Kate rides again…

Here is one that I missed for my post of most anticipated books releasing in 2023

Magic Tides (Kate Daniels: Wilmington Years, #1; Kate Daniels, #10.5)
by Ilona Andrews

Kate and Curran have moved to Delaware with Conlan, trying to keep a low profile. They are renovating a house—well, who are the kidding, it‘s a fort—and one of the people working on their house has a problem. Kate goes to help. There goes the low profile.

This novella has all the elements we know from Kate Daniels. Magic, shapeshifters, vampires, various other magical creatures and deities. Hugh makes a brief appearance. It‘s humorous and there is too much information about the hair styles and clothing of everybody we meet. Great comfort reading for fans.

This was fun. I would have read it in one sitting, if I didn‘t need to sleep occasionally. The subtitle of the book, Kate Daniels: Wilmington Years #1, is promising. Looking forward to more!

Who is the chosen one? Not always the one you expected it to be!

Chosen (Alex Verus, #4)
by Benedict Jacka

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The 4th Alex Verus novel. I wasn‘t entirely sure if I still wanted to read this, but it was really good and I am glad I did. Although I only read #3 in May, I was struggling to remember who everybody was during the first few pages.

The tone of this novel is darker still than the previous ones. Alex has to finally deal with his past and the horrible things he was forced to do back then. He has to face someone wanting revenge for his past actions. The good times of the previous book are gone and he might even loose some of his friends, when they finally realize what he is willing to do to survive.

I really enjoyed the final confrontation and I was stunned how forceful Alex became. He is going through some really good developments as the main character of this series. Which I missed in the series he is compared to quite often, the Dresden Files.

There is a big cliffhanger at the end, obviously. Let‘s see when I will get to the next book in the series, I added Hidden to my shelf already. More about that here. One of these days I will have to crosspost my reviews of the Dresden Files book here in my blog as well…

Hidden Legacy, another sister has been squared away…

Ruby Fever (Hidden Legacy, #6)
by Ilona Andrews

Rating: 4 out of 5.

“Nevada first trained me in investigative work, she taught me to trust my instincts. If it didn’t look right, it probably wasn’t. If the hair on the back of your neck stood up, you needed to get the hell out of there. She taught Arabella the same thing. My younger sister called it listening to the lizard brain. I trusted my lizard brain. It kept me breathing.“

Classic Ilona Andrews. Things go downhill fast in inventive ways and graphic detail. It all gets going with a gruesome murder and an attack on the Warden‘s house. Oh, and the family moves into a new home that sounds a bit like Disneyland. 

Lots of magic, action, weapons, blood, exploding hardware and magic users gone bad.

Catalina still feels and sounds like Nevada. Sadly, the characters in IAs books have become pretty interchangeable and all seem to be the same person. Alessandro is pretty one-dimensional. Mom and Grandma Frieda sadly don’t get a lot of page-time. 

I am guessing that the next book will be about Arabella and her love interest. Considering the last chapter and epilogue, that‘s where I am putting my money.

And yes, despite my complaints I will very likely get the next book. I read this fast, it was very entertaining.

I wonder if we will meet Jadwiga again in the next book?

Playlist:
A Fistful of Dollars Theme (Ennio Morricone)
Triumphal March from Aida (Giuseppe Verdi)

And I just saw that I missed a 12-page short story….

The Cool Aunt (Hidden Legacy, #5.1)
by Ilona Andrews

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Apparently I should have read this straight after Emerald Blaze. Set directly afterwards, bonus short story from Arabella‘s point of view.

The birth of Nevada‘s and Mad Rogan‘s baby, short and fun.

Free online at the authors’ website: https://ilona-andrews.com/the-cool-aunt/

Here is my review of Emerald Blaze.

Middling to Good

Middlegame (Alchemical Journeys, #1) by Seanan McGuire

Reed is an alchemist. He created twins with special powers, with the aim to attain dominion over the world, as one-dimensional villains are wont to do. The book starts off in the late 19th century, but moves into the 1990s and 2000s right away, telling the story of the two siblings, Roger and Dodger. 

The concept and central idea is good, but this was not my kind of book. I get it, but it all felt like a never-ending set-up, peppered by convenient escapes and do-overs. 

Roger and Dodger felt like interesting characters at first, but they never really got past their defining features. And in Roger‘s case not even that was well explored until almost the end. Their dynamic and on-and-off again relationship irritated me and they never really matured as characters, despite being 30ish by the end of the story. Of the other characters only Erin ever evolved past her blueprint.

This book was definitely too long, with too little happening plot or characterwise. By the midway point I lost interest. The road to the climax was too aimless. I basically skimmed the third quarter of the book, just reading first sentences of paragraphs. Frankly, I don‘t think I missed much. The last quarter of the book was ok, I just wish it had happened a lot faster.

I made it to the end and liked the general idea, 2.75 stars rounded up. I won‘t be getting anything else in this world.

I did like her zombie horror Feed, written under her other name, Mira Grant. And her underwater horror with evil mermaids was fun: Rolling in the Deep and Into the Drowning Deep. I own the first five books of her Wayward Children series, written as Seanan McGuire—I do hope that I will like them better than this one here.

Dueling Wizard…

Taken (Alex Verus, #3) by Benedict Jacka

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Alex Verus #3. It was fun. Probably the best so far? Urban Fantasy with a mature tone. People are actually treated as adults, there is no gratuitous sex just for the heck of it, the bad guys are not cardboard cut-outs, there is a lot of grey areas and Jacka writes good action sequences.

The mystery plot was good, although the additional, final revelation was a bit too detached from the main story for my taste. Set-up for later shenanigans, maybe? 

The dueling apprentices is a fun idea and a nice way of explaining the magical mechanics of this world. I appreciated the juxtaposition to Alex‘s duel towards the end.

The tone still reminds me a little of Peter Grant, but grittier, with less focus on being funny (though it is).

This series should definitely be read in order and I have the next one lined up to read in a few months…

A wee bit of Magic…

The Sweet Rowan by Keira Dominguez

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Regency romance with a touch of magic. Governess trope! False identity! Scotland! Rugged Scotsmen! Damsel in distress! Treacherous antagonist! Drama!

A young woman runs away from her English home, to find something she has lost, and goes to Scotland under a false name, pretending to be a governess. The master of the house is immensely interesting, as he is wont to be in a sweet romance of this type. The situation gets complicated, with that lie of her assumed identity hovering in the background. And what is happening to that magic?

The writing was a little rough in the first chapter. And the tiny amount of magic felt like a gimmick at first, propelling the story from pure historical romance to something a little different. 

The plot didn‘t hold any big surprises for most of the book. However, when the requisite amount of drama occurred, it was well done and the expected reveals were very entertaining. Good amount of action and the above mentioned damsel in distress was not a wimp.

The characters were likable and lively. The switching points of view added a nice layer to the story telling. The characters from her other two books, Her Caprice and The Telling Touch, are related to this book and should probably be read first. The books are standalone though, it didn’t feel as if I was missing anything.

Bottomline, this was a lot of fun! I might read more by the author at some point.

How to deal with your curse 101

Cursed (Alex Verus, #2) by Benedict Jacka

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The second Alex Verus novel. I read the first one a few years ago and didn‘t like it, then tried again recently and changed my mind. 

So I am back in London, in a magic shop that reminds me of the Iron Druid‘s shop, with a mage that is definitely not Harry Potter. Alex gained a small amount of fame after the events of the first book. He went back to his old life, with Luna in tow as his sort-of-apprentice. Training her is not going terribly well and then something turns up dead, someone need his help and people start trying to kill Alex. He doesn‘t take that well.

The first two chapters rehash the set-up of this world, the magic system and the events of the first book. Especially the first chapter was pretty dry reading for me. But I guess you are not supposed to read these books back-to-back, so the reminder should work in most cases. The action started to pick up in the second chapter though and from then on it was quite a rollercoaster. If you like plot-driven books with a lot of action, that also have well developed characters, this is a winner.

At the end of my kindle edition is a preview to Hounded by Kevin Hearne, which is very fitting. They are both similar in tone. Alex Verus is the more mature one, with a world that feels more solid and well-developed. However, if you like Verus, you might have a lot of fun with the Iron Druid Chronicles as well. I did, at least for quite a few books.

If the first one-an-a-half chapters hadn‘t been so dry, this would have been 5 stars. The next books is on my shelf already.

After posting my review, I always look at other reviews, to see what my GR friends thought of the book. To my amazement one of my buddies really flamed this book as being very sexists, women just being helpmeets, etc.

Yes, Luna and Meredith only serve as facilitators. Well, at least Meredith does. And the book probably doesn‘t pass the Bechdel test, but it didn‘t bother me terribly much. And you?


Currently still reading:

Life on Earth by David Attenborough (audiobook)

Activation Degradation by Marina J. Lostetter (audiobook)

Reading next:

Black Powder War (Temeraire, #3) by Naomi Novik, buddy read, part of my TBR-pile, ebook

Blast from the Past

In yesterday‘s review of Fated I mentioned other novels with a similar setting and feel. And because I haven‘t posted those review here before (well, ok, pretty sure I talked about Peter Grant plenty), I give you another Blast from the Past…

Hounded (The Iron Druid Chronicles, #1) — read and reviewed in 2013
by Kevin Hearne

I struggled a bit in the first third of the book. For an over 2000 years old druid this guy seems to be pretty silly and not very smart or wise. The talking dog is a tad annoying, too. It sometimes sounds very smart and at other times it’s pretty much like I would expect a dog to be. 
In the beginning you also get swamped with every supernatural being you can think of and you’re pummeled with a ton of complicated, celtic names. The werewolves could do with being fleshed out a bit more. And a tad of world building would not go amiss. Thor? Really?
I was prepared to be royally disappointed and give up. But I stuck with it and the action picked up eventually. The fight scenes are well written. The bad guys are pretty stupid, though. And the author is not as funny as he thinks he is, Maybe he is trying too hard. Or I am too old to be that easily amused. Take your pick. But I ended up reading pretty much two thirds of the book in one sitting and I enjoyed myself. Go figure. I might even get the next book of the series.

PS: I threw in the towel after book 7 of the series…


Rivers of London (Rivers of London, #1) — read and reviewed in 2012 and 2018
by Ben Aaronovitch

First re-read, July 2018:

My first re-read, six years later and having read and liked all the other available full-length novel. I liked it a lot better than the first time around, although it still felt a bit slow in the middle. I didn‘t remember much of the plot and it was interesting to see, how much this world has developed with the consecutive books.

I guess the perceived slowness was probably due to Aaronovitch spending time on world building and introducing various characters, which are relevant in later books. The plot suffered a bit for it. It was worth reading this again, though. And if this is your first read and you are maybe not totally sold yet, please give the next book a chance.


April 2012, original review:

Modern day London, a copper takes a witness statement, not realising that he is interviewing a ghost. He ends up working for the last wizard of England in a special police unit dealing with the supernatural.

I read the first 70 pages in one sitting. Fresh, witty, great plot, I laughed a lot and had fun. Murder, sleuthing, magic, talking to ghosts. And then those rivers started showing up and the story wandered off into the distance aimlessly. The plot lost its way and I lost interest. I kept putting the book down for days on end, to read something more interesting. Finally I forced myself to finish it with a fair bit of skimming.

What shame. I really wanted to like this book. There was too much going on that had nothing to do with the actual plot. I wish the author had just stuck to the murder mystery and concentrated on developing the three central characters of of Peter Grant, Inspector Nightingale and Lesley. Instead he sidetracked into the story of Mother Thames, her daughters and the Old Man. Which was a nice plot bunny by itself, but had nothing to do with the murder mystery. In the end it was boring and frustrating, because it was so scattered.

PS: Re-reading the first book spawned into a re-read of the entire series and this is currently one of my favourite UF novels written by a male author. Currently waiting for book #9, due to be published in April 2022! Instabuy / pre-ordered!


Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1) — read and reviewed in 2008
by Jim Butcher

Love the Endless Purse, I want one! What an excellent read. Liked it right from the start, Harry is a guy who likes his sarcasm and has a sense of humour. Harry Potter has grown up and moved to Chicago. Thoroughly enjoyable, good suspense story, well fleshed out characters, and the tension just keeps on rising.

PS: I threw in the towel after book #5. There was zero character development and Harry was just too immature for my taste.

Better the second time around…

Fated (Alex Verus, #1)
by Benedict Jacka

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Harry Dresden meets Peter Grant. Jacka probably wrote this because he is a massive Dresden fanboy!

“I’ve even heard of one guy in Chicago who advertises in the phone book under ‘Wizard’ though that’s probably an urban legend.“

He gives us some great characters, for example the air elemental Starbreeze…

“She’s ancient and timeless. I don’t know how old she is, but I think she might have been born at the time the world was made. She’s also dumb as a sack of rocks.“

In tone it‘s actually more Hounded by Kevin Hearne than Rivers of London (Rivers of London, #1) by Ben Aaronovitch. Well, maybe both. But it is set in London, which I always love to read about as a place setting. And it‘s the kind of humour I like. Tongue-in-cheek, not too silly. Roughly in the middle of this book the story starts to take a darker turn. Unexpected and pretty fun.

For me this is a re-read and I am actually raising my star rating from 3 to 4. I still have the issue that there is a little too much telling instead of showing, but for a first entry into the world of adult UF Jacka did a good job and this time around I will definitely pick up the next book in the series. I am especially looking forward to how Luna will develop.


Here is my slightly harsh sounding review from December 2012:

Nice setting, interesting plot, reminiscent of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. Likeable characters, especially Luna, Sonder and Starbreeze. Hopefully they will be part of the next books. I am not quite sure yet, if I will pick up the next book though. Although I liked Fated, it left me a little unsatisfied. Too many times you are simply told what happens, but you don’t get to see it happen. I would have liked a more graphic story telling. I doubt Jacka is lacking imagination and therefore leaves it to us to fill in the blanks. So what is the problem? Is he just lazy or does he maybe not want to scare us away with more violent scenes during the battles and so on? It made it a little harder for me to build an emotional connection with the characters, making the story feel a little sterile at times. Maybe Jacka just needs a little warming up to the world of adult Urban Fiction…

Dystopian fantasy, not enough sarcastic AIs

City of Bones
by Martha Wells

Rating: 2 out of 5.

“Somewhere else, in a room shadowed by age and death, a man readies himself to look into the future for what may be the last time.“

First chapter

It took me five days to read the first chapter. I only read in bed that week and this book put me to sleep so fast that I made no decent progress. I could not get into this for the life of me. City setting, two outsiders and underdogs as main characters. Dystopia, aka apocalyptic fantasy world having risen from a world ravaged by climate change and turned into a desert world. One of the main characters with unusual biological features. Magic that drives its wielders crazy—where have I read that before?

The second chapter then turned into Mad Max and I started to become interested. I liked the part in the Waste (desert). The initial chapters in the city were engaging enough, but the plot didn‘t exactly move fast. A lot of explanations and descriptions of the scenery. Nice, but although I liked what I read, it ultimately bored me. It went downhill from there.

I would have liked more exploration of Khat‘s society and biology, sadly it was only light backstory details. I also liked the idea and workings of the Remnant. 

Wells lost me somewhere in the city and never got me back. I heavily skimmed from the middle of the book. It seems that fantasy these days only works for me if it is heavily plot driven and fast moving. I liked the idea of this story, but not the execution.