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I love to explore genre fiction, and while I usually go for books with a romantic thread running through it, I just love great character and world building. And since I can hardly stand to let go of my favorite characters, I like series.

Nightshifted - Cassie Alexander (Dual review originally posted at Book Lovers Inc:)Our Thoughts:Alisha: First reaction to this book? Enthusiasm. I was so excited (and still am) that a publisher out there took a chance on a theme like this one. The fact that the protagonist is a nurse in the paranormal wing of a county hospital was a breath of fresh air.Stella: I have to say that as soon as I read the blurb (ok, being completely honest here: after I read the blurb once I was already in cover love with Nightshifted’s stunning cover) what immediately piqued my interest was that 1) the heroine was a nurse (come on, usual UF heroines are all badass action figures, a nurse heroine seemed such an ordinary person I felt the reader could relate too), and 2) that it had a hospital for paranormal creatures! How fun does that sound?Alisha: Yes! Even though this is very much an urban fantasy, the protagonist Edie felt real, as did her life. Weird, I know, given she worked in the paranormal wing of a hospital, but she had very relatable, understandable problems. A drug-addicted brother; pride in her (very noble) work; bouts of loneliness. I admit that it took me some time to feel a connection her at first, but I eventually did because of her keen observations and undeniable ability (which go back to those glimpses of the medical profession). I liked her moments of realism, of frankness. I liked her vulnerability, as well as her unapologetic attitude when it came to letting loose and having fun. ^_^Stella: Yes, Edie was a really human heroine in the sense of the word that she didn’t have superhuman strength/powers and had the thoughts and reactions of how a normal person would react when faced with such events. As Alisha mentions it was also unusual to see a heroine so unapologetic about her personal life/sex life.Alisha: Neither of us are in the medical profession. For my part, I found that Nightshifted tempered the “med speak” to the point where it was ever-present but not overwhelming. I didn’t understand many of the references and concepts being used, but didn’t feel I needed to understand them completely to get the gist of any given medical situation.Stella: I completely agree; before starting the novel I had seen some people mention that they felt lost with the nonstop medical jargon, but in my opinion Nightshifted had just the right amount to make the heroine a credible health care professional and provide the details going hand-in-hand with a hospital setting. I didn’t find them numbing, just adding that bit of professionalism and nuance to the character.Alisha: In a way, I felt like I was getting some small glimpses into the medical profession. There were various descriptions and humorous asides that made it clear that the author has genuine expertise in this profession, not just a passing familiarity born of good research. It’s hard to fake those more human touches, too (like nurses’ general disdain for doctors. lol) Here’s a memorable line:I’d only been able to watch [House, M.D.] until I’d started nursing school and actually hung around a hospital. After that, the idea of a doctor doing lab draws and hanging IV bags was preposterous. They didn’t even know how the pumps worked.Or:I’d never known a doctor-nurse relationship to survive–unless one of them was a shrink, or a dentist.Stella: Oh I loved that quote! :-DAlisha: I’m not sure how to quite convey my thoughts on the plot progression, the part of this book that was a mixed bag for me. I felt it came in fits and starts, shaped to be somewhat episodic in nature but wanting for a tighter thread of cohesion. To me, the first third of the book was hard to pin down, showing a few hints of an overall plotline before diverting into seemingly random occurrences. At times I felt like I was missing some crucial bits of information; other times, I was just left with lingering curiosity about minor elements (Why was Edie protected from a certain danger, but not a colleague? Why the CD player?).Stella: I agree Alisha, I also found the story to progress quite slowly until the first half or so. Sure the story didn’t transport me in a whirlwind but I was so immersed in the med terms and trying to catalog away all the characters and events, not knowing which would be important for later, that I didn’t lose interest or my footing due to the slow pace.Alisha: Yeah, even I’ll admit that I never lost interest in the book. As random as certain events felt, and as much the book’s event were always fresh, not like any other stories’ plotlines.In terms of character building overall, though, I couldn’t quite nail down any of the characters by book’s end. Because of that, I’m afraid I had a somewhat difficult time really connecting with many of the characters. That’s not to say I outright disliked them, though. But were they supposed to be sympathetic? Or was there a intentional vagueness to everyone’s motivations and actions? I dunno.Stella: *nods* Nightshifted was a book which completely threw me off character-wise. I usually know which characters to root for but here the love interest I was swooning about turned out to be not quite the hero with whom the heroine found those romantic tingles. And some of the secondary characters just frustrated me too much (sorry but after seeing how much Edie’s OLDER brother used her and took advantage of her I just wanted to slap him and really force him to realize what a jerk he behaves like! aaggh). Actually my favourite secondary character was Ti, a zombie! Until now I was quite the anti-zombi-st, but the way Cassie Alexander created him not only was he an interesting character, but the most warmhearted, generous and considerate one. I found it quite interesting (and shocking) that one of the characters who displayed the most of feeling and emotion was a rotting zombie!Alisha: Ha! Awesome. I’m sooo excited about the fact that this book has a zombie in the mix, especially as a “regular person.” Vampires and weres are fine and dandy in UF, but it’s nice to shake things up a bit! ^_^Stella: Oh yes, and I also loved the little dogs ;-) (those who have read the novel will know whom I’m talking about *wink*)Alisha: Ya know, two books came to mind as I was reading and mentally processing Nightshifted. One was Diana Rowland’s Mark of the Demon, and the other was Ilona Andrews’ Magic Bites. Rowland’s book initially came to mind because of the deeply authentic quality of the protagonist’s role in her profession. I loved it then, and I loved that here in Nightshifted. I was reminded of Magic Bites because of the rich yet very confusing worldbuilding, plotting, and character development. ^_^ But the parallel is in the fact that Magic Bites was not at all a bad book; it was just dense and somewhat tentative in finding its perfect tone and structure. By book two, things had hit their stride and the series just flew. I got that feeling here.Stella: I haven’t read the first one, but agree that maybe all the world-building info dump á la Magic Bites will settle by Book 2, and since many details that were alluded to or mentioned were never explained (what and how did Grandfather do what he did? what happens with shapeshifters, and zombies, and the Shadows?), so a lot of the rules were still left a mystery, I hope Cassie Alexander will get to them in Book #2 because I would like to understand the rules of this universe.Alisha: The ending of this book while I won’t go into particulars, really threw me. The narrative, the tone, the visuals, the resolution of the main plot dilemma… I couldn’t get a firm grasp on what was going on, and at times it felt like a slightly different book than what preceded it. But even as mystifying as it was, it was still satisfying and introduced a couple of new, intriguing threads.Stella: Yes, Alisha I agree, somehow the ending was so completely different from the whole story: both in pace and in action. But we can’t say it wasn’t an epic fight scene and showdown :-D But yep, most of the mysteries we were wondering about were never answered by the end.My main disappointment about Nightshifted was that though the cover is really stunning it threw me off and made me expect something quite different from the story. Based on the cover I was looking forward to some dragon action (in my opinion there just aren’t enough dragon stories) but sadly the dragon featured on the cover only had one teeny tiny scene in the book :-( *sad panda face* And based on the cover and the blurb I was also expecting a light and funny urban fantasy, but Nightshifted was rather the gritty and darker kind. Which is not a bad mix, but I was led to expect something else. Nightshifted was a vampire novel, as with the mystery being about them, vampires being the most represented paranormal creatures in the character count, and I wasn’t too fond of that. I was hoping we would get some more interesting paranormal creatures (dragons *hint* *hint*), hopefully in Book #2. :-)Alisha’s Verdict:This book definitely felt like a first book in a series. It took some time for me to really follow the plot, and I couldn’t get a good hold on the characters; they felt like slippery newts with their changing attitudes and actions. At times, I almost wished there were a prequel of some sort that could help ground me a bit. That said, the premise was absolutely fresh, and the protagonist felt authentic and believable. I found this to be an overall satisfying series opener, and I think that its followup installment will hit the ground running to great success. I’d recommend this to the patient urban fantasy reader–fans of things like the Kate Daniels or Dresden Files series, in which the originality and allure of the main characters and their respective worlds was undeniable but took some time to really shine. I give Nightshifted 3 stars!Stella’s Verdict: Nightshifted started with a unique and exciting premise (as well as a fantastic cover ;-) ) and while the story wasn’t light, I enjoyed getting to know the characters and universe Cassie Alexander has created. Edie was a credible and unusual heroine, whom I liked all the more for being such an ordinary and relatable person. Be warned that most of the little mysteries and plot lines won’t be wrapped up by the end, so take that into account if you are planning on reading Nightshifted as a standalone. With a universe richly populated with vampires, zombies, shifters, weres and dragons I’m sure Cassie Alexander has much more thrilling adventures planned for the Edie Spence series, and I’m looking forward to them!I give Nightshifted 3.5 stars!