Review: Friday Night Bites by Chloe Neill

Review: Friday Night Bites by Chloe NeillFriday Night Bites by Chloe Neill
Series: Chicagoland Vampires #2
Published by Gollancz
Pages: 357
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Ten months after vampires revealed their existence to the mortals of Chicago, they're enjoying a celebrity status usually reserved for the Hollywood elite. But should people learn about the Raves-mass feeding parties where vampires round up humans like cattle-the citizens will start sharpening their stakes.

So now it's up to the new vampire Merit to reconnect with her upper class family and act as liaison between humans and bloodsuckers, and keep the more unsavory aspects of the vampire lifestyle out of the media. But someone doesn't want peace between them-someone with an ancient grudge...

Thoughts: That I love Chloe Neill is not much of a secret.  Her YA debut Firespell made my Top Ten of 2010, and the first in her UF series, Some Girls Bite, made me long for Merit’s BFF and her asshole-Mr. Darcy.  Friday Night Bites is a solid sequel to the aforementioned UF book, but not as good as her other works.

Friday Night Bites really deals with Merit accepting her new position in the vampiric world – she makes decisions based on what the responsible vampire action would be and it’s all very grown-up.  But Merit starts to change in this book, and while it is not a bad change, we start to worry (and as does she) that she might lose herself to her new job.  As someone who does that all the time, that really struck a chord with me.  When does the responsible move become the move that suppresses your true nature? Great stuff.

I also liked how Merit’s relationships developed in this book – some for better, some for worse.  It wasn’t what had changed that I liked, but how Neill went about the change.  We all lose touch with people we love and we all find unexpected relationships.  There doesn’t have to be a death or a betrayal to spark a dramatic change… time does that all on its own.

Unfortunately the action left quite a bit to be desired.  Even though I have never read Neill for her action-packed baddies, in Friday Night Bites she dropped the ball. The evil!plot was rather coincidental, and a few of the non-central characters behaved like plot devices.  I know it’s hard for series writers to come up with Big. Events. for every book, but this one was particularly poor.  I really wish I could give more explicit details – because there are a couple that made me really roll my eyes – but I don’t want to spoil all of you who are expecting fab stuff.

Bottom line?  Fabulous writer, great characters, great series – but just an OK novel.  I am hoping for bigger and better things from Neill in her next books!

Review: A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin

Review: A Madness of Angels by Kate GriffinA Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin
Series: Matthew Swift #1
Published by Orbit on April 6th 2009
Pages: 464
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Two years after his untimely death, Matthew Swift finds himself breathing once again, lying in bed in his London home.
Except that it's no longer his bed, or his home. And the last time this sorcerer was seen alive, an unknown assailant had gouged a hole so deep in his chest that his death was irrefutable...despite his body never being found.

He doesn't have long to mull over his resurrection, though, or the changes that have been wrought upon him. His only concern now is vengeance. Vengeance upon his monstrous killer and vengeance upon the one who brought him back.

Thoughts:  I really wish I could write a 5 star review for this book. Honest to God, A Madness of Angels has one of the most creative, mind-blowing universes I’ve ever read – filled with monsters and magic that are unfamiliar yet instantly recognisable. Yet, its’ length and dense writing made A Madness of Angels a difficult book to finish. Even though I loved it, I could only read 4-5 pages at a time – it took me 4 months to finish! There is just so much to absorb in every line, and there are many many many lines.

Griffin created a lead character with a hell of a wit.  Matthew Swift is king of the one-liners. Even though I never became emotionally invested in any of the characters, I truly enjoyed their banter. I was constantly jotting down lines to remember and reuse!  Speaking of which:

“Oh Matthew.  How did things ever come to this?”
“You know,” I replied.  “I’m only two restraints, a cramp and a cocktail of drugs away from shrugging contemptuously in answer to that one.”

What impressed me the most was the way Griffin wrote about London.  Griffin understands London in a way that few do: the social structures, the transport system, the bizarre Londonite habits, the cities-within-the-city. And she takes “urban magic” into every inch of London – from Oyster cards to Muswell Hill, even the smallest urban habit makes up the magic of London. It’s fan-bloody-tastic. I picked this book up right when I moved away from the city, and every paragraph was like a trip home.  Griffin set battle scenes in streets, restaurants and tube stations I knew backwards – it will be hard for me to go back without seeing Griffin’s urban magic in the air.  If you want to know London – and it’s unique brand of magic – this is the book for you.

But as I mentioned, the characters in A Madness of Angels were rather… unfulfilling.  I never particularly cared whether anyone lived or died, I never particularly hated the “villians”, and I never really bonded with any of the “heros”.  You don’t have to like characters in order to enjoy a book, but they do need to strike some sort of emotion within you…. even if it is utter loathing!  I never got there with A Madness of Angels, and it made the numerous climatic scenes rather anti-climatic.

Bottom line? Griffin puts the urban into urban fantasy. A Madness of Angels has the most imaginative writing/setting/characters I have read in a long time – although it’s not the most emotionally engaging work out there. This book is a masterwork – and as dense as an epic too.

Review: The Mage in Black by Jaye Wells

Review: The Mage in Black by Jaye WellsThe Mage in Black by Jaye Wells
Series: Sabina Kane #2
Published by Orbit
Pages: 326
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Red-Headed Stepchild, Green-Eyed Demon, Silver-Tongued Devil

Sabina Kane doesn't have the best track record when it comes to family. After all, her own grandmother, leader of the vampire race, wants her dead.
So when she arrives in New York to meet her mage relatives, the reunion puts the fun in dysfunctional. Not only is mage culture completely bizarre, but everyone seems to think she's some kind of 'Chosen' who'll unite the dark races.

Sabina doesn't care who chose her, she's not into destiny. But the mages aren't Sabina's only problem. In New York's Black Light District, she has run-ins with fighting demons, hostile werewolves and an opportunistic old flame. Sabina thought she'd take a bite out of the Big Apple – but it looks like it wants to bite back.

Thoughts: I absolutely adore Jaye Wells.  Her writing, her characters, her blog – everything.  She writes snarky-but-serious urban fantasy that is violent but amusing.  It is a flawless combination that can hook even the most skeptical of UF fans. Honest to God, if I could only read one urban fantasy author for the rest of my life – it would be this one.

Mage in Black picks up right where Red-Headed Stepchild left off. Wells introduces a dozen new characters within the first few chapters – including Sabina’s long-lost twin and her vampire ex.  Both of these characters has serious potential to make me hate them – I mean, really, how could I like a competitor for Sabina’s attention when she has the sexy hexy Adam after her?

That I loved both of these so-easy-to-hate characters?  Friggin’ awesome.  Her sister is adorable and her ex is – frankly – swoonable. (despite being slightly sociopathic – but hey, on Slade it was hot).

Everything I loved about RHSC was in this book – especially the humour!  Demon/Cat!Giguhl is back in action – complete with inappropriately violent funnies (Rule #1! You do not talk about Demon Fight Club!).  There is also a ton of Sabina Kane character development.  She is still the gritty, distrusting and jaded Sabina from RHSC – the words “emotionally traumatised” have nothing on this girl.  But she is fundamentally good – or, well, at least not-evil – and watching her start to get that was amazing to read.  I am relatively certain that one day she will have a rock-solid moral code.

Until then, this is the Sabina we get to enjoy:

“Believe it or not, there are plenty of ways to satisfy your need for blood without harming anyone.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, but where’s the fun in that?”
– Chapter 6, The Mage in Black

One of the things I love about Wells’ writing is that the humour is just so natural.  It doesn’t feel like she is trying to write a “funny” book – instead, she’s writing a book with funny characters.  That’s how the series manages to remain an oh-so-serious!UF/Horror novel and not a chick-lit paranormal comedy.  Wells can make you want to cry and then have you in hysterics a few pages later.

Even though I gave RHSC 5 stars, I’d say this book is even better than the first.  5.5 stars, if you will.  Ok, there’s not as much Adam (*woe is me*), but the villain was 100x more badass and Sabina’s character development goes into the sky-high levels of awesome.

Bottom line? The Mage in Black is gritty, bloody, painfully tragic, kick-ass and hystericalGO BUY IT.  And then lament the fact that the third book in the series, Green-Eyed Demon, doesn’t come out til March 2011.

Give this book to a boy!  If you are looking for male-friendly UF, try Jaye Wells on an unsuspecting guy.  Unlike a lot of UF out there, Sabina has no one-twu-wuv waiting at home.  And no one could claim Sabina was at all “girly” about her feelings.

At least, not without getting their ass kicked.

Review: Ill Wind by Rachel Caine

Review: Ill Wind by Rachel CaineIll Wind by Rachel Caine
Series: Weather Warden #1
Published by Allison & Busby
Pages: 337
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Heat Stroke

Joanne Baldwin is a Weather Warden. Usually, all it takes is a wave of her hand to tame the most violent weather. But now, she's trying to outrun another kind of storm: accusations of corruption and murder. So, she's resorting to the very human tactic of running for her life...

Her only hope is Lewis, the most powerful warden known. Unfortunately, he's stolen not one but three bottles of Djinn-making him the most wanted man on earth. Still, she's racing hard to find him-before the bad weather closes in fast.

Thoughts: I am a hardcore, unapologetic Rachel Caine fan. Her Morganville series? Pretty much the most addictive YA series ever written. In short, Rachel Caine = Awesome.

Ill Wind proved to me that Caine’s awesomeness does indeed translate over into adult fiction.  It has plenty of action, fast cars, biblical storms and some brilliantly 3D characters.  Although not as addictive as her Morganville series, I have high hopes for the rest of the Weather Warden books.

Jo is feisty as hell and has no less than three guys after her heart.  She drives a mustang and can start a hurricane – she’s on the lam, but she ain’t no sheep.

One of the things I love about Rachel Caine is her ability to write smart characters who still make plenty of mistakes.  Jo is smart – she has to be.  Because, unlike other superpowers, being a weather warden is not just about having the talent – you have to learn how to use it.  And what does that mean?  Well, it means an awful lot of atmospheric physics!   *swoons*

Despite Jo’s obvious book smarts, she is still fallible.  She makes mistakes and misjudges people – she’s only human!  Unlike a lot of authors, who have the token genius who never makes a mistake, Caine writes realistic smart people.  Just because a character has an IQ of 150 doesn’t mean they have to be boringly predictable – Caine lets her smarties get into trouble.

And go to the beach.

Bottom line?  Ill Wind has it all: action, mystery, romance and rain.  Pick it up if you are looking for some UF without all the traditional baddies.

Review: Rogue by Rachel Vincent

Review: Rogue by Rachel VincentRogue by Rachel Vincent
Series: Shifters #2
Published by MIRA
Pages: 394
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Stray, Pride

Okay, so cats don't always land on their feet.

I know that better than most. Since rejoining the Pride, I ve made big decisions and even bigger mistakes: the kind paid for with innocent lives. As the first and only female enforcer, I have plenty to prove to my father, the Pride, and myself. And with murdered toms turning up in our territory, I m working harder than ever, though I always find the energy for a little after-hours recreation with Marc, my partner both on- and off-duty.

But not all of my mistakes are behind me. We re beginning to suspect that the dead are connected to a rash of missing human women and that they can all be laid at my feet--two or four, take your pick. And one horrible indiscretion may yet cost me more than I can bear...

Thoughts: It’s been over a year since I read the first of Rachel Vincent’s werecat series, but I remember the book as clear as day. The werecats series is probably one of the most inventive UF verses out there – packed with catty violence and some rather terrifying villains. But that’s not why I remember it with such detail – mostly, I just remember hating the hell out of the main character Faythe.

Well, character-wise, Rogue is certainly a huge improvement. Faythe thinks out her actions a bit more than she used to. And although she still manages to grate on my nerves, her gradual transition from a five-year-old into a mature adult is realistic and in character. So, YAY! At this rate, I might actually like her by book five.

But on the other hand, Rogue was a let-down from Stray. One of the reasons I decided to stick with this series was because of the amazing action. Stray is packed with bloody, terrifying scenes described with more finesse than anything I’ve ever read. Rogue, however, was a series of conversations. Sure, important character-driven conversations – but still. Even though a lot was revealed, not all that much happened.

Bottom line? A solid sequel to Stray. If you are looking for kick-ass UF, Vincent’s werecat series has it in spades. But don’t expect to actually like anyone.