Skin Game-Jim Butcher

Posted in Books, Recommendations, Reviews, Urban Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 30, 2014 by crookedreviews
Skin Game

Skin Game cover courtesy of Jim Butcher’s own website: http://www.jim-butcher.com. Visit it!

Oh Jim. Jimmy Jim, Jimmy Jim, Jim, Jim, Jim!* You have done it again. Absolute brilliance. Parkour! In case you needed to be told specifically, there be SPOILERS here.

Lucky old me got to meet Mr. Butcher (ish) at a signing just days after Skin Game came out and I got my copy signed! *fangirlsquee!* I hadn’t quite finished it by the time that I got to the signing but I did shortly thereafter and I have to say, I was not disappointed. Holy cow what a great book.

So we start out with Harry on his island/prison working out to keep in shape. He’s doing his own version of parkour among the creatures that are locked away in there. While shouting PARKOUR at the top of his lungs. Like ya do. His workout is cut short by the appearance of Queen Mab.

She has an assignment for Harry as the Winter Knight. She owes someone a favor. A very large favor. And that person has called in his chit because he has a very tricky assignment to be done and he needs Harry for part of it. Harry is suspicious and he’s right to be. The person Mab wants him to work for: Nicodemus  of the Knights of the Blackened Denarius.

At first, Harry refuses but Mab tells him that dire consequences would be fall him and the whole of the mortal world. Convinced but not happy, Harry and Mab meet with Nicodemus. After the meeting, Harry realizes that Mab wants Harry to be, well, Harry. Harry, who is known for fighting to thwart Nicodemus (among others) and just generally thumbing his nose at those who should make him cower.

Harry agrees to this whole scheme so long as he can bring in one person that he trusts to watch his back. Nicodemus is desperate enough to agree and Harry pulls in Karin Murphy to help. They aren’t the only players and soon enough they’re meeting with a number others who all have special, magical sneak thief talents. We get reintroduced to Binder from Turn Coat, along with several new people including a warlock that the White Council had been after for years.

We also get to see Michael and Maggie and Mouse. Special appearance by Hades himself and Butters. Oh magnificent Butters. I’ve always loved him but he was magnificent in this book. I do hope we get to see Thomas in the next book. Miss him.

I won’t go into too much detail since this book is in print but it is a brilliant, brilliant book. One of my all time favorite Dresden Files. I highly, highly, highly recommend this book. And, well, all the Dresden Files books really. Rating: A++

Magic Bites

Posted in Books, Recommendations, Reviews, Urban Fantasy with tags , , , , on June 1, 2014 by crookedreviews

urban_fantasy_book_magic_bitesAaaaaaaaaah finally. New job, less time to do things like blog. Ah well, I have plenty of books to review. :) Let’s start with Ilona Andrew’s Magic Bites. This is book one of the Kate Daniels series. In this we are introduced to mercenary Kate Daniels. The book starts with her “fresh” off a case (covered in nasty goo and sewage is not fresh by any means) when she gets word that her old guardian has died. Been murdered actually.

Knowing that he was far too good at being a Knight for the Order of Merciful Aid, Kate knows it had to be a really bad situation. So she knows that she really needs to find who killed him. To do this, she heads down to Atlanta via ley line (convenient and quick but dangerous way to travel). She gets the okay from the Order of Merciful Aid to look into the guy’s death but with the understanding that she’s on her own. They’re not going to provide her back up (despite them really wanting to get revenge as well) but they won’t get in the way either.

Naturally things go wrong from the off. The Masters of the Dead (those who control the empty shell vampires) want her to find the murderer because a number of their vampires have also been brutally murdered (literally torn apart). And of course their natural enemies, the were/shifters, also want the murderer…but neither side wants to cooperate with the other. They’ll cooperate somewhat with Kate but never with each other. In fact, they currently think each other is to blame…with Kate right in the middle. So a bit of a cliche sitch right there but the good writing more than makes up for it.

Kate Daniels is not an investigator. She’s a mercenary. She tracks things down and kills them. Occasionally she bodyguards.  So it isn’t quite out of character for her to be stumbling along trying to fix things and actually doing a bit of bungling from the off. The nice thing about the lead character not being an investigator of some sort (PI, cop, fed etc) is that its harder to for you the reader to figure out the main villain is before the denouement. I love that in a book. I’m the kind of person who figured out the “twist” ending in The Sixth Sense less than half way through the movie. I’m always slightly disappointed if its easy to figure out the big bad in any fantasy book from the get go.

This is a pretty good book to get into the series with but I don’t necessarily think that you need to read it first. Personally, I like reading a book series in order as it tends to make things easier but not always. It introduces you to the main players in this series well enough and gives you a good mystery to boot. The one thing I couldn’t really wrap my head around at this point in the whole series is the Kate/Curran relationship.

I mean, sure, there’s a lot to be said for pure physical/sexual attraction (and boy does Kate fight that every step of the way) but Curran is overbearing as all hell. If a guy in real life treated me the way that Curran treats Kate (or any other woman for that matter), he’d be out on his ass long before sex ever came in the picture. Sure, a strong and confident man is sexy as hell (to me at least) but this guy expects to get his way. In everything. That’s not cool. He doesn’t deserve a woman just because he’s the Beast Lord. That’s creepy and, well, rapey.

Their relationship changes over the course of the series and Curran gets a bit better but he’s still a character I’d like to hit over the head with something and just yell “REALLY?!” right in his face. At any rate, I enjoyed this book (260ish pages in three hours? Yup, liked it). I recommend the series. Rating: A+

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?

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