Tag Archives: urban fantasy mystery

Sunday Post – 28th August

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Sunday Post

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

It’s been a vile week – a heartbreaking week. When a single issue pounced from the corner, ambushed and overwhelmed me. And just to crown it all – my writing, which is my refuge and defence when Life smacks me around, isn’t going all that well. I’m in the process of ripping apart one of my manuscripts and rewriting it. It’s not the first time I’ve done this, but cutting out a major character is a messy process. It might work but right now the remnants of the damn thing are lying in shards around my ankles and as I’m on the last stages and reaching the climactic final stage – it feels like I’ve ruined it. I’ve worked so very hard all through this year – putting in hours and hours. And for what? Right now, I don’t know. Nothing makes sense or feels worth it. Anyway – enough with the whining.

This week I’ve managed to read:

The Obelisk Gate – Book 1 of The Broken EarthTrilogy by N.K. Jemisin
theobeliskgateTHIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS… FOR THE LAST TIME.
The season of endings grows darker as civilization fades into the long cold night. Alabaster Tenring – madman, world-crusher, savior – has returned with a mission: to train his successor, Essun, and thus seal the fate of the Stillness forever. It continues with a lost daughter, found by the enemy. It continues with the obelisks, and an ancient mystery converging on answers at last. The Stillness is the wall which stands against the flow of tradition, the spark of hope long buried under the thickening ashfall. And it will not be broken.

I was delighted to learn that The Fifth Season won the Hugo Award for the best novel – and deservedly so. This sequel of an extraordinary novel whose world is an amazing feat of imagination, scoops the story up and takes it further. I’m still reeling and buzzed from it… Thank God for books like this, there’s times when they are lifesavers. Though DON’T pick it up until you’ve read The Fifth Season or you’ll flounder. I reviewed this gem yesterday.

 

American Monsters – Book 3 of The Demon Road trilogy by Derek Landy
americanmonstersBigger, meaner, stronger. Amber closes in on her murderous parents as they make one last desperate play for power. Her own last hopes of salvation, however, rest beyond vengeance, beyond the abominable killers – living and dead – that she and Milo will have to face. For Amber’s future lies in her family’s past, in the brother and sister she never knew, and the horrors beyond imagining that befell them.

The action and violence ramps up another notch in this last book with some truly creepy moments – and the climax holds a poignant sting in the tail that completely winded me. This YA offering should be vetted, as I wouldn’t be happy letting any of the younger teens in my life read it.

 

 

 

Unraveled – Book 15 of the Elmental Assassins series by Jennifer Estep
What could go wrong when you’re trying to unravel a decades-old conspiracy?unraveled
As the current queen of the Ashland underworld, you would think that I, Gin Blanco, would know all about some secret society controlling things from behind the scenes. I might be the Spider, the city’s most fearsome assassin, but all my Ice and Stone elemental magic hasn’t done me a lick of good in learning more about “the Circle”. Despite my continued investigations, the trail’s gone as cold as the coming winter. So when Finnegan Lane, my foster brother, gets word of a surprising inheritance, we figure why not skip town for someplace less dangerous for a few days? That place: Bullet Pointe, a fancy hotel resort complex plus Old West theme park that Finn now owns lock, stock, and barrel. At first, all the struttin’ cowboys and sassy saloon girls are just hokey fun. But add in some shady coincidences and Circle assassins lurking all around, and vacationing becomes wilder—and deadlier—than any of us expected. Good thing this assassin brought plenty of knives to the gunfight …

The perky first person viewpoint is accurately portrayed in the blurb. While this offering is full of death and mayhem, it is unabashedly classic urban fantasy with snarky dialogue, plenty of action and dollops of humour. Estep’s bouncy approach provided some much-needed solace and I’ll reviewing this book during the coming week.

 

The Thousandth Floor – Book 1 of The Thousandth Floor series by Katherine McGee
the1000thfloorWelcome to Manhattan, 2118.
A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. But people never change: everyone here wants something…and everyone has something to lose. Leda Cole’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched. Eris Dodd-Radson’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart. Rylin Myers’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will her new life cost Rylin her old one? Watt Bakradi is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy by an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies. And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is Avery Fuller, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.

This intriguing book starts with one of the girls featured in this ensemble piece plummeting to her death – and then the narrative timeline jumps back two months to show why she ends up falling off the roof… This YA offering could have so easily descended into an angsty mess – but McGee’s slick handling makes this futuristic thriller a real page-turner that I thoroughly enjoyed and will be reviewing it in the coming week.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 21st August

Review of Across the Universe – Book 1 of Across the Universe series by Beth Revis

Teaser Tuesday – featuring Unraveled – Book 15 of the Elemental Assassins by Jennifer Estep

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Spellbreaker – Book 3 of The Spellwright Trilogy by Blake Charlton

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of American Monsters – Book 3 of The Demon Road Trilogy by Derek Landy

Friday Faceoff – Looking Out on All I Own featuring The Poison Throne – Book 1 of The Moorhawke Trilogy by Celine Kiernan

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Obelisk Gate – Book 2 of The Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin

Other interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

I Went to a Funeral, and I Never Went Home https://mommyisawidow.com/2016/08/17/i-went-to-a-funeral-and-i-never-went-home/ A beautiful, heart-wrenching piece on bereavement

Tales of the Wellspring 5 – the White Spring of Glastonbury https://zenandtheartoftightropewalking.wordpress.com/2016/08/22/tales-of-the-wellspring-5-the-white-spring-of-glastonbury/ Another wonderful article from a gifted writer…

Day #15 – Doors closing, doors opening #30 Days Creative http://mhairisimpson.com/2016/08/day-15-doors-closing-doors-opening-30dayscreative/
A reminder that sometimes all you can do is just keep putting one foot in front of the other – and if you are lucky there are fab friends to help…

Saying Goodbye to the Sun https://richardankers.com/2016/08/24/saying-goodbye-to-the-sun/
A steady stream of short and micro fiction pours from the pen of this quirky, original author – the very hardest writing to get right. And this is a gem…

Writer’s Music: Ramin Djawadi https://jeanleesworld.com/2016/08/25/writers-music-ramin-djawadi/ Though you don’t HAVE to be a writer to want to get your hands on this music – I’m guessing one or three Game of Thrones fans might also like it…

Many thanks for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

Review of Killing Rites – Book 4 of The Black Sun’s Daughter by M.L.N. Hanover

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I was very impressed with the story arc running through this urban fantasy series, particularly the doozy of a twist Hanover produced at the end of the last book, see my review of Unclean Spirits, the first book in the series here and my review of Vicious Grace, the third book here.

killingritesJayné Heller is on a mission to uncover and drive out demons who invade and ride humans, taking over their consciousness and causing them to create havoc. However, their last wrenching adventure fractured the tightknit team she’d built to assist her in her quest and now it is just Ex, former priest and prospective lover, who accompanies her on perhaps her most demanding mission of all. The one that might well destroy her…

I’ve taken major liberties with the blurb, because the back cover version is riddled with spoilers and if you’re tempted to start the series at the start (the sensible approach I far too often ignore), then it would be crying shame if you already knew of the gamechanger that occurs at the end of Vicious Grace. So apologies if it sounds rather bland – it’s not the fault of the publisher, it’s entirely my own rather halting effort. Because it’s nothing of the sort. Urban fantasy with kickass heroines are so thick on the ground, you could be wading hip-deep in them and still not come to the end, but this one is really worth reading – ideally in the right order.

Jayné is a convincing, feisty heroine with plenty of fighting skills and a really good reason why a female a fraction of the weight and strength of many of her assailants can prevail. I really like the way in which she has changed and developed from the slightly spoiled, whiny character in the first book to the twitchy, haunted and very dangerous protagonist with something of a short fuse we encounter in this slice of her adventure. Hanover also has ensured the team accompanying her also are equally affected by the fallout – and a number of them simply aren’t around for this particular episode.

It’s really enjoyable to read a series where the consequences bite so deeply – it makes the action far more plausible and I find I care more for Jayné because she doesn’t come Teflon-coated. We get to discover a lot more about Ex, who was always rather mysterious, as he revisits his former comrades and takes Jayné with him to help her dislodge the latest parasitic invasion they have encountered. However, the group have their own issues that unexpectedly pitchfork Jayné into danger. There are a couple of characters who really ping off the page – Ex is one contender. His painful past fully catches up with him here and Hanover does a really good job of filling in the dots by having Jayné watch the interaction between Ex and his former comrades. The other character who thumps off the page and into my head, is Father Chapin. His burning belief, his sense of vocation and his desire to heal Ex had me alternately wanting to shake him till his teeth rattled in between being awed at his fervour and courage.

It’s fairly meaty stuff, though not as gory or unpleasantly graphic as some of my recent reads, which doesn’t lessen the emotional impact. Given the extremity of the situation at the end of Vicious Grace, I was wondering if this book would be something of an anti-climax – it is, after all, a real challenge to follow such a heightened, frightening experience with yet another adventure that can still push all the buttons. But Hanover pulls it off. Another exceptional read.
10/10

Review of Frostbitten – Book 10 of the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong

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Himself has discovered that Armstrong had been busy completing this entertaining series, so decided to track down the books we hadn’t yet read. Starting with Bitten, this urban fantasy series charted the stories of various female protagonists in Armstrong’s supernatural world. And Frostbitten returns to Elena, who featured in Bitten, with this next slice of her adventure.

frostbittenAfter years of struggle, Elena Michaels has finally accepted her life as a werewolf, and learned how to control her wild side. At least, that’s what she believes when she sets off to investigate a series of gruesome murders outside Anchorage. The truth, however, is more complicated. Trapped in a frozen, unforgiving terrain, Elena is forced to confront a deadly secret, and her own untamed nature…

Hm. I’m not overly impressed with this blurb – it makes this book sound like Elena spends a chunk of the narrative agonising over the nature of her own supernatural status… how she is going to cope… what will happen next… While all those issues are present, they are niftily interleaved amongst the full-on action that kicks off right at the start of the book and don’t stop until the final page.

One of the things that impresses me about Armstrong is how much these books vary in tone, depending on who the protagonist is. In No Humans Involved – see my review here – the tension builds slowly and steadily throughout as Jamie battles to work out exactly what is going on. In Personal Demon – see my review here – Hope and Lucas are trying to work out who is responsible for the trail of mayhem, so my attention was held by their unravelling the puzzle. Whereas in Frostbitten, we get to know fairly quickly exactly who is responsible for the murders – the tension comes in whether Elena and Clay can prevail against the mutts. And what Elena is going to decide to do regarding the future of their Pack…

I really enjoyed this update on a character I loved in previous books, and I think Armstrong has achieved a difficult trick – to show a character’s maturation and greater sense of responsibility without her losing her edge. Which is a great deal harder than she makes it look. It was also enjoyable to take Elena right out of her comfort zone and deposit her in a different part of the country – Armstrong has been smart in this long-running series to swing the action around in a variety of different settings, which has also helped to retain the freshness and excitement of each story. I also very much like how she has portrayed the relationship between Elena and Clay, now they are settled with a family.

She tackles a difficult subject – and one I’ve become increasingly intolerant as a plot device – Elena’s feelings when cornered by a rapist. While I’m not going to divulge how she fares – that strays into spoiler territory – I was gratified to see that even though as a werewolf, she is fitter and stronger than the average woman, she was absolutely terrified, and made no bones about it. Quite right, too.

Any woman who has been in that situation knows it is an utterly horrible experience and I get very fed up when writers serve it up as just one more assault. And when the heroine bounces back, right as a trivet so that by the end of the novel, she quite happy to resume her sexual relationship with her boyfriend – the book goes flying across the room, along with a barrage of language I won’t be repeating here. Armstrong has her strong, capable heroine very afraid to the extent that she finds it difficult to function – in other words, she feels like the rest of us when confronted with such a threat.

So, does the story come to a successful conclusion? Oh yes – I was delighted with this slice of werewolf edginess and am eagerly looking forward to reading the next in the series.
9/10

Review of No Humans Involved – Book 7 of The Women of the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong

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It is the most anticipated reality television event of the season; three spiritualists gathered in one house to raise the ghost of Marilyn Monroe. For renowned medium Jaime Vegas there’s just one problem. Unlike her colleagues, Jaime is the real deal – and she knows the house is truly haunted. Not by dead film stars, but by something even stranger and much more disturbing…

nohumansinvoledI really enjoy Armstrong’s writing – read my reviews of Men of the Otherworld here and Omens here. This popular and trailblazing series, started back in 2001 with Bitten, features women caught up in the paranormal world one way or another. So while Bitten deals with Elena, a young journalist pitchforked into the middle of werewolf society – in No Humans Involved Jaime has to deal with the sudden appearance of ghosts in ‘I see dead people’ moments. Constantly…

Fortunately, she does have coping strategies to prevent her going mad – one of them being that she is very well connected with a number of highly placed and powerful otherworldly characters. As this is the seventh book in the series, these characters have generally already appeared along the way. I really enjoy this feature of Armstrong’s writing – it is always a pleasure to get a different take on a protagonist in another story and she is very good at this technique. It doesn’t hurt that Jaime, though undoubtedly glamorous and good looking, is also aware that the clock is ticking, her waistline isn’t getting any trimmer and the laughter lines are in danger of turning into crowsfeet… In other words, she reflects many of the anxieties women past a certain age can experience on a daily basis. Obviously, the fact she’s a celebrity means those concerns are heightened, but it is still something of a treat to read an urban fantasy romp that doesn’t feature a fit, perky young thing with all her vitality and good looks before her. I also love her self deprecating humour. Of all Armstrong’s female heroines, Jaime holds a special place in my heart…

So in this murder mystery, does the story hold up around her? Oh yes. Armstrong quickly pulls us to the centre of this disturbing mystery by also giving us chilling slices in the perpetrator’s viewpoint, without revealing her identity– and it was also an enjoyable extra layer to discover that the baddie is also a woman… Meanwhile, Jaime is juggling the needs of the director, coping with professional jealousy from both her co-stars, while also trying to deal with her feelings about Jeremy Danvers, the Alpha werewolf who takes a vacation to meet her. Question is – does he also reciprocate her feelings? And is there really time for any sort of romance when there are trapped ghosts waiting for Jaime to help them?

I gobbled this book up in a couple of sittings when I should have been sleeping, but once I started reading I simply couldn’t stop. The conclusion was suitably dramatic and climactic, with a couple of surprises along the way. Great fun! And if you haven’t yet treated yourself to any of Armstrong’s keynote series – don’t start with this one, get hold of Bitten and feast on an entertaining, thoroughly enjoyable world.
9/10