Last week, as most of us already know, author Jennifer Rardin passed away. The book community of authors and readers were immediately swept away in dismay, sorrow and regret that this wonderful person was with us no more. Several of us bloggers decided that we wanted to give away a few of her books in tribute, not only to support her books, but to support Rardin’s family and friends in this very hard time. I was just a few chapters away from finishing Jaz Parks book 2 when I heard the news, so it was really a strange kind of time for me. As I had already planned to give away a Rardin book in honor of the series being so incredibly awesome, this felt like the natural thing to do, as a tribute to her work. So indulge me while I review book 2 below, and at the end there will be a giveaway for two copies of any Jaz Parks book, one to U.S. only, one to International only. There is also a list of other bloggers participating, and you’re welcome to enter their contests as well. I hope this series will continue to gain the readership it deserves.
Another One Bites the Dust (Jaz Parks #2)
December 12, 2007
Blurb via Goodreads:
Jaz Parks has enough trouble in her personal life. What she doesn’t need is more trouble with her vampire boss and another mission. This time she has to retrieve a vital piece of biotechnology by killing the maniac who stole it: an ancient Chinese vamp. Their cover in this mission: professional entertainers at the Corpus Christi’s Winter Festival. The crew’s all here: a psychic, a techno-wizard, a singing vampire, a juggling PI, and Jaz. Holy crap in a bottomless well, Jaz is going to bellydance. It’s definitely, probably, quite possibly going to be the end of the world as we know it.
*Slight spoilers for previous book…
The Jaz Parks series is pretty unique in urban fantasy today. I mean, yes, the heroine, Jasmine, is actually similar in that she can kick butt, has some supernatural abilities, and she’s packed extra hard with that trademark sarcastic staple wit most UF heroines have. But the style Rardin writes in, and how she chose to empower the heroine instead of tearing her down to prove a point is, to me, so very refreshing. In fact, it pretty much renews my faith that all UF does not have to be of the uber angst-ridden, wallowing in the pit of despair type read. Not that angst and despair and all that dark stuff can’t be fun and emotionally worth the ride, but sometimes a UF fan just needs a break.
It’s been a long, long and even longer time since I read the first book in this series, Once Bitten, Twice Shy. I remember immediately loving Jaz. I honestly do not know why I waited so long to pick up book two, because I actually bought the thing while reading book one, knowing this was a series I’d be continuing with. So a little over a week ago, I decided I needed a TBR shelf read and shuffled through them again and again. But when I saw this one’s spine, I just knew. No hesitating. So I yanked it off the shelf and I could still kick myself for not reading it till now.
Even though there is a plot arc that carries over from book one, Jaz felt very different to me in this book. In book one, we learn that Jaz is still very much dealing with a secret ops mission that went terribly wrong. Involved in it was her beloved Matt, and Jaz is still reeling from day to day because he’s no longer with her. That he, in essence, chose not to be with her any more, but move on to the afterlife. Jaz’s frustrations and sorrow are manifesting themselves in dangerous ways, in these kind of super dangerous sleep walking episodes where she wakes up gravely injured or almost so. Her episodes are becoming so extreme and frequent, even her vampire boss, Vayle, is becoming worried for her. Jaz is usually the unshakable one of their small Scooby-do-esque band of secret agents, the one who nothing gets to. But even Jaz has to admit, eventually, that her problems with Matt, far from over, just might get her killed.
This is the reason, I suppose, that Jaz felt different. It’s as if she’s operating on auto pilot. The more things bother her about Matt, the more she seems to just try to pull it together. And because the rest of the team depends on her to pretty much kn ow what to do any time of the day and whenever the shit is hitting the fan, it’s no wonder Jaz’s issues reach a boiling point. At times I admired Jaz for even being able to lift her gun, which she calls Grief (I have a lot of fun imaging it looks like Hellboy’s gun, Big Baby), at the times when she feels the most vulnerable, always staying just strong enough to get the job done, I also wished the others would lay the heck off her and shoulder a little more of the responsibilities. Of course, the team is still pretty new, and Jasmine is the kind of kick-ass heroine who feels she needs to protect everyone. Fortunately, she’s capable of doing so. It’s just that, even as she’s just gone through another of her bouts of dangerous sleep walking, the others are looking to her to do something. Again. I felt they took her for granted a lot of the time.
I spoke up in my review of book one about Vayle being a very interesting, yet somewhat underdeveloped character. Even though we got to learn some interesting things about him and his history in book one, Jaz’s first person voice wasn’t necessarily the best at getting Vayl’s personality onto the page. But there were times in this book that I all-out loved him. I think it’s still more so because I love Jaz so much, and Vayl is obviously besotted with her. He’s also totally confident in her kick-ass abilities and he doesn’t get in her way, try to save her when she doesn’t need it, and yet he is there for her if she does need help. I can’t say that I saw his own personality shining through any stronger at this point in the series. Still, at the same time, I realize I love this vampire character (one of the only male vamps I can truly admit this about) for one of the very reasons I usally dislike some romantic characters: at this point in the series, he sometimes only feels there to serve as that potential love interest for Jaz. Yes, Vayl longs to find the reincarnated souls of his boys. This is what seem to drive hi, But where he’s strongest is when he and Jaz are exchanging heated moments, whether it’s a glance or something more. It’s as if Vayl only exists at this point to be that love interest. Yet I love him anyway. I’m hoping that, with several books more in the series, that his voice will pull through stronger in the long run and allow him to have a place outside of the shadow
Romance aside, Vayle is definitely a….cool character. Yeah, that’s a pun and you’ll see why. It’s not as if he doesn’t lend anything to the story. Jaz doesn’t completely outshine him, but the series does seem to be one that’s all about her. Have you ever noticed that? First person novels where the heroine or hero is the most well-developed, the other characters not nearly as much? And then there are first person novels where the first person narrator does just as good a job drawing up the personalities of the other characters too. Jaz is pretty firmly, so far, in that first camp. While usually I would mind a first persona narrator doing this, Jaz, fortunately, is hella damn funny. She’s never boring. Her problems, such as those with Matt, are heartfelt and emotionally engaging. But then, I already divulged my predisposition to enjoy those smart-mouthed heroines in UF. Jaz’s wit makes up for, for me, quite a lot of the issues I normally would consider shortcomings.
The Scooby gang assembled in book one are all along for the mission again. Cassandra and Bergman have the most noticable relationship going on in the background. Cassandra is an ancient seer/prophet type who comes from a magical background, whereas Bergman is firmly rooted in science and thinks nothing of verbally lashing at Cassandra. As is pointed out often enough, this makes Bergman seem like a huge asshole. And he is one to Cassandra and at any notion whatsoever of magic being real and a solution to their never ending dilemmas. I found this to be more than a little disingenuous of Bergman considering that this is the kind of urban fantasy world where everyone knows magic exists and that “others” (what vampires, etc. are referred to in a group mentality) are a fact of life. Too, Bergman creates something that becomes extremely vital to the story and this so-called scientific wonder itself could actually figure into the realm of fantasy. Yet he clings so hard to science, as if it will save him from something. Meanwhile, Cassandra just tries to weather Bergman’s hypocrisy while also trying to ward off a horrible vision involving herself.
Cole is what is known as a Sensitive, which Jasmine is as well. He and Jaz met in the middle of the last book’s investigation, and he’s been brought on board with the team in an official capacity. But because he’s so new, he doesn’t really ge tto do much and he’s itching to do more. He adds some amusement to Jaz and Vayl’s relationship because Cole had his own personal interest in Jaz. I felt like Cole’s interst had shifted to become a way to solely prick Vayl as much as possible. The two do not like one another, and I got the impression that Cole liked to irritate the vampire more than anything, as opposed to actually being interested in Jaz. Of all the characters, Cole felt like the least developed this time, with some odd changes occurring him only int he last couple of chapters after he has a chance to get involved in the climactic Good vs. Evil end of the book. I’m really not sure at all what he’ll be like on book three.
The plot was interesting. I can’t say it outshone these characters (it did kind of drag when it all started climbing towards the climax). Maybe it didn’t need to, but I can still say with all confidence that I still enjoyed the plot, that of potential war with China due to some radicals Jaz and the team go under cover to suppress. It all takes place at a kind of “others” carnival, where a Chinese vampire named Lung is in charge of a band of Chinese acrobats there to perform. Lung is a crazed maniac who feels that he can transcend his vampire form into something far more symbolic to the people of China, raising him to a god-like status. This is the villain Jaz and Co. are there to stop, yet they encounter many twists along the way, realizing later on that the entire situation is bigger than they’d thought. Along the way they also have to deal with reavers, nasty denizens of Hell that are almost impossible to kill, and they take up residence inside human beings. What I like most about the plots so far in this series is there seems to be one that is unique to each book. So even though some things carry over to the next book, the reader is at least still left with a sense of closure on some issues as well.
And the best is always saved for last – this book was damn funny. Yes, it is due mostly to Jaz’s sarcastic sense of humor, which Cole and some of the others seem pretty good at picking up on and running with. And I loved it. Because while there’s plenty of the bigger kinds of issues at play here, there are plenty of chances to laugh and relax with the gang, too. This camaraderie they share with one another really seemed to cement them as a group that cares about one another, and not merely as coworkers. A lot of the time, the main character in urban fantasy seems so alone, amplifying the angst and emotional upheavals they experience into a much more polarizing experience for the heroine/hero and making them appear even more isolated. Jaz, even though she has to go through some seriously draining things, never felt like she was alone. Yes, she gets worn out and tired, but she’s always with people who care about her.
I’ve already ordered the next two books in the series and can’t wait to read them. This is the kind of series that caters to everything I love about urban fantasy: the women can be strong yet not incapable of mistakes; there’s time for a laugh or two, and the action is cool and full of win, and there’s even a romance brewing in the wings. I love Jaz Parks, and I wouldn’t have this series any other way.
Rating: Four and a Half Scoops
- Once Bitten, Twice Shy
- Another One Bites the Dust
- Biting the Bullet
- Bitten to Death
- One More Bite
- Bite Marks
- Bitten in Two (November 8, 2010)
- Final book, June 2011
Giveaway Time! Now Closed, Winners Announced Soon
Open to U.S. and International (International entrants, please make sure you’re country is on the list of those that Book Depository will ship to! Your country must be on this list in order for you to enter.)
In honor of the wonderful author who’s voice will be missed very much, Lurv’s giving away:
*two copies of any Jaz Parks book.
*one copy goes to a U.S. winner
*one copy goes to an International winner.
*Please specify in your comment if you’re U.S. or International!
And that’s it! The contest is open from now until Monday, October 4, 2010 at noon, eastern U.S. time.
Other blogs participating in this joint effort contest – please feel free to enter theirs as well (if the link doesn’t take you directly to their posts, rest assured I will update them as soon as possible; some giveaways might be going up a little later.):