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: Killbox by Ann Aguirre

Review: Killbox by Ann AguirreKillbox by Ann Aguirre
Series: Sirantha Jax #4
Published by Ace/Roc
Pages: 353
Genres: Science Fiction
Add to Goodreads
Rating:
Also in this series: Grimspace, Wanderlust, Doubleblind

Sirantha Jax is a “Jumper,” a woman who possesses the unique genetic makeup needed to navigate faster than light ships through grimspace. With no tolerance for political diplomacy, she quits her ambassador post so she can get back to saving the universe the way she does best—by mouthing off and kicking butt.

And her tactics are needed more than ever. Flesh-eating aliens are attacking stations on the outskirts of space, and for many people, the Conglomerate’s forces are arriving too late to serve and protect them.

Now, Jax must take matters into her own hands by recruiting a militia to defend the frontiers—out of the worst criminals, mercenaries, and raiders that ever traveled through grimspace…

Thoughts: Killbox was… different. More than any of the previous books, Killbox was a war book. March, Jax, Vel, Dina, Constance, Doc – hell, everyone – is at war and there is no time for them to sit about thinking about what they want out of life. There’s a galactic threat on the horizon and selfishness is not the word of the day.

In other words, there was a lot of killing, training and marching in uniforms. Great stuff, in the plotty sense, but I felt as though it was a bit rushed. Months would pass in a couple of sentences and, as a result, it seemed as though Jax wasn’t interacting with certain characters. *cough* Vel. *cough* I know it was necessary in order to cover the various plotlines Aguirre had set out, but that didn’t make it all that enjoyable.

Also, I had issue with the Morgot. For the first 3 books, I considered them rather like Reevers (from Firefly) – pure, unadultered evil with no redeemable qualities. But there is one scene in the book that made me pause and consider think: hey, maybe these guys are open to parlay? And then suddenly the scene was over and my idea was never followed up on. Will it be covered in other books? I doubt it… but I hope so. I can handle pure evil, but I am not OK with simple assumptions about a species!

But on to my real issue with Killbox: March. March. God, I remember the days when he and Jax had me in tears – when just the word “March” made me whimper. Now, when I try to access those feelings… I find I have nothing to give. To be honest, I have grown sick of his man-angst. I am sick of his constant, “Oh Jax, I love you! But now I have to leave you as the fate of the world is in my hands (or so I think).” I get that he is a good guy. I get that he is a good soldier. I still care about him, but I really just want to hit him over the head and tell him to get over himself. Because this misery he insists on putting himself through? It is not good for Jax anymore. He isn’t good for Jax anymore.

Vel, on the other hand? He hasn’t wavered. He stayed true to himself and developed as a character – just as March did – and yet he has never abandoned Jax. Aguirre acknowledges this and, yes, she is clearly a fan of the Vel/Jax relationship… and yet there was a terrible lack of Vel in Killbox. Why, Aguirre, why? *sobs silently*

Bottom line? Killbox is the weakest book in the Jax series – although maybe if all the Jax/March misery had been written out of it, I may have enjoyed it more.

Review: Doubleblind by Ann Aguirre

Review: Doubleblind by Ann AguirreDoubleblind by Ann Aguirre
Series: Sirantha Jax #3
Published by Ace/Roc
Pages: 310
Genres: Science Fiction
Source: Purchased myself
Add to Goodreads
Rating:
Also in this series: Grimspace, Wanderlust, Killbox

Sirantha Jax isn’t known for diplomatic finesse. As a “Jumper” who navigates ships through grimspace, she’s used to kicking ass first and taking names later—much later. Not exactly the obvious choice to sell the Conglomerate to the Ithtorians, a people whose opinions of humans are as hard as their exoskeletons.

And Ithiss-Tor council meetings aren’t the only place where Ambassador Jax needs to maneuver carefully. Her lover, March, is frozen in permanent “kill” mode, and his hair-trigger threatens to sabotage the talks—not to mention their relationship.

But Jax won’t give up on the man or the mission. With the Outskirts beleaguered by raiders, pirates, and the flesh-eating Morgut, an alliance with Ithiss-Tor may be humanity’s only hope. Which has Jax wondering why a notorious troublemaker like her was given the job…

Thoughts: There were so many things I loved about Doubleblind, I hardly know where to start. While this was an unmistakably Jax book, it was extremely different Aguirre’s previous books. There was less action and a lot more talking. And while that may sound anticlimactic, it was, if anything, even more nerve-wracking than guns-blazing action. Why, you ask? Because it was all politics – old-school, world-saving negotiations with assassination attempts and violent demonstrations. It was The West Wing on crack in space. It was glorious.

And to top it all off, all this glorious political action took place on Ithiss-Tor. When I first read Grimspace, I was rather floored by the entire book… but Vel just knocked my socks off. He only appears in the last, say, 50(?) pages of the book and in that time became one of my very favourite characters. So getting to visit the home-world he left behind? Well, nothing could have made me happier.

In Doubleblind, Aguirre reveals a lot about the Ithiss-Tor, Ithorian culture, and – best of all – Vel’s past. If I hadn’t loved Vel before, Doubleblind would have sealed the deal. He is such a noble, loyal, brilliant individual – and his relationship with Jax is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. He cares about her so deeply, in a way that completely defies traditional values. He’s an alien – an insect-like, long-living, practically Vulcan alien. And yet, I adore him. You will too.

Doubleblind also includes an extremely traumatised March. This is not at all the man we met in Grimspace: he’s senselessly violent and pretty much soulless. Aguirre handled his changed interaction with Jax spectacularly – although, I admit, my attachment to the two of them together began to wane in this book… I’ll just leave it at that.

Bottom line? Best book since Grimspace. Pick up this series if you love 3D characters and complex plots.

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: Matched by Ally Condie

Review: Matched by Ally CondieMatched by Ally Condie
Series: Matched #1
Published by Razorbill
Pages: 366
Genres: Dystopian YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
Add to Goodreads
Rating:

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate... until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

Thoughts: Matched is one of those books suffering from so-much-hype-I-don’t-want-to-read-it syndrome. Every blogger out there has raved about the book, and as a result it took me a year to pick it up. Call it reverse psychology or whatever. But with the release of the sequel Crossed coming up, I knew I had to give Matched a shot. And – surprisingly – it lived up to the hype!

At its core, Matched is a romance novel. But like all good romantic stories, it is about so much more than just the romance. Its main message is an age-old one: Do not go gentle into that good night. The protagonist, Cassia, goes from being a girl who embraces the status quo to being a girl who refuses to give in. It is quite a dramatic change and the cause of the change is not just her newfound romance. There is a loss in her family, she has the things most precious to her taken away, and there are threats made against her two lovely parents. And, above all, there is the poetry. The beautiful, illegal poetry that tell her to not go gentle. It’s a message that resounded with me, and I think will certainly speak to teens.

Moving on to the characters – I can wholeheartedly say that I enjoyed them all. Both love interests were fantastic (a real coup for a teen novel). They were gentle, kind, and smart – they didn’t necessarily make you swoon, but they did fill me with the overwhelming urge to keep them safe. Safe, you ask? Well, while Matched is a very sedate dystopian novel (there aren’t people running about with guns and cattle prods), there is a danger present in the book that was just a scary as actual violence. The Society expressed their power subtly, by reducing your food portions or cutting down your trees. It wasn’t overt but it was constant. The effect was extremely unnerving.

I also enjoyed the integral role Cassia’s family played in the novel. Her parents were wonderful, supportive people, and her relationship with them was one of the healthiest I have ever seen in a YA novel. It was refreshing to read – especially since most teenagers actually do have good relationships with their parents!

My only complaint would be Cassia. While I didn’t dislike her, I found her to be rather bland. Every other character I felt something for, but Cassia felt like a blank slate for the reader to place themselves into the novel. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it kept me from truly connecting with the novel. Shame.

Bottom line? Matched was an extremely enjoyable dystopian novel. It’s the perfect book for people who wanted more romance in their Hunger Games!

Page 3 of 812345...Last »