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Sandy M’s review of Still Life with Shape-Shifter (Shifting Circle, Book 2) by Sharon Shinn
Paranormal Romance published by Ace Books 6 Nov 12

I opened this book with a little hesitation. The first in the series, good as it may be, didn’t totally work for me. But that reading made me curious as to what is going on in this new Shifting Circle book. What a difference nearly a year makes. This story took me across the emotional spectrum, including tears, which I very rarely shed when I read.

I’m going to get my nitpick out of the way first. As in The Shape of Desire, we don’t get any point of view from any of the shifters. I’m quite curious as to why Ms. Shinn has chosen to write these books in this way. That was my issue with TSoD, as well as this book, but in this case it doesn’t bother me quite as much, all due to the little twists we get and the connection between characters that finally become clear. However, I still feel it would add to the story if we got into at least a one or two of the shifers’ heads.

We do, though, get two main points of view, one from Melanie, sister of a shifter, and one from Janet, who falls in love with another shape-shifter. Melanie’s half-sister, Anne, is a happy young woman who can control her shifting into a beautiful white husky. Melanie is in the same position as Maria from the previous book – her lies and cover-ups have dominated her life protecting Ann. She waits the usual two to three weeks for Ann’s return after traipsing all over creation in her dog shape. They have joyous reunions and then Ann’s need to shift takes her away from home and Melanie once again. Then their world is threatened when a man shows up on their doorstep, purporting to know about shape-shifters and wanting to write a story about the creatures.

Janet has decided to write down her interactions with Cooper, the shifter she took care of in wolf form when he was injured. She was fifteen then, and years later, she still takes care of the man she’s come to love over the years. Having a terrible family life back then, Janet had no qualms about being left behind when her parents move to California. She refused to leave Cooper, and they lived together in the woods so he has a place to run free as a wolf. Janet begins college, taking Cooper with her, and their life improves as the years go on. Wanting to help his wish of being more human than animal, Janet works on a “cure” while in school.

Melanie does her best to keep Ann’s secret, but the more time she spends with Brody, the more she discovers how trustworthy he truly is. I thoroughly enjoyed their relationship, Brody hanging in there despite Melanie’s best efforts to push him away. On one of her trips home, Ann tells Melanie she’s in love. With a shape-changer, a scraggly setter who is just as scraggly as a human, William. He’s a tad strange to Melanie’s way of thinking, but if he’s what Ann wants that’s fine with her. And this is our first connection to TSoD – William is Dante’s brother, and we discover Ann is the white dog who showed up at Maria’s door now and again. Ann is gone from home longer than before, now that she’s got William with her. It’s later that Melanie begins to worry about her sister. She’s lost weight, sleeps days at a time when home, but then she’s nearly like new after all that rest.

In Janet’s world, she never realized so many shape-shifters existed, and she’s talked into becoming a doctor of sorts for them. Cooper’s artistic gift is recognized and his work is featured at an exhibition, where a good majority of his work sells very quickly. It’s a good life for them and they’re both as happy as can be. But then one day Janet receives a call from Melanie, asking her to examine Ann. Unfortunately, there’s not good news. Ann’s shifting is taking a huge toll on her human body, and the best solution for her is to remain in her animal form for maximum life span, something she promises to do but just can’t follow through on. Janet has seen this and other anomalies in shifters over the years, including Cooper. As she nears the end of her experiments for his cure, her results are not quite what she expected.

The book is split between Melanie’s and Janet’s story, each having a few chapters when it changes points of view. I’m usually not a fan of this concept, but in this story it works very well. There’s a chronology that isn’t that apparent until about the last quarter of the book. It also works well with the three different relationships ongoing throughout. And it’s in that last quarter where you need that Kleenex box right next to you. Though Melanie had to give some tough love to Ann, she’s there for her sister when she needs her most. And Janet. My heavens, I didn’t see her solution coming at all. But I cried nearly as much for her and Cooper as I did for Melanie and Ann. However, I’m left with a few questions, and in checking the author’s web site, I have no idea if more books in this series are coming to hopefully answer those queries. I want to know about William. Where did he go? What did he do? I need something! And, again, Janet. That can’t be the end and we hear nothing more! How did the experiment work? What did she and Cooper do during all that time? For how long? Just so many things to know!

So here’s hoping there is at least one more book, maybe more, in the series. And maybe somewhere along the way I’ll get that shifter point of view from someone. Though now that I’m more intrigued than ever before, that may not matter all that much by the time I get my hands on the next one book.

SandyMGrade: A


Melanie Landon has spent most of her life concealing the fact that her younger sister, Ann, is a shape-shifter. So when reporter Brody Westerbrook shows up at her door armed with the truth and saying he wants to write a book about these magical creatures, she’s terrified. But soon Melanie has even more to worry about—Ann, who has been missing, returns with a shape-shifter boyfriend in tow. It’s also clear that Ann is very sick—and Melanie has no idea how to save her life.

Read an excerpt.

Other books in this series:

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