Review: Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs

Review: Hunting Ground by Patricia BriggsHunting Ground by Patricia Briggs
Series: Alpha & Omega #2
Published by Ace/Roc, Orbit
Pages: 286
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
Add to Goodreads
Rating:
Also in this series: Cry Wolf

Anna Latham didn’t know how complicated life could be until she became a werewolf. And until she was mated to Charles Cornick, the son — and enforcer — of Bran, the leader of the North American werewolves, she didn’t know how dangerous it could be either...

Anna and Charles have just been enlisted to attend a summit to present Bran’s controversial proposition: that the wolves should finally reveal themselves to humans. But the most feared Alpha in Europe is dead set against the plan — and it seems like someone else might be too. When Anna is attacked by vampires using pack magic, the kind of power only werewolves should be able to draw on, Charles and Anna must combine their talents to hunt down whoever is behind it all — or risk losing everything...

Thoughts: How many ways can I say I love Patricia Briggs? No really, give me some suggestions, because I am running out of “I HEART BRIGGS” variations.

Once again, I adored another of Patricia Briggs’ novels. The Mercy Thompson world is such a glorious one, and this second Alpha & Omega book proves that the quality of her spin-off series wasn’t just a one off. Briggs has created something magical with the Alpha & Omega series.

On to the book itself: the first thing that struck me about Hunting Ground was its setting in the universe. It is set around book 3 or 4 of the Mercy Thompson series, and handles an issue mentioned in the Mercy books but not one I had considered requiring its own book. Of course, I was wrong! Because of Charles’ status in his father’s pack, this Alpha & Omega installment gave us a chance to see the wheeling and dealing behind the politics spotted in the Mercy books. I love a good bit of negotiating (especially when it includes bloodshed – see my review of Pride by Rachel Vincent for evidence to that effect).

Anna and Charles’ relationship development was as solid as ever. Considering how little they know each other AND how little we know them (this is only book 2, after all), it’s rather extraordinary how attached they are and how attached I am to them. Of course, this is because Patricia Briggs is excellent at writing real adult relationships, creating complex characters etc. etc. – you’ve heard the pro-Briggs spiel before.

But what truly surprised me about Hunting Ground was the quality of its background characters. Briggs had me in tears over a character I’d met only pages ago. This is horrid, of course, as all of her characters eventually end up going through hell! But still. Her beautiful, wonderful, horrible secondary characters were all deserving of their own spin-off.

Two minor “complaints” that were annoying but did not detract from the quality of the read. These could be considered somewhat spoilery, so tread with caution!:

  • The summary on the back of my edition had major spoilers for the novel. The death it describes takes place more than two-thirds the way through the book. I wrote a whole rant about it here: #PublisherFail Spoiler Summaries
  • I also worked out the identity of the villain rather early on. Since that NEVER happens to me, it must have been rather obvious to other people. That said, the aforementioned summary-from-hell did help rule out some suspects. So… it could have been that?

Bottom line? After reading Hunting Ground, I desperately want to read the next installments in the Mercy and Alpha & Omega series… but I am saving them for my next reading funk. Patricia Briggs can get me out of the most dreadful of reading slumps; she’s that good.

Review: River Marked by Patricia Briggs

Review: River Marked by Patricia BriggsRiver Marked by Patricia Briggs
Series: Mercy Thompson #6
Published by Ace/Roc, Orbit
Pages: 326
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
Add to Goodreads
Rating:
Also in this series: Moon Called, Blood Bound

Being a different breed of shapeshifter - a walker - Mercy Thompson can see ghosts, but the spirit of her long-gone father has never visited her. Until now, on her honeymoon with the Alpha werewolf Adam. An evil is stirring in the depths of the Columbia River-and innocent people are dying. As other walkers make their presence known to Mercy, she must reconnect with her heritage to exorcise the world of the legend known as the river devil...

Thoughts: This book has confirmed what I long thought to be true: Patricia Briggs is incapable of writing books I don’t like.

I was in a real reading slump when I picked up River Marked. Almost every book I picked up left me with a desire to send letter bombs in the mail – and there seemed to be no cure in sight. I thought: “If Briggs can’t get me out of this funk, no one can.” And sure enough, she did.

River Marked was absolutely stellar. It was really different to the previous Mercy books, as Mercy and Adam spent 90% of the time away from home with strangers. I adored this for two reasons: 1) it was a chance for us to see how Mercy and Adam’s relationship would work outside of their comfort zone. 2) it was a completely natural, realistic thing for a couple to do. Too often authors will stick to a particular group of characters or a certain location, because that’s what people want to read. Not Briggs. She’ll take two of your favourite characters, toss them somewhere brand new, and make you love her for it.

That said, though most of the book was spent on the road, Briggs did sneak in a few fan favourites: Bran, Stefan and Jesse all put in some rather solid appearances. Thank God, as I really needed to check in on them after Silver Borne.

So, along with the fantastic exploration of Mercy and Adam’s relationship, River Marked also introduced a bunch of Native American mythology… which I loved. I read stories about Coyote and Raven when I was a girl, so seeing their stories incorporated into River Marked was a dream. Without giving away too many details… I also really liked how Briggs dealt with Mercy’s family history. Maybe other readers will find it a bit iffy, but I thought she handled it all very well.

You can also see the beginnings of a bunch of new plot lines in River Marked; I am positively twitching with impatience with the need to find out what Briggs has planned! I was starting to worry that she was wrapping up the Mercy series, but I can picture at least 5 more books worth of content she can cover after this.

Bottom line? A stellar – albeit, very different – installment in the Mercy series. If you are looking for a UF series that can hold up six books in, look no further.

Cover Note: I’ve used the US cover for this post as I absolutely loathe the new UK covers. The covers are actually what kept me from reading this book for so long – I just couldn’t stand the idea of buying the UK version! Only reason I bought it in the end was because I spotted it at Oxfam. Will need to get the US cover on bookdepository one of these days…

Review: Magic in the Blood by Devon Monk

Review: Magic in the Blood by Devon MonkMagic in the Blood by Devon Monk
Series: Allie Beckstrom #2
Published by Ace/Roc, Berkley UK
Pages: 358
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Received for review from publishers
Add to Goodreads
Rating:
Also in this series: Magic to the Bone

Working as a Hound-tracing illegal spells back to their casters-has taken its toll on Allison Beckstrom. But even though magic has given her migraines and stolen her recent memory, Allie isn't about to quit. Then the police's magic enforcement division asks her to consult on a missing persons case. But what seems to be a straightforward job turns out to be anything but, as Allie finds herself drawn into the underworld of criminals, ghosts, and blood magic.

Thoughts: My memory of the first Allie Beckstorm novel is the following: Allie takes a lot of cabs, forgets things, and is in love with some guy who I wouldn’t know from Adam. The book left me with a shrug and a vague feeling of disappointment. It wasn’t bad – it was actually pretty well written – but it didn’t make me want to run out and get the sequel. So when I received the sequel for review, I waited until my memory of the first book was well-aged so that I could give the series a fresh start. Alas, Magic in the Blood was more of the same.

The Allie Beckstorm series seems to be rather episodic: there’s a crime, someone is called in, it must be sorted out. On top of that, there are a bunch of series arcs that play out: namely, Allie dealing with the aftermath of her father’s death, and her “boyfriend”‘s bizarre magical powers. You’d think that this developed backstory would give depth to the episodic story… but it just made it worse. Because it is hard to care about characters you find illogical, frustrating and underdeveloped.

My primary issues were with Allie’s inability to look after herself and her “boyfriend” Zayvion. Let’s start with Allie: the girl doesn’t have a car and lives in a city without decent public transport. So, she takes cabs. That would be fine if she were living in New York City where there is a cab on every corner, but she’s not. OK, so she can always call a cab, right? Wrong. Apparently cell phones break when she carries them due to… I dunno… magical interference or some such nonsense. Fine. (Except, no, really not fine – I’ve never seen such an obvious plot device in my life.) What all this boils down to is her taking cabs out to meet extremely dangerous people in isolated places without an escape route in place. Which just… NO! How on earth are we supposed to find this believable?

There are other examples I can give – namely, her insistance on using magic for mundane tasks even though she knows she’ll get a horrendous magical “hangover”. It defies logic and frustrates my belief in, well, humanity.

As for Zayvion… well, I’d say “the less time spent on him the better” but that seems to be the attitude the author has taken. It’s been two books and I feel like we know nothing about him. As such, it makes any emotional relationship between him and Allie implausible. Add to that the fact that the few things we did learn about him in the first book Allie has forgotten and suddenly we’re moving into the “that can’t possibly be real” arena.

Now, let me repeat: this series is not bad. Nor is it terribly written (although I did spot some grammatical errors and a few typos in the UK edition, and an overabundance of “Holy Shit”s). But it is episodic and stars characters I either actively dislike or find peskily illogical/stupid. Had the writing not been as solid as it was, this book would have gotten a much lower rating.

Bottom line? This is the NCIS of the Urban Fantasy world. Not bad, but not a series I’ll be continuing.

Review: Succubus Dreams by Richelle Mead

Review: Succubus Dreams by Richelle MeadSuccubus Dreams by Richelle Mead
Series: Georgina Kincaid #3
Published by Bantam Books
Pages: 448
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
Add to Goodreads
Rating:

Some days, a girl just can't catch a break ... especially when the girl in question is Georgina Kincaid, a shape-shifting succubus who gets her energy from seducing men. First there's her relationship with gorgeous bestselling writer Seth Mortensen, which is unsatisfying on a number of levels. It's not just that they can't have sex in case Georgina inadvertently kills him (generally a turn-off for most guys). Lately, even spending time together is a challenge. Seth's obsessed with finishing his latest novel, and Georgina's under demonic orders to mentor the new (and surprisingly inept) succubus on the block.

Then there are the dreams. Someone, or something, is preying on Georgina at night, draining her energy, and supplying eerie visions of her future. Georgina seeks answers from Dante, a dream interpreter with ties to the underworld, but his flirtatious charm only leaves her more confused-especially as the situation with Seth reaches crisis point. Now Georgina faces a double challenge-rein in her out-of-control love life, and go toe-to-toe with an enemy capable of wreaking serious havoc among mankind. Otherwise, Georgina, and the entire mortal world, may never sleep easy again.

Thoughts: SPOILER ALERT I tried writing this review without spoilers but I just really, really need to vent. So, if you haven’t read Succubus Dreams, stop now if you don’t want to be spoiled!

Succubus Dreams ruined any faith I’ve ever had in the Y chromosome. I mean, yes, Georgina isn’t perfect and I sure as hell wouldn’t date her… but Seth was supposed to be the love of her life. He and Georgina were supposed to have this epic romance… instead Seth just tossed it aside without really working at it. While, yes, he made some attempts to speak with Georgina, he never really pushed the issue. Hell, Georgie was willing to make compromises but Seth? No, Seth just stabbed her in the heart. That, my friends, is something no one should be capable of doing.

So fine, he wants to end it. Okay then. But do it without cheating on Georgie with one of her best friends! Dammit. I don’t care if you think that that is the only way to let her down, because it really really shouldn’t be something you should be able to sleep with. Honestly Seth, with boyfriends like you, who needs villainous imps? *stabs*

*breathes* So clearly I am not over this. Even though I knew, before reading the book, that Seth would end up dating whats-her-face, I really didn’t expect it to play out like this. Bastard.

END of spoilers!

Anyhow, despite the above, I did enjoy this book. Georgina starts to make some real growth. She tries to think her emotions through and she seems to be gaining greater understanding of the whole Heaven/Hell debacle. Mead also does a fantastic job foreshadowing upcoming plot lines. While I can’t see where she is going yet, I am really looking forward to seeing how she deals with what she’s already set up.

As usual, every appearance of Carter-the-angel was a joy. I love his character, and I love how Mead has gradually built his role in Georgie’s life. I also really enjoyed the book’s core plot – it gave the novel a Big Bad while also dealing with a bunch of personal issues for the characters.

My only complaint would have to be the R-rated scenes. Ok, yes, this is a book about a sex-demon but… ick. I know these scenes are key to understanding Georgina and her role in the whole good-versus-evil fight but they were just too unsavoury for me.

However, Succubus Dreams established one thing for certain: this series is not about sex. Hell, it’s not even about Georgie’s relationship with Seth. It is about so much more than that – it’s about Georgina and her guilt; it’s about the boundaries between heaven and hell; it’s about the nature and torture that is existence. And that? That’s what is making me stick it out despite the spoilery rant. My hope is that the next book will be even better.

Bottom line? A heart-wrenching installment to a brilliant series. Richelle Mead delivers.

Review: Silver-Tongued Devil by Jaye Wells

Review: Silver-Tongued Devil by Jaye WellsSilver-Tongued Devil by Jaye Wells
Series: Sabina Kane #4
Published by Orbit on January 5th 2012
Pages: 405
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Received for review from publishers
Add to Goodreads
Rating:
Also in this series: Red-Headed Stepchild, The Mage in Black, Green-Eyed Demon

Spoilers for the first 3 books! 

Life is looking up for Sabina Kane. Now that her scheming grandmother is dead, the threat of war has passed and the rulers of the dark races are about to sign a treaty to ensure ongoing peace. Her relationship with sexy mage Adam Lazarus is strong and all her friends are around her. Even her magic training is progressing further than she ever expected. The only two dark spots in her otherwise settled life are her guilt over her sister Maisie's fragile mental state and Sabina's own sinking sense that she's got unfinished business with Cain, the mysterious cult leader she let get away months earlier.

When a string of murders rock the New York dark races community and threatens to stall the peace negotiations, Sabina finds herself helping to find the killer. Her investigation leads her down troubling paths that have her questioning everything - and everyone - she knows. And the closer she gets to the murderer, the more Sabina realises this is one foe she may not able to kill.

Thoughts: Silver-Tongued Devil was brilliant. I expected great things from Jaye Wells, but truth is that Green-Eyed Demon left me wondering where she could go with the series. Everything had ended so happily that I couldn’t really work out why Wells needed two more books.

The reason? Because there is no such thing as a happy ending, not even in fiction! In real life, people don’t just go from being a ruthless assassin for 50 years to being a warm-hearted softie overnight. And in real life, love and friendship aren’t the only ingredients to lasting relationships. So while Sabina might want to ride into the sunset, that wasn’t going to happen any time soon. And to honest, I am so very grateful for that!

Let’s start with Sabina. She’s one of my favourite characters in fiction, she is a take-no-prisoners woman who has a panache for violence. It’s fabulous and depressing at the same time. But in the third book in the series, it felt like she was trying to be someone she wasn’t. Luckily, that attempt is dealt with head-on in Silver-Tongued Devil. Not only did she deal with her own demons, she dealt with the way people around her were treating her too. *cough* Adam. *cough*

And while all the inter-character relationships were fantastically done, it was the gargantuan plot twists that made this book stand out. Jaye Wells is not afraid to “go there”. She made some pretty big revaluations in this book and made her characters suffer through pretty horrific consequences because of them. What was especially gratifying was the way the plot built on existing scenes – Wells has been laying the groundwork for the events of Silver-Tongued Devil over the entire series. Now that? That’s a real writer.

While the first half of the book was good, the second half was fantastic. The pace and the plot just grew more and more intriguing with each page – I found myself thinking about the book whenever I’d put it down. This book made going about my day a very frustrating venture, as all I wanted to do was read!! The only reason it isn’t getting 5 stars? Well, it’s not quite as funny as its predecessors. Other than that, it was perfection.

Bottom line? Silver-Tongued Devil was everything I didn’t even know I wanted. It was a gripping installment to an already brilliant series. Go forth and read it!

Page 2 of 812345...Last »