Book Review: Dayfall by Michael David Ares

Title: Dayfall

Author: Michael David Ares

Series: N/A

Rating: 1.5/5 stars

The Overview: In the near future, patches of the northern hemisphere have been shrouded in years of darkness from a nuclear winter, and the water level has risen in the North Atlantic. The island of Manhattan has lost its outer edges to flooding and is now ringed by a large seawall. The darkness and isolation have allowed crime and sin to thrive in the never-ending shadows of the once great city, and when the sun finally begins to reappear, everything gets worse. A serial killer cuts a bloody swath across the city during the initial periods of daylight, and a violent panic sweeps through crowds on the streets. The Manhattan police, riddled with corruption and apathy, are at a loss.

That’s when the Mayor recruits Jon Phillips, a small-town Pennsylvania cop who had just single-handedly stopped a high-profile serial killer in his own area, and flies him into the insanity of this new New York City. The young detective is partnered with a shady older cop and begins to investigate the crimes amidst the vagaries of a twenty-four hour nightlife he has never experienced before. Soon realizing that he was chosen for reasons other than what he was told, Jon is left with no one to trust and forced to go on the run in the dark streets, and below them in the maze of the underground. Against all odds he still hopes that he can save his own life, the woman of his dreams, and maybe even the whole city before the arrival of the mysterious and dreaded event that has come to be known as…. DAYFALL. -Goodreads

The Review:

What initially drew me to Dayfall was the interesting concept: a mystery novel set in a not-to-distant-future post-war world where nuclear bombing has caused semi-permanent blackout cloud-cover. Not only have I been itching for a good mystery novel lately, but I loved the presented concept for Dayfall and couldn’t wait to see some cool ideas on how society adapted to these conditions.

The trouble is, the book didn’t quite deliver to my satisfaction for either the mystery or the world-building.

It did have a couple of cool ideas for how city life had changed since the blackout, but for the most part the book fixated on a brief moment where sunlight would shine through (Dayfall) and how seeing the sun for the first time (in less than half a generation) would drive people to literal instantly… a concept that even in hindsight doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Especially since the entire arc of the mystery depended on average citizens turning into aggressive lunatics at the first sign of sunlight. I didn’t see any details within that could’ve explained this shift in human behavior (any sort of made up sci-fi explanation would’ve worked for me. Like radiation mutation or something). And the concept continued to unravel with very inconsistent drop-in details (such as talking about current everyday things in our world, like the NFL, which felt very out of place under the circumstances the author presented) to the point where even suspended belief became impossible for me to maintain.

What’s more, I also found the character profiles incredibly inconsistent. Every time I was starting to get an idea of who they were, they’d do or say something completely out of character from what had been presented so far. They were very erratic, so it made it difficult to get into their thought processes as they tried to solve a mystery. I also had issue with their general lack of common sense and logical follow-through. My concern with this started with the first scene and unfortunately only got worse from there.

Yikes. Okay, so overall, while I can appreciate some concepts within the story and what I think the author was trying to do with it, it just didn’t work for me.

Recommendations: Dayfall definitely had a cool setting for a mystery novel. However, neither the world-building and overall concept nor the characterization were on par with my expectations. There are a whole host of books I would recommend first.

I’d like to thank the publicists at TOR/Forge and Michael David Ares for the chance to read and review an early copy of Dayfall.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes



Book Review: Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs

[March 6, 2018] Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs

Title: Burn Bright

Author: Patricia Briggs

Series: Alpha & Omega #5

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Overview: They are the wild and the broken. The werewolves too damaged to live safely among their own kind. For their own good, they have been exiled to the outskirts of Aspen Creek, Montana. Close enough to the Marrok’s pack to have its support; far enough away to not cause any harm.With their Alpha out of the country, Charles and Anna are on call when an SOS comes in from the fae mate of one such wildling. Heading into the mountainous wilderness, they interrupt the abduction of the wolf–but can’t stop blood from being shed. Now Charles and Anna must use their skills–his as enforcer, hers as peacemaker–to track down the attackers, reopening a painful chapter in the past that springs from the darkest magic of the witchborn… -Goodreads

The Review:

As Patricia Briggs is one of my favorite urban fantasy writers, I love that I have a new release from her to look forward to every year. Reading her books always feels like cuddling up with a warm fuzzy blanket when it’s snowing outside. Burn Bright was a nice installment in the Alpha & Omega series. Perhaps not quite as strong as the last couple of books, but still loads of fun all the same.

The positives were abundant: an interesting mystery to solve (one which I’m sure we’ll see repercussions from in the next Mercy book), plenty of Anna and Charles awesomeness (because their relationship dynamic is still one of my favorites), Marrok werewolf pack politics (a topic of which I never tire reading), and an easy flow of writing that absorbs you for a good ride. Essentially, all of the basics I’ve come to expect from a Briggs novel in abundance.

All that said, I wish the book could’ve had tighter pacing, most notably in the second half. The main story halted several times so other stories could be told and, while they were all interesting and completely relevant to the plot, they effectively killed any building momentum for me. It wasn’t a deal-breaker by any means (because the stories were good), but compared to the last two novels where the story practically careened towards the finish in a can’t-put-it-down-for-anything manner, Burn Bright was just okay in that regard.

Overall, anything Briggs produces is a good read, and this wasn’t an exception. I delighted in learning more about the dynamics within the Marrok’s pack (and especially loved the inclusion of Asil – one of the most interesting side characters in the saga). I love enigmas in books, and Briggs has several she’s been slowing revealing more about for years. It keeps me coming back with gusto!

Recommendations: I’m a huge fan of this series (and Patricia Briggs herself – you won’t meet a more gracious author) and would recommend them to both urban fantasy fans and those new to the genre. At this point, the link between the Alpha & Omega and Mercy Thompson books is strong enough that you should consider reading both series simultaneously by publication order to avoid major spoilers. Additionally, I would encourage you to pick up Shifting Shadows, a brilliant short story compilation, before diving in to Burn Bright.

I’d like to say a big thank you to Berkley Publishing Group, Patricia Briggs, and Netgalley for the chance to read and review an early copy of Burn Bright!

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes


Book Review: Lady of Misrule by T.A. Pratt

Lady of Misrule by T.A. Pratt

Title: Lady of Misrule

Author: T.A. Pratt

Series: Marla Mason #8

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 2/5 stars

The Overview: Marla awakens for her month on Earth and finds her allies missing, and an old enemy causing trouble in her home city of Felport, where Marla once ruled as chief sorcerer. Meanwhile, a rather charming gentlemen who happens to be a monstrous exile from beyond our multiverse has decided that murdering gods might be a fun pastime, and he figures he’ll start with Marla. With the help of her former apprentice Bradley Bowman, Marla has to rescue her friends, crush her enemies, and eliminate the aforementioned existential threat–before her month runs out and she returns to the underworld.  -Goodreads

The Review:

I’m my mind, there are two distinct eras of Pratt’s Marla Mason series: Books 1-4, the trad published stories that I’m assuming involved editors over his shoulder telling him to “tone it down a little,” and everything beyond Book 5, the self-published, kickstarted novels where he went hogwild and wrote whatever the hell he pleased. Both have merit, but I find myself missing his earlier works at this point in the series. They always had a brilliant balance of traditional urban fantasy elements and the truly bizarre ideas that make his works so memorable and unique. They’re still among the best I’ve read of the genre. In these later books, however, that balance has all but disappeared in favor of every ridiculous plot point imaginable. I miss the slightly dark, more serious aspects of the first books. At this point, every character is snarky and over the top. Every situation is as far-fetched as possible. And therefore nothing stands out as remarkable because it’s all at level 10. I also don’t like his multiple dimensions twist to the story (introduced in book 5), which the plot keeps coming back to.

Even though they’re not as satisfying, I will concede that these later books have been fun. I didn’t get a lot out of Lady of Misrule, in particular, because at this point in the series, I was hoping for something deeper and more compelling to develop (rather than just one more recycled “let’s fight the big, bad monster” plotline). Unfortunately, I absolutely hated a twist to the story he revealed at the end. It eliminated the single plot point I’d been continuing to discover more about. Woe is me! It’s the pits when an author makes a decision that kills your enthusiasm. It is what it is.

On the whole, I still recommend the first 4 books with unbridled enthusiasm. They’re great. Even through I didn’t care for book 5 (Broken Mirrors), I see its value for plot advancement. I really liked book 6, but have felt a general decline since. I’m not sure at this point if I even want to finish the series. The author kind of crapped on all of the plot elements from earlier books I’d felt any sort of investment in. That said, I still kind of want to know where the story ends. Decisions.

Recommendations: as mentioned (and beat to death) in my review, I’d highly recommend the first four books in this series (plus the first prequel), which are still among my all-time favorites. Books after that, however, I don’t feel I can endorse with confidence. It’s such an interesting and different urban fantasy, I’d recommend it to those familiar with the genre but sick of the same old tropes.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes


Book Review: Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews

Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews

Title: Magic Binds

Author: Ilona Andrews

Series: Kate Daniels #9

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Overview: Mercenary Kate Daniels knows all too well that magic in post-Shift Atlanta is a dangerous business. But nothing she’s faced could have prepared her for this… Kate and the former Beast Lord Curran Lennart are finally making their relationship official. But there are some steep obstacles standing in the way of their walk to the altar… Kate’s father, Roland, has kidnapped the demigod Saiman and is slowly bleeding him dry in his never-ending bid for power. A Witch Oracle has predicted that if Kate marries the man she loves, Atlanta will burn and she will lose him forever. And the only person Kate can ask for help is long dead. The odds are impossible. The future is grim. But Kate Daniels has never been one to play by the rules… -Goodreads

The Review:

It’s official: Kate Daniels is my favorite urban fantasy series.

It continues to deliver with incredible consistency (aside from the first book), and I’ve loved every moment along the way. It has the perfect balance of action, mystery, humor, and romance. The romance isn’t a huge focus, but it’s done soooo well. Curran is a great example of how to present a strong male lead who doesn’t sacrifice masculinity for sentimentality (he also never loses his backbone/identity/complexity, something I appreciate immensely). The relationship between he and Kate is my favorite aspect of the series because it feels organic and realistic (compared to other relationships in the genre). The relationship is not cheesy or sickly perfect, but filled with real-people arguments and issues, and it’s a totally hilarious delight watching them work through some of them. I especially love that the authors don’t ever put them through senseless conflict and misunderstandings just for the sake of perpetuating the plot. It’s a relationship born of two strong-willed people trying to figure out how to not fuck it up. I love it.

What’s more, even the side characters are rounded and realistic (spawning several fantastic novellas, all of which I’ve read and enjoyed), making every aspect of this series that much more rich, vibrant, and immersive.

Magic Binds was a strong penultimate novel that has me agonizing for the final book in the series. I can’t believe I waited so long to get to this point in the series, but I’m equally delighted I don’t have to wait as long for the conclusion as the die-hard fans who have been keeping up to date with the series for years. All I can say is, Magic Triumphs is definitely in my top three most anticipated releases of 2018. I can’t wait!

Recommendations: if you’re an urban fantasy lover, Kate Daniels is a must-read! I’ve read a lot of good ones, but Kate takes the cake as my favorite, and that’s a fact. If you can get past the mediocre first book, you’re in for a fantastic series that gets better and better with each installment!

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes


Mini Review: Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews

Magic Breaks

Title: Magic Breaks

Author: Ilona Andrews

Series: Kate Daniels #7

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: As the mate of the Beast Lord, Curran, former mercenary Kate Daniels has more responsibilities than it seems possible to juggle. Not only is she still struggling to keep her investigative business afloat, she must now deal with the affairs of the pack, including preparing her people for attack from Roland, a cruel ancient being with god-like powers. Since Kate’s connection to Roland has come out into the open, no one is safe—especially those closest to Kate.

As Roland’s long shadow looms ever nearer, Kate is called to attend the Conclave, a gathering of the leaders from the various supernatural factions in Atlanta. When one of the Masters of the Dead is found murdered there, apparently at the hands of a shapeshifter, Kate is given only twenty-four hours to hunt down the killer. And this time, if she fails, she’ll find herself embroiled in a war which could destroy everything she holds dear…  -Goodreads

The Mini Review:

Even though I still love this series, Magic Breaks might be my least favorite since the first book. It’s still good, but compared to all the other individual books, it lacked a little magic for me. All of the other installments have a fantastic balance of action, humor, romance, and mystery. As Magic Breaks was the end of the story arc, there was very little room for anything other than action. All of the battle scenes were superbly done, but I missed the other elements to help break it up a bit. There was, however, an especially funny scene at the very beginning (involving a fluffy pet) that might be one of my favorites from the whole series. I wish more of that tone had carried throughout the book. That said, I cannot wait to read the next one!

Other books you might like:

 by Niki Hawkes


Book Reviews: The Dresden Files [Books 13-15] by Jim Butcher

The Dresden Files [Books 13-15]
by Jim Butcher

I can definitely see why Jim Butcher is considered a staple in the Urban Fantasy genre – he has an excellent main character (who is a tad whiny at times, but that’s kind of why I like him), loads of paranormal that will continually ding your creep-o-meter (even though I admit it doesn’t take much to set mine off), and plenty of action, humor, and intrigue. Overall, if you’ve never read an urban fantasy, this author is a great place to start. The best thing about him is that he seems to get better with each book.

Ghost Story

I’d been warned that Ghost Story was a “reset” novel of sorts and nowhere near as good as the rest of the series. I’d been dreading it, but found (to my surprise) that it was a decent read. It offered glimpses into many of the supporting characters that we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise (the unusual circumstance of the book gave Harry an unique POV). It also was kind of funny – something I always enjoy about Butcher’s work. Load all that together with a couple of compelling mysteries, and you have yet another Dresden success. I think most of the objections come from Ghost Story feeling so different from the rest of the books, and the fact that not a lot really happens within it. I agree it’s not quite as strong as some of its predecessors, but it still gets a solid 3-star (I liked it) rating.

3/5 stars

Cold Days

There seems to be an overwhelming consensus that Ghost Story is the weakest of the Dresden Files, but I have to say I enjoyed Cold Days even less. My issues were twofold: I couldn’t figure out how certain side conflicts played into the plot as a whole (because they didn’t – they were just fillers), and I didn’t particularly like the way the author expanded the conflict. He didn’t quite “jump the shark,” but he expanded beyond the rules of the world he’d been developing up until this point in a way that felt forced – almost as if he’d been running out of ideas. Which, in all fairness, at 15 books published, was probably the case. All of the other factors such as character, humor, action, and mystery were consistent with his great storytelling, it was just the conflict construction that left me wanting a bit more. The good news? I accidentally started Skin Game before this one and loved what I’d read so far, which bodes well for what’s to come…

2/5 stars

Skin Game

Following my two least favorite books of the series, I went into Skin Game fearing Jim Butcher had lost his touch and had dragged the story on too long. What a delightful surprise when Skin Game turned out to be one of, if not my favorite Dresden book so far. It had a strong plot (complete with an interesting bad guy), a good integration of the many fantastic side characters, and, of course, a ton of that snarky humor. It quickly turned a novel I was determined to “get through” into a book I couldn’t put down. Skin Game reinvigorated my enthusiasm for the series and I am genuinely excited to see where the story goes next. I don’t know how I’m going to keep myself occupied now that I’m finally up to date with this series. It seems like I’ve been working on it for ages…

4.5/5 stars

If you haven’t picked up a Dresden book yet, just know you’re in for a well-conceived and sustainable series, jam-packed with scary monsters and a lot of snark. I consider them a must-try for any urban fantasy fan.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes