The Palace Job ~ Patrick Weekes

  • Title:  The Palace Job
  • Author:  Patrick Weekes
  • Genre:  Fantasy
  • Format:  eBook
  • Source:  NetGalley
  • Reviewed by: Sonja
  • Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Description:  The most powerful man in the republic framed her, threw her in prison, and stole a priceless elven manuscript from her family.

With the help of a crack team that includes an illusionist, a unicorn, a death priestess, a talking warhammer, and a lad with a prophetic birthmark, Loch must find a way into the floating fortress of Heaven’s Spire–and get past the magic-hunting golems and infernal sorcerers standing between her and the vault that holds her family’s treasure.

It’d be tricky enough without the military coup and unfolding of an ancient evil prophecy–but now the determined and honourable Justicar Pyvic has been assigned to take her in.

But hey, every plan has a few hitches.

Review:  I picked up this little gem as I was binge watching Leverage on Netflix. Reading this novel while watching that show provided many eerie similarities – but that’s fine – I always root for the little guy.

In this story we have quite the cast of characters trying to steal back an elven manuscript. The team builds slowly and the novel follows each as they are recruited which makes for a somewhat shakey start as the reader tries to understand the various personalities and how they all fit in – very similar to the beginning of Leverage where they show you the thief, hacker, hitter, grifter, and mastermind. Except here, there is magic involved and the plan is . . . well, the plan is constantly being replanned and reformed to match the circumstances that are happening now. I suppose that is what happens when you are flirting with an ancient prophecy.

The story takes a while to take off. I spent the first half thinking – oh come on already, DO something. It really that there wasn’t any action, there was, it just didn’t seem to have any meaning. Then, at about the 50% mark, it takes off. Suddenly, all the characters seem to mesh, the action starts to make sense, and that can’t wait to flip the page hits.

The characters, with the exception of Loch, are flat. They are mostly one-note personalities who bring one quality to the group and they do that over and over again. Loch, however, is constantly surprising and one never really knows what she will do next. Even though the characters are rather one dimensional, the group of characters together is quite entertaining. I believe this is the only time I have ever enjoyed ‘your mom’ jokes. I usually find them juvenile and tasteless. Not really surprising since I am a mom. Here, however, they are presented in an almost satirical fashion. I laughed.

Each set of characters joins the rag tag team in pairs – with two magical exceptions, a unicorn and a death priestess. And, the characters stay paired off, for the most part, throughout. This allows each to work with another they know well and are used to working with. When plans go awry, and they do constantly, it was fun watching the group/pairs try to pull everything back together.

Although the action here was a little slow and the characters a little stale, I still thoroughly enjoyed this book. I think Mr. Weekes video game background is evident here as I could actually visualize the story coming together in some sort of video medium, whether it be gaming or television. Or maybe that was just the Leverage influence. At any rate, the ‘what on earth is going to happen next’ aspect of the story never let up and the characters were enjoyable enough that I enjoyed the time I spent with them. I also love a good take down of power grabbing megalomaniacs and watching the good guys win!

I give this one 3.5 stars but I will round it up to 4 for the good guys!

Dirty Magic ~ Jaye Wells

  • Cover of Dirty Magic by Jaye WellsTitle:  Dirty Magic
  • Author:  Jaye Wells
  • Series:  The Prospero’s War, #1
  • Genre:  Urban Fantasy
  • Format:  eBook
  • Source:  NetGalley
  • Reviewed by:  Sonja
  • Rating:  4 out of 5

Description:  The first in an all-new urban fantasy series by USA Todaybestseller Jaye Wells. 

The last thing patrol cop Kate Prospero expected to find on her nightly rounds was a werewolf covered in the blood of his latest victim. But then, she also didn’t expect that shooting him would land her in the crosshairs of a Magic Enforcement Agency task force, who wants to know why she killed their lead snitch.

The more Prospero learns about the dangerous new potion the MEA is investigating, the more she’s convinced that earning a spot on their task force is the career break she’s been wanting. But getting the assignment proves much easier than solving the case. Especially once the investigation reveals their lead suspect is the man she walked away from ten years earlier—on the same day she swore she’d never use dirty magic again.

Kate Prospero’s about to learn the hard way that crossing a wizard will always get you burned, and that when it comes to magic, you should be never say never

Review:  This was a Book of the Month in a couple different groups I am in on GoodReads, so when I saw it at NetGalley, I happily snagged it for a review.

Warning: There are slight spoilers ahead. Only slight – nothing major. But, if you resist any type of spoilage, you might want to tread cautiously.

I really enjoyed this book. The world created was a very different tack on urban fantasy – all the fantastical creatures come from potions – potions created by adepts. Ok, so adepts are their own sorts of fantastical creatures – not everyone can actually cook magic – but the vampires and werewolves and what not are not natural to this world.

Kate is a former adept who is now a cop. She is also guardian to her little brother, Danny. Or, not so little – though it is easy to assume he is little based on the way she treats him. She still won’t let him come home to an empty house – he has a ‘baby sitter’. At 16. Even I wasn’t that over-protective . . . As it turns out, she has reason to be over protective, but her protection does little good.

I really like Kate. I completely understand her decision to stay totally away from Magic. Her comment near the end of the book says it all: “I don’t trust myself around magic.” For HER it is easier to stay completely away than to deal with the side effects – both good and bad. Some people can’t even take a dip, others have no problem. Sort of like alcohol. At least that is the way I see it. I would be just like Kate. I never do things by halves – I am either in completely or out completely. I get it. I also get that other people do not react the same way. They don’t understand why others just simply canNOT deal with even small doses of something – whatever it is. Kate has my complete sympathy.

I really liked Drew. Interested to see how things there develop – if they do.I also liked Pen. I loved their relationship. My only quandary is Volos. Is he a good guy or a bad guy? I can see Volos going either way. Did he manipulate Kate? Absolutely. But would he have done the right thing regardless? I think the jury is still out there. I think she may be seeing her past in him rather than the man he has become. Ok, yea, he is powerful and we all know that power begets the desire for more power, but that doesn’t mean he would do bad things to those he loved to get it. I dunno. I still think he could go either way. 

There is the requisite love triangle being established here. And, I gotta say, really? Does every single urban fantasy novel require a love triangle? I like all the characters developed here – I can see the triangle going only one of two ways – with her ex-love or with neither! I don’t think the other guy stands a chance. To me, they are friends – nothing more. I hope it stays that way.

There are some interesting creatures in this novel, not the least among them is Little Man – an homunculus conjoined to his twin sister since birth. She has become fully grown physically, he, mentally. Between the 2 of them, they are very interesting persons, and left me scratching my head going, hmmmm.

We can definitely draw analogies between magic and drugs. ‘Dirty’ magic would be seen as illegal narcotics, while ‘clean’ magic would be seen as prescription over the counter medication sold legally. I can see definite criticisms here for prescription medications for such things as depression – almost from a Scientology angle.

One thing that made me laugh was the curse jar. My knee jerk reaction to the first line of the book was to think, “Really? We have to start off with that word?” Happily for me, it definitely did NOT set the tone for the remainder of the novel – words when used were definitely appropriate. I loved the scene where she put everything she had in her purse in the jar and when she didn’t use up all her $, she used every word she could think of. Haven’t we all been there? 

I think my biggest single issue with this novel was Kate’s reaction to the team that she has grown to love and care for. Once she does the thing – the only thing she can do – there are no two ways about it, she has to do it – she doesn’t tell them. I simply cannot believe that the people involved in the relationships that I watched develop and grow would judge Kate for her actions and find her wanting. I think they would love, support, and encourage here. That they are not even given a chance – and OMG they are COPS – the best of the best – they ARE NOT stupid – to console and aid her – was the book’s single biggest weakness to me.

But, I am left with a  slew of questions. Say you want to leave magic and take your brother out of the world. Do you stay in the city where your Uncle leads the coven? Or do you get as far away as humanly possible? If you ARE going to stay in the city, do you make so much noise as to become a cop and keep poking at the hornet’s nest that you left? Or do you go dig a deep hole and try to hide?I mean, seriously, if it is just YOU – maybe. But, if you have a kid depending upon you? I found that aspect to also be completely unbelievable.

Other than that, I really enjoyed this one. I enjoyed the world. I enjoyed Kate. And, I enjoyed the relationships. I am eagerly awaiting more, and I hope it doesn’t disappoint. I give this one 3.5 stars for its failings – but round it up to 4 for the eagerness with which I anticipate the next.

Darkfever ~ Karen Marie Moning

  • Darkfever CoverTitle:  Darkfever
  • Author:  Karen Marie Moning
  • Series:  Fever, #1
  • Genre:  Paranormal Romance, Urban Fiction
  • Format:  eBook
  • Source:  Overdrive Library
  • Reviewed by:  Sonja
  • Rating:  3 out of 5

Description:  MacKayla Lane’s life is good. She has great friends, a decent job, and a car that breaks down only every other week or so. In other words, she’s your perfectly ordinary twenty-first-century woman. Or so she thinks…until something extraordinary happens.

When her sister is murdered, leaving a single clue to her death–a cryptic message on Mac’s cell phone–Mac journeys to Ireland in search of answers. The quest to find her sister’s killer draws her into a shadowy realm where nothing is as it seems, where good and evil wear the same treacherously seductive mask. She is soon faced with an even greater challenge: staying alive long enough to learn how to handle a power she had no idea she possessed–a gift that allows her to see beyond the world of man, into the dangerous realm of the Fae….

As Mac delves deeper into the mystery of her sister’s death, her every move is shadowed by the dark, mysterious Jericho, a man with no past and only mockery for a future. As she begins to close in on the truth, the ruthless Vlane–an alpha Fae who makes sex an addiction for human women–closes in on her. And as the boundary between worlds begins to crumble, Mac’s true mission becomes clear: find the elusive Sinsar Dubh before someone else claims the all-powerful Dark Book–because whoever gets to it first holds nothing less than complete control of the very fabric of both worlds in their hands…

Review:  Welllll gee. I really didn’t love this one – but I didn’t hate it either.

Some things I really enjoyed. I liked Mac. I liked that she is all pink and girly girl. I liked that fact that while she observes that she broke a nail, she doesn’t fester over it – it is just an observation. I like her sense of humor. I like the fact that she doesn’t cuss and uses other words as replacements (petu-ass). It made me laugh. Though, I gotta admit, I usually do it the other way around – start to cuss and change the word to a more acceptable one midstream. I liked the fact that she justified purchases by how much she saved off of Wal-mart prices. Just the little things as she tried to go about living when her world had been totally turned upside down.

I didn’t like Barrons. Though, I assume there will be some growing attachment between the two as the series progresses and concludes – I don’t like it. To me, he almost has her prisoner. Though, technically, she can come and go as she pleases, he does not provide her with enough information and knowledge so that she can do so with any chance at surviving. I do not like this type of relationship when one character has so much power over another and, then, they inevitably fall into bed with each other. It really irritates me. There should be some sort of equality.

I also did not like this thing with V’lane – that he had her ripping off her clothes and committed mental and emotional rape every time they were within sight of each other. I do not like the way she reacted (during and after) each time this happened – though I gotta admit I chuckled when she stumbled across the little piece of cute pink fabric only to realize it was her panties and it brings her back to some semblance of reality.

I didn’t like that way Ms. Moning was constantly referring to the fact that Mac didn’t know how important something was until later . . . this happens frequently. Mac observes something, then says, “I didn’t know how important this was until much later.” She then neglects to tell us how it was important, just that it was. As a plot device, I found it annoying: either let me question the importance to see if I am smart enough to pick up on the clues, or tell me what the importance is, gosh darn it.

And, while I enjoyed the whole ‘pink’ thing, I did not like the whole ‘Barbie’ thing. We are told ad nauseum about how she has this cute little Barbie doll figure that we all know cannot really exist. And, not only that but she eats constantly – and not healthy good for you food – but fried and other comfort foods. I realize this is a fantasy novel, but seriously . . .

With all that, what I really missed in this book was relationships – at least relationships I enjoyed being a part of. I would have enjoyed Mac’ relationships with her family, especially her sister – but these were only referred to – not experienced. I absolutely did not enjoy her relationship with Barrons. And, there are few other relationships here to follow.

Overall, I give this book 3 stars. I am unlikely to continue in this series – I am just not enjoying the ride enough to care about the destination.

Guilty Pleasures ~ Laurell K. Hamilton

  • Guilty Pleasures CoverTitle:  Guilty Pleasures
  • Author:  Laurell K. Hamilton
  • Series:  Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, #1
  • Genre:  Urban Fantasy
  • Format:  eBook
  • Source:  own Copy
  • Reviewed by: Sonja
  • Rating:  4 out of 5

Description:  Anita Blake may be small and young, but vampires call her the Executioner. Anita is a necromancer and vampire hunter in a time when vampires are protected by law—as long as they don’t get too nasty. Now someone’s killing innocent vampires and Anita agrees—with a bit of vampiric arm-twisting—to help figure out who and why.

Trust is a luxury Anita can’t afford when her allies aren’t human. The city’s most powerful vampire, Nikolaos, is 1,000 years old and looks like a 10-year-old girl. The second most powerful vampire, Jean-Claude, is interested in more than just Anita’s professional talents, but the feisty necromancer isn’t playing along—yet. This popular series has a wild energy and humor, and some very appealing characters—both dead and alive

Review:  Well, whoda thunk it? I read a book about vampires. That actually started with a bachelorette party at a, of all things, vampire strip club. Even though it typified everything I hate AND love about urban fantasy, I actually liked it. I know, right?

First of all, what I loved. Anita has absolutely a great amount of snark – and that is what makes the book for me. This is my favorite thing about the genre as a whole: sarcasm. I cannot begin to tell you how many lines of dialog I have highlighted. This book made me laugh so hard. But, she isn’t just snarky – in the next thing that will capture my heart like no other – she really cares about her friends and those around her. She bends over backwards to protect her friend Catherine at the aforementioned strip club, Guilty Pleasures. (Though, I even have to question this as a TSTL moment. Why on earth did she ever fall for this scheme to begin with? It seems poorly conceived, and she should be smarter.) This is not her last well meaning attempt to protect those around her.

What do I hate about urban fantasy? Vampires. In particular vampires that are love interests. I feel there is something inherently creepy, well, with vampires anyway. But, take a guy who is controlling, manipulative, a kazillion times stronger than you can ever be and not afraid to use said strength and add to this the ability to control another’s mind – well it is creepy that he serves as a love interest. I prefer relationships on a more equal footing than such a dominating one. But, at least the vampires here are creepy. Vampires are supposed to be creepy.

Overall, the book was well done. I liked Anita – and she really only had the one TSTL moment – it just set up everything else that went wrong. There really is no love interest, but I could see it being set up for later books in the series. The death count is low . . . yet still made me shed a tear or two. The mystery was well done and I appreciated the clues that are dropped to allow the reader to unravel the mystery without just having a big reveal at the end.

Ultimately, I give this one 3.5 stars. I rounded it up to 4, because it surprised me. And, that is a good thing.

Bitten ~ Kelley Armstrong

  • Title:  Bitten
  • Author:  Kelley Armstrong
  • Series:  The Women of the Otherworld, #1
  • Genre:  Urban Fantasy
  • Format:  eBook
  • Source:  Own Copy
  • Reviewed by: Sonja
  • Rating:  2.5 out of 5

Description:  Elena Michaels is a werewolf. She tries to be human, but the man whose bite changed her existence forever, and his legacy, continue to haunt her. Thrown into a desperate war for survival that tests her allegiance to a secret clan of werewolves, Elena must reconsider who and what she is.

Review:  Warning: slight spoilers ahead.

This book started off like a house ‘a fire. Even though I was a little skeptical in the prologue that was written in present tense . . . I don’t typically like that . . . I was relieved to discover it reverted once the book actually started. But, the I enjoyed the original relationship of Elena and Philip and his family. I appreciated his reaction to her call to return ‘home’.

But then, I was very disappointed with this relationship. There should have been more to Philip than meets the eye – or why have him at all? Elena returns home and immediately falls into sex with her ex-fiancé, Clay. She makes a point of saying that it wasn’t really cheating because Clay was her past? Um, yes it is! And, it isn’t just once – it happens time and time again, even though he gives her more than one opportunity to walk away. So, why spend 2 chapters on Philip and his family? It seemed pointless and ultimately made Elena into such a cheater that it was absolutely impossible for me to root for her. Or any of her relationships.

The other thing that made her totally unrelatable was that she was such a whiner. She was constantly whining about even being a werewolf. She was constantly whining about Clay and what he did to her. Meanwhile, the entire pack treats her like a princess. And, not to belabor the point, but there is still Philip that she left back in Toronto that she remembers only when it is likely to move the plot in the author’s desired direction.

The book intrigued me with mysteries as to what and how and why and who is going on. I wanted to know more. Who was killing the members of the pack? Why were they killing them? There were a couple deaths that made me very sad. The pack dynamics were subtly different from others in the genre, in that things could only be done one way and mutts (those outside the packs) were almost always killed on sight. There wasn’t the alpha struggle thing going on – Jeremy just was the head guy. Ultimately, even these dynamics were boring.

I really did not enjoy this book. I do not plan to read further in the series unless the television series is really awesome. I did finish – and I can’t decide on 2 or 3 stars, so I will compromise at 2.5, which I will round down to 2. Because I should have liked it more than I did.

Born of the Night ~ Sherrilyn Kenyon

  • Title:  Born of the Night
  • Author:  Sherrilyn Kenyon
  • Series:  The League, #1
  • Genre:  Romance, Science Fiction
  • Format:  eBook
  • Source:  Own Copy
  • Reviewed by: Sonja
  • Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Description:  In the Ichidian Universe, The League and their ruthless assassins rule all. Expertly trained and highly valued, the League Assassins are the backbone of the government. But not even the League is immune to corruption . . .

Command Assassin Nykyrian Quikiades once turned his back on the League—and has been hunted by them ever since. Though many have tried, none can kill him or stop him from completing his current mission: to protect Kiara Zamir, a woman whose father’s political alliance has made her a target.

As her world becomes even deadlier, Kiara must entrust her life to the same kind of beast who once killed her mother and left her for dead. Old enemies and new threaten them both and the only way they can survive is to overcome their suspicions and learn to trust in the very ones who threaten them the most: each other.

Review:  This is another I read along with the Vaginal Fantasy group at Goodreads. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. These books always tend to have more romance and sex that that with which I am comfortable.

That being said – I really enjoyed the characters. Though, gotta admit, every single time the phrase ‘tiny dancer’ was used, I had Elton John streaming through my head. I don’t know if this was entirely intentional on Ms. Kenyon’s part, but it is a fact. It is basically the story of the daughter of a rich politician and the man hired to protect her. It is science fiction solely because it happens in a galaxy far, far away and because the bodyguard hired is from another planet. Well, they both are – it happens in another galaxy.

I liked Kiara. She was gentle yet didn’t lie down and let people walk all over her. She was strong yet didn’t let the circumstances of her life create a tough as nails kick ass character. When we first see her, she has been taken captive. She knows that her captors do not have her best interests at heart and plots and schemes ways that she can escape. Or at least damage those who wish her harm. And, when the cavalry arrives, they see a young woman who will not go easily into the sunset.

Enter the assassin Nykyrian – said cavalry. Most of the mystery in this novel revolves around who he is and where he came from. While he and Kiara both share the lack of a mother in their lives, their childhoods have been remarkably dissimilar. While she has been sheltered and protected, even though not totally without loss, he has been battered and abused. He has loved her from afar for years, but, due to said childhood, feels unlovable. Their relationship is a bit . . . unbelievable. But, hey it is a romance, and doesn’t really pretend to be anything else, so unbelievable works. Just because it is unbelievable doesn’t mean it is without difficulties along the way – or, perhaps, because of that.

This is pretty much a straightforward romance with science fiction over tones. If you look to read this type of book and accept it as such, it is completely enjoyable. I give it 3.5 stars – rounded to 4 because I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.