STRANGE MAGIC gives us the story of Yancy Lazarus, a wizard of some note who has fought in wars, gotten on a lot of bad sides, drinks and smokes, andSTRANGE MAGIC gives us the story of Yancy Lazarus, a wizard of some note who has fought in wars, gotten on a lot of bad sides, drinks and smokes, and manages to piss off some mafiosi types AND a touchy sorcerer. For me, there's no way to read this without comparing Yancy to Harry Dresden. I'd say Yancy holds up his end pretty well, though I still have a preference for Harry.
If you're a fan of the Dresden Files, you'll probably like Yancy. There's the same wise-cracking hero who doesn't always know how to deal with what's happening, but he tries to do what's right anyway. YL is probably a little more morally grey than HD (at least the HD at the beginning of his series) and doesn't seem to have the problems with tech that HD has. There's also the same style of butt-kicking the bad guys (or the guys who are trying to deprive Yancy of his life), with lots of magic flying around. Yancy is a little rougher, there's more violence and death, and some pretty yucky descriptions that will possibly haunt you for a few days.
I like the Dresden Files a lot, so since this book is so similar, I'm predisposed to like it too. I'm curious to see where the story goes, and while the setting is typical urban fantasy, the author has a lot of nice touches (the dragon-owned bar, the Ways, the baddies from non-Western mythology) to make it the world unique. Sometimes there's a little too much focus on details (I don't need to know the name of every gun) but the story moves along and wraps up the plot while leaving plenty of room for more from Yancy. Maybe in the next installment we'll learn more about how Yancy got his powers.
Received as a free digital ARC in exchange for an honest review via Netgalley....more
Every so often I just want an urban fantasy that's fluffy and fun and doesn't take itself too seriously. JINN AND JUICE fits that description. Don't gEvery so often I just want an urban fantasy that's fluffy and fun and doesn't take itself too seriously. JINN AND JUICE fits that description. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of grit in here (it takes place in Pittsburgh, after all), but the main character isn't afraid to make fun of things, including herself. The supporting characters are interesting and diverse, if sometimes a little predictable in their actions.
This was a fast read, made possible by the frequent action scenes. Leila, our (almost) thousand-year-old jinn narrator, has just a week left before she can become human again--but only if she isn't Bound by a Magi at the time. So of course she ends up becoming Bound by a newbie Magi on a quest to save a girl he knows from the refugee camp. He promises to release Leila before the deadline, but there's all sorts of magic badness afoot...
I appreciated how the setting in Pittsburgh actually had a role to play in the story. There was a lot of cultural mixing here, with kitsunes and drag queens and trolls and mythology that most people probably aren't that familiar with. The Magi Oz isn't an alpha male like so many other UF heroes, which is a refreshing change (but rest assured he isn't a pushover). There is, of course, a master/slave relationship which is a little uncomfortable, but Leila isn't shy of making the best of any deal she goes into, whether Sideways (wouldn't your own pocket of magic be handy?) or in the bed.
The betrayal prior to the end was somewhat telegraphed, and the big bad sometimes seemed like he was having a temper tantrum (though our venerable narrator was also a little immature, so maybe it's a "I've lived so long I don't have to act like an adult" bit?), but this book made me laugh, and I appreciated the diversity of characters, so I'll be looking for the sequel. And yes, it is a beautiful cover.
Received as a free digital ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review....more
It's been a while since I read RED RISING, so I feel like a missed out a little with GOLDEN SON. Don't get me wrong, if you liked the first book in thIt's been a while since I read RED RISING, so I feel like a missed out a little with GOLDEN SON. Don't get me wrong, if you liked the first book in the series, you'll like this one, and probably better than the first, because everything is bigger: bigger stakes, bigger battles, bigger worlds. The action is punched up, and if you like your sci-fi on the range of solar systems, you can have it here. Whereas the first one was like the Hunger Games on a terraformed Mars, GOLDEN SON is more like an episode of STAR TREK where everyone's favorite bold space explorers have to engage in a little diplomacy with the Klingons (and everyone knows how well that works out, right?) There's less transformation here and more politics. There is probably more death, and death that was supposed to hit me hard, but it's been too long since I read RED RISING for me to be invested in the characters. You won't find much "remember how this happened?" in GOLDEN SON--and I wish there had been, because as much as I liked the first book, I only had the vaguest sketches of what happened in my head (the curse of reading too many books, I guess). Regardless, this is a great book. The action is tight and the world-building is vast. Betrayal and revelations are around every corner. I just felt like there was an undercurrent I was missing because I didn't remember some of the plotlines from the first book.
Also, beware the ending--you'll want to know when the next book is out, and why it isn't out already, because you will probably want to throw GOLDEN SON at the wall when you finish. Book 3, MORNING STAR, can't come soon enough!
Received as a free digital ARC via Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review....more
THE JUST CITY is a thought experiment actually carried through. I must admit my classical education is woefully inadequate--I've never read Plato andTHE JUST CITY is a thought experiment actually carried through. I must admit my classical education is woefully inadequate--I've never read Plato and I've barely read Homer--but I still enjoyed this story, and I'm curious to see how it continues. With a little divine intervention (and some of that is quite hands-on), bring together the greatest (known and unknown) thinkers in history and future and have them create a civilization, according to the rules Plato thought would bring about the best world. Some of his ideas are hideous to modern folks--think forced pregnancies and exposing disabled infants--but perhaps some of them really do help a group of people come together.
This book explores many areas of population science, interweaving social dynamics with artificial intelligence, examining the psychology of growing up and becoming upstanding members of one's community. It messed with my head, but it was fun to read about Apollo's befuddlement at human behavior even as he tries to imitate it. Author Jo Walton does a good job at showing how the gods might think while keeping the writing accessible to us mortals. And her female characters are well drawn, espousing all the arguments those of us outside the Just City are still debating. And Sokrates (yes, Socrates) is a hoot, no matter if he's debating robots or trying to make his students think outside their rigid boxes.
It's hard to pin down a genre for this book; time-travel for obvious reasons; fantasy because of the gods; straight up literature because of the philosophical questions posed throughout; social commentary because in every community, there are those that have and those that have not, and even in a perfect society there are those who rebel against the norm. If you want to be challenged by your fantasy, give this a shot. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series....more
Borrowed this from my husband's LootCrate and finished it in a weekend. A fun, fast read, very meta. If you like 80s culture, books, games, or music (Borrowed this from my husband's LootCrate and finished it in a weekend. A fun, fast read, very meta. If you like 80s culture, books, games, or music (even if you don't but you lived through the time period) you'll enjoy this one....more
DARK ALCHEMY tells the story of Petra Dee, a geologist with a tragic past, and what happens when she tries to make a new start in Temperance, the bestDARK ALCHEMY tells the story of Petra Dee, a geologist with a tragic past, and what happens when she tries to make a new start in Temperance, the best old-West ghost town this side of Yellowstone. She manages to get on the bad side of some toughs and finds herself at odds with the local alchemist who's trying to prolong his life (because what little town doesn't have one of those?).
I liked the story, and the pace moved along well enough, but Petra rubbed me the wrong way sometimes. She takes care of what needs to be done, though, and that's a good thing. I liked the interaction between Petra and the other characters, and the easy take on gender fluidity. Rest assured, there's plenty of the supernatural here. From the aforementioned alchemy to those strange ravens that keep hovering around the even stranger Gabriel, a few terribly distorted skeletons, Petra's missing father, and a bunch of meth-heads (or are they?), the author weaves together a satisfying, creepy mystery. There's even a coyote familiar, Sig (named after the gun, natch), who steals the show without saying a word. There's a little science (and it makes sense!) and some romance (not insta-love, thank goodness) but they take a backseat to the supernatural. Some of the plot points seemed a little predictable, but more often than not the story took a turn I wasn't expecting.
The author wrapped up all the questions pretty neatly, which is a welcome change from the "first in a series" that always seems to come from urban fantasy (rural fantasy, here?), though another story in this world would be fun to read.
Received as a free digital ARC via Edelweiss and the publisher in exchange for an honest review....more
Hurrah Missouri author! I've missed out on a few of Shawntelle Madison's books on Netgalley, so I was glad to finally snag one.
This book creeps me outHurrah Missouri author! I've missed out on a few of Shawntelle Madison's books on Netgalley, so I was glad to finally snag one.
This book creeps me out--but in a good way. It makes me squirm to imagine what the protagonist goes through: sharing her brain with a hostile intelligence that wants to basically boot her out and take over her life. The writing is descriptive but not overly so, and I found myself wanting to know if Tate would prevail in her fight against her own mind. Body-snatching...it just makes me shiver. I bet you can guess that I've never seen Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
I'm always a little disinclined to read dystopians, but this world wasn't filled to the brim with bleakness. Clearly there's been some sort of apocalyptic event, but it hasn't created zombies--just some machine that transfers consciousness from freaky rich people to younger hosts so the rich people can go on being rich and essentially immortal. I still sort of found myself resisting liking the book, but that's just my dislike of dystopia (Hunger Games I'm looking at you).
Even though it's dystopian, I'm interested in finding out what happens to Tate (and Quinn, he of the romantic subplot) and if she manages to keep control of her own skin, so I'll be on the lookout for the next book in the series. Hopefully its cover will be as awesome as this one!
Received as a free digital ARC via Netgalley and the publisher. Read from January 12 to 15, 2015....more
I had this one for a while before I started reading it, because there were a bunch of other approved ARCs I had to read, etc. Then I finally opened itI had this one for a while before I started reading it, because there were a bunch of other approved ARCs I had to read, etc. Then I finally opened it, and...I wasn't blown away, but I kept reading. The author presents us with our world, just a little removed--magic is real, though most people don't give it much thought. Our protagonist is a weremyste--a wizard all the time, but a crazy, hallucinogenic, more powerful wizard during the three days of the full moon. I felt like this aspect of magic wasn't dealt with all that well--essentially weremystes turn into hermits during the full moon, or they might hurt someone (or themselves). Obviously this isn't good for a career or a relationship, but we really only see one example of how the moon affects Justis. It's a good example, with plenty of magic and peril, but I feel like it could have been explored more. The writing is punchy and the story flows well. The characters aren't terribly well described, but each one does have a personality and represent a diverse swath of humanity. Some squeamish types will note a few gruesome deaths. There's some fun dialogue and a few bits about mental health and medication.
There are plenty of private investigator-types in urban fantasy, and Justis isn't all that different from, say, Harry Dresden in that series' first book. I enjoyed reading this one, but I didn't find it hard to put it down in favor of another game of Spellfall. I do want to know what happens next for Justis and his just-magic-of-normal world, though the author will have to give us another whopper of an antagonist to bring this series up to Dresden's level. If you're craving similar urban fantasy-mystery, give this a shot.
Received as a free digital ARC via Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review....more