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Book Review – Under Wraps – Hannah Jayne August 29, 2011

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I can’t say that I regret the time I spent with this book. I picked it up because of the controversy over the cover, and I have to agree that the cover is ridiculous as compared to the actual content. Pondering it I would have been just as likely to buy the book with an appropriate cover versus getting it just for the kick assitutude represented by the sword and leather fall back position.

This story is a highly campy urban fantasy/paranormal romance. Sophie Lawson works at the supernatural version of the DMV, the Underworld Detective Agency, where it’s paperwork and dodging slime day in and day out – usually while wearing comfortable shoes. She’s drawn into an above world murder plot and gets to hang out with the handsome and detective Parker Hayes. She’s got a fashion obsessed roommate and a kindly boss who she chains up every night…apparently it’s a werewolf thing.   Not that it always works anyway.

The world building here is all right, but nothing that blew me away. It’s campy, fun and very predictable. The interesting thing for me was that I’d recently finished Grave Witch by Kalayna Price which had a similar base plot, but it was done much better. So I think Under Wraps suffered by the comparison.

This book reminds me most in tone of the Simon Canderous novels or Touched By An Alien.. Fun, but I’ll check the next book out from the library before purchasing.

Genre:  Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance

Age: Older teen +

Content:  Accepted drinking, some violence and borderline torture, bad shoes, mild sexuality

Overall: 2.5/5

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Book Review – Hounded by Kevin Hearne July 8, 2011

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I was excited for this book when I saw the initial story description and having finished it I find myself seeing it as a hit and miss kind of offering. There are some great ideas which I liked very much, but also some thing that made me cringe and want to slap the narrator and occasionally the author. 😛

On a positive note I do like the pacing of the book and the wit. The widow McDunna was a complete crack up, and I like the use of the Irish mythos in a way that wasn’t over done, even if it was a bit simplistic. The explanation of why Atticus is in Arizona and what he’s chosen to do with his life makes sense to me, as does his desire to play keep away from a God that wants his head. The relationship with Oberon is good, though I do find some of the things Oberon says to be so far out of a dog’s realm of understanding that it throws me out of the story. I think if there had been more information making Oberon a specific familiar with thoughts outside of doggie comprehension that it would have made better sense, but he’s just a dog who has been affected by being around Atticus. For me that doesn’t make the jump to understanding traumatized Toto or citrus air fresheners.

I do not like how Atticus thinks and acts like an oversexed frat boy. Sex doesn’t bother me. Sex with at least two goddesses and being lusted after by others…well…kinda par for the course for the genre. Many of the heroes and heroines of UF are attractive to all sorts of folks, even if the hero/ine themselves are described as being plain or otherwise not overly attractive. So it’s a little Gary Stu, but dealable with. I despise the interactions with the EMTs and the portrayal of the same. If you are 2100 years old and as smart as Atticus is supposed to be using power you don’t have to give an EMT a wedgie twice is just plain stupid and arrogant. And I can see setting up problems with authority, again very typical, but when you get into medical folk, in particular EMTs, you’re dealing with people who work stupid hours responding to people when their lives have gone to crap. Very rarely do you find an EMT who is a jerk and even more rarely do they sit there and bicker details versus HELPING the person involved. It’s not their job to determine the legitimacy of a wound, it’s their job to save lives and treat the hurt. People who are into a job for the power over other people don’t become paramedics, EMTs or other emergency personnel. It’s fine to keep up with the times and be hip, I don’t have a problem with that. But there is a difference between acting young and keeping up appearances and thinking like a teenager. 2100 years worth of experience should, in theory, also bring with it a bit of wisdom and tolerance, Atticus shows neither.

I’ve seen a lot of comparisons with Jim Butcher, and I’d say Herne has some of the same flow, but it’s definitely Butcher lite. I’m willing to give him a couple of books to hit his stride, I’m not so turned off that I won’t pick up another one, but it could go either way for me right now. I want to see that up with the times Druid with power and a nifty sword and a soft spot for an Irish widow, but I want to see him tempered by the years he’s lived and to show wisdom through humor. Otherwise what’s the point of him being a 2100 year old Druid instead of a newbie, except that he gets to make esoteric historical references?

Genre:  Urban Fantasy

Age: 15+

Content:  Abundant fantasy style sword and sorcery fights, werewolf maulings, etc.  Some sexual content, mostly FTB and nekkid goddesses, mild drinking

Overall: 2.5/5

Book Review – Right Hand Magic by Nancy A Collins June 3, 2011

Posted by Realitybypass in Book Review, Book Series, Romance, Urban Fantasy.
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I finished Right Hand Magic a couple of weeks ago, and I have to admit I found it charming.  It it the best, most dramatic urban fantasy I’ve ever read?  Nope.  But it was engaging and really fun, and sometimes fun is exactly what I’m in the mood for.

In Right Hand Magic we meet Tate, who is a trust fund baby defying her socialite parents by choosing the path of an artist, in her case an artist who builds sculptures out of metal.  When the book begins Tate has recently broken up with her boyfriend and is looking for someplace new to live, particularly if the rent price is right and she finds the right rent in the area of the city known as Golgatham.  We’re not given a LOT of background about how magic came into the world, but it’s enough to know that the supernatural exists and that it is untrusted and generally confined within Golgatham.  Usually humans aren’t welcome there, but Tate is desperate for change and at $750 a month she figures it’s worth trying something a little weird.

From this beginning Tate meets her witch born landlord, his obnoxious winged cat familiar, a cellar dwelling seer and a new housemate in the form of a were cougar escaped from the underground fighting pits.  The plot is fairly predictable, but I didn’t mind going on the journey to see just how it’d be achieved.  Tate is a really fun heroine with a spunky attitude, that never crossed over to being mean.  She is not a ‘kick ass’ heroine in the traditional UF sense of killing everything that gets in her way.  More she’s just confident in herself and works hard to achieve her goals and to take care of the people around her.  At one point she’s captured by the protagonist and even though she can’t do much, she does take the opportunity to stomp his foot and kick him in the shins, which is pretty much what I think most people would do.

Likewise the romance is cute and sweet.  You can tell it’s coming, but Tate and Hexe are cute together and it’s satisfying.   I appreciate Hexe’s characterization and his strength of person as well.  In fact the majority of the secondary characters are well done, which really rounds out the world and makes the bits that would be less believable something I’m willing to suspect disbelief for.

The magic system is fun consisting of natural abilities that come with race and then the witches, who practice Right Hand Magic, Left Hand Magic or some combination of the two.  Right Hand Magic is gentle magic, usually used for healing and blessing and undoing dark magic, where Left Hand Magic would be the a fore mentioned dark magic.  Most witches tend towards Left Hand Magic or the middle ground, but Hexe has chosen a path of only Right Hand Magic, no matter how hard it is to hold that road.

This book read fast and I’m looking forward to the next installment.

Genre:  Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance

Age: Late Teen/Adult

Content:  Very mild Sexuality, violence, language

Overall:  4/5

Book Review: Of Saints and Shadows April 29, 2011

Posted by Realitybypass in Book Review, Urban Fantasy.
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Of Saints and Shadows by Christopher Golden caught my eye as it was an urban fantasy series with a male protagonist.  These are often too rare and I loved the cover and the description of a series that combined a different take on the vampire mythos with secret societies and the underground life of the Vatican.

The set up intrigued me and the writing is good.  It flows well with some interesting characters and ideas.  However…after about 130 pages I’m putting this book down and it will be a do not finish for me.

You have to understand that I consider myself a fairly open reader and most content doesn’t bother me overly much, except I dislike gratuitous and explicit gore or sex.  in some books if I can easily skip said content I’ll finish the book anyway and just note it here for other readers.  In the case of Of Saints and Shadows the main antagonist gets off on killing other people and the more graphic and artistic it is the better.  As well it, thus far, has all the horror themes of sex=death and never go anywhere alone ever.  After seeing the death methods escalate really fast from guns to demons sucking off men’s genitals and crawling up to gore out eyeballs…  I’ve had enough.  I’ve done some forward skimming and the plot looks like it picks up from where I’m at, but I’m just not willing to wade through more blackly exploding bellies and doggie guts to get there.  Particularily not when my TBR pile is deep with books I really want to read.

For some people it may be their cup of tea and I wouldn’t say the series is unreadable, but not for the faint of heart, or those that don’t like their UF served with a large helping of artistic death al la slasher films…I’d give this one a miss.

Genre:  Horror/Urban Fantasy

Age: Adult

Content:  Sexuality, violence, language, explicit killings and torture

Overall:  DNF


Book Review: Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz February 9, 2011

Posted by Realitybypass in Book Review, Book Series, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult.
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Hey folks,

It’s book review day again.  I have quite a few books on my list of things to review, but this most recent read hopscotched to the front of the line.  Unfortunately it didn’t jump forward for all good reasons.

Blue Bloods is a YA book detailing the lives of a group of elite New York teenagers as they come into their own as vampires and look to solve the mystery of the death of a classmate at a local hot spot.  As a summary that doesn’t sound too bad and is part of why I picked the audio book up.  I drive about 45 minutes each direction to work and I’m finding that I lurve listening to audio books during the trip – which reminds me that I need another one for tomorrow now…hrm.

Anyway…I’m digressing, back to the book.  This book is a classic example of show versus tell done totally in the wrong way and drove me completely crazy.  I kept waiting for a real rise in the action and it was just reveal after reveal mostly in the form of someone telling someone else what was going on.  Our lead character Schyler never actually figures anything out by herself, she just has people tell her stuff.  AAAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHH.

As well these pampered rich kids make me want to kick them.  this may come, I realize, from never having been one of the rich beautiful people in the way everyone in the book is.  I was never driven around in a Silver Rolls Royce or towncar.  I have never purchased $4000 jeans…that’s like THREE house payments!  So this world of a gazillion fashion terms, day spas and power yoga is just so foreign without help that adding an urban fantasy twist to it just made me frustrated.

The urban fantasy twist, by the way, is the best part of the book.  It’s a fairly unique take on the vampire mythos, painting them as fallen angels who live through a full life from baby to ancient and at the time of their death a drop of blood is gathered and put into the next incarnation.  During the ‘sunset years’ of teens the angels come vampires learn about their heritage and begin to unlock the memories of all of their past lives.  Much of this book ties back to Egypt and Plymouth rock and the settling of America.  It’s interesting and generally well done, except very brief because they have to get back to parties in expensive dresses!

The other problem that comes with this mythos is a fairly high ick factor as people born twins are often an incarnation that is to be mated with the other.  So you get a really heavy incest vibe even if it is explained away in that they have the memories of all these other lives and vampires can’t procreate by normal means, only the implant of the blood and such, but still…if incest bothers you you’ll want to steer clear.  As well though it’s listed as YA and has teen aged protagonists there’s a lot of accepted behaviors that may be of concern to parents, namely under aged drinking, smoking and sexual activities that are just accepted as being part and parcel of the life of the glamorous and vampiric.  For being beings searching for redemption they aren’t particularly angelic.

All in all I was disappointed in the book because I really wanted to like it.  There are some questions I’d like answered and I have some interest as to how the mythos plays out it’s not enough to get me over the relatively weak writing and the show versus tell issues, which keeps me from wanting to read the other books in the series.

~J

Genre: Urban Fantasy/Chick Lit

Age: 16+

Content: Violence, sexual content, teen smoking and drinking

Overall: 2/5  stars

What makes an Urban Fantasist? September 2, 2009

Posted by kmcalear in Musings, Urban Fantasy, Writing Craft.
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I promise there will be a review of the book I read by tommorow, unfortunately today was spent wading through some Literary Theory and preparing my first commentary on it, which means I’m fairly wiped out. However, to relax, I decided to pop over to my netflix queue and see what was on the instant and I spotted The Munsters. It was another moment where I could look back at my writerly origins and realize there was always something that attracted me to the “Not Quite so Normal” in my entertainment. As a kid, the Munsters was one of my favorite shows: probably because it had those scary creepy monsters but with that air of comedy that made them more human than the humans around them. I think that’s where some of the true genious was in that show, the subtle commentary on the nature of monsters which I feel a lot of Urban Fantasy tends to touch on as well. Where do the Monsters Start and the Humans end? Is there a difference?

Anyway it’s time for me to crawl into bed, to start another day tommorow. 8 months and counting…. until the classwork for the PHD is done.

Tuesday Randomness April 21, 2009

Posted by kmcalear in Book Review, Book Series, Critiquing, Urban Fantasy.
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It seems that with my paper deadlines coming up, there’s simply not enough time in the day to get everything done. I’m just taking this as training for when publishers are demanding revisions, and I suppose college professors are going to be just as demanding! On top of that, though, I also have Finals to study for, when I’d rather be devoting all my time to compiling information from my research materials.

Anyway, so… I concur with Jana that Magic Burns and Magic Strikes simply rock. I read through both books this weekend, when I should have been reading stuff for class. Magic Burns kept me up til 4:30 in the morning because I just /had/ to finish it. Of the two, Burns has the better plot with more intriguing twists and turns, but Bites has several very satisfying endings to a couple story arcs. I think what I like the MOST about Illona Andrews’s books is the very unique Magic-Tech Atlanta, it’s very different than what most other UFs have with the near-reality world. I also like that they stop teasing the reader with Kate’s “blood secret” and you get to find out just what it is. Curran is a delightful character as well, definitely kind but determined, genuine, just and I love his mischievous sense of humor. How very feline!

Some contructive points: I do sometimes get lost in the descriptions, so I wish they were a little clearer to give me a way to visualize these unusual places she’s describing.  The world is SO strong that some better descriptions would kick it up into the Completely Awesome of All Awesome range. I’d also like to see more from Jim the leopard, he’s the most flat of the characters. Dali the white tiger is… a hoot, ya’ll have to read to find out.

So… go. Get. Buy. You won’t regret it.