I liked BITTERSWEET BLOOD way more than I was anticipating. It featured a sexy vampire and a woman with a s...moreReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
I liked BITTERSWEET BLOOD way more than I was anticipating. It featured a sexy vampire and a woman with a secret so hidden even she doesn’t know it, with enough action and mystery to keep me hooked the entire time. There were so many things to like- strong leads, great sexual tension, and even laugh out loud funny parts amongst it all.
BITTERSWEET BLOOD takes place in a London where all kinds of supernatural creatures, including vampires, werewolves, demons and fae exist. Croft does some good world building, going into enough detail for the story to make sense, but not overwhelming the reader with excessive details. There were some aspects that weren’t fully explained, but I hope they will be touched on in future books, like magic users and types of demons.
While the world building was good, the characters were great. At the beginning of the book, when Tara meets Christian, I got a bit of a “my what big teeth you have” vibe and I was concerned she was going to be a wimpy protagonist. Luckily, she proved me wrong. It is reasonable for her to be a bit skittish to start, since she was raised cut off from any human contact except her aunt, and throughout the book, she manages to grow up quite a bit. One thing I like was as she learned more about herself and the danger she was in, she was appropriately scared, but at the same time, she didn’t bury her head in the sand. She even asked to be taught how to shoot a gun!
On the male side of the equation, we have Christian. The vampires in this book were definitely portrayed as sexy, but they weren’t nice by any stretch of the imagination. Christian is a signature alpha hero, easily taking charge, but at the same time, I didn’t see him as overbearing. Piers, the head of The Order (the supernatural organization the series is named after) is the ultimate bad boy. And when the two of them got together, they had no problem calmly discussing taking something or somebody down if they needed to.
One thing this book had going for it was that it was familiar without being cliche. I’m pretty sure at least some of the conflict could have been resolved by some good old conversation between Tara and Christian, but point me in the direction of a romance novel that doesn’t have some form of miscommunication. At the same time, sometimes when I was absolutely certain of an outcome, it went in the opposite direction!
This book was a wonderful surprise. There was a lot of fun, a lot of action, and some unexpected twists that kept me on the edge of my seat. It will be interesting to see where Croft takes us next in this world, because I can see so many possibilities. My only complaint is that I have to wait for the next book!
Sexual Content: Sensuality, graphic sex scenes, references to rape (less)
With the haunting, opium dream of THE DROWNING GIRL fresh in my mind, I was very curious to see how Caitlin Kiernan’s intricate, puzzle box storytelli...moreWith the haunting, opium dream of THE DROWNING GIRL fresh in my mind, I was very curious to see how Caitlin Kiernan’s intricate, puzzle box storytelling would translate to urban fantasy. Though writing under a fresh nom de plume, Tierney brings that characteristic darkness; writing a charismatic, unreliable heroine, as defined by her addictions as by her supernatural nature. It’s not just Quinn that is broken and flawed, but her complicated world of betrayal, lies, and every-man-for-himself politics.
Perhaps most impressive out of this narrative is the fact that while I doubted Quinn’s narrative at times, I never lost interest in her. A liar, a junkie, two different kinds of monster… and yet worryingly fragile as well. Quinn has no special insight to protect her from trusting the wrong person, and while the action in BLOOD ORANGES moves quickly and clearly, it’s by no means easy to decide where the line between “good guy” and “bad guy” lies. The ambiguity of Quinn’s world made this story all the more gritty and realistic. Though dark, the supernatural violence of Quinn’s life is almost overshadowed by the grim realities of her human past. And I never felt like the abuse and neglect and prostitution in Quinn’s narrative was simply for shock value, or that it benumbed me to the present tense story.
Tierney has written a heroine that I never stopped caring for. Sometimes I doubted her, most of the time I worried about her, but I never felt disconnected or lost hope. Not your typical urban fantasy, BLOOD ORANGES is a mesmerizing exploration of magic without certainty, the day to day details about surviving as a vampire or werewolf. And Quinn herself is as transparent and unknowable as any real person, I was mesmerized by the process of decoding what she says and what she means and what she herself doesn't even realize. A must read for anyone drawn to the darker edges of urban fantasy, this book is a book I can’t stop thinking about.
Sexual Content: References to sex, abuse, and prostitution.(less)
I have a confession to make – I’m not usually a big fan of anthologies. I’m not sure if it’s because I get...moreReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
I have a confession to make – I’m not usually a big fan of anthologies. I’m not sure if it’s because I get annoyed that there’s not more to the story or what, but short stories and I have never gotten along. So of course I went with an anthology for my first review here at All Things Urban Fantasy. Oops. Or at least oops is what I was thinking when I first sat down to start the book. Then I started reading and that oops quickly changed in to a grin as I dived in to story after story.
This topic is absolutely perfect for the short story format. I may not want to read an entire book from the evil genius’ point of view, but reading a couple dozen pages from said point of view was certainly fun. Way more fun than I was certainly expecting.
From the delightful opening “apology” letter written by Austin Grossman to the closing story by Ben Winters there wasn’t a bad story in the bunch. Which is saying something as there were a few authors included who I normally have no taste for.
If you’re like me and you normally avoid short story collections like the plague then you need to do yourself a favor and give this one a try. This is especially true if – like me – you find yourself rooting for the bad guy in books and movies more often than not. If nothing else these stories make for a delightful tonic if you’ve temporarily had your fill of good guys doing good guy things with their good guy pals.
Now if you’ll excuse me I need to get back to my lab…
• “Professor Incognito Apologizes: an Itemized List” by Austin Grossman
• “Father of the Groom” by Harry Turtledove
• “Laughter at the Academy” by Seanan McGuire
• “Letter to the Editor” by David D. Levine
• “Instead of a Loving Heart” by Jeremiah Tolbert
• “The Executor” by Daniel H. Wilson
• “The Angel of Death Has a Business Plan” by Heather Lindsley
• “Homo Perfectus” by David Farland
• “Ancient Equations” by L. A. Banks
• “Rural Singularity” by Alan Dean Foster
• “Captain Justice Saves the Day” by Genevieve Valentine
• “The Mad Scientist’s Daughter” by Theodora Goss
• “The Space Between” by Diana Gabaldon
• “Harry and Marlowe Meet the Founder of the Aetherian Revolution” by Carrie Vaughn
• “Blood and Stardust” by Laird Barron
• “A More Perfect Union” by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
• “Rocks Fall” by Naomi Novik
• “We Interrupt This Broadcast” by Mary Robinette Kowal
Just as steampunk rewrites familiar history with technological advancements, A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS takes an oh so familiar historical period an...moreJust as steampunk rewrites familiar history with technological advancements, A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS takes an oh so familiar historical period and adds a drop of the draconic. Though the place names are different, the flavor of Victorian England and Scotland is strong enough to make this story feel real.
And it was that familiarity that really hooked me. Brennan swirls a touch of fantasy into her world, like rich cream in coffee, but I marveled most at the ways Isabella overcomes the mundane obstacles in her path. Our heroine has no special powers, just a passion for biology. With this inner fire, she navigates the marriage mart and societal pressures, all the while hiding her intelligence and interests under the Clark Kent-guise of silence and small talk. The dragons were a tasty accent to the story, both for their beautiful illustrations and unknown properties. By giving Isabella passion for dragons, rather than elephants or bees or something familiar, Brennan allowed me to discover this species alongside her heroine. The tantalizing hints regarding dragon biology and behavior gave me a window into Isabella’s world, those details inspire echoes of Isabella’s passion and curiosity in myself.
A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS reminded me more of other beloved historical novels, either with a touch of fantasy or without. Isabella is capable and indomitable, yet human, testing her mettle against a world closed tight against her ambitions. Forget genre, this book is a testament to character, to the strength of an outsider defying society’s expectations.
V IS FOR VAMPWOMAN by Kerrelyn Sparks (Love at Stake, #13.5)
This was a fun addition to Spark’s Love at Stake series and, like the full length novels, there is no need for prior knowledge of this world and its characters. I really enjoyed Pam and her machinations to help out the guys as the not-so-mysterious VampWoman in her black spandex. The clever humor and unique worldbuilding that is the calling card of this series is ever present in this novella. I would have liked Mikhail and Pam’s relationship to have been more fleshed out, but their quick romance made for a nice satisfying story.
Sexual Content: graphic sex scenes Rating: 4/5
A FOREVER LOVE by Pamela Palmer
A FOREVER LOVE was sort of a sweet love story where human Elizabeth reunites with her vampire ex and discovers a whole fascinating new world. I liked the concept of Vamp City as a magical mirrored version of our world where vampires are trapped. But the romance fell to close to the line of date rape for me with Lukas using mind wiping to feed on Elizabeth. It’s hard to root for a romance when the hero is using mind control on the heroine. Granted it would have been one thing if he were the villain but since this was the hero, it was problematic for me.
Sexual Content: sex scenes, sensuality Rating: 3.5/5
FIRST DATES ARE HELL by Amanda Arista (Diaries of an Urban Panther, #3.5)
Take some life altering discoveries, a surprise vampire attack, kidnapping and you have the recipe for what should be a horrible first date. Instead, I loved Vailance and his sweet attempt at asking out Esme, a shopgirl he only met once. Esme impressed me with her ability to adapt so quickly to the concept of vampires, weres, and fairies all while adjusting to the discovery of her own heritage. Some of the terms and titles of characters were a bit unfamiliar to me, but that and only made me more curious about the broader world in Arista’s Urban Panther series. This series is getting added to my ever expanding TBR pile.
Sexual Content: N/A Rating: 4/5
BLOOD AND WATER by Kim Falconer
At first I didn’t understand what was happening in BLOOD AND WATER especially after the previous three stories were about pretty similar vampires and vampire lore. My confusion ended when I finally figured out that this was about creatures known as Mar, or merpeople who are essentially ‘water vampires’ in this story. The mixing of the mermaid myths with vampire lore was pretty ingenious and unique. The conflict was was resolved a little too quickly, but I enjoyed the twist on supernatural lore as well as Stellan and Angelina’s growing affection enough that the shortness of this story didn’t really bother me.
NOTES FROM A GHOST TOWN by Kate Ellison is the second book I’ve reviewed this year about a girl who was hau...moreReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
NOTES FROM A GHOST TOWN by Kate Ellison is the second book I’ve reviewed this year about a girl who was haunted by the ghost of her best friend and urged to solve a murder. Both took place in a sweltering hot small town, had a precocious little sister, a well meaning step parent, and a disreputable bad boy who may or may not be redeemable. But those similarities aren’t the most striking ones. What’s shocking to me is that I’m giving both books a 5/5 rating.
The other book I was talking about is PAPER VALENTINE by Brenna Yovanoff, one of my favorite YA books written by one of my favorite authors today. After reading NOTES FROM A GHOST TOWN, I’m going to have to add Kate Ellison to that very short list. Her writing is atmospheric, moody, and completely seductive. Of the two, this is the darker story. Olivia is a desperately broken character. She’s made a lot of damaging choices for a girl so young. Her mother’s schizophrenia has slowly chipped away at all the happiness in her life leaving it totally devoid of color–literally.
There is a real beauty the the language in NOTES FROM A GHOST TOWN. Olivia’s emotions are so vivid and raw and expressed so completely that, as a reader, I slipped completely into her skin and story. And it is a sad story, bereft of all but the briefest glimpses of levity. Even Olivia’s humorous sarcasm hides pain. In a lot of ways, she reminded me of a much darker Veronica Mars. Heavy though it was, I could not put this book down. Full of such lovely despair and tinged with the slightest bit of hope. This is a must read.
Sexual Content: Kissing. Sensuality. References to sex. Extremely vague references to sexual misconduct(less)