Archive for the 'Urban Fantasy' Category


Mark Henry: Happy Hour of the Damned

Seattle. One minute you’re drinking a vanilla breve, the next, some creepy old dude is breathing on you, turning you into a zombie. And that’s just for starters. Now, the recently deceased Amanda Feral is trying to make her way through Seattle’s undead scene with style (mortuary-grade makeup, six-inch stilettos, Balenciaga handbag on sale) while satisfying her craving for human flesh (Don’t judge. And no, not like chicken.) and decent vodkatinis. Making her way through a dangerous world of cloud-doped bloodsuckers, reapers, horny and horned devils, werewolves, celebrities, and PR-obsessed shapeshifters–not to mention an extremely hot bartender named Ricardo–isn’t easy. And the minute one of Amanda’s undead friends disappears after texting the word, “help” (The undead–so dramatic!) she knows the afterlife is about to get really ugly.Something sinister is at hand. Someone or something is hellbent on turning Seattle’s undead underworld into a place of true terror. And this time, Amanda may meet a fate a lot worse than death…

I like that Amanda is a zombie, rather than your typical vampire. From a girl’s point of view, being a zombie can be rather…icky, despite not sweating and not having a period.

But I think it’s part of what makes Happy Hour of the Damned both fun and real (well, as real as urban fantasy can get anyway), the way the icky bits are handled, like what does Amanda do when her arm is sliced open and zombies can’t heal? 😉

THe book itself starts off very well, then it starts to slide towards the end. The plot was tied up pretty neatly, but at the same time, it barely makes the mark. Not atypical of most fiction debuts.

And the footnotes annoy me. There are way, way, way too many. I think a good half of the pages in the book have them. Too much of a good thing, maybe? They were cute for awhile.

On the other hand, it’s a book that’s hip in a different way from the typical dark and slightly goth and alternative sensibility that most urban fantasy of late has.

Happy Hour of the Damned rates 3.5 out of 5.


Justin Gustainis: Black Magic Woman

Supernatural investigator Quincey Morris and his partner, white witch Libby Chastain, are called in to help free a desperate family from a deadly curse that appears to date back to the Salem Witch Trials. To release the family from danger they must find the root of the curse, a black witch with a terrible grudge that holds the family in her power.

The pursuit takes them to the mysterious underworlds of Boston, San Francisco, New Orleans and New York, stalking a prey that is determined to stay hidden. After surviving a series of terrifying attempts on their lives, the two find themselves drawn inexorably towards Salem itself — and the very heart of darkness.

Black Magic Woman is striking in that it has a world feels remarkably more real than most urban fantasy settings, which is a statement of how seamlessly Justin has woven the supernatural and the real together.

It is a book almost-painstakingly crafted together, but is so readable that Justin makes it look easy. Absolutely the kind of book that you pick up and finish in one sitting.

However, Black Magic Woman is one of those books that are ‘flat.’ Some of the interesting scenes that should have punched simply did not, such as the one where Libby reveals something intensely personal or the sex scene (I think there was only the one). Everything came together in a neat little package, including Quincey’s fabulous personal history (one of the highlights of the book for me), except that I think it should have had more of an emotional punch.

That said, you’ll be definitely be seeing more of Justin Gustainis soon, just like Jim Butcher says on the cover. He is simply too good not to.

Black Magic Woman rates 4 out of 5.

Disclosure: This book was sent to me.


Jeaniene Frost: Halfway To The Grave

Half-vampire Catherine Crawfield is going after the undead with a vengeance, hoping that one of these deadbeats is her father – the one responsible for ruining her mother’s life. Then she’s captured by Bones, a vampire bounty hunter, and is forced into an unlikely partnership.

In exchange for help finding her father, Cat agrees to train with the sexy night stalker until her battle reflexes are as sharp as his fangs. She’s amazed she doesn’t end up as his dinner – are there actually good vampires? Pretty soon Bones will have her convinced that being half-dead doesn’t have to be all bad. But before she can enjoy her status as kick-ass demon hunter, Cat and Bones are pursued by a group of killers. Now Cat will have to choose a side…and Bones is turning out to be as tempting as any man with a heartbeat.

I like a heroine who goes after her enemies with the intention to kill, and succeeds, and Catherine Crawfield is certainly that. But I do wonder: No matter how much she wanted to kill vampires, actually killing one should have some sort of impact on her psyche, surely? Unless she’s sociopathic, in which case this book automatically gets an extra 0.5 points.

I disliked the inclusion of your typical, urban fantasy “female protagonist was badly hurt emotionally by the male(s) in her life” backstory. But at least she wasn’t raped, I suppose.

It’s Bones who kicks the book into high gear though, because that’s when Cat has someone to play against, with and for. IOW, she’s got someone fight with, play with, and do the dirty thing with. *g* Bones is very well-drawn, especially in a first-person novel where another character’s the viewpoint character, and that helps pull the book together.

While I want to emphasize the fact that Halfway To The Grave is an urban fantasy novel, not a romance no matter what it says on the spine, I also want to say that I liked the ending, even though it does feel rather like a cliffhanger. I think it rings more true than if the usual thing was to happen, and I can’t wait to read the next book.

Halfway To The Grave rates 3.5 out of 5.

Full disclosure: Jeaniene Frost sent me the book.


Jackie Kessler: The Road To Hell

Hell hath no fury like a succubus scorned

Jesse may no longer be a succubus, but she’s got a Hell of a past. She wants to come clean about her infernal history with Paul Hamilton, her white-knight-in-training lover, except he’d never believe her. Just like some people are worth being (shudder) monogamous for, some secrets are worth keeping. So Jesse keeps mum—until three of her former associates strong-arm her into returning to the Pit. Now, unless Jesse faces off against the King of Hell, she’ll lose Paul’s immortal soul. If she’d known love was this tough, she never would have turned her back on Lust…

The Hell On Earth series takes a more serious turn in this book.

It’s a better book than Hell’s Belles in many respects. TRTH relies much less on the strength and appeal of Jezebel’s voice than HB did, which also makes it a book that is much more rereadable than TRTH.

The pacing is better, giving the reader space to breathe and to make the connections that turn TRTH into something more than a funny, romp book.

But for all that Jackie has improved as a writer, TRTH just didn’t have the spark Hell’s Belles did.

The Road To Hell rates 4 out of 5.

PS Jackie sent the ARC to me.


Jeanne C. Stein: Blood Drive

Anna Strong is a vampire caught between two worlds. She clings to what makes her human, her family, her job, her lover. But the pull of the undead is a siren song becoming impossible to resist. She discovers she has a niece, Trish, a child caught up in the worst kind of human nightmare. To save Trish, Anna may have to surrender to the animal side of her nature. Concepts of good and evil are no longer clearly defined as Anna must determine who is the real monster—a human who preys on children or the vampire who tries to save them.

What makes Blood Drive stand out is Jeanne‘s handling of Anna’s journey. It’s a more nuanced and complex exploration of what immortality means to someone newly immortal, paralleled by Anna travelling deeper into the world that she is now part of.
My main gripe about the series is that the male characters in the series are rather flat, though this has improved since the first book, The Becoming, especially with the introduction of Daniel Frey. But this detracts rather less from the book than it should, perhaps because this book is first and foremost about Anna Strong.

Blood Drive is one of the best urban fantasy novels I’ve read in awhile, and I can’t wait for the next book, The Watcher, to be released.

Blood Drive rates 4 out of 5.

Full Disclosure: Jeanne sent me this book, and I have interviewed her recently. There is also another extract of Blood Drive available here.


Shanna Swendson: Damsel Under Stress

To-do: Stop the bad guys. Rescue the wizard. Find the perfect outfit for New Year’s Eve.

At last, Owen Palmer, the dreamboat wizard at Magic, Spells, and Illusions, Inc., has conjured up the courage to get Katie Chandler under the mistletoe at the office holiday party. But just when it looks like Katie has found her prince, in pops her inept fairy godmother, Ethelinda, to throw a wand into the works. Ethelinda’s timing couldn’t be worse. A plot hatched by MSI’s rogue ex-employees, Idris and his evil fairy gal pal Ari, threatens to expose the company’s secrets–and the very existence of magic itself. Even worse, it could also mean the end of Katie’s happily-ever-after.

Now Katie and Owen must work side by side (but alas, not cheek to cheek) to thwart the villains’ plans. Braving black-magic-wielding sorceresses, subway-dwelling dragons, lovelorn frog princes, and even the dreaded trip to meet Owen’s parents at Christmas, Katie and her beau are in a battle to beat Idris at his own sinister game. All mischief and matters of the heart will come to a head at a big New Year’s Eve gala, when the crystal ball will drop, champagne will pour, and Katie will find herself truly spellbound.

As much as I was looking forward to Damsel Under Stress, I was also afraid that it would suffer what I call Third Book Syndrome and be a rehashing of books one and two.

It’s anything but.

On sheer impact alone, this books tops books one and two, and not just because of the ending (peek at the last page first and I’ll come after you). Shanna Swendson‘s upped the stakes and she’s written a book worthy of those stakes.

It’s not the kind of book I’ve come to expect from her. I reread the first two Enchanted, Inc books because Katie feels like a friend. I didn’t tear open the envelope (Shanna sent me an ARC) expecting a book that took risks.

But boy, have those risks paid off!

This rates 5 out of 5.


Patricia Briggs: Blood Bound

Under the rule of science, there are no witch burnings allowed, no water trials or public lynchings. In return, the average law-abiding, solid citizen has little to worry about from the things that go bump in the night. Sometimes I wish I was an average citizen…

Mechanic Mercy Thompson has friends in low places–and in dark ones. And now she owes one of them a favor. Since she can shapeshift at will, she agrees to act as some extra muscle when her vampire friend Stefan goes to deliver a message to another of his kind.

But this new vampire is hardly ordinary–and neither is the demon inside of him…

It took me awhile to get into this book. I must have read the first 2 chapters half a dozen times!

I think the plot from the blurb didn’t interest me much, though I did enjoy reading the book.

I’m actually more interested in the ‘love triangle’ than the book’s plot. Samuel! *sigh* I also do think that’s the only overarching plotline developed in Blood Bound.

This rates 3 out of 5.


Vicki Pettersson: The Scent Of Shadows

When she was sixteen, Joanna Archer was brutally assaulted and left to die in the Nevada desert. By rights, she should be dead.Now a photographer by day, she prowls a different Las Vegas after sunset—a grim, secret Sin City where Light battles Shadow—seeking answers to whom or what she really is . . . and revenge for the horrors she was forced to endure.

But the nightmare is just beginning—for the demons are hunting Joanna, and the powerful shadows want her for their own . . .

Vicki Pettersson does not disappoint, and Joanna Archer? She kicks ass. When she gets knocked down, she gets up and punches back.

Reading The Scent of Shadows is like taking a trip to Las Vegas! It’s comes together with great worldbuilding too–if you read comics, you have to pick this book up, and you’ll find out why when you read it.

And the final paragraph sent chills down my spine. (if you read the ending first, I’ll shoot you, plus I don’t think reading the ending first will make much sense, so DON’T)

This rates 5 out of 5.


Richelle Mead: Succubus Blues

Succubus (n) An alluring, shape-shifting demon who seduces and pleasures mortal men.
Pathetic (adj.) A succubus with great shoes and no social life. See: Georgina Kincaid.

When it comes to jobs in hell, being a succubus seems pretty glamorous. A girl can be anything she wants. The wardrobe is killer, and mortal men will do anything just for a touch. Granted, they often pay with their souls, but why get technical?

But Seattle succubus Georgina Kincaid’s life is far less exotic. Her boss is a middle-management demon with a thing for John Cusack movies. Her immortal best friends haven’t stopped teasing her about the time she shape-shifted into the Demon Goddess get-up complete with whip and wings. And she can’t have a decent date without sucking away part of the guy’s life. At least there’s her day job at a local bookstore—free books, all the white chocolate mochas she can drink, and easy access to bestselling, sexy writer, Seth Mortensen, aka He Whom She Would Give Anything to Touch but Can’t.

But dreaming about Seth will have to wait. Something wicked is at work in Seattle’s demon underground. And for once, all of her hot charms and drop-dead one-liners won’t help because Georgina’s about to discover there are some creatures out there that both heaven and hell want to deny…

I did tell you guys how much I enjoyed this book already.

But here’s the full-length version.

I think Lilith Saintcrow said it best when she called Succubus Blues
“Dysfunction, funny and sexy!”

It’s quite the page-turner too, except for a section towards the end.

I would have liked to understand Georgina’s world better. Other than who’s her boss and her stealing souls, there’s not much you know about it.

Um, it’s not a romance. Just to make it clear. Kensington’s not even putting romance on the spine.

I want to read the next book!

This rates 4.5 out of 5.


Elaine Cunningham: Shadows In The Starlight

Gwen “Gigi” Gellman, a ten year veteran of the Providence, Rhode Island vice squad, finds herself on the outs and unemployed after a bust goes bad, resulting in a bloodbath.

Gigi started her life as a foundling and is used to being on her own. She has scraped together enough of a nest egg to start her own PI business specializing in runaways and “family problems.”

Now Gigi is involved in the case of a missing wife and child. Knowing the husband involved, she initially dismisses the matter as good sense on the wife’s part, only to discover a pattern of lies and deceptions and a mystical past. As her investigation progresses, otherworldly powers try to intercede, and soon Gigi finds not only her own life threatened, but those of her friends and family as well.

I like Shadows In The Starlight better than I did the first book in the series, Shadows In The Darkness.

I think being able to see the overarching plotline made this book a better read for me, and I definitely want to read the next book. But something more had better happen in the next book or I’m dropping the series.

Some characters that fell flat for me in the the previous book are now very, very intriguing. Especially Ian Forest. Ooh Ian.

Gwen gets more interesting, and I really want to know how she’s going to deal with the things that are being hidden from her.

This rates 3.5 out of 5.


Eileen Wilks: Blood Lines

Touch-sensitive FBI agent Lily Yu and her werewolf bond-mate are recruited by the Secret Service to help identify elected officials who have accepted demonic pacts. But Lily must turn to fellow agent Cynna Weaver for help when Cynna’s former teacher, a demon master, emerges as the main suspect behind the pacts.

After a demon commits a gruesome murder, sorcerer Cullen Seabourne joins the team racing the clock to find the apprentice of evil who uses demons to kill. Cynna and Cullen must work together–a challenge indeed when each has good reason to ignore the desire simmering between them. But passion and events both spiral out of control as an ancient prophecy is fulfilled–and the lupi’s greatest enemy sets her sights on total devastation…

This is number 6 in Eileen Wilks’s Lupi series.

The difference between this book and the previous books in the series is that the previous ones had a much tighter focus on fewer plotlines, and this one has an expanded focus. A bigger cast, more primary characters, and more things happening.

That the author did manage to tie it all up together? Fabulous.

Note: If you’re looking for a romance, Blood Lines is not quite a romance, IMHO, andmore an urban fantasy.

This rates 4.5 out of 5.


Laura Resnick: Disappearing Nightly

I’m not a heroine–I just play one. Along with psychotics, vamps, housewives and hookers. As my agent is fond of pointing out, there are more actors in New York than there are people in most other cities. Translation: beggars can’t be choosers.This explains how I wound up prancing around stage half naked the night Golly Gee–the female lead in the off-Broadway show “Sorceror!”–disappeared into thin air. Literally.Now other performers are also vanishing, and a mysterious stranger is warning me: There is evil among us.But the producers want me to take over Golly’s part.

Looks as if I’m going to need a little magical help if I want to keep my starring role….

This is the first book in Laura Resnick’s Esther Diamond “Manhattan Magic” series.

I liked the set-up, I liked the worldbuilding, and I liked Esther.

But she collects characters. The book starts with just her, then she collects the detective who’s a potential love interest, the magician who helps save the day, the people involved with the other disappearances… I mean, I know this is my personal preference–I like smaller casts as a rule–and it’s not that Ms. Resnick did a bad job of characterization.

I loved Lopez though. There’s a great story about him and his brothers, but you’ll have to read the book for that.

I would have given this book a better grade, because on craft alone it does deserve that better grade, but it was ‘thin’ for me. Not as fulfilling a read as I wanted.

This rates 3 out of 5.


Keri Arthur: Full Moon Rising

I got this because Angie liked it.

And well, it’s not a bad book. But Full Moon Rising could have been SHORTER.

I think some of the sex scenes could have been cut, which isn’t to say they were gratuitous, just that I found my eyes glazing over each time a new sex scene popped up towards the end of the book. I don’t think I can say that they were gratuitous because I didn’t actually read them.

I can forgive a lot if you provide me with One Single Character that I desperately want to know about. Doesn’t have to be your protag even.

Except that I couldn’t find that One Single Character in this book.

This rates 2.5 out of 5.

PS Can someone tell me when Angie reviews the next books in the series so I won’t read the reviews and be tempted to buy them?

PPS The UK covers suck big great, hairy balls.


Urban Fantasy vs Paranormal Romance

They are different.

Really. I’m not kidding. Believe me, because it makes up most of my reading.

Jane‘s picked my brain clean, so I picked Heppi’s brain and this is what he said:

  • Fantasy vs Paranormal is like Magic vs Ghosts.
  • Urban fantasy can have no otherworldly elements and paranormal can have no magic.

Then there’s the feel thing. A paranormal romance reads different from an urban fantasy novel.

Paranormal romances includes Katie Macalister‘s Aisling Grey series and MaryJanice Davidson‘s Betsy series.

Urban fantasy is Lilith Saintcrow‘s Dante Valentine, Patricia Brigg‘s Mercy and Rachel Caine‘s Joanne Baldwin.

You can have an urban fantasy with a developing romance inside. Danny Valentine and Japhrimel, or Joanne Baldwin and David. It doesn’t make them a paranormal romance.

You can have a paranormal romance with an urban fantasy feel–see Jeanie London’s Retrieval. But the plot, IMHO, puts in more in paranormal romance.

I have no idea whether this makes any sense. Poor Jane got a looooooooong sermon. Betcha she regrets emailing me now.

Now, if I find something to say, I’ll write about erotica versus erotic romance on Saturday.

Tomorrow, Jennifer Lynn Barnes, the author of the fabulous Golden, will have her interview posted.

Oh and since Jennifer writes YA… I see Golden as a paranormal, but Holly Black’s Valiant and Tithe as urban fantasy.


Jackie Kessler: Hell’s Belles

Well, you all already know I liked this book.

What makes this book stand out for me is that Jezebel is not a human, and she in no way acts like one. She’s a succubus, and she likes being a succubus, even if she’s in a human guise.

Jackie has really cool worldbuilding. Cool enough that I’m V. jealous that I didn’t think of it first.

To be sure, there are flaws. It is a first book, and like many first books, I think it could have been paced better. At some points, Jezebel’s voice got on my nerves. Not her, since she didn’t do anything TSTL, just her voice.

Still, I really liked the ending. That’s more spoiler stuff. A lot of what I want to discuss is spoiler stuff, which I’ll take to the comments because I don’t know how to do the white-out code.
This rates 4 out of 5.


Succubi on Sunday

Maybe I should make this a regular feature.

The first succubi story I read was not Richelle‘s or Jackie‘s.

It was Eileen WilksOriginally Human in the Cravings anthology, which I bought in my bid to assuage my need for more Lupi books, though of course I enjoyed it anyway.

And now we have more succubi books!

This is only going to be a short “why you should get them” post. The full review will go up in December for Hell’s Belles and March next year for Succubus Blues.

I think I’m the first to do a comparison, at least online. Correct me if I’m wrong though.

They are very different books, despite the outward similarities. In some areas, both Richelle and Jackie took almost perfectly opposite approaches.

In terms of voice, Jezebel, who stars in Hell’s Belles, has a slightly chick-lit flavor, IMHO. She is very exuberant, enjoying her new life on Earth despite being on the run. She is what she is, a succubus, though over the course of the book, you slowly see just how well she fits on Earth.

Georgina, the star of Succubus Blues, on the other hand has always lived on Earth, and she has for centuries now. In her day-to-day routine, she lives like a human woman. She has a dayjob, bunch of pals she drinks/parties with, etc. Except that she is also an immortal shapeshifter who steals/claims souls for Hell.

Hell’s Belles has a red cover and Succubus Blues has a, you guessed it, a blue cover. I think that the colors represent the respective personalities very well.

You actually go to Hell (I mean that in a fictional sort of way, not in a rude, fuck off and die sort of way) in Hell’s Belles. I really like Jackie’s concept of Hell, by the way. In fact, I like it so much, I am JEALOUS. Big time.

On the other hand, you delve more deeply into Georgina’s psyche, by taking a trip into her past. I do feel that it’s a bit more character-driven than Hell’s Belles (this is an observation, not a complaint). You see Georgina interacting more with other people, whereas Jezebel’s a bit self-absorbed and tends to observe people rather than really interacting with them–though I do put this down to her ‘new’ to Earth.

I liked both books equally, or almost equally, but which one I prefer more will depend on what day it is, and definitely recommend reserving at your favorite indie bookstore.

Also, it’s EVIL to leave excerpts at the back for books that won’t be out for a year or more!

PS Angie? 😛 Nanananananana!


Karen Chance: Touch The Dark

Until the end, Touch The Dark wasn’t a book I planned to review. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it that well either.

I like the worldbuilding, I just don’t connect with Cassandra. Ms Chance did a good job of characterization,  and showed quite clearly how Cassandra evolved through the book.

Until the end.

It doesn’t cut it to suddenly, out of the blue, tell me that so-and-so is a traitor. I can deal with a loose end, especially in a book that is clearly the first book in a series. What I don’t like is tying it up simply because some readers will expect it to be tied up.

This rates 4 out of 10.


Jon Courtenay Grimwood: Felaheen

I figure if I gush enough, somebody will go buy his books.

This is the third and final book of the Arabesk series, and it ties up the plotlines very well.

It’s set in El Iskandryia, which appears to be an amalgam of various Middle East cities.

The star is Ashraf, maybe a Bey, maybe an al-Mansur, maybe an Emir’s son. And maybe none of them.

He’s been the Chief of Detectives in El Isk, the magister, the prosecutor… I can’t remember what else.

Now he lives in the al-Mansur madersa with 2 of the richest women in North Africa…and he’s in debt.

Sigh. It’s the last book. 😦

I haven’t reviewed his work before because his books defy description. Cross-genre doesn’t begin to cover it. It’s a detective novel set in a cyberpunk world with what I think are bits of allegory (but we all know I don’t get allegory).

But I really love his work. A large part of it is that I really like his voice. I’ll read anything he writes. In fact, I’ve been reading his work about a novel a week and I’ve not gotten bored of his voice yet.
This rates 10 out of 10.


Lilith Saintcrow: Dead Man Rising

I did worry that Dead Man Rising wouldn’t be as good as the first Dante Valentine book, Working For The Devil, but I shouldn’t have. Angie’s right.

It’s a more stately book than WFTD. Not that it’s not a page-turner, but that…I don’t know, I think it’s Danny’s sadness over You-Know-Who (it’s a spoiler if you’ve not read WFTD and why haven’t you?).

DMR is the book in which Danny faces her childhood. And it does have a happy ending. Sort of–this is Lili we are talking about, so happy endings cost the characters something.

I enjoyed meeting Polyamour the sexwitch and Nikolai the Nichtvren. I think I’m in love with Nicolai and he was only in the book for a few pages!

Go buy this book. Or WFTD if you haven’t read it yet.

This rates 9.5 out of 10.


Marianne De Pierres: Crash Deluxe

With each Parrish Plessis novel I read, Marianne‘s writing grows on me.

As does Parrish herself.
It’s a book for people who want a more sci-fi-type Dante Valentine
series, with a bit less of the paranormal/supernatural elements.

This series is rather less focused on Parrish and more on the world around her, which isn’t to say that she’s a tourist, and just that you find out a great deal more about the world Marianne’s created than you might normally do. Without infodumps, I might add.

When I read the first book in the series, Nylon Angel, I didn’t review it. I didn’t know what to say about it beyond the fact that I enjoyed it.

Now, I’ll just say that Parrish is a kick-ass heroine and you should go and buy Nylon Angel. She really does grow on you. 😉

This rates 8.5 out of 10.