Posts filed under ‘Urban Fantasy’
I’ve fallen a little behind (what else is new?) but I’m really excited about some of the releases that came out at the end of May, and wanted to share them!
May 17, 2011: Graveminder by Melissa Marr
This is Melissa Marr’s first adult novel, and if it’s half as great as her faerie court series, I’ll be thrilled. The story is about Rebekkah, who returns to Claysville, her hometown, after her grandmother’s death. She comes to realize there is more to Claysville than she thought, and that her grandmother played a key role in keeping the peace between the living and the dead. And, it falls to Bek to uphold the family tradition.
I’m on the library waitlist for the audiobook, and can’t wait to listen to it!
May 18, 2011: America Pacifica by Anna North
I think I’m at the point with YA (which I love) that the first thing I’m looking for in a story is originality. And, when I read the description of America Pacifica, I knew I had to read it.
North America is in a second ice age, and Darcy lives on the island of America Pacifica. It’s a place of haves and have-nots, and is ruled by a mysterious dictator. When Darcy’s mom disappears, she searches for her mom, and finds much more than she bargained for.
May 24, 2011: Rhapsody for Piano and Ghost by ZA Maxfield
ZAM is one of my favorite m/m authors. She always writes with so much heart, creating characters I really care about.
While gifted pianist Fritz is studying at a conservatory and looking for a little peace, he finds himself surrounded by family and friends (possibly including a couple of well-meaning imaginary ones) who complicate his life.
It sounds like this story is told with ZAM’s trademark sense of humor.
May 29, 2011: Between Sinners and Saints by Marie Sexton
I’ve recently discovered Marie Sexton’s Coda series, and LOVED every one of them. Her new release is a stand alone, and sounds like it’s as angsty and will pull at my heartstrings as her Coda books.
Bartender Levi is has left behind his Mormon roots behind and encounters Jamie, a loner who is haunted by his past. It’s an opposites attract love story (one of my favorite kinds) and of course the heroes find common ground, healing, and love.
May 31, 2011: Kiss of Snow (PsyChangeling series, book 10) by Nalini Singh
Need I say more? I do? Oh, ok.
Well, I’ve already read it, and it’s as awesome as all the hype led me to believe.
Read it. You won’t be sorry.
May 31, 2011: Magic Slays (Kate Daniels series, book 5) by Ilona Andrews
I always say this about the Kate Daniels series, but here we are at book 5, and it’s still true: each subsequent book in this series gets better (and I really liked the first book).
I’m really interested to see where the author goes with Magic Slays, especially since we are sort of moved to the post HEA part of the story line with Kate and Curran.
I’m looking forward to see the new life that they will build, what Kate is going to do with her new business, and what will happen with the bigger story arc involving Kate’s background.
May 31, 2011: Just Like Heaven (Smythe-Smith quartet, book 1) by Julia Quinn
The legendary Smythe-Smith family (and their notorious musicales) has always been the comic relief in Julia Quinns more recent books. The poor Smythe-Smith girls are now getting their own stories, and Lady Honoria is the heroine in Just Like Heaven. Another of my favorite romance tropes is the younger sibling/older sibling’s friend pairing, and Marcus (Honoria’s brother’s best friend) starts out keeping an eye on Honoria in her brother’s absence, and finds himself falling in love.
I always enjoy Julia Quinn’s historical romances. They’re light, funny, and romantic. I’m currrently listening to Just Like Heaven (narrated by Roslyn Landor) and so far it’s exactly what I expect.
May 31, 2011: My Dangerous Pleasure (Witches/My series, book 4) by Carolyn Jewel
This is one of my favorite parnormal series. I love the unique world, the strong heroines, and the sexy demons.
My Dangerous Pleasure is Iskander’s story. The author has really put him thru the mill in this series, and I was excited that he finally gets a HEA. And, Paisley is a worthy heroine.
If you haven’t picked this series up yet, I highly recommend that you start with book 1, My Wicked Enemy.
My review for this book will be posted in a couple of days.
That’s a lot of books, isn’t it? Lots of good stuff, here. What’s recently been released that you’ve been looking forward to?
I’ve always hesitated to grade or “rate” the books I read. There’s a piece of me that feels it’s a bit reductive. I’m a wordy sort of person (if you couldn’t already tell :-P ) and prefer to give the whys of something rather than a letter grade, number, or a symbol (insert quantifying icon here).
However, spending so much time on Goodreads has really gotten me into the habit of giving books I read a star-rating. And, while I balked at first at giving the 1 to 5 star ratings there, I’ve now gotten (mostly) used to it.
In March, I was surprised when I noticed that I had a good number of 5★ reads. I don’t feel like I give 5★s out easily. Phrases like: “blown away”, “greatly exceeded my expectations”, and, “awesome!” have to enter my head while reading a book to which I’d give 5★s.
And, these books did all of that, and then some:
The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran
This is one of those books that I don’t have an excuse as to why I haven’t read it earlier. I’ve read Meredith Duran’s other books (except her most recent one) and really loved them. Yet, despite having The Duke of Shadows on my tbr for a while, I just now got to it. And loved it. I was wrecked for other books after finishing it.
Emma was smart and feisty. She goes through hell and doesn’t come out unscathed. A lot of the book’s personal drama is due to her damage. Yet, I understood why she felt the way that she did—even though on the inside I just wanted her to get with Julian. Of course, then the book would have had no conflict.
And, in Julian I have found a new favorite hero. He’s honorable and straightforward, and like Emma, he too has baggage he’s carrying around. Yet, I never doubted his love for Emma.
The Greyfriar (Vampire Empire, book 1) by Clay and Susan
The closest I can come to comparing it to another book, is that it’s like a slightly less romance-y Iron Duke. It has elements of steampunk, adventure, and some romance.
Princess Adele is the next in line to the Empire of Equatoria. She’s brave and idealistic, and she still has lots to learn about the world beyond her kingdom. An attack while she is touring border territories thrusts her into the middle of a terrifying world where vampires now rule what was once Great Britain.
Coming to her aid is the mysterious Greyfriar, a masked hero, who always mysteriously shows up at the right time. (Though that’s not to say that Adele is some helpless maiden.) The story is pulpy in feel (in a fun way), but it doesn’t sacrifice character development for action. It has a great balance of both, and is one of my favorite reads of 2011 so far. I can’t wait for book 2, The Riftwalker, later this fall.
Home for the Holidays by Sarah Mayberry
Sarah Mayberry packs an amazing amount of story into a category romance. Even with the Super Romance’s longer length, I was surprised by how this category romance packs a wallop.
I LOVED both Joe and Hannah. They each had their baggage coming into the story, but worked through all of it even while the story took time showing their courtship. Great stuff.
There was a plot twist at the end that had me glancing at the number of pages left, wondering how Sarah Mayberry would resolve it in a realisitc and satisfying way. She did. And, then some.
A Lot Like Love by Julie James
Julie James is an author I know will always give great banter. The interplay between her heroes and heroines read like Tracy/Hepburn movies, with palpable chemistry and fast dialogue that is smart and funny.
What made A Lot Like Love work so well for me was that the suspense plot flowed equally well, and made me not want to put it down. I can tell I’m really into a book when I catch myself skimming, in an attempt to read the book faster. (Of course, then I have to make myself go back, and savor what I read s-l-o-w-l-y.) There was a lot of that in A Lot Like Love.
GhosTV (PsyCop series, book 6) by Jordan Castillo Price
JCP did something that often is hard to find in mystery/romance books. That is, she showed the hero in a believable, but still compelling established relationship, while developing an equally compelling and suspenseful paranormal mystery.
Vic is one of my favorite protagonists to read about. His uncomfortable-ness in his skin competes with how happy he is in his relationship with Jacob. And, where sometimes a somewhat neurotic protagonist can be whiny or annoying, Vic is never that. One really gets that Vic’s insecurity doesn’t stem from doubts about Jacob’s love for him. THAT’S his touchstone. The rest of his baggage is his shit to work out, he owns it, and he doesn’t just dump it on Jacob. Which makes him a wonderfully strong character, IMO.
And, as for the case Vic and Jacob are working on, it kept me guessing, trying to figure things out, as well as having a considerable creep factor. It also left me with wanting more. Especially, after a decision that’s made at the end of the book. Can’t wait for book 7!
Wanna know something awesome? After writing the greater part of this post, I actually had another couple of 5✭ reads. However, my preparations for attending the Romantic Times Book Lovers Convention is necessitating that I wrap this post up here. Next week, I’ll do some mini-reviews of the rest of the books.
An Artificial Night (October Daye series, book 3) by Seanan McGuire
This audiobook was given to me by Brilliance Audio for review purposes.
Audiobook read by Mary Robinette Kowal.
Everyone in the Bay Area knows about Blind Michael, the unseen, dangerous figure whose Hunt sweeps the Berkeley hills on full moon nights. He’s a familiar hazard of life in the Kingdom of the Mists, and most people don’t waste time worrying about him. October “Toby” Daye certainly doesn’t. She has better things to worry about, like paying the electrical bill on time. So it’s understandable that she’d be upset when Blind Michael suddenly starts taking an interest in people that matter to her, like the youngest children of Mitch and Stacy Brown.
Tasked to find the missing children, and with the stakes growing higher by the minute, Toby has few choices and fewer allies to help her through the dangers yet to come. With the Luidaeg’s help and a candle to light her way home, there’s a chance that she’ll come through this latest danger…but the sudden appearance of her Fetch doesn’t give Toby all that much in the way of hope…
I always worry when I’m about to read (and review) a book that I’m really looking forward to. I’m afraid that my expectations are unrealistically high, and that the book is doomed before I even crack the spine (or turn on the ipod, as the case may be).
But, as with book 2 (A Local Habitation, reviewed here), An Artificial Night not only lived up the the high expectations, but took the series in ever more interesting and complex directions.
The above description describes the plot well, but for as much as I enjoyed the originality of the plot and the action kept me turning the pages, it was Toby’s character development that I found most absorbing.
AAN touched on two themes with regard to Toby. The first one was that of childhood. When Toby is commissioned to rescue the missing children from Blind Michael, she doesn’t realize how greatly she will have to get in touch with her own “childhood”, and her feelings about her own daughter from whom she is alienated. It was great to see a child-Toby still retain her intrinsic “Toby-ness”: brave, outspoken, and just a little bit irreverent.
In a lot of ways, her journeys through Blind Michael’s land reveals more about her than previous books. The second theme in AAN (and in the series in general) is that of the meaning of heroism. (And not necessarily the “heroism” of a typical uf kick-ass heroine, where the emphasis tends to be on the “kick-ass” part, but on the more classical definition of “hero”.) Toby spends much of the book denying that she is a hero. Yet, she embraces the ideals of a true hero—honor, loyalty, and the importance of keeping one’s word—and I love how through the course of the book she comes to accept what those around her keep telling her: that she is a true hero. When she finally did accept it, I really felt like cheering for her, and couldn’t help but think about what a long road she’s been on since escaping her enchantment as a goldfish in book 1.
Tybalt, the King of the Caith Sidhe, continues to drop in on Toby, and steal every scene he’s in. I love his dry sense of humor, and he always seems to get the best lines. I hope that the burbling chemistry between him and Toby that remains (at this point) mostly under the surface, will become more in the near future.
Mary Robinette Kowal did another wonderful job on the narration of this audiobook. She really has a way of imbuing each character’s voice with their distinctive personalities, and making it a fun listen.
I’m still hoping for an appearance of Toby’s estranged daughter, but at least in AAN, I gained a great deal of insight into Toby’s character that will (hopefully) lay the ground work for her daughter’s inclusion in a future book in the series. I was glad to see on Seanan McGurire’s livejournal that she has 2 more Toby books (The Brightest Fell and Ashes of Honor) in the works (among some other really interesting looking projects). I can’t wait to see what Toby will do next.
Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
A version of this review appears at Goodreads.
4.5 out of 5 stars.
View all of my Goodreads reviews >>
This YA took a were storyline and made it fresh and powerful. I’d heard a lot of hype about this book and worried that it wouldn’t live up to it. But, it did.
I loved that Bryn was headstrong and independent, without being TSTL. She fights against the well-intentioned but smothering protection of her adopted pack, knowing she truly is physically weaker than they are, but still working toward standing on her own two feet. In a lot of ways, it recalled Mercy Thompson’s upbringing among the wolf pack in the Patricia Briggs series. Small and weaker doesn’t mean dependent and helpless. And, like Mercy, Bryn discovers her own strengths and abilities.
Also, the secondary characters were interesting and well-defined. Pack Alpha and father-figure Callum, was especially interesting, and I love how Bryn both looks up to him and fights against him for her autonomy. While at times his actions seem questionable, it’s clear that he loves Bryn. Yet, even his attachment to her is put at risk by the pack’s laws, and his and Bryn’s actions.
Chase, imprisoned by the pack, has an immediate connection to Bryn, and as they discover the reasons for it, it becomes clear that their lives are inextricably intertwined. As he struggles to control the factions warring in his head for his loyalty, Bryn does what she can to help him. I love how, though she’s not physically strong, she is still able to come to Chase’s aid, and he never questions her abilities.
My only issue with Raised by Wolves was that her best friend, Devon, sort of drops out of the book in the middle of the book. He was a great character, and very atypical for a young male were with alpha tendencies. (Who doesn’t love a were with a passion for musical theater?)
Given what was going on with Bryn wrt Chase and the rest of the pack, I really noticed Devon’s absence, and it completely pulled me out of the book. All things considered, though, it’s a minor complaint.
Some really cool and original action takes place in the last half of the book. But, a lot of it would be spoilers, so suffice it to say that the book takes a really original take on pack interactions and were abilities. I love what Jennifer Barnes does with the books world building. And, the characters, their relationships, and the action never lose their momentum while she pushes the boundaries on the were mythology.
Given where things were left by the end of this book, I can’t wait to read more about Bryn and company.
- Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ site.
Kitty Goes to War (Kitty Norville series, book 8 ) by Carrie Vaughn
This review cross-posted from Goodreads.
View all my reviews at Goodreads >>
This ARC was given to me by Tor for review.
Kitty Goes to War is released today, June 29, 2010.
Kitty Norville, Alpha werewolf and host of The Midnight Hour, a radio call-in show, is contacted by a friend at the NIH’s Center for the Study of Paranatural Biology.
Three Army soldiers recently returned from the war in Afghanistan are being held at Ft. Carson in Colorado Springs. They’re killer werewolves—and post traumatic stress has left them unable to control their shape-shifting and unable to interact with people. Kitty agrees to see them, hoping to help by bringing them into her pack.
Meanwhile, Kitty gets sued for libel by CEO Harold Franklin after featuring Speedy Mart—his nationwide chain of 24-hour convenience stores with a reputation for attracting supernatural unpleasantness—on her show.
Very bad weather is on the horizon.
I seriously think that this is one of the most underrated series in urban fantasy. It’s installments are consistently good, the characters are complex, and the current on-going story arc of the “long game”, an impending struggle among supernaturals for ultimate power, ties the series together nicely.
Kitty’s character growth is my favorite thing about the series, and with Kitty Goes to War, she’s coming into her own as more than just a “reluctant Alpha”. While she questions whether she’s equal to the tasks of protecting her pack while assisting the rogue veterans who need her help, it’s apparent that her confidence has grown with her leadership abilities.
I really like how, unlike a lot of urban fantasy that takes place in a non-specific contemporary setting, this series is firmly entrenched in today’s world, including current events like the war in Afghanistan. It makes the book feel timely, and I love seeing how the supernatural world is interwoven with real events.
There are numerous storylines going on here: the vets, Speedy Mart’s mysterious CEO, Cormac’s release from jail (yay!), and the over-arching “long game”, yet the pacing is never overwhelmed by the need to keep all of them moving forward.
Speaking of Cormac (my favorite character), his re-entry into Kitty’s everyday life (not just occasional prison visits) was handled really well. I was curious to see how it would play out, given her marriage to his cousin Ben, and Kitty’s undeniable chemistry with Cormac. And, while I would have loved to have had things turn out differently for them, the current state of affairs works for the characters and for the story.
I’m really looking forward to seeing where this series goes: for Kitty, as Alpha; for her, Ben and Cormac, as family; and for the supernatural community, as the impending confrontation between vampires Roman and Rick, and the other players in the fight for power.
I love brothers in fiction.
Particularly, a pair of brothers.There’s something about that relationship that really draws me in. Maybe it’s because I don’t have any brothers. There’s a mysteriousness to that relationship for me. Especially, seeing their connection to one another, usually expressed in a way that’s foreign to me. (I have 3 sisters. Our ways of relating are worlds apart from the brothers that I read about.) Also, there’s usually an intensity to a pair of brothers that I just love. That “us against the world” and love/hate that gets played out. Typically, they are opposites. Looks, personality, philosophy—their differences make it even more compelling when they hang together in the face of impossible odds.
(Did I just date myself? Yeah, and it’s cheezy. But, I admit it, I like it. Oh, hell, just let it play while you read on…)
Here are a few of my favorite fictional brotherly pairs:
|Cal and Niko from Rob Thurman’s Cal Leandros series
This is the first sibling pair that comes to mind when I think of great fictional brothers. Cal is dark, sarcastic, and half Auphe (think evil demon-like elf). Niko is a “Buddha-lovin’ badass” who will do anything to protect his little brother. And, I mean anything.
I love how they will give each other shit one moment, and stand back to back fighting off supernatural nasties the next. Sometimes, they even fight them off while giving each other shit.
For me, the high-point of this series was being able to get Niko’s point of view in Deathwish. (Typically, this series is told solely from Cal’s pov.)
|Nick and Alan from Sarah Rees Brennan’s The Demon’s Lexicon series
OK, so this pair brings intensity and love/hate levels to all time highs. Sometimes their conflict (mostly on Nick’s side) was painful to read, but boy does it make this book exciting.
Nick is all about action (of the sword-wielding/wizard hunting kind), and is notably lacking in the social-skills department. Alan is compassionate, protective, and can also kick-ass when he needs to. Aside from their emotionally disturbed mother, they are all the other has in the world. Until Mae and Jamie enter the picture.
The secrets revealed toward the end, of The Demon’s Lexicon only make Nick and Alan’s relationship more heart-wrenching. LOVE. It.
|Simon and Derek from Kelley Armstrong’s The Darkest Powers trilogy
I just finished this trilogy, and with each book, I loved seeing more and more of Simon and Derek’s relationship. Because they are adopted brothers, they not only look different from each other, they are of different supernatural races. Simon’s a warlock and Derek’s a were.
What makes their relationship so special is that even when they both develop feelings for Chloe, they are still loyal to each other, and try so hard not to compete for her affections.
Actually, if you want even more Simon and Derek goodness, Kelley Armstrong has a free novella, Dangerous (PDF download), that’s a prequel to the trilogy that focuses entirely on them.
|Harry and Thomas from Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files
This series really belongs to Harry, and his half-brother Thomas is strictly a supporting character. However, Blood Rites, one of my favorite books in the series, deals with their relationship and that gives so much insight into Harry’s character.
Harry is a wise-cracking wizard who has a weak spot for damsels in distress. Thomas is a white court vampire (he feeds off of sexual energy rather than blood) who is smooth and sophisticated. But what I love about them is that even if the lives they lead take them in separate directions most of the time, they have each others back when the other needs them.
So, who is your favorite fraternal pair?
May’s 2010 TBR Challenge review.
I totally went off the map with this book, and it is not May’s “friends to lovers” theme. However, I’m so excited that I got my blogging mojo back this week (2 reviews in 1 week!). I’m going with it, and reviewing the urban fantasy…
A Kiss Before the Apocalpyse (Remy Chandler series, book 1) by Thomas E Sniegoski
This audiobook was given to me by Brilliance Audio for review purposes.
Audiobook read by Luke Daniels.
I’ve had this book on my To Be Bought list for ages. Like a number of other urban fantasy series I like (Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files and Kat Richardson’s Harper Blaine series are 2 that immediately come to mind), the Remy Chandler series is a uf series that is strongly rooted in the P.I. mystery genre. While the supernatural elements are key to the story, the plot is driven by Remy’s “case”, finding the missing Angel of Death.
AKbtA sets up a very original world. I love how it is equal parts gritty reality, with Boston providing local color, and angelic fantasy, with different factions of angels battling each other for a place of power here on earth and in the heavens.
However, what really makes AKbtA a good read/listen is Remy. He is unique among other angels for voluntarily walking away from his divine calling to live among humans. The only other angels who also live among them do so as punishment. So, Remy is isolated from both the heavenly host who can’t understand why he would leave their ranks and the earthly renegades who are ostracized from heaven.
A lot of times uf heroes are complete loners. But, while Remy’s set apart from his divine peers, his deepest connections are his earthly ones. I really liked that Remy has close ties, especially to his aging wife Madeleine, his police officer friend, Mulvahill, and his dog, a lab named Marlowe. (I may have the spelling of the names wrong, since I listened to the audiobook.)
His relationship with Madeleine was so poignant, and showed the flipside of relationships often depicted in uf/paranormals: what happens when the mortal in the relationship ages, and the immortal being does not.
I also loved how he was able to communicate with Marlowe, and have to admit I thought of my own lab (The Big Guy) while listening to Remy’s scenes with Marlowe.
My only issue was that at times it felt as if the pacing was a little slow. There was some impatience on my part to move forward past some of the set up and get to more action. However, when events do begin to fall into place, I was swept along with them.
Narrator Luke Daniels did an amazing job with the voice characterizations, giving unique (and realistic) voices to each person in the story. Best of all was his voice for Remy. It really conveyed the “average Joe” Remy has in some ways become. What did surprise me, at least at the beginning of the audiobook, was that Daniels’ narrative voice sounded a bit stiff. To my ear, however, that was remedied as the story progressed, and the narrative felt more relaxed and natural in the last half. Overall, though, the character voices really made the audio production.