By the purest definition of the rating, THE DROWNING GIRL is indisputably 5bats. A few chapters in, I was already reading passages aloud to friends. IBy the purest definition of the rating, THE DROWNING GIRL is indisputably 5bats. A few chapters in, I was already reading passages aloud to friends. I already knew who would be receiving my own copy, budgeting for who I could send others. This had less to do with any enjoyment of the book than a sense of haunting that perfectly mirrors the main character’s own experiences. Does anyone else see what I see? Am I crazy, am I alone?
THE DROWNING GIRL introduces concepts and stories and images that are impossible to shake, and the thought of being able to discuss them with others is comforting. Even more so, the line between fantasy and reality is blurred more in this book than any other I’ve read. Which of the “facts” relayed by Imp are from our world, which from hers? While the fantasy elements of this story are arguably the product of Imp’s illness, the way she expresses her story is so beautifully crafted as to make me doubt even that. This charismatic but unreliable narrator, like any true artist, is able to convey the feeling of her own insanity without ever giving me the sense that I had unraveled it's mystery. As I read, trying to match dates and references to reality, I realized I was falling into Imp's own habits, desperately trying to impose order on fragmented and flawed mind. Like Russian dolls, stories and paintings and quotes nest themselves into the narrative in a way that is as enthralling as it is inscrutable.
Kiernan creates a new definition for “haunting”, while at the same time infecting me with the same. With so much discussion of different types of art (short stories, paintings, sculpture, content...), THE DROWNING GIRL delivers it’s own message with a slight of the hand that is devastating. What part of this book implanted this haunted feeling? What page, what paragraph, has left me so shaken? Equal parts INFINITE JEST and ghost story, though THE DROWNING GIRL was not a restful read, nor the type of entertainment I normally look for in fantasy, it is most certainly unforgettable.
Sexual Content: References to sex, descriptions of oral sex and sex toys....more
I’ve run out of awesome things to say about the Kate Daniels series, but fortunately Ilona Andrews hasn’t rReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
I’ve run out of awesome things to say about the Kate Daniels series, but fortunately Ilona Andrews hasn’t run out of writing books that make me want to say them. MAGIC RISES is the latest and one of the greatest books featuring the deadly smart and brilliantly lethal Kate Daniels who this time leaves her magically mucked up Atlanta, braves a monster invested ocean, for a castle full of homicidal shapeshifters on an island in the Black Sea.
Yep, MAGIC RISES is the first book to leave Atlanta behind, but fortunately, nearly all of the characters we love make the perilous trip with Kate, although sadly, not everyone returns. As expected, Kate and Curran encounter new mythological creatures and half the fun involves figuring out who/how/what they are. Meanwhile Kate and Curran face the biggest obstacle to their relationship thus far in the series and it’s not just a plot device to add intrigue (although it adds heaps of that). Kate is always so strong and confident that it was crushing to see her wounded on such an emotional level. But this is Kate Daniels we’re talking about. She’s not the girl who slinks off to drown her sorrows with chocolate, she’d rather draw blood instead and she may have set a new record in MAGIC RISES.
It’s tense, riveting, and shocking on the emotional front, and the action is nonstop. Expect several big game changing revelations and more than one character who you will never be able to look at the same way again (both good and bad). And this isn’t a series to be intimidated by even if you are brand new to it. The Kate Daniels series may be the most accessibly urban fantasy series for new readers who want to jump in mid series (or for fans like me who read 100+ books between installments and need little reminders here and there). I never feel lost or confused reading this series despite the robust world and various mythologies because Ilona Andrews adds tiny, quick intros when characters first appear and brief references when a past event in mentioned. I didn’t realize how much I appreciated that until reading MAGIC RISES.
So basically, Kate (and Curran) is awesome, the series is awesome, and the most awesome thing of all is that there will be at least four more books in the Kate Daniels series to enjoy.
With any great series, it's hard for each news book to stand up to high expectations. Add to that a first book that has joined the ranks of my "re-reaWith any great series, it's hard for each news book to stand up to high expectations. Add to that a first book that has joined the ranks of my "re-read favorites", and I was paralyzed with anticipation (and anxiety) when I picked up ORACLE'S MOON. No one is more excited than I to find that no only did ORACLE'S MOON stand up to how much I enjoyed SERPENT'S KISS, it has joined DRAGON BOUND as a favorite that I know I'll be enjoying again.
Grace and Khalil's relationship, as well as the sub-plot of Khalil's acclimation to a human family, are both charming and unique variations of the rescue-the-single-mom-and-her-moppets romance trope. Even better, Harrison explores the relationship between an immortal, infinitely powerful non-human and a young human woman in ways that were nuanced and thoughtful (while still standing up as a completely enjoyable romance). Khalil may actually give Dragos a run for the money as my favorite Elder Races hero. Not as alpha as that sexy dragon, Khalil shares a similar deadpan humor. Whether he's negotiating with a four year old or drunken college boys, he always had me cracking up. Couple that with being a one-man orgy (in one of the best written magical sex scenes I've ever read), or the description of him experiencing human flesh for the first time ever, and there was plenty of chemistry to balance the emotional richness of the story. Harrison blends romance with a robust mythology that few, if any, paranormal romance series can match, and this book is another incredible example of that skill.
As much as I love this series, I have a hard time judging how well ORACLE'S MOON would work as a stand alone. The relationship between Grace and Khalil is completely accessible, however the back-story of how they met (and the context of Dragos, Rune, and Carling) may be difficult to pick up without at least reading SERPENT'S KISS. It’s no hardship to start at the beginning, however (and based on re-readability, if I could back in time and change my ratings DRAGON BOUND would get a clear 5 bats as well). Whether you start at the beginning or just pick up ORACLE’S MOON, either way I bet you’ll hoping for more.
I’ve read quite a lot of popular, YA fantasy over the years. Anything my younger sister likes, I pick up and read along. Some of these collaborationsI’ve read quite a lot of popular, YA fantasy over the years. Anything my younger sister likes, I pick up and read along. Some of these collaborations have been great (she gets credit for Harry Potter, to be sure). Some have been disappointments… either too juvenile or too derivative to hold my attention. I approached LOKI’S WOLVES holding my breath, hoping not to find a Norse Percy Jackson, and within one chapter, all my fears were allayed.
Wonderfully written, this book has a whole host of great characters sharing the spot light. It’s rare for me not to have a favorite (ok, ok, and I do kind of love Laurie a little bit extra), but Matt and Fen totally won me over as well. LOKI’S WOLVES is that rare book that was interesting as an adult while remaining completely appropriate for kids. Outside the villains and some bad parenting (though at least Armstrong and Marr didn’t kill off all the moms, Disney style), LOKI’S WOLVES is filled with relatable, admirable characters. In keeping with a younger audience, LOKI’S WOLVES focuses on friendships, not romance. It talks about insecurities and longing, disappointments and finding a place where you belong.
The morals of this book are a little heavy handed and repetitions, but I liked these characters so much I tended to cheer their growth towards security and teamwork rather than get tired of it. LOKI’S WOLVES is bit younger than my usual urban fantasy fare, but I’ll definitely be back for book two. In the meantime, the review copy of LOKI’S WOLVES I received had tantalizing blanks where full page artwork will be inserted, which means I can’t wait to order my own copy to enjoy the full effect. And you can bet that I’ll be passing it on to my little sister to read along.
ICONS pulled me in nearly immediately, with the fascinating premise of a futuristic world in which humanitReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
ICONS pulled me in nearly immediately, with the fascinating premise of a futuristic world in which humanity is ruled by a group of aliens with technology that can make hearts stop. There is so much to love about the book: the vivid characters, the enticing mystery, the excellent pacing and even the small details, all well done and enjoyable to read. Full of action, tension, humor and the occasional romantic moment, ICONS has something for everybody.
Some of the better moments in ICONS were due to the great, well developed characters. Our four protagonists, Dol, Ro, Tima and Lucas all have specific abilities that stem from certain emotions, and those emotions play out in their personalities. Ro’s full name, for example, is Furo, and his abilities come from anger. He, therefore, tends to be a bit jumpy and quickly riled. Amongst the others we have Lucas, who is a bit of a goody two-shoes and Tima, who starts out rather antagonistic but mellows as the book goes on. Our narrator, Dol, is quiet and you get the impression she just wants to go back to her life in the outskirts of the city, away from all the action. But she also wants to know why she is the way she is, what she can do, and the purpose she has being alive. The four grow throughout the story, as they learn more about their origins and how they can possibly subvert the aliens’ hold on humanity. This is a big weight to put on teenagers, and they begin to change accordingly, thinking more about others instead of themselves as they get near the end of the book. Luckily, there are some characters that offer more lighthearted interactions. Fortis, the mercenary, is an especially intriguing and likable character, even if you aren’t sure you can completely trust him. And then there’s Doc, the artificial intelligence doctor at the Embassy, who really wants to be able to tell jokes.
Another aspect of ICONS that I enjoyed was that at the end of each chapter we are shown some sort of document. They included autopsy reports, memos between government officials, or pages from propaganda books, and they offered a way to show the reader more of the world than what Dol knows. The documents create a bit of tension, as well, because as we get further in the book, we start seeing information about how the aliens came to be on Earth and the possible human involvement in bringing them here. Clearly, the nearly simultaneous timing of the birth of the four teens and the entrance of the extraterrestrials on Earth is not a coincidence. Though they aren’t exactly present in the book, their presence on Earth is obviously integral to the story, and I am sure that we’ll learn more about them as the series advances.
Well written and action packed, ICONS is an awesome mashup of science fiction and dystopian with telepathic teens and alien overlords, guaranteed to make your heart race and keep you breathless on the edge of your seat. I am definitely on board with the Icons series, and I can’t believe I have to wait until 2014 for the next book.
Fans of the Delirium Trilogy, look no further than Suzanne Young’s THE PROGRAM for the next unbelievably heReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
Fans of the Delirium Trilogy, look no further than Suzanne Young’s THE PROGRAM for the next unbelievably heartbreaking dystopian. This book delivers a story with a deeply unsettling premise and a devastating romance. Powerful, provocative, and unputdownable.
Dystopian fiction works only as well as the corruption that defines it. In THE PROGRAM, it’s the supposed cure for the suicide epidemic that is claiming the lives of one out of three teens. Teens are monitored for any kind of emotional outburst. If they cry or get mad or get ‘flagged’ for any number of reasons, they get dragged from their homes, their classrooms and shipped off to The Program. When they return six weeks later, it’s like the invasion of the body snatchers. They don’t look the same and they have had their memories wiped of ‘infected’ memories and people.
There are countless wonderful and terrifying moments in THE PROGRAM including the achingly tender romance that grows between Sloane and James. Every moment is made all the more acute because it could be lost forever. There is a desperation about their love because they are each the only thing keeping each other from an increasingly irresistible death. Talk about epic.
THE PROGRAM sucked me in with a frightening world and a with a hurts so good love story that is as tragic as it is wonderful. The is the kind of book that lingers. Beautiful writing, pain and passion mixed with near perfect results. I can’t wait for the next book in The Program series.
Sexual Content: Kissing, sensuality, multiple references to sex. References to sexual misconduct ...more
HORIZON, the final book in Sophie Littlefield’s ground breaking, post-apocalyptic, zombie infested, AftertiReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
HORIZON, the final book in Sophie Littlefield’s ground breaking, post-apocalyptic, zombie infested, Aftertime trilogy was everything I hoped and feared it would be.
Like the two books before it, HORIZON is a gut-wrenching, emotionally captivating, phenomenally executed book. The writing is sensory on every level. The descriptions of the Afterime world are so exquisitely written that I can even now close my eyes and see the New Eden compound, smell kaysev plants, and taste the liquor on Dor’s lips. The emotions were just as vivid. I was afraid reading this book, genuinely and terribly frightened in certain scenes. And that fear was made all the more palpable because of the bright bursts of hope and even happiness that Cass (and I) experienced.
Cass. She is the beating and broken heart of the Afterime series. I can’t begin to think of another character who has transformed as much as she has. She started out as an addict to any and everything. Someone who chose vice over her baby one too many times. We met her as a shambling, almost putrid individual in AFTERTIME, at the edge of her miserable life. Just like the barren world of Aftertime, she had nothing but a tiny spark of desire for redemption. And that’s what she did. Slowly, agonizingly slow in some places, she clawed her way out of shame and the wretchedness that she had existed in. She fell a lot. Stumbled in ways that made me want to scream at her and for her. But she always got back up. She was reborn in REBIRTH, and in HORIZON, she gets to take her first faltering steps as the woman she never hoped she could be. The woman I always knew she was.
Because of the masterful writing, Cass and I breathed the same air for three books. When she bled, I bled. When Beaters attacked, I stood right next to Cass with my own knife. When she looked at the two very different men in her life, my heart tore with hers. To say I became invested in Cass (and the other remarkably real characters in this series) doesn’t begin to describe the connection I feel with her and her broken world.
Of the 400+ books that have been reviewed on this site, only one series has received perfect 5/5 ratings for every book: the Aftertime series by Sophie Littlefield. I can’t really believe it myself, but each book really is that good, and HORIZON is the perfect conclusion. Shocking revelations, more fantastic character redemption, and best of all hope. I don’t care if you like zombies or not. If post apocalyptic fiction intrigues you or not. This series is for you and everyone else who wants to be riveted by a story and the characters who live it.
Sexual Content: References to sex. A scene of sensuality. References to child molestation...more
Urban Fantasy is full of high stakes, of world breaking power or near apocalypses. It’s common for heroines and heroes to find some heretofore unknownUrban Fantasy is full of high stakes, of world breaking power or near apocalypses. It’s common for heroines and heroes to find some heretofore unknown power at the eleventh hour, some massive, nuclear ability that negates risk. The Kate Daniels series, by contrast, brings the epic down to the human level, without ever pulling danger’s teeth. The stakes stay huge, the world is never quite a safe place, but in the meantime there’s dinner and date night and all the badass abilities that Kate and Curran have had from day one.
I don’t say this to imply that Kate’s power level hasn’t grown, or that there wasn’t a massive, near apocalyptic confrontation, but what resonates and what sets this book apart is all the human moments. With each book the supporting characters become more interesting, the world becomes more detailed, and each conflict, large or small, has both human consequences and fascinating mythological underpinnings. The battles are fun, but what makes Kate and Curran fascinating is each other, their banter and skills and problem solving. Because so much of what makes these books fantastic is this character dynamic, there’s no one confrontation that will feel like “enough”, no one mystery solved that will satisfy interest in the Kate Daniels series.
There’s just being in this world until the last page turns, and then rocking back and forth waiting until the next book comes out. MAGIC BREAKS is the culmination of so many portents and risks, but rather than resolving a conflict and closing things up, it just remakes a piece of Kate’s world to be even more fascinating. As if I needed to be more in love with this series.
Harry lives! Not since Buffy came back from the dead have fantasy fans been this excited to have a belovedReview Courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
Harry lives! Not since Buffy came back from the dead have fantasy fans been this excited to have a beloved character rise from the grave. Leave it to Jim Butcher to find a way to revitalize and reinvent his series so that even after thirteen books and countless short stories, it’s like we’re meeting Harry for the first time. COLD DAYS is a wonderfully refreshing game changer for The Dresden Files series.
So what’s changed for the newly resurrected Harry? He’s not a wizard for hire anymore, he’s the unwilling Winter Knight to Queen Mab of the Unseelie Court. This is more than just a title as Harry is compelled to carry out Mab’s orders and we see him begin to change and take on traits of the persona of the Winter Knight. That’s not to say he’s become a completely new character. Harry still throws out lovely little morsels of pop culture/geeky references throughout the story, and he’s still the snarky, gritty, tough as nails wizard we’ve all come to love. To use a Dungeons & Dragons reference, Harry has leveled up in his powers and abilities since becoming the Winter Knight, and those abilities allow for some fantastic new Winter fueled magic usage in his fights against bigger and badder villains then Harry has faced before.
And Harry isn’t the only character who has changed…some in more shocking ways than others by the end of the book. I loved seeing how everyone turned out during the time Harry was presumed dead and seeing each of their reactions to Harry’s sudden return to the living was very touching. While old friends are featured in COLD DAYS we get introduced to quite a few interesting new characters of whom I am excited to learn more about as this series continues.
Overall, The Dresden Files is one of the defining series in the urban fantasy genre, but Jim Butcher is proving in COLD DAYS that he’s not about to become complacent about that fact. COLD DAYS is an amazing whirlwind of epicness and a reboot for The Dresden Files. It’s hard to imagine what could possibly top the events of the past few books, but the ending this time is nothing short of jaw dropping. Mab herself couldn’t keep me away from the next book in The Dresden Files series when it releases in 2013.
Sexual Content: kissing, references to sex/sexuality...more
What’s better than a new Kate Daniels book? How about two! That’s what we get in GUNMETAL MAGIC. Not only dReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
What’s better than a new Kate Daniels book? How about two! That’s what we get in GUNMETAL MAGIC. Not only does Andrea get her first–of hopefully many more to come–full length novel, but Kate and Curran take the lead in a bonus novella, MAGIC GIFTS, that is included with the book. It’s a total win win since both stories are excellent additions to one of the best urban fantasy series ever!
Andrea is pretty much the only character who can stand next to Kate Daniels and not get overshadowed. Her personality is just as strong, just and intriguing, but she’s not a Kate in training. She’s a little more reserved, a lot less hot-headed, but when pushed too far, a lot more volatile. It was great to see how she survived in the magic/tech torn Atlanta. She’s a weapons expert, but unlike Kate, she doesn’t possess an encyclopedic knowledge of world mythologies. She has to seek out experts like the hilarious flirt Roman–is he truly an evil mage or is it an act?–and of course, her on again/off again love Raphael. These two make Kate and Curran’s bumpy relationship look a piece of cake. Dealing with two shapeshifters, the crazy fun mating etiquette rules were at an all new high for the series, and I enjoyed every bit of it.
Some of the trademarks of this series are in fine form in GUNMETAL MAGIC, including new and fascinating mythologies and creatures. We get just enough detail to make the plot work without ever feeling like we’re reading a history book. The humor is also razor sharp and sly. I especially enjoyed reading the one scene that overlapped in both stories. Kate and Andrea have such different ways of seeing the situation–in this case Raphael’s latest insult–that it really provided a richer understanding of their characters.
Bottom line, the Kate Daniels world with it’s waves of magic, it’s various factions of vampires, shifters, Knights and more, it’s richly developed characters, and fresh take on ancient mythologies is one I hope never runs out of stories. I can’t wait to read the next Kate, or Andrea, or maybe even a YA take from Julie down the road. GUNMETAL MAGIC proves that in the hands of Ilona Andrews, they’d all be amazing. Modern urban fantasy can be described in two words: Kate Daniels. It really doesn’t get any better.
Sexual Content: Scenes of sensuality. References to sex ...more
More Nevernever Land than Hogwarts, THE VICIOUS DEEP is a mix of the poetic and profane that would do Shakespeare proud, ribald banter alongside lyricMore Nevernever Land than Hogwarts, THE VICIOUS DEEP is a mix of the poetic and profane that would do Shakespeare proud, ribald banter alongside lyrical imagery. Tristan faces challenges that range from a centuries old sea witch to a heartbroken ex-girlfriend and this blend of epic and ordinary created a memorable story that has me anxious for more.
Though this book is about merfolk, Tristan may as well be a siren. His voice absolutely seduced me from page one. Descriptive, wry, and distinct, as I highlighted more and more quotes it was clear that it really didn't matter what this story held, so long as I could enjoy it through his eyes. And soon I fell in love with them all... Layla with her fists, Maddy with her broken heart, Angelo and his father thanking God for girls in short shorts... Cordova makes every character vivid and loveable, each elegantly sketched with just the perfect details for them to bloom on the page.
Tristan is the charming guy you want to believe has a good heart, despite our ringside seats to his flaws. His love for Layla is lined up right next to his wayward erection, and everything from his rakish ways to his deep-set devotion is loveable. This is no hero with eyes only for the heroine, Tristan is comically aware of every female around him. Slowly it becomes clear, however, that the women he loves are described for more than just their appearance. His mother, his best friend, and eventually, his “cousin”, Thalia, Tristan respects and adores them, attuned to their strengths and quirks. And as a love interest, despite the parade of past flings (and his callow moments), Tristan is honest and helpless enough in his attraction that it’s impossible to hold against him. Ultimately, you can’t help but mirror Layla, with exasperation and love in every punch. Tristan is a man-boy that has potential... and a long way to go before he grows up.
THE VICIOUS DEEP is that magic blend of mayhem, comedy, and affection that makes for an irresistible adventure, which makes it all the more breathtaking when Cordova's rhythm slips poetry into the pages. It is rare that a book succeeds on so many levels, and I finished THE VICIOUS DEEP excited and eager to share it. Sweet and bawdy and beautiful, this book has something for everyone. She loves me, she loves me not... I certainly do, Tristan, I most certainly do.
Sexual Content: Kissing, references to sex and oral sex. ...more
I think I contacted half a dozen people at Razorbill/Penguin Teen trying to get a review copy of PAPER VALEReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
I think I contacted half a dozen people at Razorbill/Penguin Teen trying to get a review copy of PAPER VALENTINE. Not one person responded and I got denied on both Netgalley and Edelweiss. Thank goodness for the lovely members of ARC Swap for providing me with a copy or I might have missed this magnificently, hauntingly, wonderful book.
I first read Brenna Yovanoff in last year’s THE SPACE BETWEEN (which I reviewed for Tor.com). Her writing is arresting and–at times–uncomfortably immersive. It’s as if Brenna cracks open her characters skulls and lets all the messy and heartbreaking parts spill onto the pages. In PAPER VALENTINE, that same raw and naked emotion drips across every scene. As in THE SPACE BETWEEN, we meet a character whose life has been battered by grief. Hannah had to watch her vibrant, glittery best friend wither away and die–only she never ended up leaving Hannah. Lillian is like a super pissed off Jiminy Cricket, constantly telling Hannah what to do and disparaging the choices she makes. It would be funny if their relationship–both before and after Lillian’s death–wasn’t so tragic.
No one knows that Hannah still sees Lillian, not her overly protective mother, her boisterous and outgoing little sister, or her trio of Heathers-like friends. Certainly not the criminally inclined Finny who tormented her as a child. In the months since Lillian’s death, Hannah has tried to keep a smile on her face even as her friends become less friendly, Finny becomes more confusing and surprisingly tender, and girls start dying in gruesome ways.
There are so many achingly realistic relationships portrayed here. The most compelling is the relationship between Hannah and Lillian. It’s laced with anger and bitterness and a love so strong that it defies even the grave. The relationship that creeps up between Finny and Hannah is just as powerful, just as alluring, but for different reasons. Finny isn’t an obvious hero or love interest. But like all good characters, he’s got layers upon layers. And as Brenna peeled back one painful layer at a time, my heart could barely contain him.
PAPER VALENTINE is part Heathers, part Scream, and part Judy Blume. I couldn’t think about anything else for hours after reading it. The story will hook you, the writing will transport you, and the characters will forever reside in your heart. Whatever Brenna Yovanoff writes next–and I mean whatever–I will be ready to start bombarding Razorbill with requests again.
While I have fallen in love with various aspects of The Guardian series over the years, there have been two dominant threads plucked in the backgroundWhile I have fallen in love with various aspects of The Guardian series over the years, there have been two dominant threads plucked in the background, piquing my curiosity and humming along behind the humor, the violence, and the happily-ever-afters of every other book. This ever building anticipation culminates in GUARDIAN DEMON, where Brook delivers both the final conflict with Lucifer and Michael’s romance. These two elements deliver engrossing action and off the charts romance, making GUARDIAN DEMON one of the most satisfying series finales I’ve ever read.
Part of this satisfaction is derived from the build up. Brook has crafted a long, sweet road to this final conflict. The battle with Lucifer has always been on an epic scale, spanning millennia and every possible attack, from crafty betrayals to full frontal force. This book brings all of those different political fronts to a head, and the lynchpin is once again Michael. Leader of the Guardians, the Alpha hero to end all Alpha heroes, and by this point in the story, battered, broken, and barely hanging on. Michael’s vulnerabilities make it believable once the inscrutable, all-powerful shield comes down, when we get to see the raging mass of power and emotion underneath his holy warrior shell. But this chink in his armor does not make him any less alien. Rather, Brook does a fantastic job imagining how the love affair of an immortal, magical being might progress. And the sex scenes, oh my sweet heavens, the sex scenes. As interesting as Michael’s emotional landscape may be, I must admit even that was overpowered by the reality of a shape-shifting, super-sonic teleporter in bed. Michael is everything I could have hoped for, everything I was anticipating, and once I got a taste of him I couldn’t get enough.
In fact, my only complaint about this book could be that I was so engrossed in the romance I often lost patience with the “battle for the fate of the world” side of the plot. The action was very well paced, and gave Taylor and Michael’s romance both a believable foundation and room to breath, but every time the hero and heroine left the page (or paid attention to anyone other than each other), I was just biding my time, waiting for our smoldering hero to come back.
Brook made me laugh out loud, fan myself, devour GUARDIAN DEMON in one sitting, and then wish there were more… It’s always hard to say goodbye to a series, but it’s also hard to imagine any Guardians book could ever be better than this one.
Review courtesy of AllThingsUrbanFantasy.blogspot.com
What do I want in an urban fantasy? A strong, likable protagonist with an as yet unrealized magicReview courtesy of AllThingsUrbanFantasy.blogspot.com
What do I want in an urban fantasy? A strong, likable protagonist with an as yet unrealized magical potential, a richly layered paranormal world, a well matched love interest who holds their own, and the promise of a multi-book meta-narrative. DARKFEVER has all that and more.
Mackayla “Mac” Lane is a near perfect UF heroine, and she befriended me immediately. As is a Sidhe-seer, Mac is someone who can see past the disguises, or glamours, that the fey use to hide in our world. Tenacious in pursuit of her sister’s killer, Mac is thorough and smart. Yes, she's a bit cocky, which she glosses over with more than a hint of old fashioned Southern charm, but she's also resilient and quick on her feet. The first time she truly spots a fey and is in danger of being discovered, it’s her quick thinking and cool under pressure that save her life.
Speaking of the fey, in DARKFEVER they are divided into two courts. The fey from the Unseelie court are the stuff of nightmares: grotesque hulking monsters who can suck the life out of humans with a touch. The fey from the Seelie court are the stuff of fantasies: breathtakingly beautiful beings whose very presence can send a human into an all-consuming erotic frenzy.
And this is Karen Marie Moning, so you know to expect romance, but it’s far from conventional. The enigmatic Barrons is Mac’s unwilling teacher/protector. He is harsh and demanding, bordering on cruel through out DARKFEVER, and yet, there are flashes of something more, mere glimpses of a different man beneath the brusque demeanor. The slow, smoldering attraction that builds between these too was palpable.
Overall, DARKFEVER is a near perfect urban fantasy (and yes, it is more urban fantasy than paranormal romance). A chilling mystery, a darkly seductive enigmatic love interest with questionable character, in a terrifying yet alluring world full of both scary and seductive fey. I am dying to devour the other books in the Fever series and be devoured in return.
Sexual Content: References to sex. References to masturbation. Two scenes of graphic sensuality....more
THIRTEEN was an excellent, emotional, action packed ending to Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld seReview Courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
THIRTEEN was an excellent, emotional, action packed ending to Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series. While you can usually jump into any of the Women of the Otherworld books without having to read the previous ones, THIRTEEN assumes you’ve read the previous two books as it launches right into the action. I was excited to finally get to the big conclusion of this three book story arc yet a bit sad that this was going to be the last book in the series.
As with the previous two books, THIRTEEN was mostly Savannah centered and she definitely grows and matures in this book. I really enjoyed seeing the evolution of this character from a young girl in STOLEN to a strong confident woman. I was curious about how Armstrong would include all of the other characters’ perspectives in THIRTEEN and was happy to see that each character got their own chapter(s) focusing on each of the women featured in the previous books. I liked this method as it was a way to stamp a satisfying endnote on each character’s personal story.
There was a lot happening in THIRTEEN as the stakes were set pretty high for Savannah, her friends, and her family. The final confrontation was a big tension filled event where most of the central characters were directly involved in fighting The Supernatural Liberation Movement. I found myself wanting to skip ahead multiple times especially during some shocking character moments-to see if all of these characters would survive to the end of the book. Armstrong made this showdown one of the biggest fights in the series and I enjoyed seeing everyone using his or her own unique powers to help in the final fight. It felt like a great finale for not only Savannah’s story but the whole series.
After thirteen full length novels, numerous leading ladies, and plenty of heartache, it was only fitting for the character who launched this series more than a decade ago to finish it. FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, an Elena-centric short story that is included at the end of THIRTEEN, was a wonderful look at how Elena’s life and the life of the Pack has changed and grown over the years since BITTEN. While it’s bittersweet to see the end of such an iconic and beloved series, Armstrong has softened the blow by promising that we haven’t completely seen the last of these characters. She has confirmed plans to write a few Otherworld short stories for future anthologies. So it’s not goodbye so much as see you soon.
I have always had a particular fear of stories set in space or deep in the ocean. Characters completely surrounded by a hostile environment, guaranteeI have always had a particular fear of stories set in space or deep in the ocean. Characters completely surrounded by a hostile environment, guaranteed death if fragile technology breaks down around them. I can now add “on the Great Plains during a dust storm” to my list of frightening places, as Zettel’s opening chapters were fantastically terrifying. The image of Callie, alone in that crumbling hotel surrounded by magic and creeping dust on all sides, will stick with me for a long time.
Zettel doesn’t lose momentum after those first few chapters, either. DUST GIRL weaves The Great Depression into the narrative, and the hobos and desperation and prejudices of the time period become just as strange and foreign as the magic of fairy. Callie has a habit of commenting on her own bad decisions, which I didn’t particularly like, but the pacing of each encounter was balanced so even mis-steps didn’t overwhelm the adventure. Two parts historical setting and one part fairy tale results in a magical new look at our own world. I particularly loved how Zettel intertwines the racial and religious prejudices of the time period into Callie’s pedigree. This comprehensive effort to weave magic into reality breathes new life into both familiar fairy tales and a this part of American history.
A coming of age story that transforms our own world into an exotic moonscape of danger and magic, DUST GIRL delivers on world building and adventure. In DUST GIRL, Zettel lays claim to fairy tales and our own history in a way that is as indelible as it was enjoyable. Like the best of stories, DUST GIRL not only entertains, it asks us to take a closer look at the human need to label “us” and “them”.
So much of my enjoyment of DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE was tied up in the mystery of Karou’s life, the elegant unfolding of exotic magic and history,So much of my enjoyment of DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE was tied up in the mystery of Karou’s life, the elegant unfolding of exotic magic and history, that I was worried DAYS OF BLOOD & STARLIGHT would not be able to compete. Oh, how beautifully Laini Taylor calmed my fears. DAYS OF BLOOD & STARLIGHT is just as magical, compelling, and heartbreaking as it’s predecessor, a satisfying book in it’s own right while ratcheting up my appetite for book three. This entire series is beautiful in a way that so few books achieve.
I think the source of my adoration for Taylor’s work comes from the way she balances the extremes of human experience. Whimsy and cruelty, humor and pain, love and grief, Taylor is writing a supernatural world that at its core contains all the struggles and joys of our own world. Akiva and Karou’s pain, poised on two sides of a war, is so easy to empathize with despite their the magical elements of the conflict. Each faction has committed such atrocities, has transgressed so completely, and yet Taylor never demonizes them beyond hope. Each soldier is an individual, so many with the blood of innocents on their hands, so many with the capacity for redemption.
DAYS OF BLOOD & STARLIGHT starts on the threshold of a mysterious world, filled with despair for both Akiva and Karou and their people. Taylor never lets the story bog down under the weight of dark emotion, and by book’s end she started to bring the narrative back to our own wold. The humans that have been featured in this series are artists, Karous’s friends who created magic with their minds and fingers long before real supernatural influences come into their lives. I love Zuzanna and Mik, and how their creativity and banter can be as surreal as the chimera’s animal forelegs or predators’ teeth. Taylor has genuine affection for her characters of all races, and it shows in the loving detail of their personalities. This humanity permeates all parts of the story, making love more poignant, forgiveness more difficult, and villains all the more horrible for their actions.
I read all of DAYS OF BLOOD & STARLIGHT with such hope and expectation, but I still did not anticipate where the story was headed. Once again this series has produced one of my favorite books of the year, and if my anticipation of book three is any indicator, Taylor will sweep 2013 as well. Fans of Melina Marchetta or Kristin Cashore will fall in love with Taylor’s sweeping fantasy and gorgeously drawn characters, as well as her capacity to make you laugh and cry. This is a series you cannot miss.
Sexual Content: References to sex, an attempted rape....more
THE IRON WORM AFFAIR is one of those books that plays vividly across the mind’s eye, unfolding like a movie in all of it’s fantastic and creepy detailTHE IRON WORM AFFAIR is one of those books that plays vividly across the mind’s eye, unfolding like a movie in all of it’s fantastic and creepy detail. Clockwork horses, flying carriages, gangs of flashboys with their augmented limbs, stilted mentaths using science to impose order on the world around them even as sorcerors defy all natural laws. Rather than adding fantastical and steampunk elements to familiar history, Saintcrow adds a few drops of the familiar into her own witch’s brew of a world. The tight restraint of her characters isn’t only due to Victorian sensibilities, but also the physics that governs magic and logic in their reality. Saintcrow has created an ambitious new world with the Bannon & Clare series, one that I cannot wait to revisit.
The prologue from Archibald Clare’s perspective was arresting, his visual organization of the world around him made me feel as if I could see it through his eyes. This cinematic introduction to THE IRON WYRM AFFAIR had me excited to explore their world, and I was almost disappointed to revert to the more mundane narration of Emma Bannon. I needn’t have worried, however, as Bannon and Clare pass point of view back and forth between them for the length of the story. I’m rarely willing to share the narrative spotlight with a non-romantic character, but Clare’s meticulous mind and touchingly awkward affections for his colleagues completely won me over. Also, the mentath’s sharp observation and deductive reasoning filled in gaps that the reticent Emma and Mikal left blank.
Bannon is an almost archetypal Saintcrow heroine. Dark, dedicated, sparking and crackling with magic and bruised by a traumatic past. The violence that brought her and Mikal together is also the same thing keeping them apart, and I liked that there was more than simple class-conscious stubbornness stretching out the romance. Of course, all of THE IRON WYRM AFFAIR’s characters are still a bit remote. With their fantastic abilities and passionate loyalties, I found them intriguing but not particularly human.
This didn’t impact my emotional investment in the story, however, but rather left me hungry for more details of their intricate, mysterious inner lives. The relationship between mentaths and sorcerors was very well crafted and fascinating in its own right, but when coupled with with epic characters and a hint of romance, THE IRON WYRM AFFAIR has a lot to offer fans of both steampunk and urban fantasy.
If prior books established this intricate, fascinating world, COLD STEEL is all about Cat and Vai living in it. Revolution convulses the land and theIf prior books established this intricate, fascinating world, COLD STEEL is all about Cat and Vai living in it. Revolution convulses the land and the politics of their world is as much of a concern as the magic swirling around them. Cat continues to explore her heritage, Vai struggles to find a future, and together they work through obstacles and compromises that may offer hope of happiness.
Even through their struggles, I couldn’t help but find my own happiness. Happiness to be back with characters I’ve grown to love, happiness with Elliott’s blend of realism and magic, and happiness with the way all of the carefully constructed pieces of this trilogy come together in a satisfying whole. Elliott doesn’t trade in the apocalyptic panacea of the usual Happily Ever Afters, but rather, she creates strong individuals, loyal companions, and a flawed world that offers happy opportunities for both. Cat doesn’t bloat with invincible magical powers to find her way in the world, but instead, gets better and better at navigating turbulent waters with the abilities she has. Her relationship with Vai is lovely to watch, a young couple finding their way after the fairytale moment of their marriage. Even better, this is not a relationship growing in a vacuum. Cat watches as Vai relates to her brother, to Bee. Vai starts to understand how he and Cat will fit into a world no longer defined by war or class struggle… as the passion he admires in Cat during their adventures won’t fizzle down to a socially correct polish once trouble is past.
One of my favorite aspects of The Lord of the Rings trilogy was the way Tolkein seduced me into loving his characters, feeling as if I knew them as my own friends. Until COLD STEEL, I didn’t realize Elliott had piece by piece built the same kind of affection and connection. I was gripped to the last page, drinking in every conversation and glance, and the end scene left me with a happy glow that I know my mind’s eye can return to again and again. Despite a slow start with the trilogy, and a bit of a slow start to this installment, COLD STEEL is a glorious story in the best tradition of fantasy and adventure. Treat yourself to this immersive, encompassing trilogy.
Don’t make my mistake of picking up ALL MEN OF GENIUS when you’re on your way to bed. Hours later, bleary-eyed and sleepy, I was only halfway throughDon’t make my mistake of picking up ALL MEN OF GENIUS when you’re on your way to bed. Hours later, bleary-eyed and sleepy, I was only halfway through the book and still fighting to keep reading, unable to put it down. Violet, Ashton, Jack and the befuddled Duke captivated me from the get go, and that was before the other Illyrian students even had a chance to win me over.
Even if I hadn’t fallen in love with the characters, I would have been a goner for the world-building. Rosen gives science the same flash and dazzle as magic at Hogwarts, but with more adult consequences. Violet’s passion is machinery, but her best friend Jack is drawn to the biological sciences. “Animal testing” doesn’t even begin to cover the transplants and experiments that the students undertake. While Jack learns new and exciting things in college, he also comes to the realization that an idolized professor has no real empathy for the animals he augments.
Watching Jack find his own confidence was a subtle note in the background of Violet’s story, and one of many examples of how Rosen’s attention to detail manages to portray some incredibly realistic and important issues amidst all of the hilarity and science. Violet and her friends struggle with gender roles, sexual prejudice, and double standards galore. And while Violet’s crusade to enter the all-male Illyria College is a plan with a deadline (Violet is going to reveal her ruse at the end of her first year) her brother Ashton feels that he will always have to conceal his homosexuality from society and Miriam has no expectations that she’ll ever be able to marry the man she loves due to her dark skin and her religion.
ALL MEN OF GENIUS is a blend of adult issues and fairy tale optimism. The realistic issues that the characters face by no means drag down the tone of the book, but neither does Rosen pull any punches about these prejudices and obstacles. I hope so badly that ALL MEN OF GENIUS is going to be the first of many books in this parallel universe of magical science, as there are many more happy endings that I would enjoy reading.
Sexual Content: Kissing, references to sex, rape, prostitution, and a threesome....more
It’s rare that a sequel can top its predecessor, and given the enthusiastic 5 bats I gave WORKING STIFF, I never expected TWO WEEKS’ NOTICE to becomeIt’s rare that a sequel can top its predecessor, and given the enthusiastic 5 bats I gave WORKING STIFF, I never expected TWO WEEKS’ NOTICE to become my new favorite in the series. The bleak circumstances of the first few chapters set me up for a mind blowing ending that has my excitement about this series turned up to an all time high.
Though Bryn’s circumstances at the start of TWO WEEKS’ NOTICE have changed drastically since we first met her in WORKING STIFF, underneath the luxurious accommodations and zombie grief counseling I saw the same calm, capable, utterly bomb proof heroine I fell in love with in book one. And all of that strength is needed now more than ever as the bleakness of life after revival sinks in. Much like Chess Putnam of Stacia Kane’s Downside Ghosts, Bryn’s condition makes her day to day existence precarious and heartbreakingly vulnerable. But if the first portion of TWO WEEKS’ NOTICE is spent reminding you of the depression and fear of life as a nanite zombie, both Bryn’s love life and her self esteem take explosive turns for the better soon after. Though I haven’t quite figured out Patrick McCallister as a leading man, he more than proves his chops as a sex symbol in TWO WEEKS’ NOTICE. Alone with the good (and the steamy), the Revivalist series doesn’t gloss over unpleasantness either. Rather, Bryn’s abilities come at a significant physical and psychological cost that makes her all the more satisfying as a heroine. Though the violence is ratcheted up this time around, all of the emotional pain more than pays off in impact by book’s end.
In addition to greater emotional punch, I like the way Caine manages villains and threats in TWO WEEKS’ NOTICE. Even Annie, one of my least favorite characters in WORKING STIFF, is used to much greater effect. I don’t want to spoil anything by going into details, but I felt that both old threats and new were exciting, intriguing, and really well written. Though Caine’s ability to write wicked women is nearly unmatched, I also I love that her character palette ranges beyond love interests and villains to include families, pets, and happy couples. Joe Fideli in particular had some hilarious dialogue with Pat and Bryn this time around.
After two in a row, I think it’s safe to say that the Revivalist series just plain does it for me. Managing the transition between series installments is a tricky business, and TWO WEEKS’ NOTICE is a great example of how to do things right. The entire action-packed conclusion was thrilling and well written, and the ending caught me completely off guard with a delicious twist. Not your average cliffhanger, Caine treats fans to a game-changing development that definitely puts Revivalist #3 at the top of my “Must Read” list.
Just as steampunk rewrites familiar history with technological advancements, A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS takes an oh so familiar historical period anJust 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.
There is something shocking about McKenzie Lewis, the protagonist in THE SHADOW READER by Sandy Williams. SReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
There is something shocking about McKenzie Lewis, the protagonist in THE SHADOW READER by Sandy Williams. She’s not a super woman/warrior goddess/magical titan capable of destroying the universe with a wink. Nope, unlike many urban fantasy heroines these days, McKenzie is pretty normal. She does have one ability that sets her apart from the rest of us; she’s a shadow reader, someone who can watch a fae ‘fissure’ (instantly teleport from one location to another) and know exactly where they will reappear. A highly coveted skill when there is a fae civil war going on, which is why McKenzie finds herself being sought after by both sides.
Where do I start with all the things I loved about THE SHADOW READER? The fae mythology wasn’t overly complex, but it was unique and perfectly suited to this world. I especially loved the idea of chaos lusters, tiny, visible lightning bolts that dance over the skin under certain circumstances like when fae touch humans. And speaking of touching, the tug-of-war going on with McKenzie’s heart was nothing compared to what I felt. How do you choose between the honorable warrior Kyol loyal to the fae king and the determined rebel leader Aren?
Another highlight for me was the constant cloud of doubt I was kept in. I was thrown back and forth suspecting first Kyol then Aren and back again so many times that I got dizzy. Just like McKenzie, I never knew who to fully trust, who to love, or who to align with. And just when I’d think I ‘d finally figured it out, something would happen and raise the questions all over again. The action was relentless and the emotions kept so sky high that I couldn’t decide until the very end.
THE SHADOW READER is a fantastically fun urban fantasy! One of the best debuts of the year and easily my favorite fae urban fantasy since Karen Marie Moning’s Darkfever series. Wonderfully integrated mythology that flowed naturally in the story without needing lengthy explanations, a to die for love triangle, and a relatable non-super woman protagonist who relies on her brain and bravery to fight for what she wants. This is a book that checked off all my urban fantasy wish list boxes and I can’t wait to read the sequel.
Sexual Content: Kissing. References to rape...more
There are a few elusive books that leave you with a blissful smile on your face when you finish them. A feeReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
There are a few elusive books that leave you with a blissful smile on your face when you finish them. A feeling of pure contentment. Not necessarily because the ending is perfectly happy, or even that the good guys fully defeated the bad guys. But just because it’s the exact right way that this book needed it end. Well that’s SHIFT. A beautiful story that is haunting in ways that have nothing to do with the ghosts inside.
SHIFT is a very mature YA novel with none of the superficiality and self absorption that can plague this genre. SHIFT deals literally with life and death and that reality lends itself to very mature characters and themes. The worldbuilding, the character development, the various relationships, and especially the romance. Everything works so well. I especially responded to the character growth of Logan. We saw him both alive and as a ghost in SHADE, and without loosing the volatile, impulsive, charismatic nature of his character, he grew up in SHIFT. It was painful to see him watch everyone around him, especially Aura, move on, but it was the kind of pain that becomes addictive. I couldn’t put this book down.
And it wasn’t just Logan who I loved. Aura and Zachary also burrowed deeper into my heart, but for other reasons. Aura was so believable as she anguished about Logan, felt guilty about her conflicting feelings, and yet acknowledged them completely. She never once hid from her emotions, regardless of how raw they were.
Not just my favorite Paranormal YA ghost story, it’s my favorite ghost story ever. As much as I loved SHADE, SHIFT is even better. The pain cuts deeper, but the pleasure does too. My heart soared and plummeted right along with Aura and Logan and Zachary. Jeri Smith-Ready is clearly steering us towards a very definite conclusion (the final book in the Shade trilogy will be released in Summer 2012). This book doesn’t just set a set up the final book, it reveals a number of shockers, serious jaw droppers about Aura and Zachary, the nature of ghosts, and details about the Shift itself. How will I ever endure the year long wait for the conclusion?
Sexual Content: Kissing. Scenes of sensuality. References to sex....more
NOT A DROP TO DRINK is a grim, startling portrayal of survival in a post apocalyptic world where water hasReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
NOT A DROP TO DRINK is a grim, startling portrayal of survival in a post apocalyptic world where water has become the rarest resource on the planet. Lynn and her mother endure daily struggles to defend and safeguard the pond that ensures their survival. They fend off ravenous coyotes, packs of merciless marauders, and the endless cycle of natural forces that attack them. It’s essentially a post apocalyptic version of Little House on the Prairie and it’s riveting.
In this bleak day in and day out struggle, Lynn’s mother has hardened herself against the world around them. She’s taught her daughter how to shoot a man at three hundred yards and strip him of all his valuables. She taught her how to field dress a deer and purify water. She taught her how to survive when most of the world around them has died. She taught her well, and yet skipped over so much that became irrelevant when their only ’neighbor’ is a man that Lynn hasn’t spoken to since she was a child.
As an ardent Little House fan (the books not the TV show), I relished watching the ingenious ways that Lynn and her mother survived each day. Everything from the elaborate and labor intensive process of purifying water to various ways they found and preserved food. The animal and human threat was constant and survival often meant unbelievably hard choices had to be made. As a result, Lynn is such a capable and strong character who, understandably, has a stunted concept of compassion.
Painful, bloody, and tragic, NOT A DROP TO DRINK doesn’t try to soften or sanitize the realities of this world, but it does temper them with love, sacrifice, and hope. The prose isn’t elegant or showy, but it’s no less powerful. Gutting is a better word for some of the more devastating scenes, but they only made the triumphs, the romance, all the more tender. Mindy McGinnis is definitely an author to watch.
Sexual Content: Kissing. Numerous references to rape...more
A mashup of the story of the Titanic and Beth Revis’s Across the Universe trilogy, THESE BROKEN STARS is pReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
A mashup of the story of the Titanic and Beth Revis’s Across the Universe trilogy, THESE BROKEN STARS is part adventure, part thriller, and part romance. The first in the Starbound trilogy, THESE BROKEN STARS is one of those books that once you pick it up, you can’t put it down. I read the entire thing in a day – and writing this review was hard because I feel like I can’t do the book justice and explain how much I loved it.
Lilac and Tarver are quite the couple. The relationship between Lilac, the daughter of the richest man in the universe, and Tarver, the came from nothing war hero is neither unconventional nor unexpected, but still manages to feel fresh and touching regardless. We never find out exactly what Tarver did to earn him his accolades, but he certainly manages to show the reader how competent he is in terms of using what is there to keep him and Lilac alive as they traverse the planet. Not that Lilac doesn’t contribute – she does, just in different ways. She probably goes through the most change as a character, or at least the reader’s (and Tarver’s) perception of her changes the most, from spoiled rich society girl to a strong independent young woman.
The narrative itself is also very well done. The story is told by both Lilac and Tarver, with interjections of Tarver’s “debriefing” by the military that clearly takes place after the whole experience. Sometimes, dual points of view are frustrating because one character is less engaging, but I enjoyed both Lilac and Tarver’s voices, and loved having the insight into their characters that the reader gets. Even the interspersed future Tarver conversations weren’t distracting, instead it was like they were almost egging me on toward the end of the book.
THESE BROKEN STARS made me feel quite the gamut of emotions. There were times when I was a little creeped out by the things happening to Lilac or Tarver (as were they), there were times when I was hopeful for them, or scared, or even sad. Kaufmann and Spooner created a world and characters that just drew me in and wouldn’t let me go. The limited interaction the reader has with the galactic society of terraforming, top hats and Titantic-esque spaceships only whetted my appetite for more- which I hope we’ll be getting in the rest of the Starbound trilogy. The next installment can’t come too soon.
THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater is very different sort of book from her Shiver or Ballad series. ItReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater is very different sort of book from her Shiver or Ballad series. It still has the same lovely writing and emotional layers, but the romance is much more like the classical definition of that word and less like the modern understanding. There are several love stories, but they aren’t just the sort where a boy falls in love with a girl (although I did particularly love that sort here). This is a thrilling and heroic adventure, full of brave and daring characters, and soft and bittersweet feelings.
The characters are wildly different, but equally appealing. Puck is quietly strong with a fierce determination and a loyalty that borders on compulsion regarding those she loves. She has a quick temper that she’s mostly successful at keeping trapped inside, but I loved her more for the moments when it bubbled up out of her. The consequences of which were often tragic, but so real, so honest that I just became all the more invested in her as a character.
While I was surprised to connect so strongly with Puck, I had no doubt that Maggie Stiefvater would create yet another male protagonist for me to love. She excels at writing the male perspective in a way no other YA writer today does, male or female. I fell in love with Sean’s strength, his honor, his bravery, and his wisdom almost from page one. And I continued to fall further even after I’d finished reading. That’s the mark of a great character.
But I would be remiss if I failed to mention the two other main characters in THE SCORPIO RACES: Dove and Corr. The fact that they are horses takes nothing of away from their depth as characters or their development in the story. That’s due again to Maggie’s writing and also her mythology. Water horses, or cappall usice, as they are called, are truly terrifying, yet majestic in a dangerously alluring way. I both feared and loved them.
I always feel bad for whatever book I end up reading after Maggie Stiefvater because nothing else comes close to replicating her peculiar magic that fully engages not just the senses, but the heart as well. And that is true again with THE SCORPIO RACES, a quiet, almost understated story full of bright bursts of action made all the more poignant for the emotional underpinnings built so lovingly in this book about life and death and love and horses. I drank down every beautiful word.
NOTES FROM A GHOST TOWN by Kate Ellison is the second book I’ve reviewed this year about a girl who was hauReview 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...more
I was both hopeful and trepidatious approaching RIVETED, the third book in the fantastic Iron Seas series. With an unknown hero and heroine, I was conI was both hopeful and trepidatious approaching RIVETED, the third book in the fantastic Iron Seas series. With an unknown hero and heroine, I was concerned that meeting these brand new characters would make or break my enjoyment of the book. Not only were Annika and David interesting and winning, I had forgotten that the Iron Seas series is more than the sum of its characters. The world itself is utterly captivating, and RIVETED delivers an interesting look outside the boundaries that prior books had explored, in the New World and trade routes of the Atlantic.
The main characters, Annika and David, are more familiar with this conservative, nano-fearing New World than England’s post-Horde society, and it is that political climate that shapes Annika’s “big secret” and origins. RIVETED explores many social issues regarding homosexuality in a way that aligned with my own beliefs, but I would guess that anyone with a more traditional or conservative bent may start feeling defensive. Overall, however, Brook weaves this important issue into her story with a nuance and sensitivity that should be accessible (and educational) for all readers. Regardless of personal beliefs, I felt Brook humanized the social conflict, even to the point of keeping it separate from the main villain who is “defeated” in the traditional sense. The acceptance of gay couples in this book ends on a happy note, and it’s clear that prejudices against them are overcome through community socialization and acceptance, not overthrowing a single, “evil” opposition.
Though the romance in RIVETED won’t unseat THE IRON DUKE as my favorite of the series, it has taken the second place crown away from HEART OF STEEL. Annika is winsome and refreshing, managing to be innocent but earthy, unspoiled without ever seeming stupid. As she always feels like an outsider, it was very believable to watch her unique and rare feeling of connection with David grow into a healthy sexual interest. And David is worth the curiosity; he is a gentle, damaged hero that soaks up Annika’s happiness and kindness like a sponge. David is the first augmented main character that hasn’t had the benefit of The Blacksmith’s mechanical flesh, and his perception of his prosthetics was one of the interesting parts of his character. Losing a limb is a traumatic event, and rather than waving a magic wand to make everything better, Brook explores David’s complicated feelings about loss and his current abilities. Annika and David both come to the relationship with little or no sexual experience, and the way they grow comfortable and confident with one another was both sweet and sexy.
As a romance, RIVETED is refreshing and well written, touching on complicated themes with sensitivity and realism. As a steampunk world, this story is five stars across the board. I can’t get enough of exploring The Iron Seas, every glimpse of this alternate history leaves me fascinated and hungry for more.
From the beginning, the Shade series has had a strong sense of direction, a clear endgame that has allowedReview courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy
From the beginning, the Shade series has had a strong sense of direction, a clear endgame that has allowed readers to fully immerse themselves in Aura’s ghost filled world. In a word, Jeri Smith-Ready established trust between herself and her readers, and in SHINE, she rewards that trust with a completely emotionally and intellectually fulfilling conclusion. I loved every single moment.
One of the many things that makes the Shade series so fantastic is the very honest and occasionally messy portrayal of teen characters. So often in YA fiction, issues get sanitized or glossed over. Neither SHINE nor the preceding books in this series shy away from the raw and emotional scenes that give these characters breath and life. There is nothing gratuitous about anything in this book, but when characters screw up, we see it. When they have to face the unpleasant consequences of their actions, we see it. Likewise when new experiences occur, we don’t get the everything-is-perfect-right-away scene. We get the pain, the awkwardness, the shyness, which makes the whole thing more tender, more sweet.
How good is a book when you’re already bemoaning the fact that it’s the last one by the end of the first page? Expect emotions to run wild while reading SHINE. Outrage at the increasingly totalitarian actions taken by the DMP, exhilaration when Aura and Zach are finally reunited, grief filled heartache at last moments and remembered memories of Logan, bittersweet goodbyes, tragic losses, and hope so bright and shiny you can almost taste it. SHINE is everything I wanted it to be and more. I only wish it didn’t have to end.
Very few YA series earn readers love so completely with a debut, fewer still take that love and fan it into a blaze of emotion so intense that it burns a permanent place in your heart. The Shade series does that. Every page is better than the last and SHINE is the almost painfully perfect ending to one of my all time favorite YA series. Make plans to hit the bookstore on May 1st. You won’t regret it.
Sexual Content: A non graphic sex scene, several implied sex scenes...more