Shadow’s Fall

Posted in Books, Recommendations, Reviews, Urban Fantasy with tags , , , , , , on May 25, 2015 by crookedreviews

Courtesy of Goodreads.comThe of the many things I love about Simon R. Green is that his novels, even if they are stand alone books, are all interconnected in some way. For instance Shadow’s Fall takes place in the same world as the Nightside and Secret Histories series. They share a few of the same characters in Father Time and his self-appointed assistant Mad.

Shadow’s Fall is the town where legends go to die. Rock star that’s tired of the world? Pulp fiction hero that no one remembers? Beloved children’s show characters that people don’t watch any more? You’ll find them all and more in Shadow’s Fall. Its a place where people who aren’t ready to move on can pass the time until they’re ready to move on to whatever is next. Some people are even born in Shadow’s Fall, like James Hart.

Our story begins with James returning to Shadow’s Fall after the death of his parents in a car accident. He doesn’t remember a thing about this town where he’s supposedly from. He doesn’t have much in the way of memories before about the age of ten or so but the last will of his parents was that he return to the town where he was born.

Unfortunately for James, he didn’t exactly get a warm welcome. There is some sort of prophecy around James, but nobody’s exactly sure what it is though there seems to be a lot of death and destruction about it.  Everyone is along for the ride, trying to figure out what’s going to go wrong before it all goes wrong. There are shenanigans galore, including some with Bruin Bear and the Sea Goat, both of whom have been in the Deathstalker Series and the Nightside Series. The Sea Goat is my man. Or my goat as the case may be. I adore that character.

If you’re looking for a good stand alone modern fantasy novel, I highly, highly recommend this one. I love this book and as much as I kind of want to know what happens next, I’m mostly glad that it is it’s own book. So many novels are multi-book arcs these days that it’s refreshing to have a stand alone. Not that I hate multi-book arcs (see my Dresden Files reviews etc), but sometimes I like that ah, I’m finished and it’s all nicely wrapped up feeling you get when you reach the end of a standalone novel. And, like I mentioned, there’s all of Green’s little inside jokes that you have to be a fan in order to get. Love Simon R. Green and love this book. Rating: A

The Mummy, or Ramses the Damned

Posted in Books, Recommendations, Reviews with tags , , , , , , on May 18, 2015 by crookedreviews

Courtesy of bookfever.comSo I mentioned in my last post that I enjoyed the writings of Anne Rice, so I thought I’d review one of my favorites of hers. And as I sit here typing, I realize that its been quite a long time since I’ve actually read an Anne Rice book. Shame on me. :) At any rate, one of my personal favorites of hers is The Mummy, or Ramses the Damned. I confess myself to being a total geek of any and all things Ancient Egyptian. I even have an eye of Horus tattoo.

This book takes place in Victorian era London and Cairo, at the height of the mummy craze that caused so much of Egypt’s cultural treasures to go walkabout and not return. Heiress Julie Stratford’s father Lawrence has so much money that he can run off to Egypt on archaeological digs for funsies (I wish I had that problem). For some reason I fail to grasp, he brings his money-grubbing nephew Henry along for the ride. This proves fatal as Henry murders Lawrence inside a freshly opened tomb in Egypt (I don’t wish I had that problem). Its a foolish ploy to try and get himself some more inheritance.

Unbeknownst to Henry, someone witnessed the murder, the mummy of Ramses II. Millenia ago, Ramses ingested something called the Elixir of Life. It was the closely guarded secret of a Nubian priestess, who warned Ramses of the consequences of using the elixir. He ignored her (as people do when it comes to immortality, at least in books) and drank the elixir. It gave him everlasting life and youth, the sun giving him the ability to heal any found (kinda Superman-y, but okay). It increased his appetite (food wise and sex wise, though he was unable to sire any more children. That’s okay, he’d had quite a few by then anyway).

Unfortunately, he out lived his wife, his lovers, his children and grandchildren. He wandered, learning new languages and cultures, but still was unable to rest. He is unable to sleep, which I think would be the worst part of the whole thing because I love to sleep. Eventually, after losing Cleopatra (whom he loved very much), he tried to bring about an end to his eternity. The closest thing he could come to was basically hibernation. Since the sun gave him life, he took himself out of the sun. He had himself mummified alive, locked in a sarcophagus and then buried.

When Henry killed Lawrence in the burial chamber, there’s just enough light for Ramses to waken somewhat but not enough for him to do anything about it. Not long after, Ramses is taken back to London, to the home of Julie Stratford where he would be displayed and unwrapped at a party. Yes, this was absolutely a thing. Thanks Britain!

Julie opens the sarcophagus to see what her father gave his life for. Still in mourning, she doesn’t notice anything unusual about the mummy or her cousin Henry’s odd behavior. When Henry tries to poison her, Ramses, still lethargic from his millenia long hibernation, goes after him. After that, shenanigans about culminating in a trip back to Egypt with the now fully living Ramses and the heiress Julie Stratford, as well as the requisite escorts as Julie is an unmarried young woman and Ramses is an uber-hot sex machine (almost literally in this book).

I wouldn’t call this steampunk as it doesn’t have the love of bronze and gadgetry that typifies steampunk novels. I think I’d probably call this more of a Victorian horror novel. Anne Rice is amongst my favorite authors because she can describe something so well that you can almost feel yourself immersed in it. This book was great for an Egyptophile like me (don’t know if that’s word, but it is now if not). I’m honestly not a fan of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (blasphemous I know) but if you liked that book and/or Bram Stoker’s Dracula, you couldn’t go wrong with giving this a shot. Rating: A+

The Strain

Posted in Books, Recommendations, Reviews, Urban Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , on May 12, 2015 by crookedreviews

Courtesy of booksamillion.comOkay, so this one is also a little out of my usual wheelhouse, but it was good. I got the idea to read this from following Wil Wheaton on Twitter. He really enjoyed it and as I am something of a geeky mind with him, I thought I’d give it a shot. Writer/director Guillermo del Toro (Yes, the man who directed the Hell Boy movies and Pan’s Labyrinth) hooked up with author Chuck Hogan to bring both a book trilogy and a television series called The Strain.

I’ve been a little disappointed with vampire themed books as late. I loved Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire and Queen of the Damned. Those were the books that got me into fantasy/urban fantasy novels. I’d had hopes for the Anita Blake books, but they just turned into pure porn and the main character went from a fierce and principled person to a bit of a damsel in distress. Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels also started strong and ended with a whimper, so I’m a little leery of starting new vamp related series.

That being said, I finished this almost six hundred page book in about three hours. Its good, though I’m still debating whether I want to read the rest of the series. The best description I can give is that this is Outbreak meets Dracula. In this book, vampires are a parasite that transforms the host into a parastic, almost zombie-like really, feeding organism.

The main protagonist is an doctor with the CDC, Ephraim Goodweather. Goodweather is called in to JFK when a plane from Berlin just stops on a runway after landing. They made a perfectly safe, soft landing and then the plane went dark. When they finally get people on board, everyone is dead. Fearing some sort of bioterrorism, the CDC is called in.

And in a way, it is bioterrorism, but not in the way they’re expecting. While Ephraim and his coworker Nora Martinez are trying to figure out what killed all those people before it starts to spread (and it will), super richie rich Eldritch Palmer (okay, del Toro, really? Eldritch?) is actively working with the vampire master that was on the plane. He’s actively trying to spread this plague in return for immortality. Natch.

Meanwhile, the only one who knows what’s going on is an old Jewish gentleman who survived the extermination camps, a man by the name of Abraham Setrakian. Setrakian’s grandmother used to tell him stories of a monster named Sardu from her home town in the mountains of Eastern Europe. He himself saw the same monster while trying to survive the Nazis. He made it his life’s mission to be able to fight these things. At first, Ephraim doesn’t believe the raving old man, but when he can no longer deny it, he goes to the old man for help.

Anyway, I won’t go into too much detail but it was really good. There are real human connections in this book. More than just “oh, you’re cute, let’s hop in bed”. Ephraim Goodweather is trying to be a good dad in the midst of a divorce. AI’ll have to check out the series, I think. Rating: A.

Dangerous Women

Posted in Books, Recommendations, Reviews, Urban Fantasy with tags , , , , on May 3, 2015 by crookedreviews

Courtesy of Goodreads.comSo I just picked up volume 3 of the George R.R. Martin edited Dangerous Women anthology. You can pick this up as a single volume on Amazon for Kindle but it’s kinda expensive for an anthology (probably Martin’s name being tagged to it) and I really only wanted this for one story, which I got in volume 3 (paperback). As its title indicates, these stories feature kick ass women. There is at least one sci-fi story in the whole series, which I found in book 3 here, but its mostly fantasy.

I like anthologies because I can be introduced to new authors and sometimes new series. I started reading the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews because of an anthology and I love that series. Kate Daniels is another kick ass lead woman. The story I most wanted to read was Bombshellsby one of my all time favorite authors, Jim Butcher. I’ve gotten to meet him and he is just as awesome and geeky as you’d think. :)

To give you a taste of what this anthology is like, here’s the drill down of Bombshells:

This story is set in the Dresden verse, between Ghost Story and Cold Days. It features Harry’s apprentise, Molly Carpenter, eldest child of Michael and Charity Carpenter. At this point, Molly is in bad shape mentally. She feels guilty for Harry’s apparent death (SPOILERS, he’s not dead) and has taken it upon herself to fight the Fomor and keep Chicago safe. This most definitely includes Harry’s brother Thomas Raith, a member of the White Court of vampires.

When Thomas’s girlfriend Justine comes to Molly for help when Thomas goes missing, Molly agrees although a little reluctantly. She doesn’t trust many people these days and Justine isn’t really on that list. But Harry would have done anything for Thomas, so Molly takes the case. She tracks him down easily enough but is stymied by her adoptive Aunt, the Leanansidhe. Lea has taken Molly under her training wing. Naturally, this isn’t an altruistic thing for Lea to do. Lea had promised Harry’s mother that she would watch out for Harry. Since Harry promised to care for and train Molly, Lea has taken his duties over until he’s able to return. That’s just how things work for faeries.

Lea points out that Thomas is being held by svartalves. If you know anything of Norse mythology, you’ll know svartavles are the magical blacksmiths. They are the ones who created shackles strong enough to hold Fenrir when all other attempts had failed. They’re incredibly powerful and extremely high on honor. Molly can’t just bust the door down. Lea couldn’t bust the door down and live and the Leanansidhe is second in power only to Mab in the Seelie Court.

So, an undercover mission it is. The svartalves are holding a party that night to celebrate the signing of a treaty with the treacherous Fomor. Thankfully Molly, Justine and werewolf Andi just happen to be three drop dead gorgeous gals. Thanks to Justine’s White Court credit card, they get kitted out in identical little black dresses and shoes. Butters (one of my favorite characters in the Dresden Files and Andi’s boyfriend. Go Butters), is playing Bosley to their Angels by providing intel via the paranet though a communication crystal provided by Molly.

The three girls successfully gate crash and not only manage to find Thomas (not that hard when he’s doing his incubus thang), but to totally submarine the non-agression treaty between the Fomor and the svartavles. They do it in an honorable way that gets Molly a favor. Favors are huge in the supernatural Dresden verse, especially from powerful folks like the svartalves.

There are some great lines in this short story. I enjoyed the hell out of it and it is was definitely worth picking up this book. The other stories are pretty good too, so if you want something with a little variety, pick this up. Though I do recommend getting down to your local bookstore and looking for the three volume paperback set. Yes, they’re 7.99 a piece but you also don’t have to spend a lot of money for a ton of stories, only some of which might be up your alley. That way, you can peruse all the stories and pick up one or all three volumes. Rating: A

We bring you a break from your regularly scheduled programming…

Posted in Books, Recommendations, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on April 26, 2015 by crookedreviews

Courtesy of wikipediaSo I felt like doing something outside my usual milieu of urban fantasy and talk about one of my all time favorite authors, Clive Cussler. More specifically, his book Inca Gold. I’ve been reading Clive Cussler for about twenty years now (ouch, I’m old! Well, older) and he’s still a great author. This book is one of my favorites of his.

Like all of Clive’s books, we start back in time, to a piece of ‘forgotten history’ involving the Inca, the Chachapoyas and the Spanish. We’ll start with Sir Francis Drake, who is one of my all time favorite historical figures, ever since I did a report on him in the fourth grade. :) Drake has plundered a couple of Spanish vessels during his circumnavigation of the globe and found a magnificent collection of Inca artifacts. He sends one ship back around to the Straits of Magellan while he takes the rest of the plunder with him. The other ship never makes it, having run afoul of a tidal wave that leaves it stranded deep ashore. On board that particular ship is a quipu, a type of proto record that the Inca created using a series of knots in ropes. Obviously a very basic description, but click the link for more details.

Anyway, this quipu is the key to finding a long lost Inca treasure. Its a detailed map of the journey that a secret group of Inca troops made in order to hide this treasure from greedy Spanish conquistadors (and really, those guys were pretty greedy). Fast-forward about 400 years and an archaeologist and her team are excavating a sacrificial pool high in the Andes when they run into trouble under the water. Coming to the rescue are Cussler’s main heroes, Dirk Pitt and Al Giordino, who are working relatively nearby on a NUMA project. They fly in with their scuba equipment and come to the rescue, luckily finding Dr. Shannon Kelsey and her companion alive.

Lucky, that is, until the whole lot are kidnapped and marched through the jungle while Dirk is left to drown in the sacrificial pool. Of course, the bad guys underestimate Dirk’s tenacity. He climbs free with the help of a few items on his dive belt. Once he recovers at the destroyed base camp, he tracks Al and the others through the jungle.

Its a long, hard slog to catch up with and then rescue his friends. Dirk and Al manage to steal a military helicopter to get away from the bad guys. Military because the bad guys are antiquities thieves who have their sticky fingers in all levels of the Peruvian government in order to ease their smuggling, including the clout to order military intervention on two NUMA people and a number of untrained archaeologists and students.

Long story short, they get away but not without injuries and shenanigans. The adventure doesn’t end there. They just scratched the tip of the iceberg on a huge art and antiquities smuggling ring. Its a race to find what the bad guys are after, a literal treasure trove of Incan artifacts that could add to the knowledge of the short lived empire. This race will take Dirk and Al all over the US, Peru and Mexico.

The thing I really like about Cussler is that his adventures are fairly believable. Sure there are things that make you go yeah right but they aren’t really egregious things like supernatural creatures. Its more like I don’t believe that as being possible for the science of the time. At any rate, Inca Gold is one of my all time favorite books and one of the first that got me rereading books. Can you believe I used to be a one-and-done type of girl? What was I thinking?! At any rate, if you’re looking for something different from your usual, give Clive Cussler a shot. And if you like vintage automobiles like I do, definitely give his books a shot. There will be at least one new vintage car in each book! Rating: A+

Incidentally, the National Underwater and Marine Agency from his books is a real agency. Clive Cussler was behind the raising of the C.S.S. Hunley, so if you love old ships and shipwrecks, check them out. And again, if you like vintage autos, check out the Cussler Museum. One day, I will get there!

Ghost Finders

Posted in Books, Recommendations, Urban Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , on April 19, 2015 by crookedreviews

Courtesy of goodreads.comSo I love Simon R. Green. He’s one of my all time favorite authors. It saddens me that he’s wrapping up his amazing series before he’d planned to because he has diabetes and he’s afraid he’ll leave his fans hanging. I’m not sure if his diabetes is currently manageable or life threatening, but its sad that he feels he has to do that. On the other hand, when it comes to his Ghost Finders series…I’m kinda okay with it. I’d classify this more as an urban horror/fantasy than a straight up urban fantasy novel, if only because Simon R. Green can get amazingly graphic with his descriptions.

The Ghost Finders work for the Carnacki Institute. Their job is to deal with ghosts and all ghostly related situations in Britain. Apparently this is quite the job. Our three main characters are JC Chance, “Happy” Jack Palmer and Melody Chambers. JC is your typical smooth, charming leader type. In the first book, he gets touched by something from the Outside and now hides a strange golden gaze with a pair of sunglasses.

Happy Jack isn’t very happy at all. Its an ironic nickname, like calling a tall man Tiny. Happy is a telepath, a very strong one. He’s also a coward, and the combination leads to him trying everything and anything chemical to be able to live with himself and the voices he hears. He’s currently sleeping with teammate Melody Chambers, who firmly believes that her tech can do and should do everything they could possibly think of on a mission. And she gets mighty pissed when it doesn’t. She’s a kick-ass tech geek who doesn’t take anyone’s shit.

I like those three characters. I like the dialogue he gives them and the way that he writes them as a dysfunctional buy loyal team. Their cases, though, are only mildly interesting. And there’s some sort of overarching conspiracy going on that I just can’t be arsed to care about. He could wrap this series up tomorrow honestly. I’ll still read it, but it’s more of a ‘Oh, I don’t have anything else to read and there’s a new Ghost Finders out’ sort of way than a ‘OMG, new Simon R. Green!’ sort of way.

If you really want good Simon R. Green, go for the Deathstalker series, the Nightside series and the Secret Histories series. Oh, and Hawk & Fisher natch. The nice thing about Simon is that all of his stories are subtly connected. Its amazing. Every time I read one of his books and he’s slipped in something from another novel, I have a fan girl squee moment. So, those are great. The Ghost Finders? I’d say Rating: CNot great but not unreadable.

Rylee Adamson

Posted in Books, Recommendations, Reviews, Urban Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , on April 11, 2015 by crookedreviews

Book one cover. Courtesy of goodreads.comWell work has been craaaaaaaaaazy lately so now I’m back, missing a week. Still, it gave me time to read a few books. And by few I mean five. Granted they’ve all been just about 300 pages, which is kind of short for my usual fare, but still. Five books. Well, five and a half. I picked up Shannon Mayer’s Rylee Adamson arc because the first four books were on sale for .99 cents each on Amazon recently. They may be short but they’re interesting.

Rylee Adamson is a Tracker. That is what she was born to do. She has not been and never will be human, though she didn’t know that when she was little and her abilities kicked in. She’s had a tough life, abandoned by her parents and her sister missing, presumed dead at a young age. That’s why Rylee does what she does. She uses her innate ability to track any creature (human or supernatural) to find missing children when the police can’t do anything. She doesn’t always get them back alive, but she will bring them back to their parents. She also happens to be Immune to pretty much any magic or poison. Not all, though. But it would have to be incredibly strong to get through her natural immunity.

With her in this world is werewolf Alex. Alex was a pretty meek and mild human when he received the bite. Unlike most fantasy books where once bitten, you become super aggressive simply by virtue of being a werewolf, the bite in this universe just enhances your natural characteristics. So Alex is strong, fast, heals quickly and has enhanced senses…but he’s incredibly submissive. And not in a sexual way. And because he’s so submissive, he doesn’t have the power to fully shift between human and wolf. He’s stuck in between.

There’s also Milly, an incredibly powerful witch. She and Rylee grew up together, adopted by a Reader named Giselle. Milly is a bad person all around. She’s a literal home wrecker, seducing the leader of a local coven and arranging the death of his wife. Betraying Rylee and Giselle. Trying to kill Alex, a harpy named Eve and Rylee’s love interest, a former FBI agent turned werewolf Liam O’Shea.

There are Shamans and Druids, cat shifters and ogres, trolls and giants, dragons and vampires. There are Readers, who can see glimpses of the future, which also tends to drive them mad. Unicorns travel in herds called crushes and are a lot more bad ass than most fantasy novels make them out to be. Also, they don’t really have a thing for virgins. Oaths are taken incredibly seriously and breaking them has repercussions, which is a common theme amongst most fantasy novels.

Rylee isn’t quite as naturally gullible as a lot of female fantasy novel leads tend to be, but she is easy to play. Because she’s an orphan who found herself a family, if you threaten them, you can get her to do what you want. She’ll also do her level best to kill you for it so you’ll really have to decide if that’s worth it.

If you’re looking for a quick, fun read, these books are for you. Like I said, I’ve made my way through five and a half in about a week. Then again, I’m a crazy fast reader. Rating: A-. There are some cliche bits but when isn’t there these days?

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