Tag Archives For: urban fantasy

23 Jun, 2017

InCryptid Series – Books 1 – 4

/ posted in: Reading InCryptid Series – Books 1 – 4 Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire
Published by DAW on March 6th 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Goodreads

Ghoulies. Ghosties. Long-legged beasties. Things that go bump in the night... The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity—and humanity from them. Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she'd rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and is spending a year in Manhattan while she pursues her career in professional ballroom dance. Sounds pretty simple, right? It would be, if it weren't for the talking mice, the telepathic mathematicians, the asbestos supermodels, and the trained monster-hunter sent by the Price family's old enemies, the Covenant of St. George. When a Price girl meets a Covenant boy, high stakes, high heels, and a lot of collateral damage are almost guaranteed. To complicate matters further, local cryptids are disappearing, strange lizard-men are appearing in the sewers, and someone's spreading rumors about a dragon sleeping underneath the city...


I’m loving this urban fantasy series!  The Price family fled to North America several generations ago after they broke away from the monster-hunting Covenant.  The Covenant thinks the family died out.  The Prices have worked hard to make it seem like they did.

Verity Price isn’t sure she wants to spend her life as a cryptozoologist.  She has trained to be a professional ballroom dancer.  Now she has one year in New York to try to make a living dancing as long as she uses her spare time to survey the local cryptid community.  But her side job is taking up more time than her dancing.

There is so much great world building here.  There are ultrareligious mice colonies that live with the Prices.  There are telepathic cuckoos that can make humans give them things and not notice they did it.  There are boogeymen who know all the secrets.  Dragon princesses live to make money and gorgons have a hard time keeping their snakes happy under their wigs.

Verity comes face to face with a Covenant member.  He was sent to see if New York needs to be purged of cryptids.  Verity isn’t going to let that happen to her friends.


InCryptid Series – Books 1 – 4 Midnight Blue-Light Special by Seanan McGuire
Series: InCryptid #2
Published by DAW on March 5th 2013
Pages: 338
Goodreads

Cryptid, noun:1. Any creature whose existence has been suggested but not proven scientifically. Term officially coined by cryptozoologist John E. Wall in 1983.2. That thing that's getting ready to eat your head.3. See also: "monster."
Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she'd rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and when her work with the cryptid community took her to Manhattan, she thought she would finally be free to pursue competition-level dance in earnest. It didn't quite work out that way...
But now, with the snake cult that was killing virgins all over Manhattan finally taken care of, Verity is ready to settle down for some serious ballroom dancing—until her on-again, off-again, semi-boyfriend Dominic De Luca, a member of the monster-hunting Covenant of St. George, informs her that the Covenant is on their way to assess the city's readiness for a cryptid purge. With everything and everyone she loves on the line, there's no way Verity can take that lying down.
Alliances will be tested, allies will be questioned, lives will be lost, and the talking mice in Verity's apartment will immortalize everything as holy writ--assuming there's anyone left standing when all is said and done.

This is book two with Verity. Now the Covenant is coming. Dominic has to decide where his loyalities lie and Verity has to decide if she can trust anything he is saying to her.
This book does a good job of picking up where the last one left off without feeling like a filler book that you see so often with second novels in a series.

 


InCryptid Series – Books 1 – 4 Half-Off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire
Published by DAW on March 4th 2014
Pages: 356
Goodreads

When Alex Price agreed to go to Ohio to oversee a basilisk breeding program and assist in the recovery of his psychic cousin, he didn't expect people to start dropping dead. But bodies are cropping up at the zoo where he works, and his girlfriend—Shelby Tanner, an Australian zoologist with a fondness for big cats—is starting to get suspicious.
Worse yet, the bodies have all been turned partially to stone...
The third book in the InCryptid series takes us to a new location and a new member of the family, as Alex tries to balance life, work, and the strong desire not to become a piece of garden statuary. Old friends and new are on the scene, and danger lurks around every corner.
Of course, so do the talking mice.

It can be a hard transition in a series to leave the previous main character behind and start with a new one. I’m always a little bit leery of these transitions but this was done well.
Alex is Verity’s older brother. He doesn’t work with large cryptids like she does. He works more with cryptid wildlife. He’s identifying ecological problems that are increasing the likelihood of someone realizing that there are feathered frogs in Ohio.
If that wasn’t enough, someone turned one of his assistants to stone and seems to targeting him.
I thought this book was really well done. I wasn’t crazy about the girlfriend. Her name was also Shelby Tanner. That seemed really familiar to me. Then I realized that I knew a person with dogs named Shelby and Tanner and then I couldn’t unsee that.

 


InCryptid Series – Books 1 – 4 Pocket Apocalypse by Seanan McGuire
Series: InCryptid #4
Published by DAW on March 3rd 2015
Pages: 352
Goodreads

Alexander Price has survived gorgons, basilisks, and his own family—no small feat, considering that his family includes two telepaths, a reanimated corpse, and a colony of talking, pantheistic mice. Still, he’s starting to feel like he’s got the hang of things…at least until his girlfriend, Shelby Tanner, shows up asking pointed questions about werewolves and the state of his passport. From there, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to Australia, a continent filled with new challenges, new dangers, and yes, rival cryptozoologists who don’t like their “visiting expert” very much.

This book moves the action to Australia. It is nice to see how the author imagines a different ecosystem and what cryptids evolved there.
There was a lot of “Daddy threatens the boyfriend for sleeping with the daughter” trope which I absolutely hate. The characters try to diffuse it but it doesn’t work. I could have done without all that.
I did miss the rest of the Price family in this one. Hopefully they come back in the next books.

 


A few complaints about the series:

  • The names of the books have absolutely nothing to do with the books.  You could call any one of them “Your Aunty Jane’s Peach Cobbler” and it would not change anything.  The word Ragnarok does not appear in Half-Off Ragnarok for example.  I don’t understand how they are named.
  • There are roughly a gazillion short stories in this universe.  I’m sticking with only reading the integers – books #1, #2, etc. – for now.

About Seanan McGuire

“Hi! I’m Seanan McGuire, author of the Toby Daye series (Rosemary and Rue, A Local Habitation, An Artificial Night, Late Eclipses), as well as a lot of other things. I’m also Mira Grant (www.miragrant.com), author of Feed and Deadline.

Born and raised in Northern California, I fear weather and am remarkably laid-back about rattlesnakes. I watch too many horror movies, read too many comic books, and share my house with two monsters in feline form, Lilly and Alice (Siamese and Maine Coon).”

  • from Goodreads

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Backlist Books
  • Books Set in North America
  • Books Set in the Rest of the World
12 Apr, 2017

Borderline

/ posted in: Reading Borderline Borderline by Mishell Baker
Series: The Arcadia Project #1
Published by Saga Press on March 1st 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
Setting: California

A year ago, Millie lost her legs and her filmmaking career in a failed suicide attempt. Just when she's sure the credits have rolled on her life story, she gets a second chance with the Arcadia Project: a secret organization that polices the traffic to and from a parallel reality filled with creatures straight out of myth and fairy tales.
For her first assignment, Millie is tasked with tracking down a missing movie star who also happens to be a nobleman of the Seelie Court. To find him, she'll have to smooth-talk Hollywood power players and uncover the surreal and sometimes terrifying truth behind the glamour of Tinseltown. But stronger forces than just her inner demons are sabotaging her progress, and if she fails to unravel the conspiracy behind the noble's disappearance, not only will she be out on the streets, but the shattering of a centuries-old peace could spark an all-out war between worlds.
No pressure.


Millie was a grad student in filmmaking at UCLA when a failed relationship led her to a suicide attempt.  She survived but lost her legs.  She has spent the last six months in an inpatient psychiatric facility learning to handle her borderline personality disorder.

“The symptoms of borderline personality disorder include: a recurring pattern of instability in relationships, efforts to avoid abandonment, identity disturbance, impulsivity, emotional instability, and chronic feelings of emptiness, among other symptoms.

The main feature of borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a pervasive pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image and emotions. People with borderline personality disorder are also usually very impulsive, oftentimes demonstrating self-injurious behaviors.”  – Steven Bressert Ph.D

 

That describes Millie.  She is working with a therapist but she doesn’t think that it is going well.  Then she is recruited for a job.

The Arcadia project manages human-fey interactions.  The branch in Los Angeles works with the fey in Hollywood.  The project is staffed by people who all have mental health issues.  During her probationary period she just needs to live in a group house and find one missing fey.  How hard can that be?


This is a fairly standard urban fantasy plot with a missing person that leads to a larger problem.  It is the characters in the Arcadia Project that make it stand out.  How many books have a disabled, mentally ill, bisexual main character who gets to be the hero?

Millie’s mental illness and her new life as a double amputee are huge factors in this book.  Her mobility challenges are taken into account whenever she needs to go out.  Even seemingly simple decisions like whether or not to take a shower have to be carefully considered.  If she gets her legs wet then she can’t use the prostheses for several hours.  If she needs to run she needs to get the hydraulics in her knee on the right setting and sometimes she messes that up.  Even small things like should she take her wheelchair up to her second floor room (no elevator) or leave it downstairs in the living room where it will be in everyone’s way are considered.  Trying to get to the house was hard by herself with a wheelchair, a cane, and all her bags.

Mental illness is a large part of this story.  Millie feels like she hasn’t made any progress in therapy.  Once she is out on her own though we see that she has learned how to help herself.  She uses several different techniques that she was taught to help her deal with rage and insecurity.  She isn’t perfect though.  She still lashes out at people.  She also clings to anyone who shows her kindness and feels incredibly insecure if she feels like they are pulling away.

Millie’s boss, Caryl, has been through extensive emotional trauma.  She is a wizard and she is coping by splitting her rational and emotional mind.  She keeps her emotional mind in an invisible dragon construct so she can be entirely rational while she is working.  This is working for her but Millie comes to see that it isn’t healthy in the long term.

The author has spoken about being mentally ill.  These are from her AMA on Reddit.

“I didn’t expect Borderline to get published. Honestly. It was the story I wrote because I needed to write a novel or I’d explode, and it was the only novel I could write at that point in my life. So I wrote it, and when it was finished I did what I did with the first four novels I’d written, and shopped it around. I was shocked when my first choice of agent offered to represent it. Slightly less shocked when he landed it with a big publisher (because that’s why he was my first choice agent). Extremely shocked when it got starred reviews, and the Nebula nomination just about broke my brain.

This is not false modesty. I actually spent a week in a psychiatric hospital for suicidal ideation in 2013, and a huge part of it was that I was 38 and had pretty much decided that I’d failed as a writer and was never going to make it, that I’d wasted my life. BORDERLINE was already out there. My agent was already reading it. That’s how little faith I had in it.”

“I was in a psych ward on October 1, 2013 because I thought my life was over.

I heard back from my agent with an offer of representation twenty-nine days later.

In a sense, the entire Arcadia Project series has become ABOUT this. About how we inevitably pick the stupidest, stupidest times to think our lives are “over.” What might we live on to do and accomplish if we give ourselves a second chance?”

 

I’ve already requested the sequel from the library.  I’m looking forward to seeing where this series goes.

About Mishell Baker

When Mishell isn’t convention-hopping or going on wild research adventures, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two changelings.  When her offspring are older, she will probably remember what her hobbies are.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Backlist Books
  • Books Set in North America
25 Jan, 2017

Battle Hill Bolero

/ posted in: Reading Battle Hill Bolero Battle Hill Bolero by Daniel José Older
Series: Bone Street Rumba #3
on January 3, 2017
Genres: Fantasy & Magic
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads
Setting: New York
Also in this series: Half-Resurrection Blues (Bone Street Rumba, #1), Midnight Taxi Tango (Bone Street Rumba, #2)

“Trouble is brewing between the Council of the Dead and the ghostly, half-dead, spiritual, and supernatural community they claim to represent. One too many shady deals have gone down in New York City’s streets, and those caught in the crossfire have had enough. It’s time for the Council to be brought down—this time for good. Carlos Delacruz is used to being caught in the middle of things: both as an inbetweener, trapped somewhere between life and death, and as a double agent for the Council. But as his friends begin preparing for an unnatural war against the ghouls in charge, he realizes that more is on the line than ever before—not only for the people he cares about, but for every single soul in Brooklyn, alive or otherwise…”


This is the third and final book in the Bone Street Rumba series.

It started with:

 

I love the world that Older created.  This is a diverse and exciting Brooklyn.  There are people of all different races and sexual orientations.  There are American Santeria priests working alongside Haitian doctors.  The women in these books are amazing.  They defy stereotypes and each is a distinct individual.

I’m not a person who tends to drool over book covers but seriously, look at this cover.  That is amazing. I want it on a T shirt.

Unfortunately, Older creates all these wonderful characters and then doesn’t seem to fully know what to do with them.  I’ve had this complaint about a lot of his books.  The plots are forgettable.  He writes a better sense of danger here than in Shadowshaper but it is still ultimately disappointing.  I would be interested to see if that is the case if this were read back to back instead of waiting months in between.

I think this might be a series that is best binge-read.  I found myself losing details of what happened before.  Minor characters that I barely remembered become important as the series progresses.  There is a list of characters in the front of the book but reminders of who they were weren’t worked into the story.  I prefer being reminded in the text instead of having to refer to a glossary of characters.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves Urban Fantasy and great characterizations.

About Daniel José Older

“Daniel José Older is the author of the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series from Penguin’s Roc Books and the Young Adult novel Shadowshaper (Scholastic’s Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015). Publishers Weekly hailed him as a “rising star of the genre” after the publication of his debut ghost noir collection, Salsa NocturnaHe co-edited the anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. His short stories and essays have appeared in the Guardian, NPR, Tor.comSalonBuzzFeed, Fireside Fiction, the New Haven Review, PANK, Apex and Strange Horizons and the anthologies Subversion and Mothership: Tales Of Afrofuturism And Beyond. Daniel’s band Ghost Star gigs around New York and he teaches workshops on storytelling from an anti-oppressive power analysis.” – from his website

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • LBGTQ authors/characters
  • POC authors
26 May, 2016

Midnight Taxi Tango

/ posted in: Reading Midnight Taxi Tango Midnight Taxi Tango (Bone Street Rumba, #2) by Daniel José Older
Series: Bone Street Rumba #2
on January 5th 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 319
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads
Set in New York three-half-stars
Also in this series: Half-Resurrection Blues (Bone Street Rumba, #1), Battle Hill Bolero

The streets of New York are hungry tonight... Carlos Delacruz straddles the line between the living and the not-so alive. As an agent for the Council of the Dead, he eliminates New York’s ghostlier problems. This time it’s a string of gruesome paranormal accidents in Brooklyn’s Von King Park that has already taken the lives of several locals—and is bound to take more.
The incidents in the park have put Kia on edge. When she first met Carlos, he was the weird guy who came to Baba Eddie's botánica, where she worked. But the closer they’ve gotten, the more she’s seeing the world from Carlos’s point of view. In fact, she’s starting to see ghosts. And the situation is far more sinister than that—because whatever is bringing out the dead, it’s only just getting started.


In Half-Resurrection Blues we met Carlos, a half-dead agent for the New York Council of the Dead.  He has no memory of the time before he was killed and sort of brought back to life.  He had a short fling with a woman he met who is like him and she left him when she found out that she was pregnant.  It is now several months later.

Kia is 16 and runs a Santeria shop after school.  When she was 7 she went with her beloved older cousin Gio to watch a house of a friend of his.  The friend said that there were strange men outside his house every night and Gio wanted to see what was going on.  That night the men, who appeared to be made out of bugs, attacked his friend Jeremy.  Gio disappeared a few months later.  Kia is still mourning him deeply.  When she is attacked by a ghost in a park, she gains the ability to see the dead and it unnerves her.  She also finds out that the bug men were real and that they are back.


Older writes great characters. In this book I particularly liked Reza.  She is a bodyguard for a prostitution ring.  She likes to dress in menswear and prides herself on being very dapper.  Four months ago her girlfriend went missing while on a job.  No trace of her has been found.  Now another woman from the company was abducted.  Reza and her boss decide to shut down the prostitution business and go after people that they decide are evil.  This brings them into contact with Carlos and Kia when their investigations overlap.

I liked this book in the series better than the first. I’m interested to see how this series develops.

#socksunday with Midnight Taxi Tango by Daniel Jose Older

A photo posted by @dvmheather on

three-half-stars

About Daniel José Older

“Daniel José Older is the author of the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series from Penguin’s Roc Books and the Young Adult novel Shadowshaper (Scholastic’s Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015). Publishers Weekly hailed him as a “rising star of the genre” after the publication of his debut ghost noir collection, Salsa NocturnaHe co-edited the anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. His short stories and essays have appeared in the Guardian, NPR, Tor.comSalonBuzzFeed, Fireside Fiction, the New Haven Review, PANK, Apex and Strange Horizons and the anthologies Subversion and Mothership: Tales Of Afrofuturism And Beyond. Daniel’s band Ghost Star gigs around New York and he teaches workshops on storytelling from an anti-oppressive power analysis.” – from his website

05 May, 2016

Half-Resurrection Blues

/ posted in: Reading Half-Resurrection Blues Half-Resurrection Blues (Bone Street Rumba, #1) by Daniel José Older
Series: Bone Street Rumba #1
on January 6th 2015
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 326
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads
Set in New York three-half-stars
Also in this series: Midnight Taxi Tango (Bone Street Rumba, #2), Battle Hill Bolero

“Because I’m an inbetweener—and the only one anyone knows of at that—the dead turn to me when something is askew between them and the living. Usually, it’s something mundane like a suicide gone wrong or someone revived that shouldn’ta been.”
Carlos Delacruz is one of the New York Council of the Dead’s most unusual agents—an inbetweener, partially resurrected from a death he barely recalls suffering, after a life that’s missing from his memory. He thinks he is one of a kind—until he encounters other entities walking the fine line between life and death.
One inbetweener is a sorcerer. He’s summoned a horde of implike ngks capable of eliminating spirits, and they’re spreading through the city like a plague. They’ve already taken out some of NYCOD’s finest, leaving Carlos desperate to stop their master before he opens up the entrada to the Underworld—which would destroy the balance between the living and the dead.
But in uncovering this man’s identity, Carlos confronts the truth of his own life—and death…


After reading Shadowshaper I was interested in reading more from Daniel José Older.  I liked the world building a lot more in this novel.

No one knows quite what Carlos is.  He has no memory of his life before the day he died.  He was picked up by some ghosts and taken to a safe house where he recovered.  He isn’t a ghost but can see and interact with them.  He was thought to be one of a kind until another person like him shows up and starts trying to harm some of the most powerful ghosts in New York.

I love the idea that there is a bureaucracy of the dead in New York.  Carlos works for the afterlife’s law enforcement.  His partners are actual ghosts and this leads to issues like never being able to hand anything directly to him in sight of the living because nothing upsets live people like seeing a coffee cup float through the air.

He also seeks help from a gay Santeria priest and the teenager that runs the priest’s store when he has spiritual and magical issues to resolve.  Add in a paramedic with interest in the occult and a Haitian trauma surgeon for physical help when needed and he is set.

My only quibble with this book is that the female characters aren’t written as strongly as the male ones.  I know that he gets better with this because I read later books first so that’s good, but in this one the love interest Sasha pretty much seems to exist only as an object of Carlos’ desire.  You don’t get a lot of insight into what she is thinking about the situation.  Even when an attempt is made to show her point of view, it is flat compared to the way he writes men.

This is a good start to a series.  I’m interested in seeing where he takes this.

three-half-stars

About Daniel José Older

“Daniel José Older is the author of the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series from Penguin’s Roc Books and the Young Adult novel Shadowshaper (Scholastic’s Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015). Publishers Weekly hailed him as a “rising star of the genre” after the publication of his debut ghost noir collection, Salsa NocturnaHe co-edited the anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. His short stories and essays have appeared in the Guardian, NPR, Tor.comSalonBuzzFeed, Fireside Fiction, the New Haven Review, PANK, Apex and Strange Horizons and the anthologies Subversion and Mothership: Tales Of Afrofuturism And Beyond. Daniel’s band Ghost Star gigs around New York and he teaches workshops on storytelling from an anti-oppressive power analysis.” – from his website

25 Nov, 2015

Working for Bigfoot by Jim Butcher

/ posted in: Reading Working for Bigfoot by Jim Butcher Working for Bigfoot by Jim Butcher
on June 30th 2015
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy
Pages: 136
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads
five-stars
Length: 3:47

Three novellas allow the reader to encounter Dresden at different points in his career as a wizard-for-hire.


It is no secret that I love the Dresden Files.  Harry Dresden is a wizard in Chicago.  In these three novellas we see how Harry met River Shoulders, a Forest Person who has a half human child that he wants Harry to watch over.

In the first story the child, Irwin, is an elementary school student being tormented for being big and gentle. Harry goes undercover as a janitor in the school to meet him and finds that his tormentors are also supernatural.

In the second story Irwin is in high school and has become ill. According to River Shoulders that should never happen. Harry goes to visit Irwin to see what has happened.

Irwin is in college in story three. He is having his first love affair but his girlfriend is not what she seems.

I love the whole fresh mythology of Big Foot that Butcher has built in these stories. It isn’t necessary to know the rest of the series to enjoy these stories. This could serve as a great intro to the character. As always, I recommend the audio version. James Marsters voices Harry perfectly.

five-stars
07 Sep, 2015

Clean Sweep

/ posted in: Reading Clean Sweep Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews
on December 2nd 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
Pages: 181
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads
three-half-stars

On the outside, Dina Demille is the epitome of normal. She runs a quaint Victorian Bed and Breakfast in a small Texas town, owns a Shih Tzu named Beast, and is a perfect neighbor, whose biggest problem should be what to serve her guests for breakfast. But Dina is...different: Her broom is a deadly weapon; her Inn is magic and thinks for itself. Meant to be a lodging for otherworldly visitors, the only permanent guest is a retired Galactic aristocrat who can’t leave the grounds because she’s responsible for the deaths of millions and someone might shoot her on sight. Under the circumstances, "normal" is a bit of a stretch for Dina.And now, something with wicked claws and deepwater teeth has begun to hunt at night...Feeling responsible for her neighbors, Dina decides to get involved. Before long, she has to juggle dealing with the annoyingly attractive, ex-military, new neighbor, Sean Evans—an alpha-strain werewolf—and the equally arresting cosmic vampire soldier, Arland, while trying to keep her inn and its guests safe. But the enemy she’s facing is unlike anything she’s ever encountered before. It’s smart, vicious, and lethal, and putting herself between this creature and her neighbors might just cost her everything.“


I like magical houses. I still really want a room with Mood Wallpaper like Sarah Addison imagined. I like Diana’s aunts’ house in Deborah Harkness’ books. It hides things until it feels you need them regardless of what you think. Howl’s Moving Castle is just awesome.

The Inn has magical extra rooms and it is able to hide bodies. It could come in handy. Dina is an Innkeeper. It is a family business. Her parents have disappeared though and their Inn closed when they left. Now Dina has taken over an abandoned Inn and is trying to rebuild it. She needs to gain star ratings to get more business. The only way to do that is to have satisfied customers and she can’t get customers without stars. Her only customer is a prisoner. That isn’t going to help.

The new idea in this book is that werewolves and vampires are both alien races. Inns are a sanctuary for all races but doesn’t mean that everyone who stays here is going to get along.

This is the first Ilona Andrews book I’ve finished. Yeah, I DNFed Kate Daniels when I got bored. There are a lot of loose ends in this story and I’d like to read more but it doesn’t look like a sequel is happening anytime soon. Supposedly the second book is being posted online but on the site it only goes to chapter 2 and that was posted over a year ago. Does anyone know any more about this?

three-half-stars

About Ilona Andrews

“Ilona Andrews is the pseudonym for a husband-and-wife writing team. Ilona is a native-born Russian and Gordon is a former communications sergeant in the U.S. Army. Contrary to popular belief, Gordon was never an intelligence officer with a license to kill, and Ilona was never the mysterious Russian spy who seduced him. They met in college, in English Composition 101, where Ilona got a better grade. (Gordon is still sore about that.)

Gordon and Ilona currently reside in Oregon with their two children, three dogs and a cat. They have co-authored two series, the bestselling urban fantasy of Kate Daniels and romantic urban fantasy of The Edge.” from Goodreads

09 Nov, 2014

Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs

/ posted in: Reading

Iron Kissed (Mercy Thompson, #3)Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Urban fantasy

Mercy Thompson is a mechanic in Washington. She is also a shapeshifter who was raised by werewolves. She bought her shop from her mentor Zee when the Fae were forced to come out to the public. Most of them now live on reservations. Humans think that this is keeping them under control. The Fae have other ideas.

There have been a series of murders on the reservation. Zee brings in Mercy in hopes that she will be able to smell someone who has been at all the crime scenes. When she pinpoints the common person, Zee and another Fae go to confront him. They find that someone else has already killed him and Zee is found in the house when the police arrive. He is arrested and the powers that be in the Fae world decide that he is a convenient scapegoat for the human police. They don’t want them digging any deeper into the worlds that the Fae have set up on the reservation.

Mercy doesn’t want to let Zee be set up. She decides to dig deeper into the murders which bring her in contact with a human anti-Fae group.

This is my favorite book in the series so far. In the first two there is a love triangle, which I am not a fan of. This is resolved in this book.

The ending is unexpected and actually made me a bit teary. I’m moving over to the Spoilers page to talk more about it.

07 Sep, 2014

Red Phoenix and Blue Dragon reviews

/ posted in: Reading

Red Phoenix (Dark Heavens, #2)Red Phoenix by Kylie Chan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Blue Dragon (Dark Heavens, #3)Blue Dragon by Kylie Chan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Urban fantasy

These are the second and third books of the Dark Heavens series that started with White Tiger.

The household of the god Xuan Wu know that he will only be able to continue holding human form for a bit longer. His goal is to have his child Simone able to defend herself before he has to leave to regenerate for several decades. The capture of a half Shen child would be quite a coup for an ambitious demon.

As the final battle gets closer, Xuan Wu’s fiance Emma and his bodyguard Leo prepare for life after his departure.

After I read White Tiger I wanted to see where the story would go so I picked up the next two. The weaknesses of the first story were amplified in these ones.

There wasn’t a lot of character development. I still can’t quite figure out why all these humans and magical creatures are so dedicated to keeping Simone safe. I mean, she seems nice enough but nothing special. There are other half Shen children in the battle to protect her so it can’t be just that she is half god. At the end of the third book you finally see her use some powers and it is pretty cool but it takes a long time to get there.

The series doesn’t really have a lot of closure. There are 5 more books that are considered two new series with the same characters.

05 Sep, 2014

White Tiger (Dark Heavens #1) by Kylie Chan

/ posted in: Reading

White Tiger (Dark Heavens, #1)White Tiger by Kylie Chan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Urban fantasy
Emma Donahoe is Australian and  has been working as an English teacher in Hong Kong for four years when she is hired to be a full time live in nanny for one of her students, Simone.  Simone’s father, Mr. Chen, is very wealthy and the household is mysterious.  Simone has a full time bodyguard and sometimes strange visitors, who Emma is forbidden to speak to, come to train in martial arts with Mr. Chen. 

Emma learns that she is working for Xuan Wu, one of the Four Winds of Taoist mythology.  He is staying in his human form, Mr. Chen, in order to protect his child but that decision is making him weak and vulnerable to attack. 

I first heard about these books on a list for #Diversiverse about Asian writers.  I started reading it a bit early and then at the end of the book looked at the author picture and realized that Kylie Chan is white.  Fail.  Luckily, my goal for Travel the World in Book Read-a-long was to read books set in areas that I hadn’t read before and I have never read anything set in Hong Kong.

I really liked this book.  I looked at the Goodreads reviews after I read it and was surprised by how many people vehemently hated this book.  I think the things that most of them hated though were the things that I liked.

This book is longer and more in depth than a lot of urban fantasy.  It is over 400 pages long.  Lots of reviews complained that it was slow. There is a lot of set up which I appreciated because I’m not up on my Taoist mythology.  There also isn’t any real insta-love here which I appreciated.

One plot point that bothered me was that they had been leaving hints that Mr. Chen was a god for Emma.  She had been studying up on Xuan Wu.  But then when they confirm it for her, she doesn’t believe them.  What?  She’d been halfway to the realization all by herself.  Once given proof she goes backwards in her belief?

I did also have a complaint about the characterization of women.  This surprised me because it is a female author.  Emma is a strong woman. Once she accepts that she is living in a magical family, she adapts and starts to participate.  When things go bad and she doesn’t run away screaming, the men are amazed and often call her “cold-blooded.”  (That isn’t entirely an insult because Xuan Wu is a turtle.)  Apparently all the other human women they know are gibbering wrecks when they see supernatural stuff or blood.  Even a former human wife of Mr. Chen’s supposedly couldn’t bear to look at him when he was in any aspect of his god forms.  His housekeeper hides whenever the god stuff gets to much.  I don’t like the whole “women are weak and scare easily” idea.

I’ve already started book two, Red Phoenix.

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22 Aug, 2014

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

/ posted in: Reading

Moon Called (Mercy Thompson, #1)Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Urban Fantasy

Mercy Thompson is a mechanic in eastern Washington. She is also a shapeshifter who bought her garage from a gremlin, is fixing a vehicle for a vampire instead of paying protection money, and lives next door to the Alpha of the local werewolf pack. When a young unknown werewolf shows up at her garage asking for work, she gives him a job. She doesn’t realize that he has escaped from a group who is making werewolves in order to test new drugs on them. Why would someone need to make drugs targeted for werewolves and why are they following her new employee to Washington?

I’ve seen these books around on a lot of blogs and realized that they were probably something that I would like but for some reason never got around to picking them up. I found myself in front of a shelf of these books at the library so figured out where to start and dove in.

I liked the rules that this author set up for the world. Some of the more harmless, cuddly Fae are known to humans. Humans have tried to confine the Fae to reservations but don’t realize that there are many more creatures that they don’t know about. Werewolves are sort of an open secret and on the verge of being outed completely. Witches and vampires exist in secret. Mercy is a rarity because most of the Native American shapeshifters were killed by vampires when the vampires moved to America in an attempt to take over territory.

Mercy was raised by a powerful werewolf pack after her human mother found that her baby could change into a coyote. She is very knowledgeable about werewolves but isn’t subject to their rules. That’s a good thing because werewolves are not into powerful or independent women.

One character was a vegetarian veterinarian who decided to become a werewolf after he was diagnosed with a terminal illness. He didn’t like it. Good to know. I’ll keep that advice in mind in case anyone ever wants to turn me into a werewolf.

I think this is a good opening for a series and am looking forward to reading the rest.

22 Jul, 2014

Enchanted, Inc Series Books 2 and 3

/ posted in: Reading

Once Upon Stilettos (Enchanted, Inc., #2)Once Upon Stilettos by Shanna Swendson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Urban fantasy chick-lit? I guess that’s the best description.

In the first book of the series Katie Chandler found out that she is a magical immune. That means that she sees through magical spells. That’s a rare ability and makes her valuable to her magical employers. She is able to verify that no one is magically cheating during business deals.

Now in the second book of the series Katie’s parents are coming to visit from Texas. It turns out that her mother is also immune and is seeing all the weird things that Katie sees in New York like fairies and live garden gnomes. She has to hide the truth about magic from her too-perceptive mother. Just as this visit is coming to a close Katie starts to realize that her mother is seeing things that Katie doesn’t. Katie is losing her immunity which may mean losing her job.

This is where this book almost lost me. She doesn’t tell anyone about it even though she has previously been on the receiving end of some foul-play by competitors of her company. This is a plot device that makes me crazy. I hate the whole “I have a problem that I should take to a person who could help me clear it up but I will keep it to myself until it causes ten times more problems than it needs to” trope. Luckily this doesn’t last long and she does the smart thing and fesses up and it all gets fixed.

I forgive this book because I liked the ending. It mixed things up a bit for the next books in the series. I like to see series developing their characters instead of keeping them in the same static emotional state for a long time.

Damsel Under Stress (Enchanted, Inc., #3)Damsel Under Stress by Shanna Swendson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Katie has a long history of dating disasters but now she is dating a man that she likes.  So why does her fairy godmother decide to show up now?

It doesn’t help that her fairy godmother is incompetent either.  No matter how many times Katie tells her that she is fine by herself she manufactures disasters for Katie’s Prince Charming to rescue her from.  How are they supposed to get to know each other when every date is an emergency situation?

This series is a cute, quick, light read.  I’m looking forward to reading the rest.

27 Jun, 2014

Skin Game by Jim Butcher

/ posted in: Reading

Skin Game (The Dresden Files, #15)Skin Game by Jim Butcher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Urban fantasy, audio

Wizard Harry Dresden has been in some rough spots in his life.  The roughest was an attempt to save his daughter from death where he was critically injured.  In order to be magically healed in time to save her, he accepted a job with the Queen of the Winter Fae, Mab.  Now he is her reluctant knight.  Reluctant because Mab is pretty evil and Harry does want to think of himself that way.  He’s worried that working for her may turn him whether he likes it or not.

Now Mab wants him to work with a group of very evil people headed by Nicodemus Archleone, one of Harry’s most despised people.  They are going to break into a vault belonging to Hades.  If that wasn’t suicidal enough, Mab wants Harry to double cross Nicodemus as soon at a particular point in the heist and Harry is sure that Nicodemus is planning to kill  him as soon as possible too. 

What I love about this series is the character development.  No one in these books is in the same place that they were when the series started.  Bad decisions are made and then there are consequences.  No one gets a magical “Get out of jail free” card so the character can slip back into the role that they filled previously.

If you are a fan of urban fantasy at all, you need to read these books.  There are 15 now but don’t let that stop you.  I didn’t start until around book 10 or so and I was immediately hooked. I read them all in a few months.   Start at the beginning.  Let yourself fall in love with these characters to the point that they are totally real to you.  I’ve had to walk away from reading a few times because I knew if they killed the character that was in peril in the scene I was reading that I would totally lose it.

I listen to these on audio now both to extend the enjoyment and because they are narrated by James Marsters.  He’s amazing.  There is a large cast in this world and all of the voices are believable and appropriate for the character.  The pacing is good and the essential smartassedness of the books comes through.  My only caveat is that I wish I had a paper copy of these because there are some passages that I’d like to go back and reread after I knew the ending.  That’s not so easy with 15 hours of audio.

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