Saturday, 30 July 2011

Review: Magic Bites - by Ilona Andrews ★★★★

Magic Bites - by Ilona Andrews
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Kate Daniels #1
Publication Date: 2007
ISBN: 9780441014897
Page Count: 280
Rating: ★★★★


When the magic is up, rogue mages cast their spells and monsters appear, while guns refuse to fire and cars fail to start. But then technology returns, and the magic recedes as unpredictably as it arose, leaving all kinds of paranormal problems in its wake.

Kate Daniels is a down-on-her-luck mercenary who makes her living cleaning up these magical problems. But when Kate's guardian is murdered, her quest for justice draws her into a power struggle between two strong factions within Atlanta's magic circles.

The Masters of the Dead, necromancers who can control vampires, and the Pack, a paramilitary clan of shapechangers, blame each other for a series of bizarre killings—and the death of Kate's guardian may be part of the same mystery. Pressured by both sides to find the killer, Kate realizes she's way out of her league—but she wouldn't have it any other way…


I absolutely loved this book! 

It's so good to find a new series to get excited about. I'm already planning to recommend it everyone I know. I can't believe I've had this little gem of a book on my shelf since last year, not knowing what a great story it held within.  I think I might possibly have been put off by the cover art (don't really like it I'm afraid), but I'm so glad I finally got around to it.

It is an Urban Fantasy, so for anyone who needs a romance storyline all wrapped up neatly within the first book, you might not enjoy it for that reason alone. But I, for one, am quite happy to have a slow burning love story cast over several books. It's all in the anticipation, people! And there is clearly a potential love interest here. Just as soon as they both get over themselves and stop annoying the crap out of each other. I think it's great when they start off hating each other, actually. It just makes it all the sweeter when they finally admit defeat. In this case, I'm not sure who will break first. They both seem equally stubborn to me...

There are oodles of weird creatures in the series. It makes a refreshing change to have some new ideas in this area. There were Shapechangers, Necromancers and various other magic users. There were hints left here and there that Kate herself might have some big secret concerning her own genealogy, too. Although we know she has magic right from the offset, she, for some reason, has to be really careful about her blood. Always making sure that if she bleeds anywhere, she cleans it up or burns it. Like as if someone were to smell or sample her blood, they would find out what bloodline she came from or something, and I'm guessing this would be bad... As I said, there were only clues so far, no actual answers, so I have no idea what the big deal is, but I am very intrigued at this point!

Another interesting twist was that, although this series features vampires, they are not the sexy, sparkly, gorgeous-looking beings that many authors portray these days. But rather disturbing, insect-like creatures that scuttle about on the ceiling. They're also mindless, and have to be controlled, or "navigated" by a necromancer or necro-navigator. They were completely gross.

I like the whole idea of the world being post-magical apocalypse, with crumbling buildings and other leftovers from the tech age, before magic took over. It was also something new that I haven't read before. And for me to find something new with the amount of books in this genre that I read, is always a bonus.

I really liked Kate. It's great to find a female protagonist you just love instantly. That's not to say she's not flawed, though. Her smart-ass retorts are hilarious, but she doesn't quite know when to switch it off, which is so going to get her in trouble one of these days, I'm sure.

I cannot wait for the next one, but at the same time I almost want to put off reading them because I don't want to run out!

4 Stars ★★★★

Friday, 29 July 2011

Review: Stolen - by Kelley Armstrong ★★★★

Stolen by Kelley Armstrong
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Book two in the Women of the Otherworld series
Publication Date: May 2003
ISBN: 0-670-03137-2
Page Count: 532
My Rating: ★★★★


On a mission for her own elite wolf pack, Elena Michaels, the only living female werewolf, is lured into the net of Tyrone Winsloe, a ruthless Internet billionaire. Winsloe has funded a bogus scientific investigation of the "other races" and their supernatural powers. Kidnapped and studied in his underground lab deep in the Maine woods, these paranormals - witches, vampires, shamans, werewolves - are then released and hunted to the death in a real-world video game. But when Winsloe captures Elena, he finally meets his match.


This was really good.

Someone is collecting Supernaturals like a kid collecting Pokemon stickers in Kelly Armstrong's world of werewolves and witches. There's nothing quite so creepy as a fanatical sociopath, and the villain in this book fits that bill to a T. He's not doing it alone, but the other's could perhaps claim they were doing it for research, for the good of mankind, whatever. This one guy? He's doing it just for kicks and giggles. And you just can't reason with the crazies!

The book opens (well, duh) with quite a long prologue, where we are in the mind of a Shaman who's trying to escape through the forest from a pack hunting dogs and bloodhounds, set upon him as part of a game that he can't ever win. It kind of reminded me of that movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Running Man. Only this poor Shaman guy was no Arnie.

In their mission to collect one of every race of supernatural—to which we as readers are introduced to several new ones in this book, rather than just the werewolves from the first book—they start to target Elena. I don't think I'll be giving too much away to say that they do eventually get her, seeing as it says it in the blurb on the back of the book. Heck, even the title is a bit of a giveaway.

During the time she's locked up, we meet a lot of new characters, both good and bad guys. Armstrong does creepy, maniacal villains really well. I thought so in the last book, but these guys were even better (or worse, depending on how you look at it). Luckily, Elena is a tough cookie. She doesn't fall apart at the seams at the first sign of trouble. She seems quietly confident that the rescue party will be coming. She just has to wait it out, and survive. Simple, right?


To find out what Elena has to deal with, you'll have to read the book, of course, but it was really good fun to read and I'm loving Clay and Elena more and more as a couple with each book.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Review: Incubus Dreams - by Laurell K. Hamilton ★

Incubus Dreams - by Laurell K Hamilton
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series:  Anita Blake #11
Publication Date: 2004
ISBN: 0425198243
Page Count: 658
My Rating:


Anita is pushed to her limits-both professionally and passionately-while she is called in on what appears to be a case involving a vampire serial killer preying on strippers. Her relationship with Micah and Nathaniel becomes more cohesive.

Regional Preternatural Crime Investigation Team asked Anita to help solve those strippers that are murdered. It seems that a master vampire gone crazy along with his followers, which is assume are seven of them and kill the strippers.


I have officially given up on Antia!

After the last two books gave me a serious case of squint-eye, I had almost given up, but I decided to give Anita the benefit of the doubt one more time and try and ignore the fact that she now seems to have sex with every single male character in the series.

Well, I tried, peeps. Really, I did. But I have to draw the line at this one. It's devolved into Erotica sprinkled with only the tiniest morsels of paranormal plot, and I don't even read Erotica.

This series was meant to be Urban Fantasy, and it was a damn good one. Now it's little more than vampire/shifter porn. Talk about being mis-sold on a premise. I wouldn't have ever picked up the first book at all if I'd known this was going to happen. And it just makes me so sad because Anita books 1-7 were great. Okay, the love triangle was annoying, but the plots were rich and innovative and she really set the benchmark for female-led UF. So it's even more of a kicker than she's now become such a joke character. LKH needs the memo that you can't just switch genres on your readers half way through a series and not expect to lose most of them because of it.

Apart from the fact the books are now boring and somewhat icky to read, they also feel very disingenuous. Am I supposed to believe the Anita that we met in the first book, who didn't even think you should have sex before marriage, suddenly likes to participate in group sex and other things that I'm too polite to even type? Any "love scenes" (and I use that term with reference to this book, very loosely), have to be relevant for me. I'm not saying it always has to be hearts and flowers, but it has to at least be believable and fit what's happening and the character's personalities. This is just ridiculous now, and I can't bear to watch it any more. So I am officially calling it quits.

Do let me know if I miss any further hilarity in this car-crash series from here on out. I'm no longer bothered about spoilers so feel free to tell me what you like.

1 star  ★

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Review: Cerulean Sins by Laurell K. Hamilton ★★★

Cerulean Sins - by Laurell. K. Hamilton
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Book eleven in the Anita Blake series
Publication Date: 2003
ISBN: 0425188361
Page Count: 405
My Rating: ★★★


Once a sworn enemy of all monsters, Anita is now the human consort of both Master Vampire Jean Claude and leopard shapeshifter Micah. When a centuries-old vampire hits St. Louis, Anita finds herself needing all the dark forces her passion can muster to save the ones she loves.


I'm coming back to the Anita Blake series after a long break. I got annoyed (that would be putting it mildly) with a certain aspect of the storyline at around book 10, Narcissus in Chains, and had to stop for a bit.

Basically, I can deal with my leading lady ending up in a love triangle. Just. But with this series, it started getting ridiculous. Anita went from not wanting to have sex before marriage with her one and only boyfriend, to sleeping with anything that moved, and I just didn't like it. Sorry. It upset my delicate sensibilities:)

However, after a six month break and a bit of a calm down, I got to talking to somebody about the series and thought, you know what? The actual stories, (i.e. the bit that happens when she's not boinking) are usually really good to read, and I shouldn't let one part of the story prevent me from carrying on with it when I had already got through 10 books and was committed the series. So, I am now carrying on from where I left off. This time, I am listening to them on Audiobook.

In this story, Musette—the right-hand woman of Belle Mort, the leader of Jean Claude and Asher's line—is sent to St. Louis and Anita is forced to make Asher her lover in order to protect him from her. She loves him anyway, mainly through inheriting Jean Claude's memories of him, so she's not too bothered, but probably wouldn't have done it without this complication. What happened to prudish Anita, eh?

She also adds one more person to her list of people she sleeps with, when an attack of the ardeur occurs when neither Micah or Nathaniel are available to... out.

Micah is still a girly wuss who lets Anita do whatever she wants with whomever she wants. I really don't see what purpose his character serves at all.

Nathaniel is starting to develop a bit of a backbone and is getting upset by the fact that he's about the only person left who Anita isn't having actual intercourse with. Poor thing.

There was a lot of time concentrated on and around the sexual relationships in this book, and a very brief—almost a sub-plot or background story—of a shapeshifter serial killer. So in case you are wondering why I am only concentrating on the rudey-doody bits when I just said that's what annoys me, well, it's because it took up nearly 75% of the storyline of the book, that's why. I mean, is it telling that even the synopsis is only two sentences long?

I did mostly enjoy it, though, having said all that. I think you just have to get your head around the fact that this ardeur thing makes it impossible for Anita to be a one-man-woman now, and once I accepted that and stopped getting mad about it, I actually started to appreciate all the different men in her life and their unique qualities. Or maybe I'm just trying to talk myself around.

I'm going to try the next one and hope that I can see this series to its end.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Review: Bitten - by Kelley Armstrong ★★★★

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Book one in the Women of the Otherworld series
Publication Date: 1 October 2001
ISBN: 978-0670894710
Page Count: 400 Summary
My Rating: ★★★★


Elena Michaels is the world's only female werewolf. And she's tired of it. Tired of a life spent hiding and protecting, a life where her most important job is hunting down rogue werewolves. Tired of a world that not only expects the worst in her— her temper, her violence—but requires it. Worst of all, she realizes she's growing content with that life, with being that person.

So she left the Pack and returned to Toronto where she's trying to live as a human. When the Pack leader calls asking for her help fighting a sudden uprising, she only agrees because she owes him. Once this is over, she'll be squared with the Pack and free to live life as a human. Which is what she wants. Really.


This was my second attempt at reading this book. I think the main reason I stopped reading it last time about 75 pages in, was that I had recently read Stray by Rachel Vincent, the first of the Werecat/shifters series, and other than the fact that this book involves werewolves not werecats, I almost thought I was reading the same book. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Well, technically BITTEN was written first, but I read them the other way around so this one felt like the duplicate to me. It's Twilight/Vampire Diaries all over again.

Elena Michaels, the only female member of a werewolf pack, gets summoned home. Rather reluctantly, it has to be said, since she knows she'll have to deal with her ex-boyfriend who's still a member of the pack whom she hasn't seen for a few years. She also has to leave her current boyfriend behind. It's one of those reunions she would have gladly put off for, well, ever. But the urgency in the messages from her Alpha was enough to get even her reluctant ass moving.

I found the book had a slightly slow start but, again, this could be just due to the fact that I felt like I'd already read the same thing. Also, I got a bit annoyed with not quite understanding the timeline with regards to Clay and Elena's complicated past relationship. You kind of get drip-fed the back story of how she got bitten and what happened in between in fits and starts. But I was left wanting to know whether they had actually been together as a couple for most of the decade in between now and being bitten, or if she'd never forgiven him. Not knowing drove me slightly mad because I couldn't then fathom how big of a deal it was for her to be returning after a 14 month absence.

Anyhow, I ended up really liking Clay's character a lot. He's not your typical alpha male hero. He's more wolf than human for a start, so his emotional responses often aren't what you might be expecting. He's a simple kinda guy who knows what he wants and is going to get it not matter how long he has to wait. I think he's been extremely patient waiting for Elena to, maybe not forgive, but come to terms with what he did. It was all deliciously complex, and my favourite aspect of the book.

Aside from dealing with the pack relationships, the plot had a couple of token bad guys to add some tension and excitement to the final chapters, and all that was exciting and also provided an opportunity to test the character's true feelings.

All in all, it was a great story with a nice climatic ending. I started the next one, Stolen, immediately after, and will no doubt work my way through the series from here.

A great addition to my library!
4 stars! ★★★★