Grave War (Alex Craft, #7)

Grave WarGrave War
by Kalayna Price
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9781984805959
Series: Alex Craft #7
Publication Date: November 26, 2020
Pages: 384
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Ace

Grave witch Alex Craft has forged an uneasy truce with the world of Faerie, but she's still been trying to maintain at least some semblance of a normal life in the human world. So it's safe to say that stepping up as the lead investigator for the Fae Investigation Bureau was not a career path she ever anticipated taking.

When an explosion at the Eternal Bloom threatens to upend the fae who make their home in our world, Alex finds herself in charge of the most far-reaching investigation she's ever tackled. And it's only her first week on the job. With the threats mounting and cut off from half her allies, Alex can't wait on the sidelines and hope the fae's conflicts stay contained within their borders.


 

The final book of the series, this is the one that wraps up the whole thing.  I couldn’t put it down, but I can’t say I totally loved it, but that’s because it didn’t end the way I’d have chosen, and I felt that there were endings left undone, or not really done to any satisfaction.  At least mine.  But it was well written, and well plotted and I got a huge amount of satisfaction at having called the major plot twist from the very start of the series. View Spoiler » So there was that.

It’s a series I’ll miss, and re-read, but I’m happy the author got to end the story on her terms.

Wicked Hour (Heirs of Chicagoland, #2)

Wicked HourWicked Hour
by Chloe Neill
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780399587115
Series: Heirs of Chicagoland #2
Publication Date: December 3, 2019
Pages: 352
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Berkley

Vampires were made, not born—until Elisa Sullivan came along. As the only vampire child in existence, she grew up with a heavy legacy, and tried to flee her past. Then circumstances drew her back to Chicago, and she stayed to keep it safe. With shifter Connor Keene, the only son of Pack Apex Gabriel Keene, at her side, she faced down a supernatural evil that threatened to destroy Chicago forever.

After the dust from the attack has settled, Elisa is surprised when Connor invites her to a usually private Pack event in the north woods of Minnesota, and by the warm welcome she receives from some of Connor’s family, even though she's a vampire. But the peace doesn't last. The shifters tell tales of a monster in the woods, and when the celebration is marred by death, Elisa and Connor find themselves in the middle of a struggle for control that forces Elisa to face her true self—fangs and all.


 

I was a big fan of the Chicagoland Vampires series, but wasn’t quite so sure about the spin-off until I finished the first book (which started slow).  Then I was hooked.  Wicked Hour was even better than the first book combining a group of established friends from the first book with a great setting, snarky dialog, and an interesting mystery.  What is the mysterious beast in the north woods of Minnesota?

The two main characters of this series are a vampire and a werewolf in love with each other, so I expected the inevitable conflict between species to be one the author might milk for at least a couple of books.  So imagine my glee when she didn’t take that trope-tastic route but instead had her two main characters act like rational adults.

Where the author did skirt the line was the amount of animosity Lis was up against from the werewolf clan.  At times it felt too manufactured to be believed, although towards the end  the author made it work by turning it inward and making it about something larger than Lis’s vampirism.

All up it was an excellent sophomore entry in a promising new series I look forward to continuing.

Grave Witch

Grave WitchGrave Witch
by Kalayna Price
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780451463807
Series: Alex Craft #1
Publication Date: October 5, 2010
Pages: 325
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: ROC Fantasy

As a private investigator and consultant for the police, Alex Craft has seen a lot of dark magic. But even though she's on good terms with Death himself, nothing has prepared her for her latest case. When she's raising a "shade" involved in a high profile murder, it attacks her, and then someone makes an attempt on her life.

Someone really doesn't want her to know what the dead have to say, and she'll have to work with mysterious homicide detective Falin Andrews to figure out why....


A re-read for me, as I needed a Grave/Graveyard book for Halloween bingo and I just wasn’t in the mood for the Ray Bradbury I had lined up.

Overall, the book holds up well, though the love triangle is a definite drag on what would have otherwise been a fantastic series.  Price writes great characters and does an excellent job with world building and plotting; truly it’s the two men – both excellent specimens in their own right – vying for Alex that’s the only drawback.  Not that I’m letting that stop me from re-reading the rest of the series in anticipation of the latest book coming out next month.

Emerald Blaze

Emerald BlazeEmerald Blaze
by Illona Andrews
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780062878366
Series: Hidden Legacy #5
Publication Date: September 17, 2020
Pages: 389
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Avon Books

When House Baylor is under attack and monsters haunt her every step, Catalina is forced to rely on handsome, dangerous Alessandro Sagredo, the Prime who crushed her heart.

The nightmare that Alessandro has fought since childhood has come roaring back to life, but now Catalina is under threat. Not even his lifelong quest for revenge will stop him from keeping her safe, even if every battle could be his last. Because Catalina won't rest until she stops the use of the illicit, power-granting serum that's tearing their world apart.


 

I’m a fan of this series, but admittedly I prefer Nevada and Connor over Catalina and Alessandro.  Even so, this was a lot of fun to read and I was fascinated by the Abyss.   What I appreciated most though, was that Andrews didn’t drag out the romantic interest story line; I expected another ‘Oh no! Will the couple ever find true happiness?’ cliffhangers, but instead it was all wrapped up rather neatly a little past midway.  Nice.  This allowed me to more fully enjoy the actual plot of the story, which involved a lot of fighting and magic using, which I prefer to the romance.

As a bonus, Nevada and Connor played a part in this story, although it was much too small, and a lot of backstory was filled in about Nevada’s split from the family.

All up it was a fun story I was disappointed to see come to an end.  I hope there will be more with Catalina as the central character if only because I’m hugely intrigued by the Warden role and Linus.

Staked

StakedStaked
by Kevin Hearne
Rating: ★★★½
isbn: 9780345548511
Series: Iron Druid Chronicles #8
Publication Date: January 26, 2016
Pages: 224
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Random House

When a Druid has lived for two thousand years like Atticus, he’s bound to run afoul of a few vampires. Make that legions of them. Even his former friend and legal counsel turned out to be a bloodsucking backstabber. Now the toothy troublemakers—led by power-mad pain-in-the-neck Theophilus—have become a huge problem requiring a solution. It’s time to make a stand.

As always, Atticus wouldn’t mind a little backup. But his allies have problems of their own. Ornery archdruid Owen Kennedy is having a wee bit of troll trouble: Turns out when you stiff a troll, it’s not water under the bridge. Meanwhile, Granuaile is desperate to free herself of the Norse god Loki’s mark and elude his powers of divination—a quest that will bring her face-to-face with several Slavic nightmares.

As Atticus globetrots to stop his nemesis Theophilus, the journey leads to Rome. What better place to end an immortal than the Eternal City? But poetic justice won’t come without a price: In order to defeat Theophilus, Atticus may have to lose an old friend.


A couple of things occurred to me while reading Staked:  it feels like Herne doesn’t really like his main character, Atticus; at least, not judging by the amount of existential pain he dumps on him.  The other is that I can see the inspiration, right down the the scatalogical humor, of the character in his new series that starts with Ink & Sigil – clearly in Owen, the arch-druid and Atticus’ mentor. Owen is quite feral and off-putting, no matter how gold and good his heart may be.

Staked is told through the rotating viewpoints of all three druids: Atticus, Granuaile and Owen, and the meandering is epic.  We begin and end with the titular war with the vampires, but in between there’s a battle-seer-horse needing rescue, ecological retribution being wrought, treaties being hammered out in Asgard, greek gods getting vaporised, and all matter of other trivia.  It wasn’t boring but I disliked being passed off between characters, especially when I had little use for Granuaile’s daddy issues and Owen’s feral lack of expletives that didn’t include his bollocks and backside, and those of everyone else’s.

I do enjoy Atticus’s adventures and character, and I like Oberon even more when I read him, as opposed to listening to a narrator scooby-doo his voice.  I enjoy his interactions with the various deities and villains, and especially enjoy the verbal sparring between himself and Leif.  It’s a detriment to the books, if not the overall story arc, that Hearne felt it necessary to take all of Atticus’ interesting friends away from him; he suffers from the lack of intellectually challenging interactions.   Overall, though, it was a good enough story to keep me reading, and I enjoyed the ending well enough.  If one chooses, one could end the series right here and everything save Ragnarok would be tied up neatly.  At this moment, I’m content to leave the series here, but I can’t say I won’t change my mind.

I read this book for Halloween Bingo 2020, for the Dead Lands square.  In spite of all the wandering about the plot did in the middle the beginning and end were chock full of vampires.

Half-off Ragnarok (InCryptid, #3)

Half-Off RagnarokHalf-Off Ragnarok
by Seanan McGuire
Rating: ★★★½
isbn: 9780756408114
Series: InCryptid #3
Publication Date: March 1, 2014
Pages: 356
Genre: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Publisher: DAW Books

 

These books always start off so slow for me, and this one felt especially so.  I suppose the author might have felt as though she needed to do a bit of world building with the change of character.  Whatever the case, Alex’s story dragged in spite of some cryptid action early on in the first half.

Fortunately, I liked Alex, and I was interested enough in Sarah’s recovery after book 2 to keep on.  Which became more important as I failed to find anything interesting or authentic about Shelby, Alex’s romantic interest.  Partly because, living in Australia, I was looking for the “Aussie-ness” of her personality, and it never appeared.  In the acknowledgements, the author thanked someone for keeping her from making Shelby a cliché, which  I can wholly appreciate wanting to avoid, as well as how easily it might be to fall into that trap.  But I think her advisor might have over-compensated (and failed to catch that it’s the Great Ocean Road, not highway).  Most Aussies aren’t Crocodile Dundee, or Steve Irwin, but they do have a unique character, and Shelby didn’t have it.  Though my favorite quote of the book was:

“Pretty sure that ship has sailed,” said Shelby, who was eyeing the nearby foliage with trepidation, as if she expected it to attack at any moment.  Then again, she came from Australia: she probably did expect some sort of vegetable ambush.

(Australia.  The only continent designed with a difficulty rating of  “ha ha fuck you no.”)

After about the first half, the story started to stand on its own legs.  Shelby never really got off the ground for me, but the rest of the story coalesced into something moderately interesting.  The plot was well crafted, but it just didn’t have any oomph, for me.  As always though, the presence of the Aeslin mice, and in this case, Angela Baker, made up for a lot.

I have the second of Alex’s books, and I’ll read it – it takes place in Australia, and it will be interesting to see of the author writes the characters any more authentically on the second try.

I’m using this book for the Monsters square in Halloween Bingo 2020.  It not only had basilisks, gorgons, and cockatrice, oh my, but one of the main secondary characters, Alex’s grandfather, is a revenant.

Down the reading hole, or what I did my first week of holidays

Remember that re-read streak I went on?  The one that had nothing to do with my Halloween Bingo progress?  I’ve just now come out of Patricia Briggs’ world of the Marrok; I’ve run out of books to re-read.  I’ve decided, though, that I’m going to make Patricia Briggs my Author wild card in Halloween Bingo; at this point, it would be stupid not to.  That means at leat one square can be filled with a book:  A Grimm Tale.

Rather than do a re-read review of the 4 books I’ve re-read, I’m just going to summarise by saying they’re all good and they all stand up nicely to my original ratings and reviews.  If anyone is curious about reading those original reviews, the covers below link to them.

 

 

Fair Game (Alpha and Omega, #3)

Fair GameFair Game
by Patricia Briggs
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 0441020038
Series: Alpha and Omega #3
Publication Date: March 9, 2012
Pages: 293
Genre: Fiction, Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Ace

You know what’s really aggravating about deciding to re-read an old favorite series?  Discovering that you don’t actually own a print copy of the first book.  That’s been remedied – though I had to settle for a paperback, grumblegrumble, but I couldn’t wait.  So I grabbed what I thought was the next book in the series, Fair Game.  It isn’t, by the way, the next book.  I skipped over one; it was late, I was tired and angry about Cry Wolf, and, oh, who cares, it’s a re-read.

Reading my original review, I didn’t care for this book as much as the others.  Yet, when I think back on the series, this is the one I remember best.  Re-reading it, I find that I rate it higher than I originally did; 4 stars instead of 3.5.  It’s still all kinds of dark and deeply disturbed in plot, but I didn’t find Charles’ inevitable crises, and his reaction to it, quite as irritating as I did that first time.  Likely because this time I knew it was a crises that wouldn’t last beyond the book itself.

I’m looking forward to re-read all the books in the series – after my copy of Cry Wolf arrives, that is.  There’s a new one coming out next March, and I need to catch up before it arrives.

Alpha & Omega (re-read from Shifting Shadows anthology)

Shifting Shadows: Stories from the World of Mercy ThompsonShifting Shadows: Stories from the World of Mercy Thompson
by Patricia Briggs
Rating: ★★★★★
isbn: 0425265005
Series: Alpha and Omega #0.5
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Pages: 450
Genre: Fiction, Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Ace

The re-read rabbit hole I fell into this weekend included a need to re-visit Briggs’ Alpha and Omega series, and what better place to start than the beginning?

I’ve re-read this story many times, and it always holds up; it’s almost exactly the right length – another chapter’s worth of details would have been welcome, but the story didn’t suffer from the lack either.  The plot is complete, the characters well-drawn.

I can’t imagine a day when I’ll stop enjoying this story.

End of Days (Penryn and the End of Days, #3) – re-read

End of DaysEnd of Days
by Susan Ee
Rating: ★★★½
isbn: 1444778552
Series: Penryn End of Days #3
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
Pages: 336
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Hodder Paperback

Ok, so book 3 re-read and I still don’t care for dystopian/post-apocolyptic settings.

My second read brings this book down to a 3.5, but I have to say, that on the second read, I was better able to appreciate the parallels to the stories of Lucifer’s original battle and descent/fall.  I was also better able to empathise with the tragedy and sacrifice of Baliel.  So, while I got more out of it the second time around, I also found the science fiction elements even more grating, and I was totally dissatisfied with the ending.  Yes, it’s an HEA, but it’s still lacking, with questions left unanswered, and that annoys me more than it did the first time, obviously.

I remain satisfied with the trilogy; it didn’t wow me, but I feel like I got what I paid for, more or less.  Perhaps someday my nieces will enjoy reading it.