Mini-Reviews: Alpha Night by Nalini Singh and Catalina Baylor #1 and #2 by Ilona Andrews

Alpha Night (Psy-Changeling #19) by Nalini Singh

Published by Orion, June 11th 2020

There was very little chance of me not enjoying this book – therefore it feels necessary to begin this review with a disclaimer. I have read more than 20 books by Nalini Singh in about 18 months, I love what she does with her world building and I nearly always adore the couple she centers in each of these books. I am in no way impartial. But, if like me you enjoy these books (or if you like romance and interesting sci-fi-esque fantasy worlds and haven’t read any of her books, I really recommend you remedy that!), you will be pleased to hear that her latest (the 19th full-length novel in her Psy-Changeling universe) is as great as we all hoped.

Singh explores a new dynamic here with a mating at first sight and while this for sure is not my favourite trope, I thought she pulled it off. Ethan and Selenka are an interesting and believable couple and I bought into their relationship immediately. They are, however, not my favourite and I enjoyed the parts concerned with the larger political developments more. I am very excited to see where Singh takes the story next as this book indicates some far-reaching changes. I have said so before but it is worth saying it again: if this series wasn’t primarily romance focussed, Singh would be one of the authors always recommended when impeccable world-building is discussed.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Catalina Baylor Trilogy (Hidden Legacy #3.5, #4, #5) by Ilona Andrews

I am upset. And I only have myself to blame.

I managed to hold of reading the first two books until the week the second full novel in the continuation of the brilliant Hidden Legacy series released and then I basically inhaled them. I obviously love this but you know what I do not love? The absolutely brutal cliffhanger and the fact that I now have to wait until at least 2021 to find out how this is going to be resolved.

I always love Ilona Andrews’ particular mix of kickass women, snark, great world building, and incredibly binge-able writing style. I thought Catalina was an incredible new main character and I love her. I love the family dynamics as much as I always did, I love her power and the way in which her modus operandi differs from her older sister. I did not love Alessandro as much as I loved Mad Rogan but he did grow on me. The world is as impeccable as ever and I can always trust that the Andrews’ have a plan.

Mini-Reviews: First books in SFF romance series

I am very good at starting series and not so good at finishing them. This means that I have started four new SFF romance series in the last two months that I can now write mini reviews for but have not read a single sequel yet. I am, however, planning on continuing will all the series because I did like each first book enough to want to see where the story goes next.

Tempting Danger (World of the Lupi #1) by Eileen Wilks

81617This book is more on the urban fantasy than paranormal romance spectrum but what we get of the couple really worked for me. Lily Yu is a police detective investigating a murder, Rule Turner is one of the suspects – this is, admittedly, a fairly common storyline for UF, but I really enjoyed the world and most importantly Lily Yu who is prickly and clever and just kickass. The “mating” angle is approached with about as much horror by Yu as I would approach it and I appreciated that – and I appreciated that Turner gives her as much room to come to terms with what this mating means for her as he can give her.

3 out of 5 stars

Polaris Rising (Consortium Rebellion #1) by Jessie Mihalik

45030061._sy475_The strongest part of this space opera kind of romance is the chemistry between the two main characters. The world building is nothing super spectacular but exciting enough for me to want to keep reading, my usual problems with scifi were not as strong, and Ada  is a kickass space princess. She is my favourite kind of heroine: seriously kickass, snarky, but also vulnerable. I appreciated the emphasis on consent and the way the relationship developed – and that these two difficul people at least tried to communicate with each other. The narrative voice did not always work for me (probably because I could not help compare it to Kate Daniels’ voice in Ilona Andrews’ series) but I am excited to see where the story goes next.

3 out of 5 stars

Dragon Bound (Elder Races #1) by Thea Harrison

40385273._sy475_This one is pure and simple popcorn paranormal romance and I had so much fun reading it. I liked the world with its many warring factions and different kind of mythical creatures enough to overlook a lot of what was trope-y here – and if the ending had not pivoted to one of my all-time least favourite plotpoints, my overall rating would have been higher. I enjoyed the “fated mates” romance angle and liked that Dragos really tries to treat Pia the best possible way and to learn from his mistakes. As always, I like how kickass Pia is once she stops hiding from what she is, I am easily pleased like that.

3.5 out of 5 stars

A Heart of Blood and Ashes (A Gathering of Dragons #1) by Milla Vane

46021762._sy475_The dark, angsty, brutal fantasy romance of my dreams. While Maddek is often kind of awful, he does admit when he is wrong and gives good grovel, but the star of the show is definitely Yvenne, an unlikely warrior-queen who just kicks ass in all the ways I adore while being different from the usual heroines. The world-building is impeccable and always congruent with the character development in a way that I really appreciated. The language is interesting and kind of old-timey in a way that just completely worked for me. I cannot wait for the next book in the series to come out.

Content warning: rape (world building), torture, gore, forced abortion, dismemberment, abuse, so much blood

4 out of 5 stars

I read the first seven books in Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series in three weeks, so here they are ranked instead of reviewed.

If you follow me on Twitter you know that I am currently having a bit of a PhD melt-down. I have calmed down a bit and made around a million to do lists and now feel like I can actually write a blog post. I am ridiculously stressed about my thesis and whenever I am that way, I escape into reading (mostly predictable books that don’t stress me out further) – which is why I read the first seven books in the Psy-Changeling since the beginning of the year and have not been writing reviews for any. In general, blogging will probably be something I will have to scale back on because I want to finish my PhD this year and I won’t have the mental capacities to write about all the books I read for fun. Continue reading “I read the first seven books in Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series in three weeks, so here they are ranked instead of reviewed.”

Review: Lies Sleeping (Rivers of London #7) by Ben Aaronovitch

36534574Verdict: Great, as always

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Published by Gollancz, November 2018

Find it on Goodreads.

The seventh book of the bestselling Rivers of London urban fantasy series returns to the adventures of Peter Grant, detective and apprentice wizard, as he solves magical crimes in the city of London.

Martin Chorley, aka the Faceless Man, wanted for multiple counts of murder, fraud, and crimes against humanity, has been unmasked and is on the run. Peter Grant, Detective Constable and apprentice wizard, now plays a key role in an unprecedented joint operation to bring Chorley to justice.

But even as the unwieldy might of the Metropolitan Police bears down on its foe, Peter uncovers clues that Chorley, far from being finished, is executing the final stages of a long term plan. A plan that has its roots in London’s two thousand bloody years of history, and could literally bring the city to its knees.

To save his beloved city Peter’s going to need help from his former best friend and colleague–Lesley May–who brutally betrayed him and everything he thought she believed in. And, far worse, he might even have to come to terms with the malevolent supernatural killer and agent of chaos known as Mr Punch….

This is one of my all-time favourite series – and this installment was eagerly awaited and did not disappoint, as usual. There is just something charming and compulsive about this series that makes me very happy.

I won’t write about the plot so much, because doing so invariably would spoil the books that came before (and what twists and turns there were) except to say that I found the way the story went and how some parts wrapped up highly satisfying. I know that there is a novella coming out in a few months (I am so glad!) but except for that I do not know where the story will go next – but wherever it is, I am sure I will be reading it.

The best part, as always, is Peter’s wonderful narration, this time aided by the absolutely brilliant Kobna Holdbrook-Smith who narrates the audiobook to perfection. I felt a bit spoiled, having pre-ordered the paperback and then buying the audiobook but it was definitely worth it. Peter’s tone and his sense of humour are as brilliant as ever – but what I appreciate most is that he is a genuinely good person, always striving to be better. This is something I am always looking forward to in my reading, especially in a genre saturated by anti-heroes, and something I needed at the end of the long year that was 2018.

There were some genuinely heartbreaking and heartwarming scenes in this book (the dancing! It made me teary eyed) and the ending was so very wonderful – I cannot wait for my partner to read this book so that I can squeal at him.

If you like Urban Fantasy and haven’t checked this out, I highly recommend you do – I love Ben Aaronovitch’s mix of police procedural and highly inventive fantasy, his characters are wonderfully drawn and realistically diverse (it is set in present-day London after all), and his storylines (especially the overarching ones) are exciting and well-thought-out.

 

Series-Review: Kate Daniels #6 – #10 by Ilona Andrews

I am usually not good at finishing series – but this one I could not leave alone. I had a rather longer break between the ninth and the tenth book because I wanted to read the spin-off book inbetween but was not all that excited about reading about Hugh d’Ambray. And then I did not want this series to end.

While I think that the first five books were overall stronger, I still enjoyed the second half of the series a whole lot. Ilona Andrews really are one of the high points of my reading year. (I did also read their Hidden Legacy series before finishing this one.) I don’t feel like I can write proper (or even mini-) reviews for this second half of the series as I mostly sped through the books. Also reviews would need to be spoilery and I don’t want to do that. So what I will do is tell you the ratings I gave the books and then gush about what I loved in the series as a whole.

Continue reading “Series-Review: Kate Daniels #6 – #10 by Ilona Andrews”

Recommendations: Adult Fantasy

I have seen a discussion floating around Twitter about that period between being a teenager and being an adult and the difficulty some people face in finding books that speak to them. I have talked about memoirs in this context before as I find that they are a brilliant way of finding books that talk about exactly these experiences. Rachel has also written a brilliant post recommending adult books for young adults, which you should absolutely check out. But today I want to recommend some Adult Fantasy – because there are so many great books in that section that people maybe ignore. I personally have been struggling with YA fantasy because the focus on love stories is just not something I am super interested in, and have been mostly reading adult fantasy.

I also have thoughts about whose books get classified as YA. Hint: Not those written by men. Coming-of-age stories are a staple in adult fantasy, be it Lord of the Rings or The Name of the Wind. But nobody calls these books YA. But when a young woman writes fantasy suddenly people insist on calling it YA. Case in point: R. F. Kuang’s The Poppy War, which is decidedly NOT YA and super gruesome in parts. The author received some weird backlash when she insisted that her book really, really, really is not YA and should be treated as such. So I would politely ask everybody to think about their assumptions when it comes to placing books in the YA section in their heads.

Urban Fantasy:

The Rivers of London Series by Ben Aaronovitch

9317452I love this series with all my heart. The main character is in his mid-twenties and working as a police man when he stumbles upon the supernatural underbelly of contemporary London. The books are hilarious and self-aware, the cast of characters is diverse and wonderfully drawn, and reading these books just makes me happy. The seventh book is due to come out this month and I cannot wait to hold it in my hands.

The Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews

7940930I went through a ridiculous binge of these books earlier this year and only have the last book in the series left to read. Kate is a wonderful protagonist who I am always rooting for. She is in her early twenties when the series begins and working as a private investigator, trying to just live her life and not get emotionally involved with anybody. I have rarely been as invested in a relationship as I am in hers and Curran (even if he is a bit of an ass sometimes) and love the strong emphasis on friendship these books have at their core. I have also recently read another series by Ilona Andrews which I also whole-heartedly recommend.

High Fantasy:

The Broken Earth trilogy by N. K. Jemisin

19161852I adore this. I don’t even have all that many words to describe how utterly perfect I think this series is. N. K. Jemisin might be my all-time favourite author and I am dragging my feet to read the last of her series that I haven’t read yet because then I would have to wait for new books to appear. The first book is told from three perspectives following three women of different ages and their struggles. It grapples with growing up and family and racism and the end of the world. The themes of family at the core of this series really broke my heart.

The Divine Cities trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett

25452717The protagonists of this series are on the older end – and I absolutely loved this. They still are looking for their place in the world and they try to be good people (and sometimes fail at this).The characters rebel against their families’ expectations in a way that I found highly relatable. Bennett’s language is assured, his characterization on point, and his world-building intricate.

Standalones:

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

27313170Sitting just at the edge between fantasy and science fiction, this is basically a coming-of-age story, focussing on the friendship between a witch and a scientist. There are strong themes of family and friendship, on doing the right thing as opposed to the easy thing, and of identity and self. The characters in this book are different and wonderful. Anders’ imagination is dazzling and I cannot wait for her new book coming out in January 2019.

Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore

33571217Milo is an old soul, literally – he has lived 9995 lives so far and has yet to achieve perfection. In fact he isn’t even sure he wants to achieve perfection as he is in love with Death (or rather a Death – Suzie). This has to change when he is informed that every soul has in fact only 10000 lives to get it right or it will be erased. This a book, at its core, about finding your place in the world and about being the best person you can be. And I can think of few things more relevant to me.

What are your favourite adult fantasy novels that might be interesting to people trying to find their way into the genre?

Series-Review: Hidden Legacy (Nevada Baylor Trilogy) by Ilona Andrews

This year really is the year for Ilona Andrews books for me. I speed-read this trilogy within 48 hours and loved every second of it, I mean, except for those godawful covers (seriously, why do the covers have to be so bad?!). I just love the way the Andrews tell their stories, I adore how they create their worlds that feel lived in and plausible (within the parameters of the story), and I might try and read all their other books before the end of the year.

As this is a series review I cannot promise to avoid spoilers, so beware if you plan on reading this.

Burn for Me

I needed something fast paced and fun and have been relying on the Andrews to deliver just this. I adore the world they have created here: some time in the last two hundred years a serum was discovered that led to people developing magic powers. As these powers are genetic, Houses with specific powers have emerged and changed human society in lots of different ways, subtly and overt. Nevada Baylor is the head of a family led PI firm and gets drawn into house politics in general and Mad Rogan’s world in specific. I adore female PIs in urban fantasy and Nevada is just a wonderful character overall. I like that she has a loving and stable family, I found her strength wonderful, especially because she isn’t prickly, she is just no non-sense. And the male love interest did not make me want to claw my eyes out. I had so much fun here.

4 out of 5 stars

White Hot

Set soon after the events of the first book, the mystery around the conspiracy deepens, when Nevada is hired to find the killers of Cornelius Harrison’s wife. Again, she butts heads with Rogan, and again she is in over her head. But she is still wonderfully strong and principled and Rogan starts developing a proper personality. I adored this so very much. I sped through it in record time and I am just so very invested in their relationship. This is a big strength of Ilona Andrews’ books: the love story at the core is always one I root for to no end and this one is my favourite so far. While I think Kate Daniels (from the other series I binge-read this year) is the better character with the overall more compelling arc, I found Curran often a bit unbearable. Rogan on the other hand really worked for me: yes, he can be difficult but he really tries to be a better person for Nevada.

4,5 out of 5 stars

Wild Fire

When I started this book, I was already on a bit of a high – and I adored this so much as well. I like how Nevada always tries to be the best person she can and how she trusts the people in her life to know what they are doing. I like how her relationship to Rogan is, if not completely without its jealousy, ultimately one of deep trust. For me, my favourite part of this book was the family dynamic at its core. I spent many a page cheering this wonderful family on and their banter made me snicker. I am very excited to read the next trilogy in this series and to know where everything goes next. I also have a theory about the cliffhanger at the end that I am hoping to be correct about. Because I would love this.

4 out of 5 stars

 

Series Review: Kate Daniels #1 – #5 by Ilona Andrews

I cannot remember the last time I binge-read a series in the way I am binge-reading the Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews. I started with the first book a few weeks ago and as of now have read the first eight books and am only holding off reading the ninth book so that I won’t have to wait too long before the finale.

When I finished Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse last month, I felt the overwhelming need to read some more Urban Fantasy – but it is a genre I have been struggling with (sometimes – or actually quite often I find the love interest to be unbearable). I knew I wanted something with a female protagonist and a series that is quite advanced in case I wanted to keep reading. The Kate Daniels series fit the bill – plus it comes highly recommend by quite a few people whose tastes align with mine.

I sped through the series too much to be able to write proper reviews for the books, so here are my mini-reviews for the first five books.

Book 1: Magic Bites

7940930I had a whole lot of fun reading this – it is not a perfect book but it made me want to keep reading – and I am chronically bad at continuing with series, so this in itself means something.

Kate is a brilliant protagonist and her inner monologue is the perfect combination of kickass and lonely. I love how strong she is and that she can kick ass while still staying human and vulnerable. I also love her snarky one-liners (what can I say, I am a huge Buffy fan). The world building is the biggest strength of this otherwise uneven book; the idea of technology and magic coming and going in waves just adds something to the genre that I never knew I needed. I love how the Andrews explored this new world and how you get the impression that there is so much more to discover. Curran is ok as well I guess – he is fairly stereotypical but at least he is not a total ass (my expectations for male love interests in UF are really low…). In general though, I prefer most of the side cast to him.

3 out of 5 stars

Book 2: Magic Burns

8166133… And I am in love. This book was better than the first. Kate is still the best, her snarky one-liners are on point, but she also tries to just be a good person and I love that in books. She is not perfect but damn close to it and she is self-aware enough to know her limitations. I LOVE her evolving friendships with Derek and Andrea and I adore how she just takes on Julie. The world building is still impressive and I love how we are slowly told about Kate’s origins and what that might mean. Also, I am a huge fan of overpowered heroines, so the final showdown was right up my alley.

4 out of 5 stars

Book 3: Magic Strikes

11055258This might be my favourite of the eight books I have read so far. The plot is perfectly done, the world building is awesome as ever, we see Kate not only kicking butt but also using what she has learned for her advantage (that smackdown she delivers on Jim was SO satisfying to read) and I think I am finally on board with Curran. The slow burn of their relationship really works for me and while I do think that he can be an ass, he at least tries. I still love Kate’s relationships with her friends more: Andrea is brilliant, Derek breaks my heart, and Raphael is way too funny.

4,5 out of 5 stars

Book 4: Magic Bleeds

6479550Be still my shipper heart. I am so involved. The advantage of series is that you spend so much time with the people in it that you become so very involved – and the Andrews do this so very skillfully. Because I have already spent pages upon pages in Kate’s head, the first chapter broke my heart so thoroughly that I then just needed to keep reading until the very wee hours of the morning. While I am usually not that much of a fan of the angst that can come with relationship focused books, here I just lived for it. I did not quite recognize myself, but man, did I LOVE this reading experience.

I don’t think this book is quite as well constructed as the third one, and I do think those two idiots should have just used their words instead of assuming the worst of each other (to be fair, that is in line with their characterization and their backstory), I cannot remember the last time a book made me feel this many feelings. I don’t think I can be objective about this series anymore.

4,5 out of 5 stars

Book 5: Magic Slays

11055258After the relationship rollercoaster that was the fourth book, this one feels closer in tone to the earlier books. Kate is back at kicking ass with her own private investigation firm, or she would be if any customers would appear. So she jumps at the chance to take a case from Rene (one of the Red Guards from book 3), even if she maybe bit of more than she can chew. I love how this book focusses on Kate’s friendship with Andrea, who might just be my favourite side character (or maybe Barabas is? I don’t know, I love the character cast a whole lot). Curran is a bit of an ass this book and I do not know how Kate deals with him. But then again, she does not have a point of reference with regards to what a normal relationship is.

The pacing here is a bit uneven, but I forgive this for the seriously amazing antagonists. They feel different to the antagonists in the earlier books in a way that I thought opened up the world building even more.

4 out of 5 stars

 

Review: Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse

36373298Verdict: Amazing worldbuilding and seriously addictive writing.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy, I guess?

Published by Saga Press, June 26th 2018

Find it on Goodreads.

While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.

Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine.

Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel to the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.

As Maggie discovers the truth behind the disappearances, she will have to confront her past—if she wants to survive.

Welcome to the Sixth World.

I have been excited for this book ever since I found about it – and it did not disappoint me at all. Rebecca Roanhorse has created a seriously cool, very much needed different Urban Fantasy here that makes me very excited for what is to come.

Living in a post-apocalyptic Dinétah (formerly the Navajo Reservation) where gods and demons walk the world, Maggie is a grim, lonely, super strong woman. She is a monster hunter with not much to live for, she is snarky and broken, and while I found her fairly stereotypical for the genre I also found her believable and for the most part easy to root for, which is pretty much all I ask for in my UF.

The pacing is breakneck with never a slow moment and I pretty much inhaled the book whole. But, and this is, if I am being honest, a quite big negative, I did not get along all that well with the plot, I found it in places difficult to follow, I thought the characters often were sent from A to B without it being quite clear why that was. (also, if anybody has read this, can we please talk about that ending?!)

The strongest part for me was, hands-down, the worldbuilding. It is brilliantly done, nicely woven and most of all just so very different to what I usually see. Every scene is done vividly, set in a nearly cinematic manner. The language works also really well to convey as sense of place. It is on the strength of that wonderful world that I cannot wait for the next book in the series – which will be released in about a year’s time.