Kate Daniels

Posted in Books, Recommendations, Reviews, Urban Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , on April 8, 2014 by crookedreviews

Kate Daniels seriesA while ago I read this anthology called Dark and Stormy Knights. In it was this short story featuring a mercenary named Kate Daniels. The story was called A Questionable Client and Kate was hired to protect a very wealthy person from some Russian magic users. I really enjoyed this story but I didn’t know if this was a one off short like a lot of what ends up in these urban fantasy anthologies or if it was part of a series.

It turns out that it was sort of a prequel short story for the Kate Daniels series by husband and wife writers Ilona Andrews. I’d never checked this series out before and I’m rather glad I did. Kate Daniels et al exist in a world where magic and technology exist in waves. When magic is up, no technology works. This means anything from an automatic gun (why, I don’t know) to electric lights and vehicles (phones occasionally work though no one knows why). When technology is up, nothing magic works (cars that run on magic, fey lanterns, wards, spells). Because of the unpredictability of these switch offs, things like planes and tall buildings are no-nos. Magic eats tall buildings apparently.

This is a sort of post-magical-apocalypse world where magic users, shifters and other magical creatures exist. In this world, vampires are blank puppets run by so called Masters of the Dead (which I take to mean necromancers).  There are more types of shifters than just werewolves. Take for example one of the main characters, the Beast Lord. He is a were-lion which is apparently quite rare. The Beast Lord (Curran) controls all the shifters in the Atlanta area (anywhere from 3-1200 at any given time) to keep them from going ‘loupe’ (feral) so that humans don’t kill them.

The main character of the series is, obviously, Kate Daniels, who starts out as a mercenary and ends up as a liaison between the Mercenary Guild and the Order of Merciful Aid (they’ll help anyone but they could end up killing the client if they deem him/her/it a danger to humanity). She was raised to be a killer and she’s good at it. She’s got a goal she’s working toward and she will do it eventually.

Kate is one of those bad ass chicks that stays bad ass the whole time, even when she eventually decides that yes she does have a thing for Beast Lord Curran. She doesn’t just roll over and play the damsel in distress, which I love. A lot of these so called strong female characters out there will be strong…until a man gets in the picture. Then all of a sudden she can’t figure out when end of the sword to use (hint: its the pointy end). To be fair, she does have to get rescued by Curran from time to time BUT more often than not its because she saved his bacon first and is so near death that she can’t save herself.

I really enjoyed this series and plan on doing a more in depth review of each book. There is action, there is snark and there is just enough romance to make things interesting without it being all about the sex (which doesn’t happen until book 3-4 by the way). I highly, highly recommend these books as I burned though all of them in about a week. I’m hoping I can pick up the other short stories without buying the anthologies that they’re a part of, but we’ll see. Rating: A+

Another Anthology, Paranormal Romance

Posted in Books, Recommendations, Reviews, Urban Fantasy with tags , on March 16, 2014 by crookedreviews

So I guess I was feeling a bit soppy the last week or so because I decided to buy the Paranormal Romance (1&2 omnibus) anthology. There were too many stories to really get any descriptions going so I’ll just give an overview of the book as a whole.

Paranormal Romance 2A fair amount of the stories seemed to equate romance with sex. Again, I have nothing against sex in books. A little bit every now and then in a book can break up the action quite nicely. But when you have a short story and its entirely about sex, its a little overwhelming and you kinda just want to get to the next story where maybe there will be some plot. Besides which, you can have romance without sex.

Some of the stories were so compelling that I wished they were full length books, even series. Take Gail Carriger’s short in this book. Her story was about a closeted gay alpha werewolf who just wants to keep his head down. He doesn’t want to fight with the other members of his pack because he knows he’ll beat them. And he doesn’t want to break up the family. Enter a gay merman he went to high school with who needs his help with a fishy (but not fish) problem. Shenanigans ensue and Carriger is great at shenanigans. I wish she’d turn that story into a series because it has great potential. I love her steampunk stuff to death but its nice to see that she can turn out urban fantasy as well.

At least one of these stories was all action, action, action and oh yeah, you needed some romance didn’t you? It was an afterthought, which I felt didn’t quite fit into the theme of the anthology. So all in all, there are some gems to be found but its a good thing that this massive omnibus anthology was only about 5 bucks on Kindle. Rating: C.

Question for Readers

Posted in Books, Urban Fantasy with tags , , , on March 6, 2014 by crookedreviews

So I’m in the middle of an anthology that I picked up because I thought it would last me a bit longer than a novel. I’m in the middle of it, which means this isn’t a review, but it’s called the Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance (yeah, I can be a sucker for this genre too). At any rate, it just struck me for some reason that the there were two basic flavors of paranormal romance.

One: Girl supernatural (born or made) is lamenting the fact that she hasn’t found ‘the one’. It can be the central plot point or sort of an overarching theme of the story or book. Often times she’ll believe (or actually be) terrible at picking out good guys from bad-for-you guys (I’m sure we all have this sort of friend, male or female). My problem with this is that the woman seems to feel that she is incomplete or failed as a woman in some way for not having a man in her life. All of her friends are trying to set her up with the handful (or less) of single guys they know.

So first question is: Are there any books with female leads who are single who don’t think that they have to have a man to be legitimized in some way? Suggestions welcome!

Flavor two: Male lead is thinking that he’s lonely or he’ll never find his mate. He randomly finds a mysterious woman on the streets (serendipity/kismet abounds!) who is in some sort of danger (anything from tripped into a busy street and can’t get up to being specifically targeted by the man’s enemies). Man saves woman who usually starts off being really mad at the man (I can save myself/Let me go etc). Through their trials, Stockholm Syndrome or mating bonds makes woman fall for man and they end up together. This one bugs me a little more because the woman is often the “poor me/save me/Lois Lane” type character who relies entirely on the man. I’m married and I can tell ya, I wouldn’t be fond of such an imbalance in either direction. It wears down on you emotionally, regardless of how much you love the person.

So, question two: Is there one of these mating bond type stories out there where the woman (in particular but I will accept if it is the man) basically says “fuck you, you kidnapped me” and shoves the guy away? I know that wouldn’t really be paranormal romance but I’d like to see where these Speed type situations actually fall apart. And that’s not to say that, if its a series, that they can’t grow together later on but it bugs the crap out of me that its usually a matter of days and both parties are like “I must have you forever!”.

I’d like to put forth the Dresden files as a suggestion. Here’s poor Harry Dresden, orphan, who would like a family except he knows that its a bad idea with him because, well, everything really. Character Karrin Murphy has at least one ex-husband and while she isn’t quite happy that little sister is marrying him (WTF, Butcher?), she at least isn’t “poor me, why don’t I have a husband”? She’s more like “Shut up Harry” and “man I need to get laid” (enter Kincaid-and that rhymed).

I just read a short story in this book where a regular old human woman got bitten by a werewolf (an asshole one who did it deliberately). The pack kidnapped her and while they did treat her as a guest and treated her wounds, she was still a prisoner. The whole time she was going I want to go home/let me go/I’m your prisoner so I don’t like you with the guy who rescued her. He claimed that she was his mate and she told him that she didn’t want any part of that. In fact, she actually escaped and he let her go…and she turned right around and was all “take me to bed big boy”. I was at lunch so I couldn’t scream at my Kindle “WHAT THE UTTER FUCK” but I was utterly flabbergasted by her complete 180 in the span of about two hours while she was escaping.

I’m hoping there is something out there where female leads aren’t feeling like lesser beings because there’s no man in their lives. I’d love if their friends weren’t all “you need a man in your life” but I realize that would probably be impossible to come by. And I’d adore, adore, adore any story where there is some sort of mating or soul bond where the people involved fight it. Suggestions please!

Curtsies & Conspiracies

Posted in Books, Recommendations, Reviews with tags , , , , , on March 3, 2014 by crookedreviews

Curtsies and Conspiracies*SPOILERS* As you may have gathered from some previous posts, I do like me some steampunk. In particular, I love Gail Carriger. And her latest release in the finishing school series, Curtsies & Conspiracies, is another home run. This series focuses on the young girls of Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Girls of Quality and protaganist Sophronia Temmennick.

Sophronia has now been at the school for about six months. Its at this time that all new comers such as herself get tested on what they’ve learned. In pairs, her fellows are taken off and come back looking pale. Sophronia and best friend Dimity Plumleigh-Teignmott go last and Sophronia, naturally, passes with flying colors. When the scores are announced, Professor LeFoux (Genvieve’s aunt) makes a point of letting them all know that Sophronia got the highest scores ever. This causes friction and ostracization between her and the rest of the girls in her class. At least for a while.

As much as it pains Sophronia that her friends (and even enemies Monique and Preshea) are ignoring her, there are things afoot at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s. Dimity nearly gets herself kidnapped, graduates that are active intelligencers are boarding in the middle of the night and a bunch of boys from Bunson’s (the men’s evil genius academy) are aboard. Why? Because they’re all going to London to see the arrival of a brand new dirigible that can cross the English Channel in less than an hour using aetheric currents high up in the atmosphere.

Of course, lessons are still occurring while all this is going on and Sophronia eventually gets her friends back talking with her. She also makes a deal with young Genvieve. Help get Genvieve into Bunson’s and get rid of Bunson’s Professor Shrimpdittle and Genvieve will leave Sophronia all of her tech gadgets, including the one that freezes all the mechanicals for short periods. You see, Shrimpdittle is an old friend of Professor LeFoux and knows that Genvieve (or Vieve as she’s commonly known) is a girl.

Sophronia’s attempts at character assassination are successful. Too successful. There are unintended consequences to a member of the school’s staff, Professor Braithwope, who is a vampire. And in the midst of all of this, Dimity and brother Pillover (aboard from Bunson’s) are still under threat. From whom? Read to find out! :-)

The Finishing School books fall in the same universe as Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate (aka-Alexia Tarabotti) books, just 25 years earlier. You’ll recognize a few familiar characters in this and learn a bit of their back story. You don’t have to read any of the other books really, but I highly recommend you do. They’re entertaining as hell! Rating: A+.

Carniepunk

Posted in Books, Recommendations, Reviews, Urban Fantasy with tags , , , on February 28, 2014 by crookedreviews

CarniepunkCarniepunk is an anthology of short stories by current and upcoming urban fantasy writers. I like reading anthologies every so often to fish for new writers/series to read. Each anthology has a basic premise to work with. From the title, I’m sure you got that all these stories are based around carnivals.

I, personally, have never been to a one of these types of carnivals. These are the road-side, traveling carnivals with the rattling rides and fried everything on a stick food. I’ve mainly just been to big name amusement parks, with the occasional county/state fair (not traveling, permanently in place rides and such).

Some of my favorite writers (Rob Thurman, Seanan McGuire) contributed to this book and for the most part, its pretty good. Some of the stories just hit me the wrong way and I had to stop reading that story. Not a in a ‘that’s too creepy to read’ way but a ‘please work on your writing style way’. Some of them felt like writers with very little, if any, publications under their belt. And of course, some of them had the gratuitous sex scene. Because that’s required of urban fantasy I guess? Like I’ve said before, I have nothing against a good love scene but if your just throwing it in because you think its expected…please don’t. It should help the flow of the story some how. That’s why I had to stop reading Anita Blake stories. She needs to feed off sex all of a sudden. Really?

Anyway, moving on. The following writers have short stories in this anthology: Rob Thurman, Delilah S. Dawson, Kevin Hearne, Mark Henry, Jaye Wells, Rachel Caine, Allison Pang, Hillary Jacques, Jennifer Estep, Kelly Meding, Nicole Peeler, Jackie Kessler, Kelly Gay,  and Seanan McGuire. Rob Thurman I think is easily the most original story of the lot. Some of these are stand alone stories (like Thurman’s) but some of them are short stories in one of the writer’s series (like Estep’s).

Carniepunk is worth a read I think, though I don’t believe carniepunk will ever be a subgenre of urban fantasy. Though if there are any urban fantasy writers out there capable of creating a series about supernatural carnies, please have at it. It would be pretty original to say the least! Rating: C+/B-. I wish that Amazon’s Kindle service would allow you to buy individual short stories, rather than the whole anthology. Anyone know if that’s possible?

Chimes at Midnight

Posted in Books, Recommendations, Reviews, Urban Fantasy with tags , , , , , on February 22, 2014 by crookedreviews

I love the October Daye novels. They are awesome. Beware SPOILERS.  The latest out by author Seanan McGuire is called Chimes at Midnight. This one starts out with Toby doing her knightly/detectively duties. In a way. It’s really a personal crusade she’s on. See there’s a drug out on the streets. One that is perfectly good for pureblooded fae. It gives them a nice little trip to la-la land. But it’s instantly addictive and eventually deadly to changelings (fae that are partially human).

Toby doesn’t like the stuff. Changelings have it hard enough in the world without killing themselves for a stupid high. So she’s trying to rid the streets of San Francisco of the stuff. She finds proof that it is actually killing changelings with the body of a young changeling in an alleyway. She thinks that this will be enough for the Queen of the Mists to actually do something about it.

How wrong she is. The Queen so actively hates Toby that not only does she refuse to do anything about the goblin fruit (which she doesn’t see as a problem because hey, pureblood queen here) but she actually banishes Toby. Toby has three days to clear out or the Queen will do something very nasty to her. Probably lots of nasty things.

Well Toby won’t go down without a fight. Not her, not ever. That is not who Toby is. So what does she do? Oh nothing. Just plans a little insurrection. The Queen of the Mists (and apparently the correct title is Queen in the Mists. Who knew?) is a pretender to the throne. She claimed to be the daughter of the previous king, who died without actively presenting any children to his fellow nobles.

Turns out though, that she was lying. I mean pants on fire lying. The previous king (Gilad Windermere) was pureblooded Tuatha de Dannan. The current sitting Queen is Siren, Banshee and Sea Wight.  That being the case, Toby sets out to find Gilad’s real kids because the Luidaeg (which is apparently pronounced loo-sha-k. Not seeing that…) assures Toby that he really did have two legitimate children.

Finding them (now grown since Gilad died during the 1906 San Fran quake), is relatively easy. The Luidaeg provides Toby and Tybalt with magic fireflies that will track down her magic. Why the Luidaeg’s magic? Because she provided those children with very powerful protections, so powerful that the Luidaeg herself can’t track them. But those bugs can. So they find the heirs easy enough but there’s a problem. The boy, Nolan, was elf shot in the 30s and will be asleep for some time and because of that, his sister Arden is frightened of standing up for her rights.

Toby eventually talks Arden into at least hearing her out and takes her to Goldengreen. Once there, she asks for Queen Dianda and her consort Patrick Lorden from the Undersea duchy of Saltmist.  Once all and sundry are present, Dianda helps Toby talk Arden into insurrection and pledges the forces of Saltmist to Arden’s cause.

Meanwhile, Toby is still running around trying to arrange things when a human man hired by the Queen hits her in the face with a pie. Yes, a pie. But not just any pie. A goblin fruit pie. Its even worse for Toby than it is for most changelings. As we found in previous books, Dochas Sidhe, which Toby is, are bloodworkers. Powerful ones. More than once, Toby has shifted the balance of her own blood to be more or less fae as needed. Well, the goblin fruit causes her to try shifting entirely human to better enjoy the high. She shifts so far that she doesn’t register as fae to most anyone else, she ends up something like 15% fae.

She doesn’t give up though, doesn’t give in to the craving for goblin fruit. Blood is always the key for Toby and she finds that drinking some, usually her own, helps keep the cravings at bay. Walter, her alchemist professor ally at UC Berkeley, makes her some lozenges from her own blood to keep her going while they finish this insurrection. The Luidaeg thinks that’s such a good idea that she does the same for Toby from her own blood, which is far more powerful than Toby’s is.

And those blood lozenges work decently well. Their effectiveness starts waning quickly because Toby is all go, no quit. She really needs to overthrow the old Queen now because the Queen has a hope chest in her treasury. The hope chest can help Toby change the balance of her blood now that she no longer has the power to do so. Only the Queen is a crafty bitch and keeps chasing Toby and her allies around, capturing Dianda and Nolan and causing Arden to flee.

Finally, Toby convinces Arden (again) that this really is the right thing to do. Arden agrees on the condition that Toby retrieve Nolan from the clutches of the old Queen. Toby agrees because Nolan is in the Queen’s knowe, where the hope chest is.

Toby and Tybalt manage to free Dianda and Nolan and find the hope chest, which Toby uses. It isn’t that simple, it never is where Toby is concerned. But the lot of them manage to get back to Muir Woods where Arden’s knowe is only to find things have gone a little wrong. See the sitting Queen is part Siren and she can make people do things, even things they don’t want to do, but singing. Toby knows this and stops up her ears but no one else has managed to do so (which you’d think they would have thought of because really, they all knew that the old Queen was part Siren…).

Toby has only one thing she can do. To break a Siren’s song, you have to kill the Siren or have her remove it. Well the Queen sure as hell isn’t going to do that and Toby will not break Oberon’s Law (no killing of other Fae). Toby is a bloodworker. She removes all trace of Siren from the old Queen’s blood, thereby breaking the spell. There are quite a few people present who are quite shocked at, even more so than having fallen into the Siren’s song in the first place.

So the good guys win, the bad guys lose and there is a new Queen in the Mists. I’m not entirely sure I really like Arden but she’ll at least not be batshit like the last Queen. Toby kicked the goblin fruit habit because she shifted herself close enough to pureblood that it couldn’t affect her anymore. Now she wants lots of steak and coffee. I can’t wait to see where this goes next. Team Toby! Rating: A+. Also, if you get the Kindle version of it, you get a bonus short story in that universe, but from the perspective of the Luidaeg instead of Toby. I love the Luidaeg, she might be my favorite character in the universe.  :-)

Kill City Blues

Posted in Books, Recommendations, Reviews, Urban Fantasy with tags , , , on February 20, 2014 by crookedreviews

I believe Kill City Blues by Richard Kadrey has been out for several months already but I will put up a big SPOILERS alert just in case. So Kill City Blues is the latest in Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series. Sandman Slim, aka-James Stark, aka-Lucifer is the asshole that everyone loves to hate. He is the quintessential anti-hero. He is not a good guy and don’t think for a moment that he is, even if he does occasionally do good.

Stark is not Lucifer anymore, but he is pretending at the hotel Chateau Marmont. Free luxury digs, food and booze? Can’t pass that up. Stark passed the Lucifer mantel (really a title rather than a name) on to Mr. Munnin, one of five fragments of god. Unfortunately, in the course of doing so, he lost his most powerful weapon the Qomrama Om Ya (which Stark calls the Magic 8 ball. Much easier to say and type) to renegade angel Aelita who really hates his ass. She used it, quite accidentally, to kill one of the other five pieces of god. And then there were four. The one still in heaven is apparently paranoid schizophrenic and driving angels out of heaven (not like during the fall more of a “he’s wacko, let’s get out of here” sort of way).

Stark and girlfriend Candy nearly get whacked by someone looking for the Magic 8 ball so Stark decides enough is enough. He needs to find that thing and fast. So he starts beating on people, sending messages into the criminal underground of L.A. Someone had better spill before things get really messy. Eventually he gets picked up by a guy named Norris Quay, supposedly the richest man in California.

Quay wants the Magic 8 ball for his collection. He is purely selfish but he is not above killing to get what he wants. Quay eventually slips a spy (a younger, tick-tock homunculus of himself) into Stark’s group via a bunch of vampires along with some information. The Magic 8 ball can be found in a place called Kill City.

Kill City is just about as bad if not worse than it sounds. Kill City was a mega mall. Or it would have been if something hadn’t happened. Hundreds were killed in a building accident. People were trapped and died or went cuckoo. It is a bad place with a capital BAD. But the Magic 8 ball is down there, guarded by an old Roman ghost. What a Roman ghost is doing in L.A. is beyond me but plot!

Stark bring Candy, Brigitte the zombie killer, Vidocq the thief and Father Traven down to Kill City with him. He’s smart enough to know not to go in there alone. Quay’s spy goes with because he’s their map through Kill City (naturally). They fight and struggle through the levels of Kill City until they reach the old Roman ghost who turns out (surprise, surprise) to be piece 3 of 5 (or rather 4) of god. After some banter and a little bit of bargaining, he agrees to tell Stark and his troupe where the Magic 8 ball is. Turns out…it’s in the lobby area of Kill City, which they passed through to start their journey. Ain’t life a bitch.

So they retrieve the Magic 8 ball, but it costs. More than Stark is willing to pay. Granted, Aelita buys it (always nice when your mortal enemy kicks it I guess) but so does Traven. Traven was easily the most innocent person that Stark knows. Stark decides that is way too high a price for having his ultimate weapon because Traven was excommunicated by the Catholic church before Stark met him. It wasn’t anything bad that he did, he translated a book that the Church felt shouldn’t be translated.  But excommunication is a one way ticket to hell, regardless of the severity of your breach.

So Stark decides fuck this, I’m getting Traven’s soul out of hell. And boy howdy does he. It was a like the great escape if Steve McQueen had to break into the concentration camp first. It was awesome. Of course, that pisses off the current Lucifer, who kicks Stark and company out of the Chateau Marmont.

These books are great. There hasn’t been one that I’ve had to struggle to finish. I cannot wait until the next one comes out, whenever that may be (soon I hope). While you don’t necessarily need to read the other books to read this one, it does help because Kadrey does reference past events. I recommend this whole series but this book in particular is darn good. Rating: A.

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