Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

After reading urban fantasy novels, I’ve been really wanting to find more books in this genre. It’s so different from high fantasy and stories set in alternate worlds … and it’s really addictive once you get into it! I was super excited to receive this ARC so here is my review:

Greta Helsing is a doctor with a very unusual patient pool: she treats the undead. Whether it is a vocal strain a banshee or entropy in mummies, Greta is known for her skill. After all, this is what she has been groomed for since childhood. But when a sect of murderous monks emerge, Greta is overwhelmed by the deaths of the undead AND humans. As terror takes hold of the city, Greta must put her unusual skills to work to stop this cult from ruining her life.

I so so so badly wanted to like this book, you really have no idea! It seemed like the perfect book for me, with its cool protagonist and story setting. However, I just couldn’t get into this story. No matter how hard I tried, it all was just too bizarre. The switching of voices between characters was very jarring and it was hard to keep it straight in my head. One minute, the story seemed like it was set in Victorian times and the next minute, it seemed way more modern. It all just threw me off and I couldn’t enjoy myself. There are a lot of positive reviews on GoodReads so maybe this is just one of those times where I am in the minority. If this book’s premise sounds like something you would like, give it a shot!

Happy reading ~

Advertisements

Owl and the Electric Samurai by Kristi Charish

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

When I began to read this novel, I had no idea that it was part of a series. I wish I had known because it would have explained away a lot of the confusion I was feeling when I was reading. Anyways, here is my review:

Owl is an antiquities thief who reluctantly navigates the hidden supernatural world. And she is in for another adventure. The International Archaeology Association (IAA) is responsible for keeping all things supernatural hidden… but they are also the ones responsible for ruining Owl’s archaeology career. Needless to say, Owl’s still a little sore about that. But now, the IAA has a bounty out for the 2 designed of World Quest, an online RPG that is a whole lot more than it seems. Owl needs to find the gamers before the other mercenaries do … but when every clue points to them hiding in the legendary lost city of Shangri-La. Not only does Owl have to deal with competitors, she also finds herself dragged into a game of wits with someone who calls himself the Electric Samurai. The stakes are high, especially when losing means an all-out civil war between 2 powerful supernatural factions.

I felt that I was really at a disadvantage when it came to this novel because of my lack of knowledge on this series and the characters. There was a lot going on and not everything made sense. You definitely need to read this series in order in order to really understand and appreciate all that is going on. I’ve decided not to rate this book or post my review on Goodreads because I don’t think any of my comments would be a fair assessment of this novel since I didn’t do my due diligence and read this series properly. I would recommend this novel to anyone who is a fan of this series or is looking to start a new urban fantasy/supernatural series!

Happy reading ~

Visions by Kelley Armstrong – Cainsville #2

It’s been a while since I read Omens by this author but I really enjoyed that foray into urban fantasy. I hadn’t planned on waiting so long to read the sequel but … life … happens. Anyways, I finally got around to it so here is my review:

In Omens, Olivia Taylor-Jones discovers that she is the daughter of notorious serial killers. She finds an ally in Gabriel Walsh, a selfish, morally ambiguous lawyer. Together, they were able to find a devious killer and partially cleared Olivia’s parents from their crimes. Their success, however, doesn’t last long. While Olivia continues to take refuge in Cainsville, Gabriel’s past comes back to haunt both of them.

When Olivia finds a dead woman in her car, dressed just like her, she is shocked. What makes it worse is that the body disappears before anyone else sees it. Olivia is convinced it’s another omen. But when she learns that a real young woman went missing just a few days ago, it makes Olivia question whether the body she saw was just a simple omen – or a message. Who would have left this kind of warning and why? As Olivia tries to uncover the truth, she finds herself in the crosshairs of old and powerful forces that have their own agenda and secrets.

It took me a while to get into this novel because I couldn’t really remember what had happened. But after just a chapter or two, everything started to fall into place. It helped that the author provided recaps of important events from the first book to help set the tone for this novel. Again, we are thrown into a murder mystery that has some supernatural elements to it. I liked that the novel actually managed to answer some of the underlying questions that I had had from before. She also added a whole host of new elements that led to more questions. I will say that there is a whole new level of romance seen in this book that I was not expecting so …. readers be prepared! The dynamic between Olivia and Gabriel gets better in this novel and you really start to admire their witty friendship. One of the things that made me really happy about this novel is that the supernatural elements of the story were a lot more visible, even though it still maintained its main murder mystery plot; what drew me to the series in the first place was a promise of fantasy, and the author definitely delivered on that account. Overall, this is a novel filled with intrigue, supernatural forces, and an interesting murder mystery. If you liked Omens, you will definitely enjoy Visions!

Happy reading ~

Omens by Kelley Armstrong – Cainsville #1

One of my best friends really loves Kelley Armstrong and has been urging me to read one of her books for a long time. So I took a look at some of her work. I know she is a very popular author and is well-known for her Otherworld series but it is a LONG series and I didn’t think I would have the time to plunge into that right now. The Cainsville series seemed really interesting so I decided to start here!

24-year-old Olivia Taylor-Jones has the perfect life. She is the only child of a wealthy, prominent Chicago family, and she is engaged to a handsome CEO who is entering the political field. But Olivia’s world shatters when she learns that she is adopted and her real parents are notorious serial killers, Todd and Pamela Larsen, who are in prison serving a life sentence. When the media makes a field day out of this news, Olivia sees no choice but to go into hiding. She ends up int he small town of Cainsville, Illinois, an old and tight-knit community that takes a shine to Olivia … and harbors secrets of its own. When Olivia becomes acquainted with her mother’s former lawyer, Gabriel Walsh (who also has ties to Cainsville), Olivia decides to take the opportunity to uncover her birth parents’ past. But as Olivia and Gabriel dig deeper into the crimes, Olivia finds herself drawing on abilities that she never knew she had, abilities that make her valuable to Cainsville but make her vulnerable to unknown enemies. It seems there are darker secrets and powers in play than Olivia could ever have imagined.

There are so many things that I loved about this novel and I want to talk about all of it so I’m going to try to approach this systematically:

When I first picked up this book, it was labelled as an urban fantasy. After reading this novel, I’m going to have to disagree with this classification. There is very little fantasy elements in this novel. Olivia is not going around tapping into some kind of magical power and using it. The title aptly describes the kind of supernatural influence that is pervasive in this novel: it’s all about seeing omens and interpreting them. There are also allusions to Wiccan rituals and fairies and other supernatural beings …. but they are not too heavily involved. First and foremost, this novel is a mystery. We follow Olivia and Gabriel as they go back into the past and try to uncover who was really behind some of the deaths that Olivia’s birth parents were accused of. Even when we do get to the bottom of the investigation that is at the forefront of this novel, the author has left enough room for the story to continue to delve deeper and expose bigger secrets in the following novels. That is one of the things that I really enjoyed about this novel; it did a great job of setting the scene for the story that is going to come in the next book. Incidentally, as soon as I finished this book, I went out and got the next one in the series. So that should be a good indication of how well the author was able to tease me into wanting to read more.

I really loved the characters. Gabriel and Olivia are sarcastic, selfish, and absolutely perfect. They are a great team and I loved reading about their interactions. If you are looking for a strong romance connection between them, you will be disappointed. But that is one of the things I loved: the romance was not strong! For once, the relationship between 2 main characters did not end in love!!!!! The fact that the author deviated from the stereotype made for a far more interesting relationship between the main characters. I loved their banter and their sarcasm and their confusion about each other and their tentative friendship.

The writing style is nothing elaborate or fancy. And that made it perfect for this story. Everything was told as it is, with no crazy metaphors. You got everything point-blank. This worked in the story’s favor because it made me really connect with the emotions and the characters. I laughed, I freaked out … I felt everything genuinely. The chapters were mostly told in Olivia’s perspective but there were other perspectives thrown in here and there that made the story pop out. The different perspectives had that supernatural aspect that the author alluded to in her blurb, and it made me curious to see where the story would go.

When the final pieces of the puzzle came together, I was a bit skeptical. I don’t know if I really loved the direction the author took in terms of the perpetrators of the murder but it was unusual and I’m interested in seeing where the author takes it in the next novel.

With all this being said, I really loved this novel and had a great experience. I would not recommend this book to anyone looking for a strong supernatural/fantasy novel; this is better suited for someone who likes mysteries that have elements of the supernatural thrown in. It was a fast-paced action-packed read with an awesome duo taking the stage, and I cannot wait to read the next book in the series!

Happy reading ~

Chasing Embers by James Bennett

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I really like stories that take mythology and put it in an urban setting. Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors because he’s just such a master of reviving mythology and putting an interesting twist on it. I recently discovered Brom, and he is also fantastic at taking classic characters and reshaping them. I was really excited to read this story, hoping that it would also succeed in this lofty goal.

Ben Garston is your typical guy with an attitude, drowning his sorrows in a bar. At least, that’s what you think. Ben is actually Red Ben, from a world of myth and legend that has been hidden from view. He’s been doing a good job of keeping his identity a secret, but even he isn’t prepared for the hell that is about to break loose. When a centuries-old rivalry resurfaces, it will break the delicate balance between his world and ours.

I really wanted to like this book. And I don’t actually think the story is bad in any way. However, the writing style really put me off. It was far too descriptive and I just couldn’t focus on what was actually happening. The other reason I didn’t like this book is because I didn’t really care about any of the characters. I wasn’t able to form a bond with any of them enough to want to read more about them. Like I mentioned before, this story isn’t a bad one at all. It’s got plenty of action and a fast-moving pace. However, it just didn’t cut it for me, and so I’m going to have to add this to my DNF list. I hope that others who are interested in urban fantasy will still give this novel a shot because there is definitely potential in the overall story!

Happy reading ~

The Ferryman Institute by Colin Gigl

When I read the premise of this novel, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if it was going to be humorous or dark, if it was going to be steeped in mythology or more of an urban fantasy. Either way, it was too intriguing to not pick up. So here I am, having read the book in one sitting, completely ignoring all of my other work because I was just that engrossed in the story. And here is my review:

Ferryman Charlie Dawson is the best among them in his role of convincing the newly dead to move on to the afterlife. In 250 years, he hasn’t failed a single assignment. But Charlie is tired of this existence, and all he wants to do is let go – something the Ferryman Institute would never allow. But then he receives a secret assignment from the elusive President, who gives him the choice to either act like a ferryman or save the life of Alice Spiegel, who is just about to commit suicide. And in a split instant, he makes the choice to save her – and it feels like the best decision he has made in more than 200 years. When word of this incident reaches Inspector Javrouche, Charlie finds himself in a world of trouble. But Charlie isn’t going to give up without a fight; he’s ready to save Alice – and himself – no matter the cost.

This novel can be best described as an action-comedy. I love Charlie’s personality, with his dry sarcasm and his genuine concern for others. His interactions with friends, and especially Alice, are so much fun to read! The story itself takes you through car chases and hidden tunnels, betrayals and elaborate secrets…. I was entertained throughout the entire story. I thought Alice was also really spunky but her behaviour seemed strange for someone who is 26; she acted more like a teenager than anything else. The author touched on sensitive topics like depression and anorexia, but still kept the novel light. I kind of wish the author had spent a little bit more time developing that, rather than just making Charlie the “savior” of Alice’s depression but it wasn’t too much of an issue for me. It has been a long time since I’ve read a lighthearted novel but it was long overdue. I’m really glad I got the chance to read this novel, because it is definitely one of my favorite quirky books of this year!

Happy reading ~

Eleventh Grave in Moonlight by Darynda Jones – Charley Davidson #11

I received this novel from NetGalley as an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

When I received this book, I had no idea that it was part of a series. I have never read anything by Darynda Jones, and other than knowing that this story had supernatural elements to it, I had no clue what to expect. While I struggled to get through this novel, let it be known that it was because of my lack of knowledge rather than the actual story, which was quite entertaining! Here is my review:

Charley Davidson works as a part-time PI and a full-time Grim Reaper. Her typical day involves cheating husbands, locating missing people…. and dealing with demons, evil gods, and lots and lots of dead people. Charley’s life is tumultuous to say the least … and it doesn’t seem to be getting any less so! Charley is trying to embrace her new identity as a goddess with all sorts of interesting powers, while also realizing that her daughter has been born to save the world from complete destruction. However, the forces of hell are determined to see Charley banished to the darkest corners of another dimension. Thankfully, Charley has the son of Satan on her side, as her husband and amazing lover. Maybe this time, Charley can finally have her very own happy ending.

As I mentioned before, I have not read a single book in the series. Let me warn future readers by saying that this is not a novel you can just pick up in random order. To get the best experience, you need to start at the beginning and see the story through to the end. Since I don’t have the time to do that, I can’t really comment too much on how well this story stands up when compared to its predecessors. With that being said, I CAN comment on the writing style and story flair, both of which were fantastic! The author’s writing style reminded me a lot of the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich; it is funny and action-packed! Charley is a hilarious character who is both shallow and genuine at the same time. I liked her spunky attitude and her overall behaviour in every scene. The way the story opened up caught my attention right away, and even as I struggled to get through with my lack of background knowledge, I couldn’t help but admire the storytelling itself. I definitely wish I had read the previous books in this series because they seem like they would be a lot of fun! If you are looking for a new urban fantasy series with a good dose of romance and humor, check this one out! But like I said, start with book 1!

Happy reading ~

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning – Fever #1

I was just going through the books on a library shelf when I came across this one. My decision to read this was a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing, because its premise was catchy and I’ve been looking for something interesting. I was even happier to see that it was part of a series, because I’ve been meaning to start on a new fantasy series!

When MacKayla Lane’s sister is murdered in Dublin, MacKayla’s life is shattered. With only a cryptic message on her cell phone, Mac decides to make the journey to Ireland to find her sister’s killer and get justice. But she never expected that her quest would take her into a shadowy realm where hidden creatures live, and good and evil are hard to tell apart. MacKayla soon finds herself struggling to survive as she discovers that she has a unique power – the gift to see beyond our world and into that of the dangerous Fae.

This novel had a lot of elements to it, some that I really liked and others that I absolutely hated. It’s going to take me a while to go through them all, so let me jump right into it!

The plot: This was really interesting, with the introduction of different Fae levels and really cool terms. However, I felt like nothing was properly explained throughout the whole story. There were instances where Mac would say something, but then she wouldn’t explain it in further detail. There were so many gaps in my understanding and it made me so frustrated …. but it also made me want to read more to fill those gaps.

The characters: I hated every single one. I hated Mac and her stereotypical Barbie doll behaviour. If I have to read one more description about her nails, hair, breasts, or clothes, I will kill myself. I understand that this is the way the author wanted to make Mac appear but when the character has literally no redeeming quality, it makes it really hard to read. Barrons is simply terrible in his callous and rude attitude. I didn’t like that he never explained anything and showed almost no feeling about anything except at the very end. Also, their chemistry is very abusive, with him constantly physically hurting her. All other characters were mentioned so briefly that  I wasn’t able to even form an opinion about them.

Writing style: It was mostly okay but there were occasions where it felt like I wasn’t reading the first book in the novel but rather a summary/prequel of what’s to come. The story is filled with comments from Mac that go like “I thought that life was  simple, but now I know better,” telling us that this story is taking place in the past. At first, it was interesting but I soon grew tired of it.

Overall, this novel wasn’t something that I really liked. I hated all of the characters and the structure and writing style made this novel seem like a prequel rather than the first installment in a series. However, I couldn’t stop myself from reading. I attribute this to my ever-present interest in everything Fae. I’m always looking for a good book on the fae world and magic. I wish the author had given me more details on these elements, but she definitely piqued my interest enough to make me push through this whole story. I don’t know if I will read the second novel or not but there are a lot of people who keep saying that the novel gets better and the characters mature so maybe I will give it a shot!

Happy reading ~