Quintero is a girl who died too soon. Now she’s stuck in between worlds, and she can pass back into the living world only one night a year – Halloween.

From the jacket copy:

“Grace works at Sanchez Motor Works, customizing hot rods. A few blocks around her small apartment building is all her world – from the grocery store where she buys beans, tamales, and cigarettes to the library, the little record shop, and the Solona Music Hall. Which is where she meets John Burns, two weeks too late.”

So those are my faves. What are you reading this Halloween?

Kiersten White: Paranormalcy

Title: Paranormalcy
Author: Kiersten White
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Publisher: Harper Teen

Evie is 16 and can identify paranormal beings on sight – she can see through their glamors to the creature underneath. She’s working for the IPCA, the International Paranormal Containment Agency, who found her as a child when she screamed at the sight of a vampire in a cemetery. They took her out of her foster home and brought her to live at the IPCA center, where she’s home-schooled when she’s not on assignment identifying and tagging vamps, weres, hags, and other supernaturals. Other than her ability to see through glamors, Evie’s just a normal human teenager. Wrong! As the story unfolds, Evie learns that she’s pretty far from normal, in more ways than one. She also learns what it means to be happy, and to be loved, in ways she never expected.

Evie is very much a 16-year-old girl. I love that in a book about what’s normal and not normal, Evie’s more of a normal teenager than a lot of the fully human teens in other YA paranormal novels. She likes to shop and watch television and has a crush on a famous actor. She wants to meet a cute boy who will like her back, and she wants to go to prom. She’s goofy and flirty and at times very insecure, and it makes her easily likeable. Lend is clearly paranormal from the first time we meet him, yet he’s also a very normal teenage boy. I found both characters refreshing in a genre that often expects teenagers to save the world. Now, that’s not to say that Lend and Evie don’t save the world. To find that out, you’ll have to read the book. :)

The story starts out on the more lighthearted side, and it’s told from Evie’s perspective so it’s a little fun and goofy, like she is. As the plot unfolds, the book takes a more serious turn but Evie’s voice is constant. I really enjoy White’s writing style, and I love that she keeps the fun in the story. I recommend this book to anyone who likes to have a little fun, whether young adult or young-at-heart. If you enjoy White’s writing as much as I do, you’ll be happy to know that Paranormalcy is the first book in a trilogy, with the second book, Supernaturally, coming out in Autumn 2011.

Rebecca Maizel: Infinite Days

Title: Infinite Days
Author: Rebecca Maizel
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Lenah Beaudonte is a 592 year old vampire whose greatest wish is to become human again. Rhode, her lover and maker, sacrifices himself to allow her to regain her humanity. Alone and in her 16-year-old body, Lenah begins to discover the human world again. At first she feels like an outsider, but then she meets Justin…

I love that Infinite Days offers a fresh take on vampires. It seems like most modern writers are romanticizing them as heroes, but Maizel shows them in a different light. Her vampires are inherently evil, and must overcome that evil to be capable of rational thought and compassionate action. Most of Maizel’s vampires aren’t capable of that, but a select few are, and those are the characters that make this story great. Lenah, the main character and narrator of the book, was one of the most evil, but a selfless act by her soul mate Rhode gave her a second chance at life. Rhode offered his life to make Lenah human again. As he tells her before he dies, it is the intention that matters.

I really liked meeting Lenah and watching her transformation in the book. The story is told with a number of flashback-style memories, so I got to know not just who she is in the present time of the book, but also who she was in the previous 592 years. The flashbacks did pull me out of the present-day story a little bit, but I really liked getting to know the person that Lenah is becoming before knowing too much about who she had been as a vampire. Maizel’s description of the way Lenah rediscovers her humanity is what made this book for me. She describes the things that Lenah sees and feels so vividly that I could really imagine what it would be like to have those experiences for the very first time, and it made me love the story and the character all the more.

Rhode is such a romantic character, and I found him absolutely fascinating. He was able to overcome his vampiric evil, and he loved Lenah so much that he was willing to die so that she could truly live. Lenah thinks about Rhode often, so he appears in quite a few flashbacks, and in many ways he’s the primary love interest in the book. From the sneak peak in the back of the book, it looks like we’ll be learning more about Rhode in the sequel, Stolen Nights, and I’m really looking forward to it.

There are humans in the story too, of course, though I didn’t find them nearly as fascinating as the vampires. Tony is the first human to talk to Lenah and they quickly become friends. He’s a character that’s easy to like. He’s quirky, artsy, and very down to earth, so I was drawn to him quickly, though it was clear from the beginning that he was the friend and not the love interest. Justin I adored, but I didn’t feel like his character was as consistent as Tony. He seems to vacillate between being immature and superficial in some scenes to being very mature in others, and there were times when I downright disliked him. He’s a teenage boy, through and through, and Maizel does a great job of capturing that.

Nothing about this story feels contrived, and each scene flows smoothly off the previous one, leading to the confrontation that is clearly coming from the beginning of the book. The ending is beautiful and wonderful, and left me wanting more. I’ve always felt that the best fantasy/sci-fi/paranormal is about, at its heart, what it means to be human. Infinite Days fits this perfectly.

Julie Kagawa: The Iron King

Title: The Iron King
Author: Julie Kagawa
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Even with all the great press this book got, I almost passed on it as I’m just not crazy about the fey. I’m really glad I didn’t, as this is one of my favorite books of the year so far.

The Iron King tells the story of Meghan Chase, an awkward and lonely teenager whose biggest hopes are that the cute boy at school will notice her and that her mom and step-dad won’t forget her 16th birthday. Little does she know that everything in her life is about to change. When her 4 year old brother is kidnapped, Meghan learns the truth – that her brother has been taken by fairies, her best friend is fey and her father is a fairy king. Meghan must face a heritage she never knew she had and travel into the perilous fairy realm if she ever hopes to see her brother again.

This is very much a true fairy story, with all the standard fairy fare, such as the Seelie and Unseelie courts, pixies (or, as in the book, piskies), and the entire fairy cast of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays, second only to Twelfth Night.) There are trolls and goblins and talking cats, and new fey for the internet age. I haven’t read a lot of fairy books, so I’m not sure how standard the summer and winter courts are, but I really enjoyed the descriptions of the contrasting fairy realms.

The beginning of the book felt a bit rocky, as it seemed odd to me that Meghan never saw anything strange even though her brother kept trying to show her the monsters he was seeing. Then her sight came right before she turned 16, and her brother was taken at the same time. The events felt a little rushed together. It also felt awkward that after so many years of keeping the fey world a secret from Meghan, Puck was willing to tell Meghan everything, just because she asked him a few questions. That said, I often find the beginning of books where the lead character does not know that supernatural beings exist feel a bit contrived. The beginning isn’t bad, per se, it just wasn’t as strong as I would have liked.

The fast pace continues into the fairy world, with Meghan having to learn quickly how to survive in a place where all the rules are different. Then the story slows, and there are a few sections in Part 1 and 2 of the book that meandered a bit. Meghan’s not really looking for Ethan and not learning much about the fey or herself. I found these sections frustrating and didn’t see how they added much to the tale. The main plot really picks up about 100 pages in, and from there it moves forward at a steady pace. While in the beginning I felt like the book wasn’t holding me, the last 180 pages wouldn’t let me go. I loved meeting the iron fey. Though the idea behind them isn’t new, I really enjoyed the way Kagawa handled it. I expected the book to become preachy, but it didn’t. Instead, the story built to a riveting climax and left me wanting more.

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