I wasn’t sure what to expect from HUNTER. On the surface it had all my happy buttons pushed – witches and magi...moreReview Courtesy All Things Urban Fantasy
I wasn’t sure what to expect from HUNTER. On the surface it had all my happy buttons pushed – witches and magic and romance. Seemed like a perfect match. And for the most part, it was. The story itself was pretty solid and I loved the way the world was set up with the different schools of witches.
I enjoyed the way the story melded two very different types of families – Tatyana’s and Dimitre’s large Russian family with Hunter’s coven family of witches. I think I laughed out loud when Dimitre tried to go all big brother when he finally entered the story and Tatyana went typical baby sister smackdown.
I think my favorite part of HUNTER was watching Tatyana come into her magic. Already a strong character, she stepped into that role with some believable skepticism but once she accepted what was, she truly started to shine within her new life. She even took to it better than her new family, and one of my favorite scenes was when they were tiptoeing around her, believing her to be traumatized and she calmly informed them that not only was she fine, but that they were all dead wrong about what happened.
The problems I had with HUNTER had little to do with the plot, though, and everything to do with the language. I don’t want to say it was overly purple prose, but there were a few times I wanted to go back in time and take the author’s thesaurus away. (Any time a lollipop is described as a “globular sweet” I tend to nope out.) And glorious as it no doubt is, I didn’t really need three pages to fully appreciate Hunter’s package.
It wasn’t just a lavender tint to the prose, though. In the very beginning, the language was so formal, I started to wonder if Hunter was actually hundreds of years old (instead of mid-thirties) because even though his spoken language was modern, the sections of exposition from his point of view were overly effusive. Hint: Not many modern men refer to their faces as “visages.” At times I wondered if HUNTER hadn’t started as a Victorian novel then switched to the present and someone forgot to go back and edit. Also, and this is purely a personal thing for me, but repeated 10+ page sex scenes of truly acrobatic, endurance-testing , multi- multi- orgasm sex tend to bore me, but since this is listed as erotica, I can’t say they weren’t expected.
I’m not sure if I’ll try another by this author, but with the strength of the story and truly likeability of the characters, I’ll consider it.(less)
I have come to treasure novellas that offer a glimpse of familiar characters between the books. I’m less excited when these glimpses give me a behind...moreI have come to treasure novellas that offer a glimpse of familiar characters between the books. I’m less excited when these glimpses give me a behind the scenes of secondary characters. The May/ December romance between Shannon and Jesse piqued my curiosity enough to be excited for FORBIDDEN FRUIT, and my excitement is not mislaid.
Mentioning the age difference between the hero and heroine in this book is important, because a reader’s feelings towards this dynamic will most likely make or break their enjoyment of the story. Anyone who picks up this book icked out about a 19 year-old woman dating a guy ten years her senior isn’t going to find anything to change their mind, not in this story anyway. Shannon is a hilarious narrator, and I enjoyed this peek through her eyes. She is struggling with blank spots in her memory, though, which makes it hard to sell her relationship with Jesse based on this novella alone. For those of us who know the backstory, however, FORBIDDEN FRUIT offers a tantalizing glimpse behind the scenes. While I didn’t enjoy reading Jesse’s issues all over again (as a “recycled” romantic interest he’s already had his share of the spot light), knowing that this time around promises a happily-ever-after made it worthwhile.
Shannon brings out a sexy side of Jesse that I’ve never seen before and getting a glimpse of their relationship dynamic was thoroughly entertaining. For those looking for a little taste of the Corine Solomon world to tide them over, FORBIDDEN FRUITis a delicious treat well worth a read.
As a prequel to the Coveted series, readers already know where Aggie ends up, but its the journey there in...moreReview Courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
As a prequel to the Coveted series, readers already know where Aggie ends up, but its the journey there in BITTER DISENCHANTMENT that really fleshes her out. Aggie is tough, independent and privilege being the daughter of the alpha wolf. What I like about this series is that it shows people with problems and disorders realistically and it shows that while they don’t overcome their problems they learn to manage them eventually. It was really interesting seeing the impetus for Aggie’s binge eating issues which relate to some serious childhood trauma.
One of the unique things about BITTER DISENCHANTMENT is that its not focused on the building of a romance or even a relationship but the slow breaking down of one. Most of the time I am rooting for a couple to get along and reconcile their differences which is why I almost felt sorry for Victor (Aggie’s husband) especially considering his lavish gifts and kindness during the start of their courtship.
Like any relationship doomed to fail however, the cracks start to show and boy do they show! After Victor reveals his true colors, BITTER DISENCHANTMENT became more than a story dealing with domestic abuse but an intense story about Aggie struggling to escape to be able to make her own decisions with her life. Aggie shows that she is most definitely not a woman who will tolerate being chained up and let her autonomy be taken away. I really enjoyed seeing her fight both in and out of the ring for her freedom especially after what she goes through with Victor and her father.
For a story about leaving a bad situation and relationship, BITTER DISENCHANTMENT is a wonderfully hopeful and satisfying prequel for the Coveted series. Now that Aggie’s past has been fleshed out I’m looking forward to more of her in COMPELLED coming out in 2014.
THE SHAMBLING GUIDE TO NEW YORK CITY has something for everybody, with brain eating action, mysterious con...moreReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
THE SHAMBLING GUIDE TO NEW YORK CITY has something for everybody, with brain eating action, mysterious constructs á la Frankenstein’s monster, and even a touch of very human romance. Some things didn’t exactly do it for me — zombies, for example, aren’t really up my alley — but overall, THE SHAMBLING GUIDE TO NEW YORK CITY is a lovely dive into Lafferty’s world of monsters, or as they call themselves, coterie.
Since I’ve been known to root for the underdog, non-supernatural heroines thrust into worlds filled with magic, vampires and other paranormal phenomena are right up my alley. Luckily, Zoe doesn’t disappoint. She has absolutely no idea what she’s getting into when she pushes Phillip, the head of the publishing company, for a job. She manages to acclimate to the world of the coterie just fine for the most part, aside from a few dead faints, vomiting spells, and trips to the bar. I liked Zoe because she was tenacious. Despite the fact that there was a lot going on outside (and inside) work, she still managed to create the outline for the guidebook, assign writers, and put it all together at the end. There are a bunch of other great characters too, including my favorite, Morgen the water sprite, who despite being a bit flighty and nosy, ends up being Zoe’s closest friend and a perfect guide for her (and the reader, by extension) to the coterie world.
There were a few things about THE SHAMBLING GUIDE TO NEW YORK CITY that were a tad annoying. One thing was the coincidences, for example, Zoe’s neighbor is of course a member of Public Works (the organization the polices the coterie), and naturally the one person she was trying to avoid by moving to New York City ends up there. Another was the guidebook excerpts in between each chapter. Normally I love this kind of thing, but in this case, I don’t think it worked. The excerpts didn’t really match what was going on in the chapter, and broke up the flow from one chapter to the next, especially near the end when I just wanted to get to the action! Luckily, those are minor issues, and not worth forgoing the entire book over.
As the book closes, Zoe mentions that Phillip is sending her to Boston to write a guidebook there, but it looks like the second book in The Shambling Guides series will be in a completely different area of the county, since it’s titled THE GHOST TRAIN TO NEW ORLEANS. It seems like the perfect place to continue the series, ripe with paranormal possibilities, and I can’t wait!
Sexual Content: Kissing, references to sex, scene in a bondage club(less)
Every once in awhile you come across a book that hits every sweet spot you have when it comes to fiction. T...moreREVIEW COURTESY OF ALL THINGS URBAN FANTASY
Every once in awhile you come across a book that hits every sweet spot you have when it comes to fiction. THE BLUE BLAZES by Chuck Wendig is such a book.
Seriously, folks, this book has everything I love. Mobsters! Monsters! Violence! Gratuitous swearing! In all honesty I’m certain that Wendig wrote this book especially for me. From page one to the very end I enjoyed every single word. Between THE BLUE BLAZES and TRICKSTER, 2013 is becoming an excellent year for gritty, awesome urban fantasy.
Oh, yeah, so what’s it about, you ask? The book centers (for the most part) on Mookie Pearl. Mookie works for the Organization. They’re ones that control the supply of the titular “Blue Blazes” – a drug that gives you increased strength, endurance and the ability to see the denizens of the Underworld.
In the first few chapters we find out that Mookie’s daughter Nora has also been getting involved in the criminal underworld and that the Boss of the Organization is dying of cancer. The Boss tasks Mookie with finding the mythical drug known as Death’s Head or The Purple. This one is believed to cure everything and quite possibly bring the dead back to life. This sets of a story that moves at break-neck speed as Mookie finds himself in the caverns and tunnels below New York as he searches for the Death’s Head. He’ll fight goblins, ghosts and a multitude of other creatures.
The world of THE BLUE BLAZES is fantastic – think Neil Gaiman’s NEVERWHERE written as a mob book – and as Wendig slowly reveals more and more of the demonic underbelly of New York you can’t help but go along for the ride. At turns creepy and horrifying (but always entertaining), THE BLUE BLAZES is a must-read. I’m kicking myself for not checking out Wendig’s work before now. Don’t make the same mistake I did.(less)
With its very original post-apocalyptic setting and a fascinating main character, I had hoped FIERY EDGE OF...moreReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
With its very original post-apocalyptic setting and a fascinating main character, I had hoped FIERY EDGE OF STEEL would be better than it turned out. Sadly, this second book in the Noon Onyx series fell flat with a very slow beginning and poor world building. FIERY EDGE OF STEEL was different from the first book, DARK LIGHT OF DAY, in a few ways, but what stuck out to me was that it didn’t take place at the university for most of the book which means we didn’t have as many characters like Ivy and Fitz (Noon’s university friends) to shake things up, and Noon and Ari’s relationship was frustratingly static.
Because Jill Archer has created a mythology so different from our own, it sometimes necessitates a bit of explanation to make things clear to the reader. Most of the time, this is accomplished by Noon explaining things in her inner monologue that she likely takes for granted, which ends up sounding weird- if this is some story that everybody knows from when they were a kid, why is she repeating it? It comes off as inauthentic and feels like mini info dumps every few pages. Noon in general started to get on my nerves a little, especially because she doesn’t seem to have any more control over her magic than when she started classes, so it feels like she isn’t changing. I would like to see her grow more than she has in that way. I’m hoping since she started to change her mindset regarding using her magic at the end of the book that we see more of that in the future.
Another issue FIERY EDGE OF STEEL suffers from is that it was incredibly slow going. The book is split up into two parts. The first part is dedicated to Noon and Ari’s trip to the far flung location where they are investigating a complaint against a demon. The second part is the actual investigation. Unfortunately, part two doesn’t start until around page 200, which means nearly two thirds of the book is telling about the trip there. There were times during part one where I was actually checking the clock to see how long I had been reading…and unfortunately, time seemed to slow down. Luckily, part two had a bit more action, but it felt a bit too little, too late. It also meant the ending felt rushed and squashed into the remaining section of the book.
While FIERY EDGE OF STEEL was disappointing, I’d be willing to give the Noon Onyx series another go. I do like the law school in a post apocalypse world setting, and as we learn more about the demons, I’m hoping it will be easier going. Plus, Noon is a very complicated and conflicted character, and I’m curious about her growth as she learns more and is put in more situations where she has to use her magic. Here’s hoping for a better third book!
One of the great things about THE HAVOC MACHINE is the fantastic introduction at the beginning to catch new...moreReview Courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
One of the great things about THE HAVOC MACHINE is the fantastic introduction at the beginning to catch new readers like me up on the previous events of the Clockwork Empire series. While the introduction was a wonderful summary its not necessary the enjoyment and understanding of THE HAVOC MACHINE plot which is a fun classic steampunk adventure story.
Aside from the thrilling adventure and neat steampunk contraptions there are also some interesting ideas on weighing the nature of clockworkers (super intelligent inventors created by the clockwork plague) and their automatons. Are the worthy of being equal to humans since they have their own ideas, free will, and ability to learn and grow? I enjoyed how these questions are molded around Thaddeus’ own tragic backstory with his family and his growing relationship with Sofiya and Nikolai.
Thaddeus, Sofiya, and Nikolai all work as a team really well and fill the voids in each other’s lives even though Thaddeus is reluctant to do so almost to his own detriment. Thaddeus is a fun character being part clockworker hunter and part sword swallower in a circus. His involvement with the circus plays a huge part in THE HAVOC MACHINE and the number of circus performances featured in this story were bizarre and awesome in a way only a steampunk story with a circus performer as the lead can be.
The various plot twists in THE HAVOC MACHINE were surprising and fun including the identity of the villain. The tone of the story is pretty dark and intense so it comes off as very jarring when the villain is a maniacal, cartoonish, mad scientist like character. While I thought the villain belonged in some other story, THE HAVOC MACHINE is a fun, dark, plot twisty steampunk story and wonderful end to The Clockwork Empire series.
As a member of the “now what do I do with this liberal arts major” generation, like Fortitude in GENERATION...moreReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
As a member of the “now what do I do with this liberal arts major” generation, like Fortitude in GENERATION V, I was curious how this sort of post-college existential crisis would play out in a book about vampires. Vampires are generally known as rather confident, sexy and definitely wealthy, and Fort was about as far from those qualities as one could be. He has a cheating girlfriend, a job in a grimy coffee shop, and about $7 to his name for 90% of the book. The result is a very relatable main character that gave me a reason to invest in GENERATION V.
Fort wasn’t the only thing keeping me reading GENERATION V, but he was a large part of it. I liked him as a character- he grew from a bit wimpy to a lot stronger, both in personality and physically. And while he had a bit of a tendency to let people take advantage of him, his singular focus in the book is saving somebody else. Most of the other characters were also well written and multi-faceted. For example, Fort’s mother Madeline seems like a conniving mastermind, but you also get the impression she really cares for Fort. That depth made her interesting and sympathetic (even though I wanted to hate her a little).
Other than Fort, Brennan’s vampires are callous and uncaring about human life. They creeped me out in that kind of psychopath serial killer way. On top of that, the vampire world building is different than any other vampires I’ve come across. For example, the vampires have to create hosts to bear children for them, and they aren’t immortal, they can die of old age. The unique mythology plus the inclusion of Fort’s kitsune bodyguard Suzume gave the book a different vibe than most urban fantasy I’ve read lately. It is easy to fall back on typical vampire traits and I felt Brennan’s new, creative take on vampires was a breath of fresh air. Creepy fresh air, but fresh nonetheless.
As the first book in the American Vampire series, GENERATION V offers a nice complete story line but leaves plenty of questions open for future books. A little of this is due to the fact that it sometimes tended to jump around a bit, but in the end, I’m left very curious where the series is going. After such a solid debut, I’m sure the second book, IRON NIGHT, will be every bit as enjoyable as the first.
DEAD MAN’S DEAL continues to expand the excellent dark and gritty world of The Asylum Tales series with ev...moreReview Courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
DEAD MAN’S DEAL continues to expand the excellent dark and gritty world of The Asylum Tales series with even more magic and mayhem. While there were moments that slogged due to necessary exposition the revelations about the world building and dangerous action kept me invested in the story.
In DEAD MAN’S DEAL more of Gage’s dark past as a student wizard in the Ivory Towers (which is basically Hogwarts) is revealed. His experiences are truly horrific and demonstrate just how horrible and sadistic wizards are in this world especially with how they treat their young students. Gage’s past which involves being taken from his family at a young age, being tortured, forced into hiding, and not allowed to use magic under pain of death would make many people turn into anti-social misanthropes. Gage is not one of those people. He’s a survivor in the truest sense and he works with what little magic he can use to help others. Gage is also one of the most loyal characters in urban fantasy and his loyalty to his friends and family is one of his most admirable traits.
Gage’s motley crew of friends grows bigger in DEAD MAN’S DEAL. We learn more about Gideon, the wizard assigned to Gage to ensure he doesn’t use magic as a sort of probation set on him. Their relationship in ANGEL’S INK was almost antagonistic and grew to a begrudging understanding. In DEAD MAN’S DEAL they undergoes a larger transformation towards friendship especially after some revelations about Gideon’s situation come to light. Gage’s relationship with his girlfriend, Trixie (an elf) continues to be a very sweet romance. They really fit well together and in DEAD MAN’S DEAL we are privy to not only some great banter but some steamy sex scenes in the tattoo parlor.
The Asylum Tales is a fun series with tons of quirky characters with fascinating backstories. For example, Trixie’s backstory involving a love triangle of sorts with the elven king and queen would be wonderful to see from her perspective. Aside from my yearning for some Trixie POVs, DEAD MAN’S DEAL pumps up the danger for Gage and his friends making way for what should be a really fun third book which currently has no release date.
Sexual Content: some mildly graphic sex scenes(less)
Less formula and more content than your average werewolf romance, TARNISHED is a brand of urban fantasy that I treasure. Though heavily steeped in cha...moreLess formula and more content than your average werewolf romance, TARNISHED is a brand of urban fantasy that I treasure. Though heavily steeped in character, the slow arc of action that Held weaves through this story and her series as a whole has a level of patience that is becoming rarer and rarer in the serialized genre. Patience to let injuries heal, patience to let obstacles stand, patience to let characters struggle without a magical panacea to sweep the slate clean every book.
Though the first portion of TARNISHED focuses on the politics that have brought Dare and Silver to the west coast, that is just a framework for the character growth that fuels the heart of this book. I was surprised by how much I grew to love Susan, the outsider, the new mother, the woman struggling to find her way as a human among Weres. This world’s mythology doesn’t offer the chance of a quick fix, a bite that would make Susan magically part of the pack, but Held is not afraid to tackle the larger questions of culture and acceptance head on. Weres are still alien, still governed by rules and expectations that seem brutal to humans, but they’re also fallible, capable of mistakes and change and understanding. To this author, the cultural laws of Weres are less an immutable plot device (“Oops, you did the thing, now you must *die*.”) and more a living society with expectations, hopes, and flaws.
As much as I started this series all about Silver, Held seduced me into falling in love with her whole world. The Werewolves of Held’s mythology are magical without being impervious, her lovers are devoted without any superhuman certainty, and the politics of the pack is physical without being all about dominance. With TARNISHED this series has ascended to a step above the already strong SILVER to achieve something altogether new. Intricate, interesting, and fundamentally human, TARNISHED is a book not to miss.