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Review: This Case Is Gonna Kill Me by Phillipa Bornikova

This Case Is Gonna Kill MeThis Case Is Gonna Kill Me by Philli­pa Bornikova
My rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars

This book was an unex­pect­ed delight. Lawyers? Meh. Even lawyers with para­nor­mal spice. 

But Lin­net Ellery is no ordi­nary lawyer, even for a young lawyer in a White Fang law firm. She has no end of back­bone and smarts, not to men­tion luck — or should I say Luck? Because for­tune swirls around her like nobody else, mak­ing her a nexus of events and a lit­tle too con­spic­u­ous for her very dis­creet employers. 

That’s not to say that she doesn’t make her share of mis­takes — that wouldn’t be any fun, now would it? She sur­vives and learns from them, then helps oth­ers avoid the same. 

Liv­ing in a world of vam­pires, were­wolves, and Alfar (elves) might be intim­i­dat­ing to most humans, espe­cial­ly when those beings (Pow­ers) are essen­tial­ly in charge. Lin­net doesn’t let them intim­i­date her. She uses her con­tacts and plays to her strengths, win­ning more and more sig­nif­i­cant bat­tles every time she goes to bat. 

Borniko­va sets things up very nice­ly for a sequel, and I am per­son­al­ly hun­gry to read more. I strong­ly sug­gest this book to any­one who enjoys para­nor­mals, urban fan­ta­sy, or sim­ply good, humor­ous fic­tion with a dol­lop of sus­pense and a strong heroine.

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Review: Face Off by Mark del Franco

Face Off (Laura Blackstone, #2)Face Off by Mark Del Franco
My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars

I went back and forth on the rat­ing for this book, but final­ly set­tled on a four. I hon­est­ly found all the con­flict to be exhaust­ing and unpleas­ant, but it was very real­is­ti­cal­ly writ­ten and I cer­tain­ly felt con­nect­ed to Black­stone. I decid­ed that if del Fran­co weren’t such a good writer, I wouldn’t be feel­ing every­thing so much.

I read Face Off right after fin­ish­ing Skin Deep, which is how I rec­om­mend that you read them. That is, after all, how the plot works. There’s a lot more of Jono Sin­clair in this vol­ume than the first, which will be pop­u­lar with romance fans. 

Dur­ing the events of Skin Deep, Lau­ra retired the Jan­ice Craw­ford per­sona. Her life should be sim­pler now that she’s just her­self and Mariel Tate, right?

Wrong, because she and Mariel Tate are being pulled in oppos­ing direc­tions by pow­er­ful forces, and she has two more-than-full-time-jobs. Toss in an order to imper­son­ate an unco­op­er­a­tive pris­on­er in order to infil­trate a ter­ror­ist group, and her life is at risk every day too.
In the midst of all this, there’s a vis­it from roy­al­ty, and her boss assigns Mariel yet anoth­er top priority.

The only respite is her grow­ing rela­tion­ship with Jono Sin­clair, who is also under­cov­er with the ter­ror­ist group. He’s the only per­son in the world who always knows who she is, no mat­ter what glam­our she’s wearing. 

Lau­ra start­ed won­der­ing how much of her­self was left behind all the per­sonas in Skin Deep, real­iz­ing that “Lau­ra Black­stone” was in dan­ger of becom­ing just anoth­er per­sona. She’s even more con­cerned about that issue in Face Off, but thanks to Jono she’s get­ting back in touch with who she is behind the masks. Will she be able to hold on to her progress? Will she be able to sim­ply sur­vive the under­cov­er assign­ment with almost no prepa­ra­tion? Or will it be the inter­nal Guild­house pol­i­tics that do her in? These ques­tions kept me read­ing and inter­est­ed. I was thrilled with how del Fran­co answered them, and I’m intense­ly curi­ous as to whether those answers leave any room for fur­ther adven­tures with Lau­ra and Jono.

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Review: Skin Deep by Mark del Franco

Skin Deep (Laura Blackstone, #1)Skin Deep by Mark Del Franco
My rat­ing: 3 of 5 stars

This is an intrigu­ing begin­ning to a series. I’ve played a char­ac­ter with sim­i­lar abil­i­ties in a long-run­ning role­play­ing game, so I was par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed in this book. I think the author did an excel­lent job of explor­ing just how much could be done with “essence” (glam­our), while set­ting believ­able lim­its to the character’s abil­i­ties. She has an excep­tion­al­ly well-trained mem­o­ry, but even she slips on a few details here and there when jug­gling too many per­sonas or with some­one very close to her for a long time.

The plot was less inter­est­ing to me, frankly, than the char­ac­ter. In fact, the details are a lit­tle fuzzy and I just fin­ished the book ear­li­er today. (Of course, I’ve read most of the next book since then, too). Even while read­ing it, though, some details strained believ­abil­i­ty. That detail took the rat­ing down a point.

Still, I was inter­est­ed enough to go right on to the next book in the series, and I intend to read more of del Franco’s work. I would rec­om­mend this book for those who enjoy urban fantasy.

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Review: Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

Ghost Story: A Novel of the Dresden FilesGhost Sto­ry: A Nov­el of the Dres­den Files by Jim Butch­er
My rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars

Of course I (along with all Jim Butch­er’s oth­er fans) have been absolute­ly dying to read this book ever since fin­ish­ing Changes. Sam Chupp and I have been talk­ing about how there could pos­si­bly be anoth­er book that occurs after Dresden’s death. Of course, the novel­la includ­ed in Side Jobs: Sto­ries From the Dres­den Files was very good and got along quite well with­out Dres­den, but that prob­a­bly wasn’t going to work for an entire novel. 

Sam hasn’t even start­ed Ghost Sto­ry yet, so I can’t gloat at home. I was actu­al­ly right in some of my spec­u­la­tion! I’m being non-spe­cif­ic so as to not give too much away, even though I am hid­ing this review behind spoil­er warn­ings on GoodReads in case he does read it and remem­ber what I had said (which is high­ly doubt­ful). But I feel like brag­ging some­where, so you, dear read­ers, have to put up with it. 

Jim Butch­er deserves major praise. Ghost Sto­ry is amaz­ing. Dres­den has become such a pow­er­ful wiz­ard that few ene­mies are tru­ly a chal­lenge, and wip­ing out the entire Red Court with one spell was an amaz­ing feat. What do you do for an encore to that? Hav­ing Dres­den imma­te­r­i­al and oper­at­ing with­out mag­ic does seri­ous­ly push him, and that makes for a fas­ci­nat­ing tale. Being able to keep a series fresh in its thir­teenth vol­ume says a lot for Butcher’s tal­ent. I think Ghost Sto­ry is the best Dres­den Files book yet, and I’m look­ing for­ward to book four­teen even more! 

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Book Reviews: Magic Burns and No Rest for the Witches

Magic BurnsI read two short books Wednesday and Thursday. The first, Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews, was great fun and very well written. It's book two of her Kate Daniel series, and it certainly left me eager to read book three (which has just been turned in to the publisher, as I understand it).

I think I'm missing something, though. There are references to an ex-almost-boyfriend, Maximillian Crest, in Magic Burns. I just read Magic Bites at the end of March, and I don't remember Crest at all. I don't remember Kate having a love interest at all, in fact. Only a fool could miss the sexual tension between Kate and Curran, but that's unresolved. I don't remember any prior encounters with a teenaged urban shaman, either. So did I just miss some things, or are there stories set between the books that I don't know about?

I do recommend these books to anyone who enjoys the urban fantasy genre. This one played around with Celtic mythology, which I also enjoy.

No Rest for the WitchesNo Rest for the Witches contains four novellas. MaryJanice Davidson is the headliner, since she's apparently the best-known of the four authors. I don't remember how this book ended up in my hold queue at the library, but there it was with the others, so I checked it out.

Davidson's contribution is "The Majicka," which might or might not be set in the same world as her Betsy Taylor and Wyndham Werewolves stories (maybe even the mermaid series, although I haven't read those so I can't be sure). You really need a good reason to toss a fairy, a vampire, a werewolf, a woman enchanted into a vehicle by her archmage ex-SO, and a dryad into one novella. I didn't really buy the explanation, honestly. I didn't find the main character interesting or attractive, nor did I see any reason for the obligatory love interest to find her irresistible. But it's a romance novella, and one of the absolute necessities seems to be people falling into love at first sight.

The setup of "Voodoo Moon" by Lori Handeland was a bit better, although that main character should turn in her FBI badge and forget having any career in law enforcement. The first guy she meets should have been wearing a red shirt, because it was way too obvious that he wouldn't last long.

Cheyenne McCray's "Breath of Magic" needs to be relabeled "erotica" instead of "paranormal romance." Even if the hot guy does whisper sweet nothings to the main character, this novella is about the two people bumping fuzzies. There's an intricate plot setup for absolutely no reason, as it certainly wasn't necessary for them to get naked together, and there isn't any resolution to any of the plot threads. The only way the sex scenes could have been more explicit would have involved wiring the two up to measuring devices, as inches and degrees are the only details not given. From the teaser of one of McCray's books, it seems that the intricate plot is explored more thoroughly in at least one book. I got the feeling that the sex would be similar, as well.

"Any Witch Way She Can" by Christine Warren opens with much grousing by the main character about her spinsterhood. She then proceeds to try a love spell, but does a lot of ingredient substitution and doesn't follow the instructions properly. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't work as expected. Unfortunately, she doesn't experience any dreadful consequences as a result of toying with things she doesn't understand, either. And of course she, like the characters in two of the other novellas, will end up in bed with a guy she meets right after meeting him.

I need to go through my hold queues at both libraries to be sure there aren't any more romances hiding there, because I obviously have a very bad attitude about them. I know that there's a formula, and it seems that all of these novellas do follow it. But I don't like formulaic fiction, and I don't know that it could be written well enough to really please me.

On to Blindfold Game by Dana Stabenow. That should provide a nice change of pace.

Review: A Rush of Wings by Adrian Phoenix

A Rush of Wings<A Rush of Wings was a random "that looks interesting" choice from the library's new books shelves. I was somewhat surprised to find that the book was just published this January, because the copy I checked out has obviously been read many, many times. It seems as if Adrian Phoenix's first novel is a hit.

It wasn't bad, especially for a first novel. It's yet another urban fantasy/horror vampire story, but it didn't feel too derivative. I did wonder if Phoenix has read much of Nancy Collins' work, but she still has a reasonably different spin on the genre.

I liked the main character, FBI Special Agent Heather Wallace. Her love interest, Dante, didn't do much for me, but then I'm not into bad boys or goth kiddies. I didn't quite buy the attraction between them, but happy Wallace did (mostly) continue to live by her values.

I think I would have been slightly happier if I didn't feel like the book was being set up for sequels if it sold well. Whatever happened to standalone novels? Phoenix's website says that her next book, In the Blood, will be released next year. I didn't find anything that says it's about Dante and friends, but I have a feeling that it is.

Review: Carpe Demon by Julie Kenner

Cover of Carpe DemonI'm way behind on book reviews, so I'll try to do one each day for a bit. Emphasis on the try. I've read some great stuff lately that deserves the attention!

I'll start with the most recent book, Carpe Demon by Julie Kenner. It's the first book of the Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom series. I don't actually remember any soccer games, but yep, Kate Connor is definitely a soccer mom in the sense that Clinton used the phrase.

I can't remember if it was Michelle Sagara West or Tanya Huff who said it, but either way, I agree with her that the best way to sum up this series is to imagine that Buffy the Vampire Slayer grew up, got married, and had kids, but didn't tell her family anything about her past. Kate works for the Vatican instead of the Watcher's Council, has an Alimentatore rather than a Watcher, and isn't the Chosen One—there are supposed to be many demon hunters. Unfortunately, the youth of today aren't as easy to recruit, according to the Church, and an old demon hunter is usually a dead demon hunter.

Kate and her partner, Eric, had retired and moved to a place they identified as having very little demon activity. They had a child, and after Eric died (we don't learn how in this volume), Kate remarried. Stuart Connor is an attorney with political ambition. Remember how Sabrina had so much trouble pretending to be a normal executive's wife in Bewitched? Take it up several notches, and you know where some of the book's humor comes from. The novel is definitely a nice departure from the paranormal romances that have a lot more romance than action, although I have yet to figure out why Kate would ever have settled for Stuart. And yes, I'd have to say she settled.1

I've put the next two books, California Demon and Demons are Forever, on my wish list. I'm looking forward to finding out how Kenner develops the characters, and whether Kate starts filling her kids' water bottles with holy water (I would). I'm not a big enough fan to put the rest of her books on the pile, but I haven't ruled it out yet.

1 Of course, so did Sabrina.

I have For A Few Demons More!

Yes yes yes, I do! Sam bought it as part of my birthday present. Squee! Thank you, love!

I can't start reading it yet, because if I do, I won't stop. I have to be a good girl and do homework, then it'll be time for bed. But it'll be there for me tomorrow morning! Squee!

I made the mistake of reading the first chapter, which is on Ms. Harrison's site, right after she posted it. I'm not linking there because I tell you, you do not want to start until you can go on with this book!

Expect a review soon 🙂