Image

Book Review: Dime a Demon by Devon Monk

Dime a Demon by Devon Monk

Title: Dime a Demon

Author: Devon Monk

Series: Ordinary Magic #5

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

The Overview: Being a cop is great. Guarding the library of arcane secrets is great. Even dealing with the monsters and gods vacationing in the little beach town of Ordinary, Oregon is great. Then the demon, Bathin, strolls into town and steals Myra’s sister’s soul. So much for great. Luckily, Myra has a plan to evict the demon and save her sister’s soul.
* Step one: shut down the portals to hell popping up in town.
* Step two: get rid of the pink know-it-all unicorn.
* Step three: don’t die while teaching Death how to be a cop.

Oh, and there’s a step four. Absolutely, positively, no matter what, do not fall in love with the handsome, charming, jerk of a demon she’s trying to kick out of town. Logically, it’s a good plan. But when it comes to Bathin, Myra’s very illogical heart has some plans of its own. -Goodreads

The Review:

I’m more than a bit disenchanted with the series.

It has a lot of good components, but just enough glaring oddities that I’m only enjoying it about half as much as I should be. It’s frustrating because the first couple of works were strong. I go into ranty detail in my review of book 3, so I won’t reiterate those issues. And while this book pulled things back closer to where we started, it came with a whole new batch of problems. Most notably: the love story.

Up to this point, the series has had a good balance between all the elements and the romance. There was just enough for some good old fashioned sexual tension, but it didn’t overwhelm all of the other really interesting happenings in Ordinary. That balance was not present in Dime a Demon. I didn’t mind the switch to a different POV (another Reed sister) because it was a good way to reinvigorate the story. However (a big however), if you’re going to make the entire focus of the novel a romance, then it had better be a good one… which this was not.

For starters, there was no real courtship. There was an attempt at courtship that always got shot down, and some flashy moments of shared chemistry, but that critical component where the characters grow closer through shared experiences and a series of meaningful moments was non-existent. It wasn’t romance, with emotion and connection, it was a purely physical connection between two horny characters (at least, that’s how it came across). It was very unsatisfying (I mean, even if it was meant to be a purely physical relationship, it needed way more tension, positive interaction, and foreplay).

Sigh… I think this is the last I’m reading for the series unless I can snag a free copy from the library for future publications. It’s not the worst I’ve read, but it has not lived up to any of my expectations and I’ve already invested way more than usual into it.

Recommendations: the #.5 novella and first book were fantastic, but the series has since taken a drastic decline. The compilation of novellas (which counted as book 4) were dazzling examples of the best the series has to offer, but then book 5 tanked again for a whole new host of reasons. The series has some truly great components, and I don’t regret the time I spent reading it, however there are a lot of series I’d recommend first.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

Image

Book Review: A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire

A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire

Title: A Local Habitation

Author: Seanan McGuire

Series: October Daye #2

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 2/5 stars

The Overview: October “Toby” Daye is a changeling, the daughter of Amandine of the fae and a mortal man. Like her mother, she is gifted in blood magic, able to read what has happened to a person through a mere taste of blood. Toby is the only changeling who has earned knighthood, and she re-earns that position every day, undertaking assignments for her liege, Sylvester, the Duke of the Shadowed Hills. Now Sylvester has asked her to go to the County of Tamed Lightning—otherwise known as Fremont, CA—to make sure that all is well with his niece, Countess January O’Leary, whom he has not been able to contact. It seems like a simple enough assignment—but when dealing with the realm of Faerie nothing is ever as simple as it seems. Toby soon discovers that someone has begun murdering people close to January, whose domain is a buffer between Sylvester’s realm and a scheming rival duchy. If Toby can’t find the killer soon, she may well become the next victim. -Goodreads

The Review:

I’m going to need some encouragement to keep reading this series.

I really want to like it, but I’m struggling. The first book was a bit mediocre (something I don’t hold against introductory UF novels), but had a lot of promise. I was expecting this second book to show some improvements, but ended up liking it less.

First off, the storyline didn’t have anything to do with what happened in the first novel. October was sent off on a tangent mission that, from my initial impression, had absolutely nothing to do with the main trajectory of the series. It lost the sense of momentum I was hoping it would nurture.

A tangent in itself wouldn’t have necessarily been a bad thing, but unfortunately I thought it was an incredibly boring tangent. Mostly due to its predictability.

If I, as the reader, have exactly the same amount of information as the main POV character, I should NOT be able to reason out who the killer is almost half a novel before said character figures it out for herself. The mystery was excruciating long-winded. I even accidentally skipped ahead several chapters and, after flipping back, realized I hadn’t missed much at all. And to make matters worse, there were multiple things the character remained oblivious about for the sake of plot extension, which did not endear me to her sustainability as a leading lady.

BUT… I still don’t absolutely hate it. I like October’s general personality and am really interested in all of the side characters. I like the framework for the world. And I like the small ideas throughout that set this series slightly apart from all the other UFs I’ve read. I think that’s why I’m willing to field conversations to convince me to keep reading. After all, I almost abandoned Kate Daniels at the first book, and now I’m an IA superfan. Series turnarounds happen, especially within the first few books.

Series status: I have the third book already and am planning to read it. However, I don’t have access to free copies from my library for the rest of the series, so it’s going to take some serious persuasion to get me to invest almost $10 per book going forward. I’m hoping for some spoiler-free endorsements from all my fellow UF addicts. :)

Recommendations: at this point, I’m the one looking for recommendations on whether or not this series is worth continuing. So far the first book was mediocre and this one was an even bigger let down… but both offer enough promise to keep me from abandoning it outright. Please help. :)

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

Image

Book Review: Battle Ground by Jim Butcher

Battle Ground by Jim Butcher

Title: Battle Ground

Author: Jim Butcher

Series: Dresden Files #17

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

The Overview: Harry has faced terrible odds before. He has a long history of fighting enemies above his weight class. The Red Court of vampires. The fallen angels of the Order of the Blackened Denarius. The Outsiders. But this time it’s different. A being more powerful and dangerous on an order of magnitude beyond what the world has seen in a millennium is coming. And she’s bringing an army. The Last Titan has declared war on the city of Chicago, and has come to subjugate humanity, obliterating any who stand in her way. Harry’s mission is simple but impossible: Save the city by killing a Titan. And the attempt will change Harry’s life, Chicago, and the mortal world forever. -Goodreads

The Review:

A miraculous, all-encompassing, book-long battle which involved almost every single side character we’ve met to date. It was expansive. It was action-packed. And it was well written. A truly cinematic novel of epic proportion!

You know, if you’re into that sort of thing.

I almost always enjoy Dresden novels, but I have to admit that this one required a bit more effort to get through than I’d hoped it would. As all-encompassing as the story was, in execution it was more an endless series of mini battles. The heavy hitters of this world all converged to save Chicago… one after another. You’d think with all of that constant action and excitement that I would be page flipping like mad to see what happened next. But instead I found the conflicts too repetitive to hold my focus. Reconnect with an ally; kill something. Rinse; Repeat. It didn’t offer a lot of plot variety. For me, anyway. I usually have trouble with battle scenes unless the focus is more on the overall tactics and strategy than the individual clashing of swords (or wizard staffs). This was very much the latter.

I did like the voice of the story – it’s comforting to “come home” to a Dresden novel, especially after all this time. I will say there was a very noticeable overuse of the word “freaking.” It was funny the first two times it was used, but then it got distracting from there. Even so, Harry’s a great character, made even better by the plethora of secondary personalities. Oddly, how engaged I was during any particular scene had more to do with how interested I was in the side characters within it (as it turns out, there were only three that had me completely enthralled). Butcher dramatically changed a few of the characters’ overall trajectories, which I appreciated because of the variety it added, but I’m not sure I’m on board with the direction some of them are now headed… we shall see.

Overall, for my personal tastes and expectations, I did not enjoy Battle Ground as much as I wanted to. I think the repetitive nature of it gave my brain a lot of free time to pick apart other aspects of the story I may not have noticed otherwise. I will still be continuing on in the series because when one of the books works for me, it REALLY works for me. As it stands, this one is just middle of the road in the whole scheme of the series.

Recommendations: if you’re already a Dresden fan, how could you NOT pick up this novel? My conservative rating is probably going to be in the minority, so keep that in mind. If you haven’t started the series yet, it’s a staple in the genre for a reason, but it does take a few books in before it really finds its “magic.”

I’d like to thank Berkley Publishing Group, Jim Butcher, and NetGalley for the chance to read and review an early copy of Battle Ground.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

Image

Book Review: Gods and Ends by Devon Monk

Gods and Ends by Devon Monk

Title: Gods and Ends

Author: Devon Monk

Series: Ordinary Magic #3

Rating: 1.5/5 stars

The Overview: Keep your gods close and your monsters closer… Police Chief Delaney Reed thinks she knows all of Ordinary, Oregon’s secrets. Gods on vacation, lovelorn ghosts, friendly neighborhood monsters? Check. But some secrets run deeper than even she knows. To take down an ancient vampire hell-bent on revenge, she will have to make the hardest decision of her life: give up the book of dark magic that can destroy them all, or surrender her mortal soul. As she weighs her options, Delaney discovers she can no longer tell the difference between allies keeping secrets and enemies telling the truth. Questioning loyalties and running out of time, Delaney must choose sides before a kidnapping turns into murder, before rival crochet and knit gangs start a war, and before the full moon rises to signal the beginning of Ordinary’s end. -Goodreads

The Review:

Huh.

What happened to that thoughtful, calculating main character who’s been around since the introductory novella? I mean, she’s always kind of done things her own way (to a fault), but she’s never been what I would call reckless. It’s part of why I liked her so much – enough flaws to feel realistic, but adept enough to be fun to read about. I really don’t care how much attention the author drew to her bad decision making in this book through other characters, I’m afraid it didn’t compensate for how unrealistic the whole thing came across based on the character profile established up to that point.

And don’t even get me started on the demon.

Ugh. His introduction felt clunky. And a very compelling through-line of the series involving Delany’s father (which could’ve gone somewhere meaningful) was reduced down to a single chapter of wtf is happening to this series? I thought the “mysteriously deceased father” plot point was strong enough to warrant an entire investigation novel within itself and I would’ve been much more satisfied had a lead-up like that culminated to ::enter the demon, stage left::, but as it stands, it was a clear throwaway. 

I’m feeling uncharacteristically ranty, if you can’t tell, but I can say with certainty that none of the elements that made me rate the first two books so highly were represented in this book. I think the conflict with the vampires should’ve been resolved completely in the last installment. There are just too many other potential plot ideas already in place for that expansion to be necessary. At this point the series is morphing into something completely different than its beginning premises. It’s a series about vacationing gods in a quirky town… why is the main focus now about only werewolves, vampires, and demons? There are just too many ideas compacted into one story, almost as if two different series are being forced together. And as of this book she has essentially removed everything that made the plot stand out from the crowd for me.

And let’s say for a minute I didn’t mind the change in direction – I still had a problem with the execution. There were so many premonitions, warnings, and prophecy-like conveyances that it basically outlined the entire book. It left nothing to be discovered and made me feel like I was wasting energy reading when I already knew how things were going to wrap up. Lets just say, by the end of the book I was grateful most of the foreshadowed conflicts had been resolved because it meant a cleaner slate for the next installment.

Series status: I’ll be reading the novella compilation and the next book in the series because I’ve already purchased them (and I still have hope and a great couple of examples what the story could be), but this book almost knocked me off the wagon well enough that it had better slow down and let me clamber back in if I’m to read beyond that.

Recommendations: after the first two books I was professing this series as a fun little new excursion from the more serious urban fantasies out there, but now I have to pull back a bit for re-evaluation. We’ll see how the next book goes – stay tuned…

Other books you might like (based on the first two books, not the new direction taken by this one):

by Niki Hawkes

Image

Book Review: Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews

Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews

Title: Emerald Blaze

Author: Ilona Andrews

Series: Hidden Legacy #5

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The Overview: As Prime magic users, Catalina Baylor and her sisters have extraordinary powers—powers their ruthless grandmother would love to control. Catalina can earn her family some protection working as deputy to the Warden of Texas, overseeing breaches of magic law in the state, but that has risks as well. 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. -Goodreads

The Review:

I loved this book! Complex plot, amazing characters, tons of action… one of the best they’ve done so far. And that’s sayin’ something!

If you’ve been following my reviews for any length of time, you’ll no doubt have noticed I’m a Ilona Andrews fangirl. Snatching the top spot as my favorite urban fantasy writers, these two continue to dazzle me at every turn. And they’re only getting stronger.

The concept for the magic system in this world is rad. It has origins in basic superhero development, where there are those among us who are just born with special abilities, but its presentation is highly original. And a lot of that can be attributed to the structure of the society and the many house politics included in the world building. I love that after five books in the series there are still things I’m learning about the different magical abilities. The concept is so expansive that they can afford to spread it out over multiple books, creating a lot of interesting moments within each one.

My favorite thing about Emerald Blaze specifically was all the moving parts. Far from a lazy plot, there’s a murder mystery to solve and magical shenanigans afoot. Between all of that, Catalina also had to deal with a certain handsome Italian who keeps insisting on complicating her life. The book really immersed in house politics. It also provided a strong sense of which conflicts are going to make up the finale of the series, and I can’t wait. 

There were so many specific scenes within this book that struck me to my core, I briefly considered doing a spoiler review just so I could geek out about all of them. Suffice to say, there were plenty of moments that will surely make all my fellow IA fans swoon as much as I did for this fantastic story.

Speaking of swooning – the marketing and covers would have you believe that the romance is the main draw to this series, but that is so not the case. I really enjoy the romantic component – the authors are amazing at providing slow-burn love story that grows organically through the series (truly, the only type I like reading about). But as good as they are at that, all of the other elements are so strong (especially in Emerald Blaze) that romance is almost secondary. It would be a totally kickass series without the romance, but its inclusion definitely gives the books better character motivations and a more rounded feel (i.e. it’s the total package).

I love Catalina. She’s vulnerable and compassionate and sincere, but she also has this fierce, almost frightening desire to keep those she loves safe. Much more so than her sister Nevada, this girl is willing to do whatever it takes and she has the cold, calculated ability to see it through. She’s patient and shrewd, yet the reader still gets to see how charmingly human she is by contrast. Uncertain of herself most of the time, she’s somehow able to put all of that aside to get the job done. Most of the heroines I read about (especially in this genre) also have many of these attributes. The difference with Catalina is that the authors makes you feel alongside her and really come to a visceral understanding of what she’s going through. I’m always one or two levels more deeply connected to Catalina, and that’s something I don’t experience often.

Recommendations: highly recommended! Don’t let the covers fool you – Hidden Legacy is one of the most robust, entertaining urban fantasy series I’ve ever read. Kate Daniels starts out a little slow then gains momentum. Hidden Legacy sweeps you up for a wild ride right from the start and only gets better from there. There’s a reason these authors are at the top of my UF list. I can’t recommend them enough!

I want to thank Harpercollins Publishers, Ilona Andrews, and Netgalley for the chance to read and review an early copy of Emerald Blaze – you made my year! :D

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

Image

Book Review: Death and Relaxation by Devon Monk

Death and Relaxation by Devon Monk

Title: Death and Relaxation

Author: Devon Monk

Series: Ordinary Magic #1

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Overview: Police Chief Delaney Reed can handle the Valkyries, werewolves, gill-men and other paranormal creatures who call the small beach town of Ordinary, Oregon their home. It’s the vacationing gods who keep her up at night. With the famous Rhubarb Festival right around the corner, small-town tensions, tempers, and godly tantrums are at an all-time high. The last thing Delaney needs is her ex-boyfriend reappearing just when she’s finally caught the attention of Ryder Bailey, the one man she should never love. No, scratch that. The actual last thing she needs is a dead body washing ashore, especially since the dead body is a god. Catching a murderer, wrestling a god power, and re-scheduling the apocalypse? Just another day on the job in Ordinary. Falling in love with her childhood friend while trying to keep the secrets of her town secret? That’s gonna take some work.Goodreads

The Review:

I’ve had a high opinion of Devon Monk’s writing for a while now, so when Death and Relaxation was offered as a review copy (audio production quality) I snatched it up. I’ve been on a pretty hard urban fantasy kick lately, but I’ll admit this series wasn’t even on my radar (probably because of the atrocious cover). But I tell you what – it hit the spot!

It had a great combination of concept (small town Oregon where gods go to vacation), character (a young female police chief who takes over the department after her father dies), mystery (who the heck is ballsy enough to commit a murder in a town of gods?), and love story (the cute dynamic between the MC and the love interest – it’s just enough to be a clear selling point of the novel, but not overdone to the point where it becomes the sole focus). It was one of those books perfectly suited to my mood, and because it came from a seasoned author I trust, I was able to turn off my over-critical eye and just enjoy the ride.

Admittedly the concept wouldn’t stand up to close scrutiny, but it’s clear from the start that its main purpose is to enhance the quirky nature of this small touristy town. I started with the novella (Dues and Don’ts – Free on the author’s webiste), which I would recommend because it sets the stage on what to expect in this town a lot better than the first book. It incorporated the tradition of local artisans hiding glass figurines along the beach for tourists to find, which apparently is something that actually happens in the town the series is based on. I was enamored with the whole thing. I think the fun dynamics between all the characters in this little community is my biggest source of delight. Quirky fun things like rhubarb cooking contests an long-standing interpersonal squabbles (which, naturally, involve the whole town). Any Gilmore Girls fan out there will get a better idea if I say it’s a supernatural version of Stars Hollow (only without the aggravating characters that take the fun out of the scenes – Mayor Taylor Doose, I’m talking to you).

The only ding against its rating is that I thought the solution to one of the main conflicts of the story was completely obvious right from the start. I can half-rationalize it away if I try hard enough. Like, maybe the main character had too many things going on to see it clearly. But really it would’ve made the book stronger to either hide it better or to have the characters figure it out sooner. So far that has been my only gripe.

This is one of my new personal favorite series starters – I enjoyed it that much. It is definitely more on the lighthearted side of the genre. There’s not a lot of dark grittiness that sets the tone for comparable series. But maybe that’s what I’d needed – a bit of a pick-me-up. :)

Recommendations: start with the novella! I’d hand this series to people who like urban fantasy without the semi-horror aspect. It’s actually a great crossover novel between uf, mystery, and romance. If you can snag the GraphicAudio version, you’re in for a treat! Go in with a light heart and have some fun. :)

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes