~by Lori Handeland
Any Given Doomsday was offered by St. Martin's Press as part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program. An unprecedented number of books, one thousand copies to be exact, were sent out to the Reviewers chosen by the Almighty Algorithm. The book is the first in a new series by the established author Lori Handeland called "The Phoenix Chronicles." (I'll admit, the series name is one of the main things that caught my attention. That and the model on the cover is cute.) I figured that I had a pretty good chance, and I haven't received an Early Reviewers book for quite some time, so requested a copy. This makes my fifth book through the program.
Touted as urban fantasy, Any Given Doomsday is really much more accurately described as paranormal romance. (Sort of. Perhaps paranormal lust, or paranormal sex would be even closer as there was hardly any actual "romance.") St. Martin's also made "In the Beginning" available online, a short story that precedes the series. It really would have worked much better as a prologue to Any Given Doomsday than as a stand-alone story, and would have given the book a little more oomph in the process.
Elizabeth Phoenix is an ex-cop and a psychic. She left the Milwaukee police force after the death of her partner, for which she blames herself. Her world is turned upside down when her foster mother is brutally murdered and Elizabeth herself is found unconscious at the scene. Jimmy, a former lover (and foster brother), has recently sauntered into town and is now under investigation for the killing. More or less convinced of his innocence, they leave Milwaukee together and drive to New Mexico to find her mentor, Sawyer--the one man she hates more and want to see even less than Jimmy. Because she has discovered not only that she is much more powerful than she knew, but that she is a pivotal player in the struggle between supernatural good and evil. Armageddon is swiftly coming, and Elizabeth must learn to accept and control the gifts she never wanted to have in the first place.
What I liked best about this book was the wide variety of paranormal creatures, half-breeds, and others that make their appearances--whether nasty, benevolent, or ambiguous. The character of Sawyer was the one who intrigued me and captured my imagination the most. His role as the "whore of the federation" and its implications fascinated me. I appreciated the power that was given to sex, but unfortunately the last half of the book seemed to devolve into an excuse for scenes rather than having any real substance.
Overall, Any Given Doomsday came across as very generic and cliched. It uses trope after trope, convention after convention, stereotype after stereotype, and doesn't do much (if anything) new with them. The explicit sex, which actually does have something to do with the plot, didn't bother me so much as bore me with its repetitiveness. (Admittedly, the context and circumstances of the first scene were rather dubious.) Despite this, Handeland manages to move the plot along a a good pace, making the book a very quick, and at times even fun, read.
Unfortunately, the plot itself suffers from inconsistencies, especially in the details, as well as from the fact that simple, understandable solutions were often ignored for more convoluted and unconvincing ones. While not terrible, there are quite a few paranormal romances that I would recommend over Any Given Doomsday (and I haven't even read that many). Definitely not the greatest book, but it was a decent enough distraction, though I can hardly take it seriously.