Review: One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles, #3) by Ilona Andrews

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Date Read: December 20 to 23, 2016
Recommended by:
Recommended to:

Still a lot of fun, and I’m pretty sure I’ll say that about the rest of the books in this series.

There’s something nice and comforting about the ease of the writing that makes it fun to read. I’ve never found myself bored while in the middle of these books, and if the writing maintains its pace, I’ll never get tired of following along with these characters on their journeys across the universe. The writing, now that I think about it, mimics the atmosphere of an inn out in the country, but only on the surface. Behind closed doors? It’s all intergalactic chaos, all the time.

Now that much of the setting and world building is out of the way, the focus of this book is on family, relationships and their multi-layered dynamics. Never thought I’d ever say this, but the relationships–old, new, developing alike–and their dynamics were what I liked best about this book. We get to see Dena reuniting with her sister Maud and niece Helen, and Sean and Dena is officially happening, and to my surprise, Maud and Arland getting acquainted is hilarious. I could definitely see a spin-off happening for these two.

And I cannot wait to see what’s gonna happen in the next installment. I know it’s currently being written chapter by chapter on the Ilona Andrews’ site, but I’d rather wait and inhale the whole thing in one sitting.

“Are you going to war, Lord Marshal?” Please don’t be going to war.
“No, I was attending a formal dinner.” He grimaced. “They make us wear armor to these things so we don’t stab ourselves out of sheer boredom.”

[…]

“You know what else chicks dig?”
“Subatomic vaporizers?”
“And werewolves. Chicks really dig werewolves.”
“Poor you, having to smack all of those chicks off with a flyswatter just to walk down the street.”

[…]

“He said to tell me that taking this holiday would make him happy. I don’t want him to be happy.” Lord Soren pounded his gauntleted fist into his other fist. “I want him to be an adult!”

[…]

Caldenia closed her wooden box and patted Arland’s leg. “Do get better. You’re much more entertaining when you roar.”

[…]

“Did you know Draziri taste like chicken?” I asked.
Sean glanced at me, as if not sure if I was okay. “I had no idea.”
“Orro told me,” I told him. “We’re besieged by murderous poultry.”

[…]

Even Caldenia stayed away, which was for the best, because I didn’t want to explain Her Grace and her comments about the deliciousness of werewolves to Sean’s parents.

[…]

People do horrible things in the name of keeping things just the way they are.

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Review: Silent Blade (Kinsmen, #1) by Ilona Andrews

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆
Date Read: August 14 to 15, 2016
Recommended by:
Recommended to:

Liked it. Interesting world/universe, interesting factions, interesting back stories, interesting power dynamics. Looking forward to reading more of this world/universe and hoping there’s more in the work.

This is a light futuristic sci-fi novella that feels otherworldly, yet familiar somehow.

Some time in the distant future, corporations run by wealthy families will dominate a whole planet–think of it as each family is its own country–and there will be no governing bodies to keep them in check, though what does keep them in check are the other families, their holdings and vast array of weapons and assassins. It’s like an arms race, but between the families.

Meli Galdes is from a middling family with some important corporate ties, but not enough and they’re on the brink of bankruptcy. She has known her whole life that she would have to marry Celino Carvanna to secure their families’ alliance and help move her family up the social ladder. But when he breaks off their engagement abruptly, he not only severs those ties, but he also ruins her whole life. Because the Carvannas are rich and powerful, no suitors, even ones actually interested in Meli, would want to cross the Carvannas, even though Celino Carvanna had already set her aside.

So what does she do? She leaves her family and train to be an assassin. Not just any assassin though. She becomes one of the best. And then she plots her revenge, slowly and meticulously. And then she sets the plot in motion all the while playing innocent.

I liked this story, especially this planet and its strange corporate-run culture. There’s something brutal and brutally honest about how the families off each other, all in the name of business and turning a profit, and no one bats an eye. Literally no one.

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Review: Origins (Alphas, #0.5) by Ilona Andrews

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆
Date Read: August 09 to 14, 2016
Recommended by:
Recommended to:

I quite enjoyed this intro to a relatively new series by Ilona Andrews, and I should mention this is not the kind of thing I thought I’d like.

It starts with a kidnapping… :/

And it’s billed as a paranormal romance… :/

But after picking up and putting down countless books in an attempt to find something good that could hold my attention for more than a page or two, I finally had to return to Ilona Andrews, knowing that they never fail to deliver. I decided to go with this one for the simple reason that its cover looked interesting.

Overall, I think it’s a bit too rushed, and so much of the world(s) is either hastily explained (without giving you a good grasp of the existence of these worlds) or not explained sufficiently. Maybe if this book was a full-length novel, these strange alien worlds would develop gradually along with the plot and characters. I think if this series continues, it would definitely improve because the writing has all the familiar signs of a pair of authors who know their audience and know what to deliver and how to do it. They just need more room to expand on their ideas.

All through the read, I got the sense the Andrews wanted to test some limitations of the genre and take this story down a darker path that’s just as psychologically challenging as it’s physically challenging. And one of the things they put to the test was the romance starting off with a kidnapping, followed by imprisonment. I know… :/. So then how could this be a “romance,” right? I was unimpressed myself and had to make an effort to keep reading, but then the thing at end happened which made me think well, different. It was pleasantly different, as well as unexpected, and I thought it tied the story together really well. I trust the Andrews enough to not royally screw this up, whatever the tenuous “this” is.

The tone for much of the story is tense with some humorous moments in between to break up the hostility, and sometimes there’s sexual tension that borders on being unbearable due to the kidnapping and imprisonment–’twas a tad uncomfortable during those moments–but both main characters seem to have enough sense and chemistry to make their interactions interesting, and they seem grounded in reality enough to keep their budding whatever from becoming too cringe-worthy. The strength lies in these two holding the story together, and for me it worked.

Other than that, I think this story is a fun read and I’m cautiously optimistic of this series’ prospects, but maybe that’s because I’m so used to these two authors by now that entering a new world of theirs and encountering hostile natives is just another adventure.

* * * mild spoiler * * *

Oh, and I really could do without the kid–famous last words?–not that there’s much that could be done about it since she’s already embedded too deeply in the story.

Review: Magic Shifts (Kate Daniels #8) by Ilona Andrews

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Date Read: December 29, 2015 to January 01, 2016
Read Count: 1

First book of the new year and it’s a good one. This is another solid addition to the Kate Daniels series, and I enjoyed it immensely because I’m a huge fan, but I must admit I agree with the few reviewers who called it a “filler.” Tensions are building and Kate continues to learn more about her powers, as well as limitations, as she prepares for the inevitable showdown with Roland.

While it may be filler, what we do get to see in this installment is the main cast of characters evolving (almost everybody) and maturing (esp. the kids–Julie, Ascanio, Derek). Their characterization becomes stronger, more solid. There’s more depth to their personalities and inner lives, even though the story is told from Kate’s POV.

Much of the action and story arc reminds me of Kate’s earlier books when she was just a mercenary, going about her life trying to stay under the radar. But since she’s no longer just Kate, the problems she faces these days are more layered and complicated by her social and political status. And even though she’s no longer the Pack’s consort, she still has a lot of pull with every faction in Atlanta. Technically, they all belong to her now that she’s claimed the city, but she isn’t the tyrannical type of leader, not her father’s daughter. I like that she would rather build a home and live a nice quiet life with those she loves than use her powers to build empires. In that, she’s still Kate.

The mystery in this book starts out like those in earlier books: someone in a bind (George) comes to Kate for help and she has to get to the bottom of it as a life hangs in the balance (Eduardo), but the job turns out to be much more complicated the more she delve into it. The investigation uncovers a new monstrosity wreaking havoc on the city, and as the land’s protector, Kate has to put an end to it. And of course she does it in classic Kate style: butting heads with almost every single faction within the city. The difference this time is there are serious physical consequences to her usual bashing-in-heads style, which forces her to put her whole life in perspective. The story is pretty much straightforward from there with a few interesting detours in the road[1].

The highlight for me is the depth of the mythology. Like in previous books, the Andrews (the Gordons?[2]) delved deep into existing folkfore, added their own spins, and came up with creatures that are recognizable in form but alien in intellect. This was the one thing, aside from Kate herself, that kept me reading this series; other paranormal urban fantasies of this kind just can’t compare because they always fall short on mythology–they also have TSTL heroines running amok, but that’s another thing entirely. And so it’s always a pleasure to come back to Kate’s world and be introduced to new monsters and discover the extent of their existence in Post-Shift Atlanta.

Perhaps the only thing I like more than this world’s monsters and mythology is the humor. Kate and Curran slowly and unsuccessfully adjusting to civilian life is pretty funny. I expected that, but how it plays out made me laugh out loud. Of course, it wouldn’t be the suburbs without a Homeowner Association president-wannabee criticizing the “health” of your lawn…or suggesting that your hunny-bunny not prowl the neighborhood every night in his beast form.

“You see, the mailman saw your husband during one of his walks.”

“He’s my fiancé,” I told her. “We are living in sin.”

Heather blinked, momentarily knocked off her stride, but recovered. “Oh, that’s nice.”

“It’s very nice. I highly recommend it.”

[…]

“Did you see the mailman while doing your rounds yesterday?” I asked.

Curran’s face turned carefully blank. “Yes, I did.”

“Did you do anything to scare him?”

“I was perfectly friendly.”

“Mhm.” Please continue with your nice story. Nonjudgmental.

“He was putting things into the mailbox. I was passing by and I said, ‘Hello, nice night.’ And then I smiled. He jumped into his truck and slammed the door.”

“Rude!” Julie volunteered.

“I let it pass,” Curran said. “We’re new to the neighborhood.”

The former Beast Lord, a kind and magnanimous neighbor. “So you sneaked up behind him, startled him by speaking, and when he turned around and saw a six-hundred-pound talking lion, you showed him your teeth?”

“I don’t think that’s what happened,” Curran said.

“That’s exactly what happened, your Furriness.”

Overall this was another satisfying read and a great way to kick off the new year. Always pleasure to return to one of my favorite worlds.

Footnotes below the cut:

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DEF

Forgot to mention in the last post that this is an ongoing meme circling around twitter, and I was tagged by a few people whose tweets I can’t find anymore because twitter is a mess and looking for specific tweets always gives me a headache. So I’m doing the questions here.

DNF

Just recently I had to shelve Eye of the World for the third time. No reason other than a case of “wrong time, wrong book,” which happens to be a recurring theme for me when it comes to traditional high fantasy. Eye of the World was picked by one of my GR book clubs and I had every intention of finishing it by the end of May. And I actually got past all the world building this time around, but then my work load piled up and other books, more interesting and more time consuming, got in the way–specifically The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi, which took me longer to get through and unravel than I intended. Then Stories of the Raksura, Vol II arrived in the mail, and all my focus and energy went into not devouring it in one night. And that was it for the rest of May. There was just no chance to finish Eye of the World and I got tired of pretending like I could, so back on the shelf it went.

Best Ending of book or series

In terms of execution, it’s a tie between Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell and House of Leaves by Mark Danielewksi, which is funny because they’re polar opposites. One is order and the other chaos. But they both experiment with different styles and voices to weave several narratives together, and I think the result is the most interesting I’ve ever read. Both endings are astounding and stay true to the structure and nature of the books. Cloud Atlas ends in an orderly fashion, just like how it starts. Everything comes full circle and it’s quite poetic to see all the pieces falling into place. House of Leaves, on the other hand, ends with a feeling. You know that feeling you have as you’re drifting off to sleep and you suddenly find yourself diving head first into an abyss and you jerk awake with your heart and adrenaline pumping full force? House of Leaves left me with that feeling. I’m still not sure what that means though.

But in terms of surprise, I would have to say The Giver by Lois Lowry. The ending is left wide open, and that surprised me most about this book. Since it’s YA, I was expecting most loose ends to be wrapped up in a tidy (albeit rushed) ending, but the book ends abruptly in the middle of a scene, if I remember correctly. I haven’t read the sequels, so I don’t know how Jonas’ life turned out or what became of the baby Gabriel, and I think it’s better that way, not knowing. Because knowing would ruin the jarring impact of the book.

Book that gave you the most FEELZ

Basically everything I’ve read by Octavia Butler. Unexpected feelz are the best and most memorable feelz, and unexpected feelz about ambiguous shapeshifting gender-defying aliens are feelz that stay with you long after you finish reading.

But if I had to pick just one book, it would have to be… A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. The writing is beautifully devastating. Even though I knew what would happen, I still wasn’t prepared for the ending.

“I wish I had a hundred years,” she said, very quietly. “A hundred years I could give to you.”

Gets me every time.

 

Currently reading:

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Magic Rises (Kate Daniels, #6) by Ilona Andrews

With Magic Shifts (#8) coming out later this summer and Magic Breaks (#7) arriving in the mail today, I figured it was time to get reacquainted with Kate Daniels and her chaotic, over-the-top, post-apocalyptic world. It’s a world I love with characters I’m fond of. My only complaint though is the focus of the series shifting away from Kate with the addition of so many new characters. It’s become more like an ensemble cast but with Kate still as the main POV. Another thing is the shift from Kate’s life as a lone-wolf mercenary to her domestic life as Curran’s mate. Just seems odd is all and somewhat difficult for me to adjust to, mostly because I find Kate being on her own much more interesting than her settling down–figure of speech, of course, since nothing settles down in this world.

While I recall books 1 through 5 just fine, I’m having trouble remembering the events of Magic Rises. I tacked it on on the tail end of an energetic UF marathon and I was just short of burning out by the time I finished, so there might have been some breezing through and skimming past key sequences of the plot. The only things coming back to me now is Kate settling into her role as the Pack’s mistress, the Pack’s trip to Europe to help solve the European Pack’s problems, a beloved character dies, and some new ones are added to the ever-expanding Pack family.

Since I recall so little of this book, it’ll be like reading it for the first time.

 

TBR soon:

something by Tanith Lee (haven’t decided yet)

She passed away recently and a post on bookriot lists 3 books as possible starting points for people who have never read her. And I’m among them but I’ve always been meaning to read her–is what we all say. Don’t know why I kept pushing her books further down my list in favor of other lesser works, but no more. I’m gonna read something by Tanith Lee this summer.

People say she wrote great stories and had a beautiful way with prose.

Though we come and go, and pass into the shadows, where we leave behind us stories told–on paper, on the wings of butterflies, on the wind, on the hearts of others–there we are remembered, there we work magic and great change–passing on the fire like a torch–forever and forever. Till the sky falls, and all things are flawless and need no words at all.

(quote from io9)

Review: Curran POV Collection (Kate Daniels series) by Gordon Andrews

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Rating: ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
Date Read: July 25 to August 8, 2014
Read Count: 1
Recommended by:
Recommended for: fans of Curran (obviously)

The short stories included in this collection are chronological from Magic Bites (#1) to Magic Bleeds (#4). Each scene has a short subtitle describing the event taking place, so as to let you avoid spoilers.

The overall impression I got is too much telling and not enough showing, which is characteristic of Curran’s lion-king personality. ‘Tis the nature of the beast (ha ha). To me though, the writing or rather the world seen through Curran’s eyes isn’t as interesting or nuanced or unpredictable as Kate’s, but what is interesting is seeing “behind the scenes”power struggles unfolding at the Keep, which Kate isn’t privy to. I’d been hoping there would be more stories about life at the Keep, instead many of the stories are about how Curran sees Kate.

I picked up this collection to get a better understanding of the Beast Lord of Atlanta, and while I did get to see another side of him, I also got to see that he truly is full of himself, no surprise there. The first couple of stories really demonstrate the breadth of his ego. However, as far as possessive and insufferable urban fantasy love interests go, he isn’t the worst since he is the way he is because of duty, responsibility, and expectations, and that makes him more sympathetic, I think.

Review: Magic Bites (Kate Daniels #1) by Ilona Andrews

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Date Read: July 22 to 24, 2014
Read Count: 1
Recommended by:
Recommended to: anyone looking for non-PNR urban fantasy

Weird, dark, gory, and dystopic are key descriptions that often promise a good read to me. And weird, dark, gory, and dystopic in urban fantasy is a guilty pleasure. Throw in ancient dark magic, hostile otherworldly creatures, and lots of urban decay and I’m hooked. What Ilona Andrews has done with Magic Bites is tailored it to my unique taste in urban fantasy. So then why only 4 stars? Because there are things about the magical hierarchy and factions of the city that I still don’t understand. For once, a little info-dump would’ve been a welcomed sight. More on this below.

Some time in the distant future, Atlanta has been turned into a decaying playground for various creatures that no longer need to lurk at night. They’re all out in the open now, living somewhat casually among city dwellers. The authorities are aware of them and work with them or, in most cases, around them. The city and surrounding areas sometimes experience these magical surges, not unlike electrical power surges, that affect anything dependent on magic. Of course the creatures are affected, but also technology too because, in this world, machines runs on magic. Magic is as much a part of everyday life as electricity because it generates electricity, I think. So not unlike clean energy lol. (Not much is said about what causes these surges or what really goes on during them.)

Not much is said about the authority or whatever ruling body or bodies overseeing Atlanta either–this is what’s still bothering me. Then in comes Kate Daniels, she of the mysterious powers and lineage, to save the day. By day, she’s a mercenary who works odd jobs to get by, and by night, she kills things with her wicked sharp sword. Instead of joining a police-force-like guild like a skilled practitioner should, she takes on other people’s magical problems for very little pay. Not much is said about why she does this either; only passing hints and excuses are dropped. I expect more will be revealed in later books.

At the start of the book, Kate finds out a loved one has been killed in the job. So she finally agrees to work on the case for the Guild (equivalent to police department), hoping to solve the case as well as his murder, and she does but it takes her right into the heart of an otherworldly power struggle. Moreover due to her unique blood, she finds herself a target of an ancient abomination. But things aren’t always so dark. Along the way, Kate befriends a host of interesting characters that give her grief, like that lion on the cover.

I had a good chuckle when the lion was introduced since I had initially expected it to be some kind of house pet or bodyguard.

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