Rosemary and Rue ~ Seanan McGuire

  • Title: Rosemary and Rue
  • Author: Seanan McGuire
  • Series: October Daye #1
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy
  • Format: Audio book
  • Source: Library
  • Reviewed by: DarthVal
  • Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Description:  October “Toby” Daye, a changeling who is half human and half fae, has been an outsider from birth. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the Faerie world, retreating to a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, the Faerie world has other ideas…

The murder of Countess Evening Winterrose pulls Toby back into the fae world. Unable to resist Evening’s dying curse, which binds her to investigate, Toby must resume her former position as knight errant and renew old alliances. As she steps back into fae society, dealing with a cast of characters not entirely good or evil, she realizes that more than her own life will be forfeited if she cannot find Evening’s killer.

Review:  Rosemary and Rue is the first book of the October Daye urban fantasy series. It is also the first time I’ve experienced any books by author, Seanan McGuire. For a first book, it holds a lot of promise.

The story follows reluctant fae investigator October “Toby” Daye. She is a changling, half fae, who has tried to distance herself from her heritage and hide away from her problems in the human world. Unfortunately, she is compelled to investigate the murder of a close friend and member of the fae royalty or risk her own life.

Toby’s character fits into the fragile strength mold. She is wounded and flawed, but her intelligence and resourcefulness carry her through. The author keeps her focused on the mystery at hand, although she does occasionally drift off into the land of woe is me. While she is not a stand-out character, she has enough potential for the reader to root for her.

In addition to Toby, we are introduced to entire of ensemble of vibrant characters, who I suspect will turn up in future books. Many of these characters are cast with ambiguity, leaving a lot of room for the world to grow and blossom. She also casts many of the fae in a very anthropomorphic fashion. Take for example Tybalt, Lord of the Cats, a character for which I have a particular fondness. His self-interest manifests itself in a fashion totally fitting feline fashion, as do his speech patterns and mannerisms. I sense this cat-like character has at least as many hidden layers as a cat has lives.

The world building uses the basic framework of fae mythology and then diverges into McGuire’s interpretation. She focuses a lot of attention on the challenges faced by the changlings who fit into neither the human nor the fae realm. Again, there is nothing particularly striking about this world, but it has potential.

There is enough adventure in this book to make it fun. Plus, McGuire does a good job of weaving in elements of future intrigue. It is enough to throw the reader off the trail to solve the mystery at hand, yet not so much that it leaves one frustrated by lack of closure at the end. There is clearly more story to be told, as you would expect with the start of a series.

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City of Ghosts ~ Stacia Kane

  • Title: City of Ghosts
  • Author: Stacia Kane
  • Series: Downside Ghosts #3
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy
  • Format: Audio book
  • Source: Library
  • Reviewed by: DarthVal
  • Rating:  5 out of 5

Description:  IT’S A THIN LINE BETWEEN ALIVE AND UNDEAD.

Chess Putnam has a lot on her plate. Mangled human corpses have started to show up on the streets of Downside, and Chess’s bosses at the Church of Real Truth have ordered her to team up with the ultra-powerful Black Squad agency to crack the grisly case.

Chess is under a binding spell that threatens death if she talks about the investigation, but the city’s most notorious crime boss—and Chess’s drug dealer—gets wind of her new assignment and insists on being kept informed. If that isn’t bad enough, a sinister street vendor appears to have information Chess needs. Only he’s not telling what he knows, or what it all has to do with the vast underground City of Eternity.

Now Chess will have to navigate killer wraiths, First Elders, and a lot of seriously nasty magic—all while coping with some not-so-small issues of her own. And the only man Chess can trust to help her through it all has every reason to want her dead.

Review:  Stacia Kane has created a rich world full of interesting characters for her Downside Ghosts series. City of Ghosts, the third book in the series, gets started with a bang. From the very first scene, this book is filled with thrilling action that will keep the reader on the edge of their seat.

Chess Putnam, Church Witch and Debunker, has earned a reputation for solving tough cases. As a result, she has been loaned to the Black Squad to work on a case so sensitive that she must be bound to secrecy. Of course, this case is so far reaching that it impacts Downside, as well. Chess is forced to lay it all on the line to try or everything she may lose everything that she holds dear: her freedom in Downside, The Church itself, Terrible, and possibly her life.

Kane has set the stakes so much higher in this book. She has evolved the magic in her world-building by tapping into the Elder magic accessed by the binding spell. She does this brilliantly, creating more depth, while staying within the confines of the magic system that she has created. This magic also reveals even more about Chess, her pain is almost palpable as she struggles through the binding.

Chess burns bright in City of Ghosts, as we feel her isolated shell start to crack and fragment, revealing some of hidden depths of her character. She starts to let others in just a little bit, and yet her self-loathing makes every step agonizing, especially the conflict between Chess and Terrible. I felt that this was really well-written, because the core of this struggle was a unique trust and friendship at risk, rather than simply some mystical insta-love pull that so many authors rely upon these days.

The tension in this book was literally breath-taking. I would often find myself holding my breath, waiting to see what would happen next. I don’t just mean the inter-character dynamics. The danger was so much greater and the intrigue so much deeper. So much of the story was balanced upon a knife’s edge; the result was a thrill to read.

City of Ghosts is what dark urban fantasy should be, an intense adventure starring a cast of charismatic personalities. Well done, Ms. Kane. Well done.

 

Unholy Magic ~ Stacia Kane

  • Title: Unholy Magic
  • Author: Stacia Kane
  • Series: Downside Ghosts #2
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy
  • Format: Audio book
  • Source: Library
  • Reviewed by: DarthVal
  • Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Description:  ENEMIES DON’T NEED TO BE ALIVE TO BE DEADLY.

For Chess Putnam, finding herself near-fatally poisoned by a con psychic and then stopping a murderous ghost is just another day on the job. As an agent of the Church of Real Truth, Chess must expose those looking to profit from the world’s unpleasant little poltergeist problem—humans filing false claims of hauntings—all while staving off any undead who really are looking for a kill. But Chess has been extra busy these days, coping with a new “celebrity” assignment while trying on her own time to help some desperate prostitutes.

Someone’s taking out the hookers of Downside in the most gruesome way, and Chess is sure the rumors that it’s the work of a ghost are way off base. But proving herself right means walking in the path of a maniac, not to mention standing between the two men in her life just as they—along with their ruthless employers—are moving closer to a catastrophic showdown. Someone is dealing in murder, sex, and the supernatural, and once again Chess finds herself right in the crossfire.

Review:  Unholy Magic is the second book of Stacia Kane’s Downside Ghosts, a series that is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. The second book is even darker and grittier than the first, a quality that I love to find in urban fiction.

The story is about Chess Putnam, a witch who investigates hauntings for the governing body who protects the world from ghosts, known as The Church. Chess is a pretty tough cookie and a great investigator, despite that fact that she is addicted to drugs. Once again, Chess finds herself working for the underworld of Downside, as well as The Church.

Ms. Kane delves even deeper into the cesspit of her heroine’s self-esteem in this book and reveals more the background the caused it. Chess is painfully dysfunctional in her relationships and at times it is agonizing to witness her ineptitude. Her addiction seems to be getting worse. The scene where she goes into withdrawals is written so that the reader can almost feel her pain. It makes me wonder upon what inspiration she draws for this character.

Despite the darkness, Chess has plenty of reasons to shine. Even in her deepest, darkest moments, she is able to tap into her powerful magic, which she often refers to as the one thing she can do really well. Her character may be flawed, but Chess is smart, fierce, and determined.

Chess has very few friends, and the one she holds most dear to her heart is Terrible. In this book, there are scenes that remind us just why his official job is playing the enforcer for a drug dealer. Yes, we also see his tenderness toward Chess, and his integrity.

Kane does a great job of weaving her subplots together and cultivating the mystery throughout the book. Her characters a richly drawn and beautifully flawed. I especially appreciate the character development that arcs between books. She is not afraid to dig deep to elicit strong and dark emotion, so be prepared. This is certainly not fare for the rainbows and flowers crowd.

This is one of my favorite covers in the series. The model’s facial expression just has kind of a world-weary look that I think captures the essence of Chess. The color scheme is dark, yet appealing and the layout and fonts follow the pattern that identifies the series.

Unless Ms. Kane takes a sharp left turn, I have a feeling that I am going to be a huge fan of this series.

Dancing with the Devil ~ Keri Arthur

  • Title: Dancing with the Devil
  • Author: Keri Arthur
  • Series: Nikki & Michael #1
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
  • Format: ebook
  • Source: Free ARC
  • Reviewed by: DarthVal
  • Rating: 2 out of 5

Description:  Private Investigator Nikki James grew up on the tough streets of Lyndhurst and believes there’s nothing left to surprise her. All that changes the night she follows teenager Monica Trevgard into the shadows-and becomes a pawn caught in a war between two very different men. One fills her mind with his madness, the other pushes his way into her life-and her heart. Nikki knows how dangerous love can be, but if she wants to survive, she must place her trust in a man who could easily destroy her.

Michael Kelly has come to Lyndhurst determined to end the war between himself and another brother of the night. For 300 years he has existed in life’s shadows, gradually learning to control the life from death cravings of a vampire. Nikki not only breaches his formidable barriers with her psychic abilities, but makes Michael believe he may finally have found a woman strong enough to walk by his side and ease the loneliness in his heart. But will his love be enough to protect her from a madman hell-bent on revenge? Or will it drive her into his enemy’s deadly trap?

Only together can they overcome the evil threatening to destroy them both. But the secrets they keep from each other might prove to be the greatest threat of all.


Review:  I am perpetually on the look-out for exciting new Urban Fantasy series, hence my excitement at receiving a digital ARC for Dancing with the Devil. I knew this one might lean more toward Paranormal Romance than I typically like, but I was willing to take the risk. The concept sounded really good to me.

One thing that I really liked about this book was the cover. It is not trying too hard to be sexy. It is a good urban fantasy depiction of a tough looking gal with a mysterious vibe. The red color was plays well into the Dancing with the Devil title. It has great use of fonts. It really looks like a book that I would enjoy. Alas, sometimes the adage is true about judging books by their covers.

I was expecting a story with a strong female detective, instead I discovered a stupid chick with the maturity of a bean sprout. Throughout the book, Monica (the heroine of the tale) runs headfirst into danger rather needlessly. Often this was a passive-aggressive response to being angry at someone, because it totally makes sense when you are mad at someone to risk your own life in the most dangerous scenario possible. Not. For a supposed detective, she was quite incapable of getting clue. I mean, the signs that Michael was a vampire were totally obvious. How long did it take Nikki to figure it out? Can you say, duh?

So, then there is the insta-lust between Nikki and Michael. I don’t want to label it insta-love, because most of the time they did not even seem to like one another. Or maybe that was just because both characters spent the majority of the book in over-reaction mode. Sheesh, maybe they need some anger management.

And speaking of anger, Michael was a bit of an anger ball. He always get angry that she does not trust him, like REALLY angry, yet he gives her NO REASON to trust him. Did he really think his approach was going engender trust in her? Let’s check his actions against the trustworthy check list. Would you trust a guy who tells you nothing while making it obvious that he is concealing a lot of information? I didn’t think so. How about if he constantly promises not to control you, but repeatedly does so (even if it is to save your life)? Maybe not. I know, maybe you’d trust someone who would conceal his true nature from you and will lie to you about his ability to love? Not working for you? Well, maybe you should just get angry back and run headfirst into danger!

Beyond the characters themselves, the mythology seemed a little inconsistent to me. Nikki was able to open doors and break the necks of zombies using her psychic force, but she was unable to use it to open a car door? Smells kind of fishy to me. Worse, though, were all of the times when Nikki drained her power completely, yet she was always able to conveniently tap into more (unless Michael conveniently save her, making her angry).

The plot itself was kind of blah. After the first couple of chapters, the mystery is gone. We know who the bad guy is and what he wants. The rest of the book, the author seems to draw things out in a series of silly encounters. Nikki and Michael run into Jasper, Monica, and zombies, they fight, they scamper away, lather, rinse, and repeat.

I am still up in the air about whether or not I will this series another shot. I recognize that first books are not typically the best of the series. It would be pretty low risk, since I have received a digital ARC for the second installment.

*Disclaimer: a digital review copy of this book was provided to me free of charge by the publisher through Net Galley.

Notorious Nineteen ~ Janet Evanovich

  • Title: Notorious Nineteen
  • Author: Janet Evanovich
  • Series: Stephanie Plum #19
  • Genre: Romance, Mystery
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Source: Public Library
  • Reviewed by: Valerie
  • Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Description:  #1 bestselling author Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels are: “irresistible” (Houston Chronicle), “stunning” (Booklist), “outrageous” (Publishers Weekly), “brilliantly evocative” (The Denver Post), and “making trouble and winning hearts” (USA Today).

New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum is certain of three truths: People don’t just vanish into thin air. Never anger old people. And don’t do what Tiki tells you to do.

After a slow summer of chasing low-level skips for her cousin Vinnie’s bail bonds agency, Stephanie Plum finally lands an assignment that could put her checkbook back in the black. Geoffrey Cubbin, facing trial for embezzling millions from Trenton’s premier assisted-living facility, has mysteriously vanished from the hospital after an emergency appendectomy. Now it’s on Stephanie to track down the con man. Unfortunately, Cubbin has disappeared without a trace, a witness, or his money-hungry wife. Rumors are stirring that he must have had help with the daring escape . . . or that maybe he never made it out of his room alive. Since the hospital staff’s lips seem to be tighter than the security, and it’s hard for Stephanie to blend in to assisted living, Stephanie’s Grandma Mazur goes in undercover. But when a second felon goes missing from the same hospital, Stephanie is forced into working side by side with Trenton’s hottest cop, Joe Morelli, in order to crack the case.

The real problem is, no Cubbin also means no way to pay the rent. Desperate for money—or maybe just desperate—Stephanie accepts a secondary job guarding her secretive and mouthwatering mentor Ranger from a deadly Special Forces adversary. While Stephanie is notorious for finding trouble, she may have found a little more than she bargained for this time around. Then again—a little food poisoning, some threatening notes, and a bridesmaid’s dress with an excess of taffeta never killed anyone . . . or did they? If Stephanie Plum wants to bring in a paycheck, she’ll have to remember: No guts, no glory. . . .

*Potential Spoilers*

Review:  This is a typical installment of the Stephanie Plum series.

Once upon a time, I really enjoyed this series. Alas, these days, it has gotten pretty stale.

Here is the synopsis for Notorious Nineteen . . .

Stephanie is broke. Her car gets blown up. She uses her grandfathers’s car until Ranger brings her another. She is inept at bounty hunting, but is determined to make it work. She STILL can’t make up her mind between Morelli & Ranger. She goes to her mom’s for pot roast. Her grandmother gets into trouble for being disruptive. Lula is along for the ride, needs food, and jumps on someone. Stephanie finds herself in danger but still has no bullets for the gun in the cookie jar. She makes out with Morelli. She bonds with one of her non-violent skips. Finally, she gets attacked, but Ranger saves her thanks to bugs and tracking devices. She gets her gets her man (or at least his body) in the nick of time, which staves off her impending financial ruin for now.

Sound familiar? I flagged this review as containing spoilers, but can it really be called a spoiler when the summary can be used for almost any of the nineteen books in the series???

It would be nice to see some character development and maturation. It felt like the early books did a good job at having the characters and relationships progress, but I think the series may have jumped the shark. Maybe it was the Team Morelli/Team Ranger stickers in the back of the book?