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Currently Browsing: urban fantasy
Mar
18

Review: Far Shore by Traci L. Slatton

Review: Far Shore by Traci L. Slatton Far Shore Author: Traci L. Slatton Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: B What We’re Talking About: Far Shore was a surprising follow-up to Cold Light.  Gikany and Una liked this third edition in the After series.  For those who have followed our reviews of this series, yes, the After trilogy is now a series, but that is not the only surprise waiting for you in Far Shore. Please note that due to the nature of this series, there are minor spoilers for the previous novels contained within this review.  You have been warned! Emma finds herself faced with a bitter choice as Far Shore opens.  After making the choice to stay with Haywood and return to Canada at the conclusion of Cold Light, her friends have sought her out for assistance.  Haywood gives her an ultimatum: stay with him and the children, or go and never see them again.  With the history, love, and connection that Emma and Arthur have, it is not surprising that Emma leaves to help rescue Arthur from Alexei.  We never expected the road that this choice would take Emma, nor how the world would change. In Far Shore, we truly experience how the world is evolving.  Not only are the Mists changing, but so are the people and their abilities.  We were fascinated by the changes – not just in in the skills and abilities, but in the hearts of some of the characters.  As much as Emma has struggled in the past two novels, it truly hits home in Far Shore.  Her choices lead her to a climactic moment in her personal growth.  We respect and were captivated by what happens after she rescues Arthur.  Emma truly shines as she struggles to make the best of the only choice her heart could have made.  We were humbled and terrified with her.  The despair and desperation she experiences is palpable.  When she was faced with temptation – Gikany and Una were torn apart, hoping she would not give in.  Emma’s endurance kept us glued to the pages as we continued to read in hopes that the tide would turn in her favor. Although there are some very flagrantly obvious foreshadowing moments, the ending was surprising.  Considering that this series began as a trilogy, to have a cliffhanger ending at the conclusion of the third book was surprising.  However, we can see that maybe there is too much left to try to cram it in. ...
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Mar
17

Review: Bladed Magic by JC Daniels

Review: Bladed Magic by JC Daniels Bladed Magic Author: JC Daniels Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: Bladed Magic is a short novella that takes place a “few years ago,” just after Kit leaves her family and is living with her friend/guardian, TJ. The story opens with Kit overhearing a fight near TJ’s, and she jumps in to save the one human who is being beaten up by three werewolves. Once the fight is over, Kit discovers that the man is actually a witch named Justin. This is the story of how Justin and Kit first meet, and as a fan of the Colbana Files series, I enjoyed getting to know Kit before she becomes the kick-ass heroine of “present day.” Since I have read the three books in the Colbana Files series, my review will be skewed with the knowledge of what becomes of Kit and Justin. I got a thrill from seeing how the friends first meet, experiencing their early banter and sparks of romance, even their first kiss! But I feel that I wouldn’t have been ready for this story until after reading the third book, Broken Blade (or before the second book – just not in between the second and third books because of where Kit is emotionally and mentally after the end of Night Blade). I also don’t think that I would recommend readers new to the series to start with Bladed Magic, since a new reader isn’t privy to what becomes of the individuals or the pair. I feel that having this knowledge makes the novella more fun to read. One thing that I really adored is reading how Kit’s instincts work. Per usual, the author takes the reader deep inside Kit’s thought process, and we witness how she begins to trust her inner voice. I find it exceptionally interesting because in the books of the series, Kit’s reactions and actions are so second nature for her that there is no “thinking it out.” In Bladed Magic, we see how Kit leans to use and embrace her gut feelings. I also enjoyed learning just how naive Kit is when she first escapes her family. She really knows nothing of the shifter world, and has to learn lessons the hard way at times. Kit also learns that to survive in the paranormal world, she has to be prepared to kill, something she wants to avoid altogether. Unfortunately, because this is a novella-length story, there isn’t enough room...
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Mar
10

Review: Night Broken by Patricia Briggs

Review: Night Broken by Patricia Briggs Night Broken Author: Patricia Briggs  Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: A- What We’re Talking About: Gikany and Una are huge Patricia Briggs fans and we absolutely adore the Mercy Thompson series.  The latest release, Night Broken, was different from the previous offerings and yet just as wonderful! Although it is possible to read Night Broken as a stand-alone, we don’t recommend it. The series is so well written, we suggest picking up Moon Called, the first in the series, to introduce you to this world.  This is a very rich and well-woven series.  Night Broken is so wonderful because of the journeys that have brought us to this point. Mercy Thompson is a beloved heroine of ours.  In fact, she is one of the baselines we use to evaluate new urban fantasy series.  There is just so much to this world, the mythology, and the characters.  In Night Broken we see a more mature Mercy.  She is still full of her usual snarkiness (which we love), but she is calmer, and capable of thinking before acting.  We loved the growth we saw in her.  As the Alpha’s mate, she cannot just keep running head first into danger.  Night Broken is a defining moment for Mercy–taking the lessons she’s learned from the past and applying them.  Her restraint in dealing with Christy is super-human.  Gikany and Una agree we would never have been as tolerant or as forgiving. Mercy’s inner monologue strengthens the novel.  We were able to listen to Mercy as she thought things through and struggled to accept what was happening.  We especially loved her wit when faced with the nonsense that is Christy, Adam’s ex-wife.  We also greatly enjoyed her interactions with Coyote and the relationship that seems to be tentatively growing. Christy is present to cause problems for Mercy. The relationship between Adam and Mercy is affected by the mayhem that Christy inflicts via the pack.  Christy must have a master’s degree in manipulation and egocentrism.  Adding these complications to the destruction that Christy’s stalker ex-boyfriend Guayota creates, it is no wonder that Mercy contemplates letting him have her. The overall plot of the novel is fascinating with the antagonist being a God on the loose.  The reasons why he has gone on a killing rampage both humanizes him and accentuates his other-worldliness.  However, there is always more to these novels than just Mercy versus the big bad.  Not only must Mercy continue to deal with...
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Mar
4

Review: Cold Light by Traci L. Slatton

Review: Cold Light by Traci L. Slatton Cold Light Author: Traci L. Slatton Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: C+ What We’re Talking About: Cold Light is sequel to Fallen, following Emma in a post-apocalyptic world.  We find Emma sometime after the ending of Fallen, living unhappily in Canada with her husband.  When her oldest daughter is captured, Emma is the only one who can retrieve her. Firstly, Gikany and Una like this world: we find the mythology vastly interesting.  The mists – how they were created, how they turned and how they are evolving is fascinating to our sci-fi minds.  It seems even people are evolving as well – which all makes sense. However, we think there are still some stagnant aspects. The lack of communication between Emma and everyone is the biggest one.  Considering her experiences in Fallen, you would think she would have learned to work within a team.  We understand her need to protect others, but taking it to the extreme of placing her own life, and consequently her daughter, in jeopardy is absurd!  We understand the nature of Arthur and with his personality we can sympathize with why he keeps things to close to himself.  But Emma is not Arthur and her experiences should have taught her that in this new world, a lone ranger CANNOT survive. We also thought there were too many parallels between Cold Light and Fallen.  In some ways it was a rewriting of Fallen with a change of geography.  Emma’s internal monologue helps to understand her rationalizations.  However, we expected more growth from her.  She is a pretty smart cookie, why is it that she does not learn from her mistakes?  Without giving everything away, we understand her reason for making the choice she does at the end of Cold Light.  However, she goes off, choice made, alone…again.  Considering the state of the world, the dangers of raiders, the mist and everything else…WHY on earth did she leave on her own?  It seemed like such a brainless thing to do instead of making her choice and having the “posse” assist her in reaching her destination. One truly bright positive in Cold Light is the supporting characters.  They round out the novel, giving us humor, humanity and hope.  We love the people Emma finds to surround herself with.  The only exception being Haywood – we do not understand their relationship.  The world has changed, maybe he is no longer who he used to be either, but Haywood just...
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Mar
3

Review: Red Delicious by Kathleen Tierney

Review: Red Delicious by Kathleen Tierney Red Delicious Author: Kathleen Tierney Reviewer: B. Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: In Red Delicious, Quinn (don’t call her Siobhan) is our tour guide once again through her memories of the events that shaped her up to an undefined present. This time, she finds herself in an even more complicated situation, involving battling succubi, a necromancer’s daughters, inter-dimensional shifts, and a mystical phallus. Surrounded by both new faces and old, Quinn will have to be stronger and quicker than ever before if she’s to survive—except that, technically, she’s already dead. There’s something very likable about a character that is so keen to use her un-likability as a tool to bludgeon everyone around her, including the reader. Quinn is no darling. She is resentful (with reason), brutal in every respect, apathetic, utterly self-serving, and a murderer. But, as a “werepire,” the girl’s gotta eat, so she doesn’t have a lot of options on that count. She is also much more clever than she lets on, has a soft spot for a very few specific others that she’d rather not have, and usually holds up her end of a bargain, even though the latter is mainly only true if it helps keep her “alive.” While very entertaining for most of the story, Quinn’s loathing of nearly everyone around her, characters and audience alike, did wear a little thin in the second half of Red Delicious. As I don’t blame Quinn for her disposition towards the other characters in the story, this is mostly due to her repeated suggestion that the unsatisfied reader should simply stop reading, as it’s no concern of hers. Quinn has never had an easy life, even when she was alive, and, for the most part, has nothing to lose. Blackmailed into the service of the mysterious “Mean Mr. B,” Quinn’s non-life isn’t even her own. She’s a weapon: the baddest one there is. And the growing list of those who wholeheartedly believe they’ve got the right to use her for their own purposes is downright insulting. I’d be a little testy, too, if I were her. As to the story itself, Red Delicious is both dark and amusing, Quinn’s knack for getting out of a situation (not entirely) unscathed proving to be almost mesmerizing for all the destruction left in her wake. But, while they were necessary to get all the players onboard, the dimensional jumps caused me to fall out of the story a little,...
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Feb
26

Review: Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop

Review: Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop Murder of Crows Author: Anne Bishop  Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Meg Corbyn was a complete mystery to the Others when she first arrived at Lakeside Courtyard. Two months later, the resident terra indigene, or Earth Natives, have accepted that this aspect of their relationship with her isn’t likely to ever change. Although, as a Cassandra Sangue, or blood prophet, Meg has proven herself to the terra indigene time and again, it is her pure and sweet nature that leads them to accept her as one of their own. But, with angry humans trying to overthrow the Others, and the man who considers Meg his personal property more intent on getting her back than ever, it will take everyone, terra indigene and trusted humans alike, to strike at the true source of all the trouble before the threat of war leads to a slaughter. Simon Wolfgard is leader of the most progressive terra indigene courtyard in all of Thaisia. Though distrustful of humans, in general, he’s created a place where humans and Others can interact peacefully, work together, and typically get along—to a point. But the arrival of the short, strange woman with stinky, orange hair one winter’s night turned everything he thought he knew about the “clever meat” inside out, changing almost everyone in the courtyard to varying degrees in the process. Him, most especially. Now, with the threat to both Meg and terra indigene alike growing by the day, Simon will have to rely on allies both new and old in order to give the fragile trust they’ve all worked so hard to build a chance to survive. In preparation for this review, I reread most of the first book in the series, Written in Red, and I have to say that I enjoyed it even more the second time around. Meg Corbyn is a delight to read in both novels, as are Simon and many of the other characters, her innocence and fortitude combining to endear her to the Others as much as she confuses them. In Murder of Crows, Meg continues to work for and aid the terra indigene who have taken her in, and their understanding and appreciation of her self-sacrifice is the catalyst for many other changes within the community as a whole. Meg is an anomaly in so many ways that none of the Others really know what to do with her, leading to several laugh-out-loud moments that broke...
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Feb
21

Review: The Problem with Promises by Leigh Evans

Review: The Problem with Promises by Leigh Evans The Problem with Promises Author: Leigh Evans Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: As with most urban fantasy series, the Mystwalker series books should be read from the beginning and in order, or the reader will miss out on substantial world development and character growth. In fact, I don’t know that I would have enjoyed The Problem with Promises nearly as much if I hadn’t spent my time in the trenches with Hedi and Robson. So with that, I highly recommend that any reader new to this series start with the first book, The Trouble with Fate. The Mystwalker series chronicles the story of Hedi Peacock, a half-werewolf, half-fae who doesn’t fit in among either of the races. Her “one true thing” and mate Robson Trowbridge, is alpha to a pack of werewolves who don’t really know him and aren’t fans of Hedi. The Problem with Promises opens a couple of hours after the conclusion of the previous book, The Thing About Weres. The central characters are all present to discuss strategy and create a plan of action to deal with two major events that occurred in the prior book. The first involves saving Hedi’s twin brother, Lexi, and the second is damage control with the ruling werewolf council (NAW) after Robson killed its emissaries. This leads to much action and adventure as Hedi must fight, once again, to save those closest to her. I’m just going to put this out there… The Problem with Promises is heads and tails above the previous two stories. While I enjoyed both books, I had some issues that kept me from elevating the stories to “one of my favorites.” Things such as rambling monologues, confusing storylines, and (my biggest beef) too many problems for Hedi, weighed down the prior books. However, this time around I found the storyline to be sharp, well-focused and engrossing. Each of the main characters underwent substantial growth, leaving this reader emotionally tied to and invested in each one’s fate. I throughly enjoyed reading this tale and look forward to more. Hedi Peacock has become one of my favorite UF heroines. I admire that she’s no where near perfect, with her insecurities close to the surface at all times. One of the things that I find so fascinating is that Hedi experiences her fae and wolf sides as two distinct beings within her, with one or the other surfacing (or retreating) when it is needed most....
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Feb
20

Review: Night Owls by Lauren M. Roy

Review: Night Owls by Lauren M. Roy Night Owls Author: Lauren M. Roy  Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: A- What We’re Talking About: Night Owls is the debut novel of Ms. Lauren M. Roy.  Gikany and Una never know what to expect when we pick up a debut author.  We were sublimely surprised by this first novel in the Night Owls series and look forward to more. The first element we must comment on is the mythology and world-building – an integral aspect in a first in a series novel.  It is the varied and fresh mythology of Night Owls that hooked us.  We are pleasantly surprised that the “creeps” described in the book blurb are not the usual suspects (vampires, werewolves, etc).  The creeps seem to be their own category of bad – a melding of werewolf and vampire it seems.  They remind Gikany of the “bad guys” from the movie version (except for not being mindless) of I Am Legend (Una has refused to see this movie due to the fate of a beloved canine companion – her heart is too weak).  We enjoyed this unique creature and the richness it brought to the overall story.  Especially considering the camaraderie seen between a vampire, creep hunters, two hilarious yet loyal succubi, one Renfield and a clueless college student.  The way this mythology is introduced, slowly, as the world-building progresses along with the overall story arc, was paced beautifully.  Not once did the story drag due to “downloading” the world-building. Another great aspect of Night Owls is the characters.  Character driven, the story slowly brings together two very different people, our vampire Valerie (Val) and the creep hunter, Elly, to fight the evil creeps.  The path the two main characters took to reach each other was convoluted.  It did not progress as we thought it would, based on the back description.  It took time to build their meeting together, getting the right people in the right place – and desperate enough.  Especially since, although Val is not a creep, Elly was still not keen on meeting a vampire let alone teaming up.  With the dark elements evident in this story – the novel is lightened by the presence of the two succubi.  Their antics which are as natural to them as breathing and their loyalty were a much needed anchor in the overall story. Although our heroes were able to thwart the creeps, the tension and conflict between the creeps and our band of night...
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Feb
18

Review: Oracle of Philadelphia by Elizabeth Corrigan

Review: Oracle of Philadelphia by Elizabeth Corrigan Oracle of Philadelphia Author: Elizabeth Corrigan  Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: A+ What We’re Talking About: Sometimes you come across a true gem without realizing it.  By pure happenstance Oracle of Philadelphia came to our attention. Gikany and Una selected it because it sounded interesting, but we were unsure about it: we were not familiar with the author and had no expectations.  Even if we had had some, they would have been blown away.  This is one of our top picks of 2014! It is difficult to describe everything that makes this novel work.  The mythology is intricate and well written.  We have demons, the fallen angels who run around causing their particular specialty of havoc.  Bedlam, Carrie’s “demon” best friend and the former Angel of Chaos, excels at causing confusion and throwing things out of balance (sometimes without even realizing it).  There are also the favored, those angels still in the employ of the one true God.  Gabriel, Carrie’s best “angel” friend, is the Angel of Joy.  He is compelled to offer aid and assistance, even when it comes with a price.  There are also angels who battle the demons to send them back to hell when they are caught transgressing.  It is extremely fascinating. Carrie is neither angel nor demon.  The mystery of who Carrie is and what happened to her were woven gently and tantalizingly throughout the novel.  When her true identity is revealed, we were stunned and amazed.  Carrie’s personality and the millenniums that she has lived through could have caused her to become callous: to keep to herself, and to plug along, day after day.  Luckily for her, between the beloved insanity that is Bedlam, and the searing joy and beauty that are Gabriel, she finds the courage to continue.  When confronted by a man so pure, he sold his soul and yet remains true and untainted, she is overcome.  Carrie feels called to help because she cannot allow herself not to intercede on his behalf. Another aspect that impressed us is the author’s masterful use of flashbacks.  In most novels, flashbacks are best when seldom used, otherwise it is far too easy for the reader to be lost.  That is not the case in Oracle of Philadelphia.  Not only are flashbacks used extensively, they are done in different ways, expertly conveying character backgrounds, important past experiences, and giving foundations to the intricately woven fabric of the mythology.  Through these flashbacks we learn not...
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Feb
13

Review: Known Devil by Justin Gustainis

Review: Known Devil by Justin Gustainis Known Devil Author: Justin Gustainis  Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: I had no idea what to expect from this story, being new to both the author and the Haunted Scranton series, but it truly was a lot of fun to read. Following Detective Sergeant Stan Markowski and his vampire partner, Karl Renfer, as they face down the latest threat to their city, Known Devil sets off at a lively pace and doesn’t slow down for the duration of the novel. Unlike other suspense novels I’ve had the opportunity to read, this story includes nearly every supernatural creature imaginable. From vamps and elves to witches, sirens, and ghouls, they’re all here, each of them having a significant role to play in the outcome of the narrative. At its root, Known Devil is a detective story complete with gangsters and hostile takeovers and more twists than a bag of Twizzlers. Stan is a good detective who’s dealing with his own baggage as best he can, as well as trying to save the city he’s vowed to protect, all while trying not to get any of his extremely loyal (and generally well-intentioned) co-workers and family killed in the process. It isn’t an easy job, especially in a world where bigotry and hatred are alive and well, and fear makes easy tools of those who readily embrace the empty promises of false comfort. Aside from being a captivating whodunit, Known Devil has a good lesson about change and tolerance within its chapters, and Mr. Gustainis uses familiar stereotypes to valuable, yet never overbearing, effect. Unsurprisingly, religious fanaticism is a major culprit in the ongoing chaos, those who seek to take over the city government, and ultimately eradicate a large sector of its population, using it to terrifyingly successful results. There are quite a few good digs in Known Devil, however, and, rather than trivialize the major issues presented in the story, I felt that they added to my enjoyment of each and every victory Stan and Karl have. Although I was fortunate to have a synopsis of the two other novels in this series, Hard Spell and Evil Dark, now that I’ve experienced the many details the author puts into every page, I’m very sorry I missed reading them both from cover to cover. I like Stan and Karl a great deal, the sarcasm that is more of a native tongue throughout the story lending the entire narrative a gritty,...
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