Writing reviews here at GR has made me consider the fact that it is very easy for me to discuss and dissect what I find wrong with a book—crummy dialo...moreWriting reviews here at GR has made me consider the fact that it is very easy for me to discuss and dissect what I find wrong with a book—crummy dialogue, too-stupid-to-live characters, bad editing—but a whole lot harder to write about what is right with a book. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s because I myself don’t normally look further when I like or love something. I just accept that I think it’s total awesomesauce without really delving further into the why of it. Icky things like moments of self-discovery, or even worse, personal growth, might happen if I really got into why I like the things that I do. However, for the purposes of a book review, just saying I like it isn’t enough. I’m assuming that any reader of a book review would also like an answer to the question of why as well.
So I'm going to expand my horizons a bit here and tell you what Ilona Andrews does right with Magic Bites. I'll do my best to stick to just this first book, though I've read the rest of the series through book four. The release of book five is what prompted me to come back and actually purchase and reread books one through four (they were originally loaned to me). The fact that I forked over cash for books I've already read before should tell you a bit about their quality, especially since I'm not a chronic rereader.
Setting: This story is set in Atlanta, a place I've never visited in real life, but if I could go through a Magical Portal of Fiction to this alternate Atlanta, I bet I'd recognize it right away. The way it is described--the fluctuating waves of magic and tech, forcing people to know how to live and function alternately with one and then the other in turn; modern skyscrapers crumbling from the top down from the corrupting forces of magic; roads full of magically-modified cars, horses, and the dying tech cars--is all so vivid. This is not just a painted backdrop for our main character, Kate Daniels, to fight the forces of evil and drool over supernatural hotties against. Oh no. This is a fully realized world with depth and character all its own.
Plot: This book involves Kate's attempts to investigate the murder of her guardian. I say "attempts" because her investigative skills are about on par with mine, though I don't carry a persuader stick in the form of a sword. The fact that she fully acknowledges her lack in this department makes this really work for me. Things get complicated quickly, and the plot moves along nicely, a lot of it action, which is fine to me. There are no love triangles, insta-love, insta-lust, or even meaningless sex, for which I nearly teared up in appreciation. We get a nice resolution in book one, though there are questions left unanswered mainly surrounding who Kate realiy is, why she chooses to be such a loner, and why she seems to be almost in hiding.
Characters: This is a short book--260 pages--and that means not a lot of page time to fully develop all secondary characters, but Kate herself is fully realized. For me, in a first person novel like this, if I can't stand the main character, it doesn't matter how well the author does in the other categories. I just won't continue reading from the point-of-view of someone that I want to see fall off a cliff and die. Fortunately, Kate is someone I like and can relate to. She can be sarcastic, but she never crosses the line into total snark. She's capable in her own arena, but she does have shortcomings. I thought she had a believable mix of strengths and weaknesses, and I was cheering for her to win the whole way. As mentioned before, she has a history, which is hinted at throughout the book, and my curiosity about that is what had me running for book two.
Well, that was way longer than I intended. For the quick wrap-up! If you are an urban fantasy fan, you are seriously missing out if you haven't read this yet. For the PNR peeps, this does heat up in the romance department in subsequent books, so if you don't mind reading what amounts to a slow-burn romance over the course of the series, instead of one book, then also definitely pick this up. For everyone else, um, I have no idea why you'd be reading my review, so I really have nothing helpful to say to you.
So my best friend and I play book-swap a lot. We're both poor with limited book monies between us. Since her home library is bigger than mine, this ha...moreSo my best friend and I play book-swap a lot. We're both poor with limited book monies between us. Since her home library is bigger than mine, this has resulted in her turning into my own shady book dealer. She'll show up with a Wal-Mart bag of goodies that she thinks I might like, and we'll hustle off to my bedroom so I can fondle the newest merchandise in private. (I then proceed to ruin her diet by feeding her snacks as payment. Hey, it works for us.)
On a recent trip over, she handed me Angels' Blood with a hesitant look, explaining that I'm probably going to be annoyed by the romancy stuff, but that the rest of the book is pretty decent. With this caveat in mind, I prepared to avert my eyes from the romancy stuff and try to enjoy the rest of what Angels' Blood had to offer.
Well, here's the rub. Without the romancy stuff, there's just not a whole lot this book has to offer. Oh, it sounds good from its description. In this world, angels (minus any religious ties or affiliations) are super-powerful, immortal beings who have lived among humans for as long as mankind has been around, and they make vampires. Yet, apparently, their presence and involvement in our lives has had absolutely no effect on the course of history. Our technology is the same. Our governments are the same. Countries identify themselves the same. Other than producing a supernatural hottie for Elena, our "heroine," to drool over (as well as vampires for her to hunt), I can't see how angels have actually influenced or changed anything in history. Maybe I wasn't actually supposed to think that hard about the back story, but when you are clinging to the urban fantasy part of the story to avoid the "eyes painted with sapphires" and hair "black as night and passion" (not a direct quote, just what my memory can dredge up as I already gave the book back), these things tend to stand out.
The main plot is about Elena being hired to hunt a super-powerful, evil archangel. Sounds cool, right? Wellll..actually, not so much since the first HALF of the novel no one is hunting anything because Elena and Raphael (the angel hottie, of course) are having trouble deciding who is going to be on top. At one point, Elena is sure that Raphael is evil, a rapist, probably a murderer, and he stalks and threatens her friends just to find out her location. She wants to cut his eyes out, etc. Yet when she finally manages to hurt him, she feels terrible and basically decides he's not so bad after all. Maybe I zoned out somewhere in there, but I saw nothing new that would excuse him of his past crimes in her eyes. Maybe her chronic "wet panty syndrome" finally got the best of her, and she decided to throw caution to the wind and go for it.
And don't even get me started on the forced HEA deus ex machina ending other than to say (view spoiler)[I didn't even get the satisfaction of seeing Elena turned into a blood-sucking vampire, something she's spent her life hunting, which would have added some kind of poetic justice to it all! (hide spoiler)]
So, basically, if you cut out the romancy stuff, you don't have much of a book to read. If you like romancy stuff, then this book just may be for you. You have a familiar world as a backdrop and then some supernatural elements with the sexy vamps and their sexier masters, the angels. Add in sexual tension thick enough to choke a horse (possibly a bad comparison) and a nice, happy ending, and you have Angels' Blood. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I had high expectations for Mind Games. At least two of the people I follow here at GR read and loved it, and the premise sounded awesome. Even with t...moreI had high expectations for Mind Games. At least two of the people I follow here at GR read and loved it, and the premise sounded awesome. Even with these high expectations, I was not disappointed. Peeves and high points listed in completely random order because I'm feeling too lazy to organize.
The cover art is a complete mislead. The main character, Justine, should have been surrounded by medical texts, sitting at a computer browsing the latest information on vein star syndrome (the condition her hypochondriac self is most obsessed with) and rubbing the tingling spot on her head which she is sure is a precursor to this disease. THAT would've caught my eye in a bookstore right away. The cover they have now, while nice, just looks like another badass armed girl in leather hunting the streets of some unnamed city. *yawn* While I do read a lot of books with covers just like this and enjoy a badass heroine armed with weapons hunting the streets of some unnamed city, this book should be celebrated because of its deviance from these tropes, not luring the unwary in with false advertising on the cover.
Justine's scenes of anxiety about medical issues read as so completely real to me. I personally have a terrible fear of driving and, while I force myself to do it when I have to, a lot of the negative self-talk and paranoia that goes on in my head sounded just like Justine. The continuous mental looping patterns of a condition like anxiety were so evident in Justine's personality. She was trapped in an unhappy and unfulfilled life because of it. Now this could've gotten old fast, believable or not, but the author touches on it just the right amount to breathe life into Justine's existence without dragging it out.
I wasn't really prepared for the romance aspect of this book. All the reviews I read mostly concentrated on the uniqueness of the plot, originality of the world, the not-your-typical-heroine aspect of the main character. I found Justine's love life the weakest (and most annoying) part to read. Since I like my romance in small subplot doses, this shouldn't be too surprising. Her repeated internal dialogue of lusty/angsty thoughts about the men in her life was enough of an annoyance to knock off a star for me (view spoiler)[ especially since she cheated on her boyfriend. Argh! (hide spoiler)]
To leave on a good note, the whole "caper" feel to this book is what kept me reading. Justine becomes a part of a group of people who (view spoiler)[ use their neuroses as a weapon against bad guys by channeling their fear into them and "crashing and rebooting" their brains to make them better people (hide spoiler)] and I would have loved to read even more about these adventures. There are no real battles, no hand-to-hand combat, no weapons (other than a stun gun), yet I found the times when Justine was on the job to be nail-biting, edge-of-my-seat exciting. Almost enough to cause my very own anxiety attack.
I will definitely be reading any future books in this series.
This book really impressed me. After a string of mediocre urban fantasies, this one makes me believe in the genre again. And let me tell you, in the h...moreThis book really impressed me. After a string of mediocre urban fantasies, this one makes me believe in the genre again. And let me tell you, in the hands of a less talented author, this book could have been a mess. Writing a troubled, near alcoholic, but still sympathetic main character (first person, no less!) in the form of Annabelle Lee is no easy task, but Stacey Jay manages it well. Annabelle is flawed, but she never once struck me as a helpless, whiny victim wallowing in her own self-pity. I saw growth in her over the length of this story, and I hope to see even more in future books.
I got the sense that author put a lot of effort into thinking about the world she was creating. What would the societal, political and even scientific changes be if fairies mutated and looked at humans as more delicious than chocolate chip cookies? Not that you get bashed over the head with this information; it is woven into the fabric of the story, giving even fantastical elements a level of logical realism that is so often missing in the fantasy genre.
The relationship/romance part of this book made me want to cheer. This is so often a sticking point to me (instalove and other kinds of fated love story lines set my teeth on edge) but here we have romance built over time. Not everything is picture perfect, not by a long shot, but the relationships in Annabelle's life feel complicated, layered and, best of all, completely believable.
The mysteries explored in this first novel had me glued to the page, and I spent a whole day and most of one night devouring it. There is a satisfying resolution in book one, but this is obivously the first novel of a series, and a lot was left to explore. Definitely a series worth continuing.(less)
Yes, I'm extremely random about which books I choose to review. I read and enjoyed the first book in this series, Child of Fire, but I never managed t...moreYes, I'm extremely random about which books I choose to review. I read and enjoyed the first book in this series, Child of Fire, but I never managed to review it (though I reserve the right to compare and contrast both books ahead, so be prepared).
First off, let me say, the win for this novel (and its predecessor) is in the main character, Ray Lilly. I like him. He reads like a real person with believable human emotions and motivations. Take note, authors. I will shell out cold hard cash for a realistic, likeable main character. I will even forgive you flubbing up other things, but if I hate a first person main character, I will never read that series again. It's just too painful. So thank you, Harry Connolly, for getting this right. Also, let me add that Ray is a past criminal, and this is obvious in his narration on how he views both people and property. In another author’s hands, this might have been a real turn-off, but Connolly manages it without glorifying criminal behavior or turning his main character into a bad guy.
There's plenty of action in Game of Cages, which moves the story along rapidly. However, one of my favorite aspects of Child of Fire--the tension-filled and for once nonsexual (again, thank you, Harry Connolly) relationship between Annalise and Ray--is totally missing through most of the book. I so wanted to see where things would go between them. Will Ray become more the hardened killer like his boss? Will Annalise gain some humanity back by dealing with Ray on a regular basis? Also, what is up with their past? I longed for answers to exactly what happened to them before the events in Child of Fire, which was just vaguely outlined in that book. It is touched upon in Game of Cages too, but I felt like a kid with a Christmas present whose parents only let them open one flap of the wrapping paper a year. Aaaah! Let me see the full shiny inside already!
Game of Cages revolves around the auction of a predator, and Ray lands himself right in the middle of it. There were so many potential buyers as well as oodles of townsfolk, I had an extremely hard time keeping track of who was who. Grant it, I tend to read at night when I’m tired and not in the mood to mentally web together a vast network of people, but it still lessened the impact when people turned up dead or a particular buyer was taken out.
All in all, I still like this series and will continue reading it (and, more importantly, spending my book money on it). I want to know more about predators and the Twenty Palaces Society and how Ray will deal with the consequences of his actions in this book. Bring on book three! (less)
I actually feel kind of bad for not liking Hounded more (my best friend as well as several GR reviewers I respect liked it quite a bit more)....more2.5 stars
I actually feel kind of bad for not liking Hounded more (my best friend as well as several GR reviewers I respect liked it quite a bit more). On the surface, at least, it has what I love--urban fantasy setting, magic, dogs, witches. Buuut, I just never warmed up to the main character, Atticus, or anyone else populating his world, and the descriptions of how magic worked and the world he lives in were so vague that I didn't get much out of the book from that standpoint either. There was absolutely nothing original about the world, the magic, the characters. I've seen it all before, and I've seen it done way better.
Atticus's relationship with his dog, Oberon, seemed to be his most significant relationship, but it consisted of mostly jokes about smelling asses, eating sausages and doing French poodles. All of the goddesses Atticus has contact with want to do him because he's apparently just that freaking awesome (insert eyeroll here), or maybe the Celtic pantheon is just that horny (I didn't research further to find out). The pop culture references piled up to astronomical levels, as if the author was afraid without them that the reader just wouldn't get how cool and modern a 2100-year-old Druid could be. Then, the ultimate evil bad god that has been chasing Atticus for 2000 years turns out to be a sissy pushover after all. Or maybe with Atticus's super-magic necklace and sword (named Fragarach, which unfortunately I kept calling Fraggle Rock in my head), wicked Druid powers, werewolf pack of lawyers, uber-barmaid-witch, pocket Death Goddess, and talking side-kick dog, there was just no way Atticus could really lose.
One thing I did appreciate is that Atticus doesn't shy away from killing people when he has to, and he doesn't go all wangsty about it after. Also, he's friends with an old widow, and that was kind of touching. And, while he's a bit of a man-whore when it comes to the women in his life, at least I didn't have to read a blow by blow (haha) description of every detail of it. I still might recommend this to someone looking for urban fantasy with a male lead, though I'd certainly point out Jim Butcher's Dresden series and Harry Connolly's Twenty Palaces series first.(less)
Magic Dreams: 4 stars. I don’t normally buy story collections, but I made an exception for Hexed just to read Ilona Andrews’ Magic Dreams. It’s a stor...moreMagic Dreams: 4 stars. I don’t normally buy story collections, but I made an exception for Hexed just to read Ilona Andrews’ Magic Dreams. It’s a story told from Dali’s point of view, and she is one of my favorite characters in the Kate Daniels series. Let me just say, I was not disappointed. It had just the right touch of romance to action/mystery to leave me satisfied and smiling. However, I cannot say the same for the rest of the stories, which I will briefly review below.
Ice Shards: 1 star. I’m not familiar with author Yasmine Galenorn or the series this story deals with, so I did my best to keep that in mind when reading. Even being lenient, I found the story’s tone very juvenile, the dialogue infodumpish and the whole thing kinda silly. A dragon-man with hair “surrounding him like a cloud of silver” named...Smoky? It also hit a pet peeve of mine: unpronounceable made-up words like ar’jant d’tel . If I were telling my best friend about this book, what would I say? Hey, I was reading this story, and the main character Iris is a…wait…I don’t know how to say it. Give me a piece of paper and maybe I can write it for you...oh nevermind, it wasn’t that interesting anyway.
Double Hexed: 2 stars. I haven’t read any of the Stormwalker novels either, but this one showed more promise. The writing was much smoother than Ice Shards. However, due to the powerful curse (as mentioned on the back blurb so no spoilers here), every character seemed to go from possibly interesting to downright one-dimensional with their worst personality traits being what defined them. I could almost describe them all in one or two words. Janet: unstable and clueless. Mick: possessive and violent. Cassandra: emotional wreck. Maya: abrasive. Ansel: bloodthirsty. The sad thing is, there were hints that this isn’t how these people normally act, or at least that they have more to them, but I didn’t get to see that for myself.
Blood Debt: Did not finish. Technically, that’s not true. I did read the ending. I just skipped a whole lot of the middle because I was bored, and I was afraid we were headed into instalove territory (view spoiler)[ and yes, we were. (hide spoiler)] Still, I don’t feel that I read enough to justify an actual star rating.
So there you have my breakdown. I was happy with the story I purchased this book for, so I can’t complain too much. Reading the rest of the stories just made me appreciate the great story-telling of Ilona Andrews all the more. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
If I could have an actual conversation with this book, I think it would go something like this:
Me: Why would you give your main character the nickname...moreIf I could have an actual conversation with this book, I think it would go something like this:
Me: Why would you give your main character the nickname "Grit," which is basically something I'd clean out from under my fingernails? Book: It's to make her sound tough...or something. Me: Well, do you have to say Grit ten times in one short conversation? I thought only hostage negotiators did that. Book: You're just too critical. If you're so busy counting repeated "Grit" sightings, you aren't even paying attention to the dialogue! Me: Why does the main character have to be so bitchy and smart-mouthed all the time? Book: Some people find her audacious and snappy dialogue cute and endearing, like just about every male supernatural being she comes across. Good thing too, huh? Otherwise, she'd have died a hundred times over. Me: Why does she get to punch her boyfriend in the face and give him a black eye when he didn't do anything but pull her around to face him so he could apologize? Book: She's a girl, so it's totally okay. Domestic violence is only when the guy punches the girl. Don't you know anything? Me: Why is she lusting after that guy's abs instead of realizing she's been kidnapped and drugged by a murder suspect that just turned into a winged monster (the owner of said abs)? Book: Meh, you're just an old married lady. What do you know about the awesome power of stellar abs? Me: Why is this supposed smart lawyer type only able to find clues by literally running into key characters in the sewers or having them walk up to her on the street and offer themselves to her in convenient and totally unbelievable coincidences? Book: Wellll, you weren't really supposed to notice that. *makes brainwashy-handwavy motions* Look, Alban and Grit flying over the city! Awww, aren't they sweeeeet! Me: Why do we even see things from Alban the gargoyle's point of view if all he does is stalk and obsess about the main character? Book: Because the ladies totally dig stalkerish obsessive men, especially if you can see into their heads to show just how sensitive and caring they really are. Trust me.
...and on and on it would go until we finally parted ways on less than amicable terms.
Seriously though, there were some good things about this book, thus it received an okay 2 stars instead of the dreaded 1 star rating. First off, I didn't have the mystery figured out until the end, always a good thing, and the mythology of the book was somewhat intriguing. It was also refreshing to have a black main character, even if she is lilly white on the cover (honestly, doesn't anyone actually tell the cover artists anything about who they are supposed to be portraying?). I'd even consider reading this author again as the writing was decent, though I will wait until she publishes something not in this series. (less)
This book was a strong 3, almost 4 stars for me. I waffled between 3 and 4 and ended up going with 4 because I was impressed with Mindy Klasky's brave...moreThis book was a strong 3, almost 4 stars for me. I waffled between 3 and 4 and ended up going with 4 because I was impressed with Mindy Klasky's bravery when dealing with a 13-year-old girl's troubling life. She wasn't afraid to pull any punches. Rani, the relatively innocent main character, is pulled into events beyond her control, and she comes out the other side scarred and with blood on her own hands, which I thought was completely appropriate given the circumstances she was set up in.
In Rani's world, names are very important. In fact, Rani ends up adopting quite a few new names as she hides in the caste system from her enemies. I thought this was clever until I came across names of royalty, such as the king and prince. Every time I came across names like Prince Tuvashanoran and King Shanoranvilli, I wanted to poke the giant things with a stick so they'd deflate down to something more manageable. Alas, despite all my poking, they remained large and cumbersome mouthfuls throughout the whole book.
My other beef was the complete lack of introduction to Rani's family other than an older brother. A tragedy involving Rani's family plays a key part in her character development, yet we know next to nothing about them, having only seen them through a few flashback memory sequences. Other than her older brother, her siblings aren't even given names. This made the eventual tragedy into less of what it could have been. I would have liked it a lot more had the book started with Rani still at home with her family, even on the day she's going off to become a glasswright apprentice so we can see her interactions with them and feel what she felt for them.
I was actually excited about finding out more about glass-making when I started this novel. However, there was only brief mention of this in the beginning chapters, which is fine too, since it wasn't really necessary to move the story forward. I may read future novels though in the hopes of finding out more about this subject. The religion of the Thousand Gods also I'd love to learn more about. I love pantheons and can't wait to see what role these Thousand Gods play in future books.
All in all, a great book I'd recommend to adults and even my older kids. There is violence and a potential rape scene, but these were all handled with care.
I found this to be good fantasy, but I wouldn't call it brain-scorchingly great fantasy. I actually started reading it three separate times, but the f...moreI found this to be good fantasy, but I wouldn't call it brain-scorchingly great fantasy. I actually started reading it three separate times, but the first two I ended up putting it aside for something more intriguing. I am glad that this third time I stuck with it through the whole ride. I am already into the first pages of book two.
This is written in third person point of view, following the lives of mainly one family, though there are sections from others. This is not my favorite writing style, unless your name is George R.R. Martin, but I was able to cozy up to the characters after awhile, my favorite being Phoran, the Emperor. It was nice to see his growth as both a man and a person of power in the world Patricia Briggs has created.
Though I enjoyed finding out about this world (and look forward to finding out more about Colossae in book two), I was disappointed in the vagueness of how magic really works, especially for Ravens (read=mages). There do not seem to be any defined limitations on what Seraph, a Raven and one of the main characters, can do. There's just some mental throwing around of magic, maybe some hand-waving, and what she wanted happens (or doesn't, if her emotions get the better of her). The other "magic classes" seemed to have more clearly delineated gifts, and I would have liked to see that for her as well.
After a twenty-year marriage, three kids, and time spent together farming an unforgiving land, you would think that Tier and Seraph (our two main characters and parents of three of the other points of view) would have worked out whether they really loved each other or not. I found the author even putting this to the question annoying as all get-out, a way basically just to provide some romantic angst when such really should not have existed from what was, by all accounts, a stable and happy relationship.
Also, I'm still waiting for the bad guys to be truly menacing and further developed (or maybe that's too much to ask for this kind of fantasy, just dark-robed figures performing obscure magical spells that involve blood and death? I dunno. I found Darken Rahl of the Sword of Truth series to be pretty damn freaky, and he was of the dark-robed, magical blood and death rites variety too). Maybe book two will offer more of their motives, so I am willing to be patient for this.
Despite these small hiccups, I would probably recommend it to an avid fantasy reader, but I wouldn't to a newbie to the genre to entice them over to the dark side. There's just not enough awesomesauce to be tempting to someone whose palate is not already accustomed to fantasy.