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Book Reviews: Dime Store Magic and Industrial Magic by Kelley Armstrong

Dime Store Magic: 4/5 stars
Industrial Magic 4/5 stars

It took me a loooooong time to get around to continuing this series with Dime Store Magic. I loved Bitten and Stolen, but found myself a little bitter that the series would start following different characters from there. I think my overall sentiment was “well, if continuing is going to feel like starting a new series, it doesn’t matter when I read them (salty reader, party of one).” For the most part, that was true. The story in books 3&4 focuses on Paige and her involvement in the witch and sorcerer communities (Elena’s story is a footnote, and werewolves take a backseat to other supernatural beings). It does tie back to Stolen, but more in a spin-off kind of way.

I’m not going to lie – I didn’t hate it.

I think I can see what Armstrong is trying to do with the series, and think nowadays I’m more in the mood to appreciate a series that takes a little longer to get to the payoff. What it has going for it are interesting and sassy female characters (I think Paige is one of the most relatable uf leads I’ve come across even if she is a little typical), good mysteries, romance, and writing that you can really lose yourself in. The story components weren’t earth-shattering, but I absolutely love where I think it’s going and look forward to seeing through some potential plot points.

Dime Store Magic offered a good Kate Daniels/Julie* relationship between Paige and Savannah and had a lot of excellent witchy moments (by witchy I mean supernatural spell casting and other creepy shit). It also had a decently organic romance, which I always appreciate. I finished this book feeling genuinely excited to see where the story went next. I even picked up Industrial Magic within a couple weeks (a turnaround that’s pretty unheard of with me). *Side note: I realize this was probably written before the KD series, but as I’m a super fan of that one now, everything must be compared. ;P

Industrial Magic was less about Paige’s relationships and more about the politics and dynamics within the witch and sorcerer communities (with a dash of necromancer and vampire). It expanded the plot sufficiently for me even though the story went in a different direction than I was expecting. It was much more inclusive of other supernatural groups, which made the whole world feel more robust and well-developed. The further I read, the more I appreciate how Armstrong is writing this series.

Overall, comparing books 3&4 to 1&2 is like apples to oranges. They’re still fruit sitting together in the same basket, but the sampling experience is vastly different. Elena’s story was more carnal and sensory, whereas I would call Paige’s more thoughtful and conceptual. Armstrong did a great job adapting her storytelling to both of these unique POVs, but I can see how such a drastic change caused a lot of readers to complain of a quality decline. They say the apples aren’t as good; I say that’s because you bit into an orange when you were expecting an apple.

Recommendations: I personally think there’s more than one type of urban fantasy, and books 3&4 strike a very different note than books 1&2 (as discussed above). As someone who likes most types, I’d recommend both as long as you’re prepared for the change. These haven’t landed at the top of my uf list yet, but they’re making a very compelling (and entertaining) case. :)

Other books you might like:

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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

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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

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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

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Book Reviews: Magic Bleeds [4] & Questionable Client [.5] by Ilona Andrews

Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews

Title: Magic Bleeds

Author: Ilona Andrews

Series: Kate Daniels #4

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Kate Daniels works for the Order of Knights of Merciful Aid, officially, as a liaison with the mercenary guild. Unofficially, she cleans up the paranormal problems no one else wants to handle—especially if they involve Atlanta’s shapeshifting community. When she’s called in to investigate a fight at the Steel Horse, a bar on the border between the territories of the shapeshifters and the necromancers, Kate quickly discovers there’s a new player in town. One who’s been around for thousands of years—and rode to war at the side of Kate’s father. This foe may be too much even for Kate and Curran, the Beast Lord, to handle. Because this time Kate will be taking on family…  -Goodreads

The Review:

It would have been difficult for any book to follow Magic Strikes (one of my new favorite books EVER.), but I thought Magic Bleeds gave it a good effort. Picking up right where the last one left off, the authors did a great job progressing the overall arc of the series. It didn’t have quite as much humor or romantic tension as the books before it, but made up for it with an extra dose of mystery and action. I admit I missed a bit of that passionate spark between the two main characters, but what’s a good literary relationship without a fallout here and there? At least the mystery was engaging. The authors integrate cool mythological beings from all over the globe and it was really neat to see manifestations from different cultures. Overall, Magic Bleeds was still a great installment in a series that shaping up to be a favorite. I can’t wait to see what happens next! :-)

A Questionable Client by Ilona Andrews

Book Info: A Questionable Client [Kate Daniels #0.5]

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

I had so many issues with the first book of the Kate Daniels series, I almost didn’t continue on. That would have been a shame because I’ve enjoyed every subsequent novel and short story since. Had I started with A Questionable Client, I likely would’ve been a little more enthusiastic for the series. Heck, I think even if you’ve read the series, you’d probably enjoy this snippet. It was about how Kate and Saiman first met and I actually thought it gave Kate a lot of depth of character, showing how she became so proficient in mythological lore. In fact, I recommend all of the short stories that go along with this series – I’m only through about half of them, but so far they’ve really helped turn it into a full experience.

 by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs

March 7, 2017

Title: Silence Fallen

Author: Patricia Briggs

Series: Mercedes Thompson #10

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Release Date: March 7, 2017

The Overview: Attacked and abducted in her home territory, Mercy finds herself in the clutches of the most powerful vampire in the world, taken as a weapon to use against alpha werewolf Adam and the ruler of the Tri-Cities vampires. In coyote form, Mercy escapes only to find herself without money, without clothing, and alone in the heart of Europe… Unable to contact Adam and the rest of the pack, Mercy has allies to find and enemies to fight, and she needs to figure out which is which. Ancient powers stir, and Mercy must be her agile best to avoid causing a war between vampires and werewolves, and between werewolves and werewolves. And in the heart of the ancient city of Prague, old ghosts rise…  -Goodreads

The Review:

Anything written by Patricia Briggs these days is pure gold. I always try to savor them (the year-long wait between books is brutal!), but always seem to find myself devouring pages like there’s no tomorrow! The Mercy Thompson series is the sort of guaranteed good read that leaves me no doubt I’m going to love every moment. Silence Fallen was another awesome book in a long line of killer novels.

Without giving anything important away, I think it’s safe to reveal that Silence Fallen takes place primarily in another country. It was a much-appreciated change of scenery. Briggs provided an immersive experience rich in history and vibrant and description. It was a lot of fun getting to explore new environments (notice I haven’t mentioned where? The discovery is part of the fun! You’ll have to read it to find out). My only hold up is that I thought historical facts could’ve been integrated a little bit smoother. Briggs utilized the character’s personal knowledge of the place a little too often to be believable. Seriously, are you really going to be able to recall tiny details about a place you learned about in passing years ago in college? I didn’t totally buy it, but that’s probably because I can’t remember what I did yesterday. :) Regardless of delivery, the description was incredibly well researched and made me feel like I was there. It was a new adventure filled with fun discoveries and interesting villains. 

Silence Fallen also offered multiple POVs, something I LOVED because I just can’t get enough of Adam Hauptman. His perspective adds so much richness to the story and I’m hoping it won’t be the last time he gets a moment in the spotlight.

Overall, Silence Fallen was packed with an awesome mix of supernatural, humor, romance, and action, topping itself off with one wallop of a surprise at the end that will knock you out of your armchair. If you haven’t given this series a try, you’re totally missing out!

I’d like to thank Berkley Publishing Group, Patricia Briggs, and NetGalley for the chance to read and review an early copy of Silence Fallen.

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by Niki Hawkes