Book Review: Wild Sign (Alpha & Omega, #6) by Patricia Briggs

Title: Wild Sign (Alpha & Omega, #6)
Author: Patricia Briggs
Publisher: Ace
Publication date: March 16, 2021
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Mated werewolves Charles Cornick and Anna Latham must discover what could make an entire community disappear — before it’s too late — in this thrilling entry in the #1 New York Times bestselling Alpha and Omega series.

In the wilds of the Northern California mountains, all the inhabitants of a small town have gone missing. It’s as if the people picked up and left everything they owned behind. Fearing something supernatural might be going on, the FBI taps a source they’ve consulted in the past: the werewolves Charles Cornick and Anna Latham. But Charles and Anna soon find a deserted town is the least of the mysteries they face.

Death sings in the forest, and when it calls, Charles and Anna must answer. Something has awakened in the heart of the California mountains, something old and dangerous — and it has met werewolves before. 

March is such a wonderful time of year — because every March, there’s a new Patricia Briggs book! This year’s new release is book #6 in her Alpha & Omega series, while last year gave us a new Mercy Thompson book. Both series are amazing (and are connected), and I love them to pieces. So, three cheers for March and the release of Wild Sign!

In Wild Sign, we start with a moment of domestic joy for Charles and Anna, two fierce werewolves who are mated, married, and madly in love. I will never get tired of seeing them together and enjoying their undeniable chemistry.

Their sweet time together is interrupted by a knock on the door — it’s two FBI agents, unexpectedly showing up on pack territory, presenting them with a mystery that they need help with, as well as proposing an ongoing alliance between them and the werewolves.

The mystery is relevant to the pack because it occurred on land owned by the pack: In an off-the-grid settlement in the wilds of a California wilderness, a small town of people has completely disappeared without a trace. There’s no evidence that the residence have resettled elsewhere — no one has heard from any of them in months, and no sign of them can be found. Something otherworldly may be at play, and since the land is pack-owned, that makes it pack business.

Accompanied by dangerous (but funny) pack member Tag, Charles and Anna set off to investigate what happened to the people of Wild Sign, what lurks in the mountains there, and how to stop the evil forces that seem to be at play.

The adventure is immediate, as is the danger, and there were moments that really and truly set me on edge, particularly as Anna seems to be at risk and the threat to her is huge. The story behind what happened at Wild Sign is creepy, and Patricia Briggs masterfully unfolds the horror in a way that lets it build slowly until a terrifying picture emerges.

There’s a surprise twist in the epilogue that apparently has the fan community all a-buzz, but I actually thought it was a pretty cool development that will certainly have repercussions in both the Alpha & Omega and Mercy books down the line. I won’t say more about it, but it’s definitely a lot to think about!

I love Charles and Anna so much as characters, and love the rest of their pack too. Wild Sign also gives us some long-withheld backstory on key characters Bran and Leah, which I found fascinating, and I can wait to see what happens next for all of them.

The Alpha & Omega series is absolutely wonderful, and I just can’t get enough. The first book in the series is actually a novella, and it’s one of my favorite pieces of urban fantasy writing of all time. If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading these books yet, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Alpha and Omega!

For readers who are already fans of the series, of course you’ll want to read Wild Sign. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed! Another fantastic read in a fantastic series. My only complaint is having to wait another year for the next book in this world!

Book Review: Calculated Risks (InCryptid, #10) by Seanan McGuire

Title: Calculated Risks (InCryptid series, book #10)
Author: Seanan McGuire
Publisher: DAW
Publication date: February 23, 2021
Length: 448 pages
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The tenth book in the fast-paced InCryptid urban fantasy series returns to the mishaps of the Price family, eccentric cryptozoologists who safeguard the world of magical creatures living in secret among humans.

Just when Sarah Zellaby, adopted Price cousin and telepathic ambush predator, thought that things couldn’t get worse, she’s had to go and prove herself wrong. After being kidnapped and manipulated by her birth family, she has undergone a transformation called an instar, reaching back to her Apocritic origins to metamorphize. While externally the same, she is internally much more powerful, and much more difficult to control.

Even by herself. After years of denial, the fact that she will always be a cuckoo has become impossible to deny.

Now stranded in another dimension with a handful of allies who seem to have no idea who she is–including her cousin Annie and her maybe-boyfriend Artie, both of whom have forgotten their relationship–and a bunch of cuckoos with good reason to want her dead, Sarah must figure out not only how to contend with her situation, but with the new realities of her future. What is she now? Who is she now? Is that person someone she can live with?

And when all is said and done, will she be able to get the people she loves, whether or not they’ve forgotten her, safely home?

It’s that wonderful time of the year… when we get another InCryptid book! Calculated Risks is #10 in this ongoing urban fantasy series, and it does not disappoint in the slightest. Really, you could look at Calculated Risks as #9, part II, since the action picks up right where the previous book, Imaginary Numbers, left off.

Books 9 & 10 focus on Sarah Zellaby, a non-human member of the extended Price-Healy family, who are renowned cryptozoologists and deadly enemies of the all-powerful Covenant. There’s a lot to know about the Price family, which is why anyone new to the InCryptid series absolutely must start at the beginning. There’s just no way for these books and the complex relationships between the characters to make sense without the full picture and backstory.

Here in #10, our main character Sarah finds herself in a strange alternate world, along with her cousins Annie and Artie, her kind-of cousin James, and a cuckoo, Mark, who is of the same species as Sarah. Got that? Sarah has inadvertently transported all of them, as well as the college campus they’d been standing on, to another dimension, as a last ditch effort to stop the world from being destroyed as the side effect of Sarah undergoing a mathematically based metamorphosis. It’s complicated.

Now, in this weird world, Sarah’s allies don’t know who she is and treat her with suspicion. The sky is orange. There are huge flying millipedes. And indignity of all indignities, Sarah doesn’t even have a bra! Still, it’s up to Sarah to convince her friends and relatives that they know her, that they don’t want to hurt her, and that she is likely the only person who can get them home again.

The adventure rips along at a super-charged pace, but we also get lots of emotional moments too as Sarah faces distrust and rejection from people she’s loved all her life. The challenge of getting home again relies on Sarah’s ability to carry out a dangerous equation that can rip through worlds, and to do it without killing herself and everyone around her.

As always, Seanan McGuire’s writing is funny, quirky, clever, and highly quotable:

“I have so many knives,” said Annie. “I am the Costco of having knives. You really want to provoke me right now, cuckoo-boy?”

“I am not a good place to store your knives,” he said. “I don’t know how many times I need to tell you this, but sticking knives in living people just because they say something you don’t like is the reason no one likes you or the rest of your fucked-up family.”

“I don’t want to be a monster. I refuse to be a monster. I am a person, and people get to make our own choices about whether or not we bare our claws.”

“Mean girl from the murder family has a point,” said Mark. “Also, now that I have spoken those words aloud, please kill me.”

Do not be afraid.

I hate it when people tell me not to be afraid. They never do that when something awesome is about to happen. No one says “don’t be afraid” and then hands you an ice cream cone, or a kitten, or tickets to Comic-Con.

Calculated Risks is just as much fun as the preceding books in the InCryptid series. I love that the main characters in the series shift between different family members as the books go along, and I can’t wait to see who the star of #11 will be (although — sigh — that’ll be a long year from now). Meanwhile, between familiar Price characters, Aeslin mice (a sapient species of talking mice who worship the Prices as deities), and new friends (like Greg, the humongous leaping spider who becomes Sarah’s protector), there’s plenty here to love and enjoy.

Calculated Risks includes a bonus novella, Singing the Comic-Con Blues, which is a light-weight, upbeat adventure set nine years before the events of the main novel. It’s sweet and entertaining, and is a nice little treat for dessert after some of the more dire events of Calculated Risks.

The InCryptid series continues to be fresh, exciting, and full of surprises. Seriously, if you’ve never read these books, start at the beginning (with Discount Armageddon) — I’ll bet you’ll be hooked before you even finish book #1. As for me, I’m tempted to go back to the beginning, just to have the pleasure of experiencing the bonkers adventures of the Prices all over again.

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Shelf Control #248: Dreams Underfoot by Charles De Lint

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: Dreams Underfoot
Author: Charles de Lint
Published: 1993
Length: 416 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Welcome to Newford…

Welcome to the music clubs, the waterfront, the alleyways where ancient myths and magic spill into the modern world. Come meet Jilly, painting wonders in the rough city streets; and Geordie, playing fiddle while he dreams of a ghost; and the Angel of Grasso Street gathering the fey and the wild and the poor and the lost. Gemmins live in abandoned cars and skells traverse the tunnels below, while mermaids swim in the grey harbor waters and fill the cold night with their song.

About the Newford series:

Welcome to Newford, the fictional North American city setting for award-winning author Charles de Lint’s popular and beloved urban fantasy series.

Human beings share the city with European and Native American mythological legends, finding common ground as they live out their daily lives or find themselves swept up in adventures beyond imagination.

“As familiarly as though he were chronicling the lives of old friends, de Lint spins yet another magical story of the intersections between reality and the faerie and spirit world in this latest addition to the Newford opus, his twin loves of storytelling and music-making shining through every page…[H]ighly recommended.” —Library Journal (starred review) on Widdershins

How and when I got it:

I bought a copy at one of our library’s big sales, probably 3 or 4 years ago.

Why I want to read it:

I’ve been hearing about the Newford books for years! In fact, I think I actually own copies of a few books from the series (all books that I’ve grabbed at various used book sales). Charles de Lint is considered a master fantasy writer, yet I’ve only read one of his books so far (The Mystery of Grace, a stand-alone novel that was excellent).

Dreams Underfoot is a collection of stories set in Newford, and while I don’t usually gravitate toward short stories, I’d want to read this book to get an introduction to the world of the series and then see if I want to continue.

Have you read any of the Newford books?

And if not — what do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!


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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Quick Take: Battle Ground (Dresden Files, #17) by Jim Butcher

Title: Battle Ground (Dresden Files, #17)
Author: Jim Butcher
Publisher: Ace
Publication date: September 29, 2020
Length: 432 pages
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Library
Rating:

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

THINGS ARE ABOUT TO GET SERIOUS FOR HARRY DRESDEN, CHICAGO’S ONLY PROFESSIONAL WIZARD, in the next entry in the #1 New York Times bestselling Dresden Files.

Harry has faced terrible odds before. He has a long history of fighting enemies above his weight class. The Red Court of vampires. The fallen angels of the Order of the Blackened Denarius. The Outsiders.

But this time it’s different. A being more powerful and dangerous on an order of magnitude beyond what the world has seen in a millennium is coming. And she’s bringing an army. The Last Titan has declared war on the city of Chicago, and has come to subjugate humanity, obliterating any who stand in her way.

Harry’s mission is simple but impossible: Save the city by killing a Titan. And the attempt will change Harry’s life, Chicago, and the mortal world forever.

Considering I’m up to volume 17 in the Dresden Files series, it’s safe to say that I’m a fan. And yet, I can’t give Battle Ground more than 2.5 stars.

Battle Ground is basically part two of the story begun in Peace Talks, the 16th book, published just three months earlier. I guess if they’d been combined, it would have made for one super massive book, so the publisher decided to break it in two — there’s really no other reason I can think of for not telling the entire story in one volume (and might have been a good opportunity to cut out some of the endless battle scenes…)

As you’d guess from the title, Battle Ground is all about a massive battle that threatens the destruction of Chicago, and from there, all of humankind. Our hero, Harry Dresden, charges in on the side of good alongside every ally he’s ever made, plus some former/future adversaries who’ve declared a truce for now in order to attempt to defeat the even worse bad guys.

Zzzzz…. oh, sorry, my eyes keep glazing over when I think about what a slog this book was.

If you like big, booming battles with lots of firepower, explosions, magical energy, and devastation of a major metropolis, you’ll probably love Battle Ground. As for me, a book that’s basically one long, extended battle for at least 80% of its length does not make for great reading.

I read the Dresden books for the characters, the escapades, the life-or-death struggles… but not never-ending action sequences where it’s almost impossible to tell who’s who or what awful creature has which awful powers, to be brought down by which even more awful weaponry. Sorry, but chapter after chapter after chapter of Harry throwing his power around, being outmatched, and then somehow soldiering on just doesn’t make for great reading.

There are some significant developments, including a major, heart-breaking loss, as well as the groundwork for what will likely be significant changes to come. And hey, 17 books in, of course I’ll keep going with the series. This particular book, though, just was not a stellar read for me.

Still, even though few and far between, there are still some great bits of Harry being a wise-ass that snapped me back to life in the midst of the more tedious firepower and spell-slinging, so I’ll close by sharing a few choice bits:

Then he made a fist and, carefully, bumped knuckles with me. The shock of it threatened to dislocate my shoulder again, but being all manly I didn’t make any high-pitched noises or anything. And you can’t prove otherwise.

“We didn’t see them until they got there! The foe has sneakily snucked a sneak attack behind our lines, like a sneaky sneak!”

I spun back to the enemy, brought my shield up—and stood tall. “You!” I said, relishing the moment. “Shall not! Pass!”

I’d never been in an epic mythology fight quite this epic before.

Don’t care how Titanic you are. No one expects an orbital-drop grizzly.

Book Review: A Killing Frost (October Daye, #14) by Seanan McGuire

Title: A Killing Frost (October Daye, #14)
Author: Seanan McGuire
Publisher: DAW
Publication date: September 1, 2020
Print length: 336 pages
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

When October is informed that Simon Torquill—legally her father, due to Faerie’s archaic marriage traditions—must be invited to her wedding or risk the ceremony throwing the Kingdom in the Mists into political turmoil, she finds herself setting out on a quest she was not yet prepared to undertake for the sake of her future…. and the man who represents her family’s past.

14 books in, what is there left to say about my super-duper favorite urban fantasy series? I love these books, and A Killing Frost is no exception!

For those unfamiliar with the series, October Daye is a changeling, born of a human man and a powerful Fae woman. Over the course of the series, October (Toby) has come into her own as a knight and a Hero of the Realm, gaining strength in her magical abilities and gifts and setting out on quests to right wrongs. As she so readily admits, hardly a day goes by when she doesn’t end up covered in blood.

Toby is an amazing character, and the series as a whole is a richly detailed world, set in and around human San Francisco, with complex rules, hierarchies, relationships, and power dynamics. The characters are so much of what makes these books so good — Toby has a found family by this point in the series, including her sort-of sister May, her fiance Tybalt, her squire Quentin, and an odd assortment of friends and associates who love Toby and keep her always on her toes.

In A Killing Frost, Toby and Tybalt (King of Cats) are getting closer to setting a wedding date, when Toby is informed that if she doesn’t invite her stepfather Simon to the wedding, he or anyone connected to him can claim offense. And in Faerie, that can lead to dire consequences, including forced servitude or other truly unpleasant outcomes.

Simon, however, is lost. In book #11, he traded his own way home in order to rescue his long-lost daughter. After having reformed his nastier ways, he’s back to being a bad guy, having forgotten all the good in his life. Toby’s only option is to search for Simon, bring him back, and find a way to break the spell so that he can truly be found again.

I won’t give too much away. Naturally, Toby ends up covered with blood — mostly, but not only, her own. There’s danger to her and to her companions, and the damage is truly gruesome at times.

I was scared for Toby, especially toward the end, when I couldn’t see a way that her actions wouldn’t end in disaster. Naturally, I ended up surprised in all sorts of ways, especially by a huge new development that will have major ripple effects from here on out.

I feel confident saying that if you’ve loved the October Daye series so far, you’ll love A Killng Frost too. If you haven’t started the series yet… well, go ahead!

Obviously, I adore October Daye, and I love basically everything written by Seanan McGuire.

A Killing Frost is a total treat. And now it’s back to the sad state of waiting a year for the next book in the series!

Book Review: Smoke Bitten (Mercy Thompson, #12) by Patricia Briggs

Title: Smoke Bitten (Mercy Thompson, #12)
Author: Patricia Briggs
Publisher: Ace
Publication date: March 17, 2020
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Mercy Thompson, car mechanic and shapeshifter, faces a threat unlike any other in this thrilling entry in the #1 New York Times bestselling series.

I am Mercedes Athena Thompson Hauptman.

My only “superpowers” are that I turn into a thirty-five pound coyote and fix Volkswagens. But I have friends in odd places and a pack of werewolves at my back. It looks like I’m going to need them.

Centuries ago, the fae dwelt in Underhill–until she locked her doors against them. They left behind their great castles and troves of magical artifacts. They abandoned their prisoners and their pets. Without the fae to mind them, those creatures who remained behind roamed freely through Underhill wreaking havoc. Only the deadliest survived.

Now one of those prisoners has escaped. It can look like anyone, any creature it chooses. But if it bites you, it controls you. It lives for chaos and destruction. It can make you do anything–even kill the person you love the most. Now it is here, in the Tri-Cities. In my territory.

It won’t, can’t, remain.

Not if I have anything to say about it.

A new Mercy book is always cause for celebration! Twelve books in, the Mercy Thompson urban fantasy series is still going strong. Long may Mercy reign!

Mercy, our favorite VW mechanic and mate of the Columbia Basin werewolf pack Alpha, is tough, strong, determined, loyal… and also easily hurt by anything that damages the bond between her and Adam.

And, in a move that absolutely broke my heart, author Patricia Briggs kicks off this newest adventure in the series by letting us know that something is very, very wrong with Mercy and Adam’s mate bond. He’s holding himself apart from Mercy, and it’s tearing her heart to pieces.

But there’s other trouble as well. A dangerous new enemy is taking over people’s minds and making them do terrible things. A group of outsider wolves are trying to invade Adam’s territory. And the scary vampire Wulfe seems to be newly obsessed with Mercy.

In typical Mercy fashion, she never backs down when her loved ones are in danger, and she throws herself into the fight against everything threatening her marriage, her friends, and her pack.

I won’t say too much about the plot, but I loved the answer to the riddles about the bad guy’s identity, and I was thrilled when a certain magical artifact makes an appearance after being gone for a while.

I tend to give all Mercy books 5 stars because I just love this series so much! But, relative to some of the other books in the series, I’d put Smoke Bitten as maybe a smidge less earth-shaking, so I’m being a little stingy here and only going with 4.5! Still a great book, but not quite the best of the best!

As I said, a new Mercy book is always cause for celebration… but also sadness, because now that I’ve read the newest, it’ll be another year of waiting for the next installment.

For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of reading this series yet, jump in! I love the characters, the world-building, the relationships… just really everything. Mercy is an amazing lead character — you’ll love her too!

Book Review: Imaginary Numbers (InCryptid, #9) by Seanan McGuire

Title: Imaginary Numbers (InCryptid series, book #9)
Author: Seanan McGuire
Publisher: DAW
Publication date: February 25, 2020
Length: 448 pages
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Won in a Goodreads giveaway!
Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The ninth book in the fast-paced InCryptid urban fantasy series returns to the mishaps of the Price family, eccentric cryptozoologists who safeguard the world of magical creatures living in secret among humans.

Sarah Zellaby has always been in an interesting position. Adopted into the Price family at a young age, she’s never been able to escape the biological reality of her origins: she’s a cuckoo, a telepathic ambush predator closer akin to a parasitic wasp than a human being. Friend, cousin, mathematician; it’s never been enough to dispel the fear that one day, nature will win out over nurture, and everything will change.

Maybe that time has finally come.

After spending the last several years recuperating in Ohio with her adoptive parents, Sarah is ready to return to the world–and most importantly, to her cousin Artie, with whom she has been head-over-heels in love since childhood. But there are cuckoos everywhere, and when the question of her own survival is weighed against the survival of her family, Sarah’s choices all add up to one inescapable conclusion.

This is war. Cuckoo vs. Price, human vs. cryptid…and not all of them are going to walk away.

It makes me so happy to have a new InCryptid book in my hands, especially since I won this one in a Goodreads giveaway, which pretty much never happens for me!

In Imaginary Numbers, the ongoing InCryptid series turns to two new point-of-view characters, Sarah Zellaby and Artie Harrington. Sarah and Artie are both members of the sprawling Price-Healy clan, a group of cryptozoologists dedicated to protecting non-human species from the persecution of the deadly Covenant, and equally dedicated to protecting humans from the deadlier of cryptid species. To that end, the Prices are all highly skilled with weaponry of all sorts, learning to become excellent shots and to throw knives with precision from childhood.

Sarah is the first non-human main character in this series. She’s a cuckoo, the common term for Johrlacs, which are a human-appearing species that are more or less descended from telepathic wasps. Cuckoos are apex predators. They can take over anyone’s mind and make them do whatever they want, and the effects can be fatal. Sarah was adopted into the Price family as a child, and so was raised with a different set of influences than a typical cuckoo, making her more aware of her responsibility to respect others’ boundaries and giving her a deep, true love for her family. As well as a different and very strong love for her cousin Artie, which the two of them have been too shy and awkward to ever acknowledge.

In this book, Sarah’s return to the family compound after a lengthy recovery from injury brings the attention of unknown cuckoos, who want to use her for their own purposes, and don’t care who they have to kill to make it happen. The action is intense and fast-paced, with a plot that’s occasionally confusing but always fun.

The InCryptid books tend to be a little less dire than Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series, which regularly rips out my heart. This series is generally light-hearted, not that there aren’t perilous situations and heartbreaks here as well. Still, with a family that includes a sorcerer whose boyfriend is a human-sized monkey, a grandfather who’s patched together from dead bodies, and a time-traveling grandma who appears to be in her teens, things can’t get all that serious for too extended a time.

The author’s trademark quippiness and cleverness is on full display in Imaginary Numbers:

It wouldn’t stop the cuckoos on the lawn from pouring into the house if they got the signal — it would barely even slow them down — but every little bit helps when you’re going up against telepathic killers from another dimension.

… [T]hat made it better than standing around waiting for the invisible floor to drop out from under my feet and send me plummeting into the void. I am not a big fan of plummeting. If I had to commit to a position, I’dd probably have to say that I was anti-plummeting.

“She seems nice.”

“No, she doesn’t,” I said. “She seems like an unstable old lady who somehow keeps aging backward, and who carries grenades that are older than I am way too frequently for comfort’s sake.”

Normal people get meet-cutes. I get crime scene cleanup.

Imaginary Numbers ends with a sort-of cliffhanger — the main plot is resolved, but ends up dumping a few key characters into a brand-new situation in the last lines… and I’m dying to know what will happen! It sounds as though the next in the series, Calculated Risks, will pick up where this one leaves off. Too bad we have to wait a year for it!

As an added treat, Imaginary Numbers includes a bonus novella, Follow the Lady, which takes place chronologically between books 8 and 9. It’s fun, not earth-shattering, and a nice way to de-stress after the high-pitched excitement at the end of Imaginary Numbers.

This series is a delight, and I’ll echo my previous advice to start at the beginning. These books do not work as stand-alones, not if you want to have any hope of getting what’s going on and the complex, convoluted family trees. All of the InCryptid books are fast reads, so even though this is the 9th book in the series, it really won’t be too hard to catch up.

I love these books! Check ’em out.

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Shelf Control #183: Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

cropped-flourish-31609_1280-e1421474289435.pngTitle: Kitty and the Midnight Hour
Author: Carrie Vaughn
Published: 2005
Length: 259 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Kitty Norville is a midnight-shift DJ for a Denver radio station – and she also happens to be a werewolf. One night, sick of the usual lame song requests, she accidentally starts ‘The Midnight Hour’, a late-night advice show for the supernaturally disadvantaged. Almost immediately she’s deluged by calls from desperate vampires, werewolves and witches from all across the country, wanting to share their woes and ask her advice.

Kitty’s new show is a raging success, but it’s Kitty herself who could use some help, not least because her monthly change is a deep and dark secret to all but a very special few.

And when she finds one very sexy werewolf-hunter on her tail, not to mention a few homicidal undead, she realises she may just may have bitten off more than she can chew…

How and when I got it:

I picked up a used copy a couple of years ago.

Why I want to read it:

The Kitty Norville series is 14 novels long, plus assorted related shorts, and I do love me a good urban fantasy series… but the reason I picked up this kinda-battered paperback is because I loved Bannerless, Carrie Vaughn’s excellent post-apocalyptic novel (and its sequel, The Wild Dead). Having read those two books, plus Vaughn’s story, “Raisa Stepanova,” from the Dangerous Women anthology, I have a strong suspicion that Carrie Vaughn is an author whose works I need to explore. And anyway… Kitty and the Midnight Hour just sounds like so much fun!

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!

__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Book Review: The Unkindest Tide (October Daye, book 13) by Seanan McGuire

I am beyond thrilled to have received an ARC of the newest book in the amazing October Daye urban fantasy series. Thank you, NetGalley and DAW Books! I love this series just as much now, 13 books into it, as I did many books ago… maybe even more! October herself continues to grow and change as a character, and the big-picture story arcs continue to evolve in a way that moves Toby’s world in new, exciting directions, all the while keeping us in touch with the huge cast of characters and letting us see their ever-changing roles and lives.

Hundreds of years ago, the Selkies made a deal with the sea witch: they would have the sea for as long as she allowed it, and when the time came, she would call in all their debts at once. Many people assumed that day would never come. Those people were wrong.

When the Luidaeg—October “Toby” Daye’s oldest and most dangerous ally—tells her the time has come for the Selkies to fulfill their side of the bargain, and that Toby must be a part of the process, Toby can’t refuse. Literally. The Selkies aren’t the only ones in debt to the Luidaeg, and Toby has to pay what she owes like anyone else. They will travel to the fabled Duchy of Ships and call a convocation of the Selkies, telling them to come and meet the Luidaeg’s price…or face the consequences.

Of course, nothing is that simple. When Dianda Lorden’s brother appears to arrest Dianda for treason against the Undersea, when a Selkie woman is stripped of her skin and then murdered, when everything is falling apart, that’s when Toby will have to answer the real question of the hour.

Is she going to sink? Or is she going to swim?

This book! This story! Toby… Tybalt… the Luidaeg… Gillian…

Ugh, someone stop me before I become a totally incoherent, mumbling nincompoop.

I just love them all so much!

The Unkindest Tide is EXCELLENT. I love the plot and the character development. I really don’t want to give anything away here, so…

In this newest book, Toby is called upon to pay her debts to the Luidaeg by using her magic to fulfill the Luidaeg’s vow to the Selkies, to force the Selkies to answer for their ancestors’ long-ago crimes. The backstory of the Selkies and the Luidaeg’s relationship to them never fails to make me want to cry. The Luidaeg has been portrayed throughout the series as the scariest thing around, but over the course of these thirteen books, we’ve been able to also see her heart and her pain, and I love her to absolute pieces.

In terms of the plot, the gang gets together to travel to the Duchy of Ships, a sort of floating kingdom where the Selkies gather to learn of their fate. But there are other political forces at play, involving violence and intrigue and murder, and Toby has a limited amount of time to fix it all, save the day (yet again), and be back in time to carry out the Luidaeg’s plans.

The end result of all this is the beginning of a new chapter in the world of the fae. I absolutely can’t wait to see what happens next!

And yes, I really did love everything about this book, other than my ongoing annoyance with Gillian, who needs to stop being such a brat and start appreciating her mother. But hey, what kind of dramatic tension would we have if everyone got along perfectly?

I’ll wrap things up with a quote from the book, without providing any context, just because I love the writing and dialogue in this series so, so much.

Whatever. I’ve been mocked by better than a few octopus people…

A final note:

The Unkindest Tide includes a bonus novella, Hope is Swift, with Tybalt’s nephew Raj as the main character. It’s fun and affecting, and a nice bit of entertainment after the more intense subject matter of the main novel.

And, okay, a word from Raj, just for fun:

I don’t have my Uncle Tybalt’s skill with flowery, archaic declarations of love, a fact for which I’m genuinely grateful — sometime listening to him is like listening to the audio version of some dreadful period romance, the sort of thing where the men are constantly losing their shirts and all the women keep swooning at the shameful sight of their exposed pectorals.

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The details:

Title: The Unkindest Tide (October Daye, #13)
Author: Seanan McGuire
Publisher: DAW Books
Publication date: September 3, 2019
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

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Book Review: Magic For Liars by Sarah Gailey



Ivy Gamble has never wanted to be magic. She is perfectly happy with her life—she has an almost-sustainable career as a private investigator, and an empty apartment, and a slight drinking problem. It’s a great life and she doesn’t wish she was like her estranged sister, the magically gifted professor Tabitha.

But when Ivy is hired to investigate the gruesome murder of a faculty member at Tabitha’s private academy, the stalwart detective starts to lose herself in the case, the life she could have had, and the answer to the mystery that seems just out of her reach.

Magic For Liars may be set at a school of magic, but we’re on notice from the very first page that this is not THAT kind of school:

Now they were all downstairs at the welcome-back dinner, an all-staff-all-students meal that marked the end of the first week of classes. They’d joke there about house-elves and pumpkin juice — or at least the freshmen would. By the time they were sophomores, that vein of humor was worn beyond use.

After a bloody murder at Osthorne Academy for Young Mages (located in the vicinity of Sunol, California — less than an hour’s drive from San Francisco or Oakland), private investigator Ivy Gamble is called in to help solve the case. Magical authorities have deemed it an accidental death due to a spell gone bad, but the school’s headmaster thinks there’s more to be discovered… and since Ivy is the non-magical twin sister of a professor at the school, she seems to be the right choice to lead the investigation.

The assignment at Osthorne is fraught with tension and high emotional stakes for Ivy. She and sister Tabitha have been estranged for years, really since Tabitha was selected to go to an elite magic school when they were teens. Their paths diverged sharply from that point onward, and the two have never managed to reconnect, especially in the aftermath of their mother’s death while Tabitha was away at school.

Now arriving at Osthorne, Ivy sets out to solve the murder while also trying to understand who Tabitha is now, and who she herself might have been if she’d had magic too. Ivy’s journey is painful to witness, as she drinks herself through her tumultuous feelings every night and lets herself become consumed by the mysterious death and the suspicious undercurrents at the school

I love Sarah Gailey’s writing — I loved it in the American Hippo books, and she’s totally on point here as well, conveying the otherworldliness of the magical world while rooting it in a grim and grimy reality that has more than a shade of noir to it. What magical school doesn’t have a library with weird and dangerous sections? Here at Osthorne, Ivy hears:

… the books murmuring to each other like a scandalized congregation of origami Presbyterians.

Isn’t that delicious?

Some other choice bits:

Across the bay, San Francisco bled money like an unzipped artery.

…. and

The drive through the Sunol hills was as beautiful as the novocaine that comes before the drill.

Certain magic school tropes makes appearances too — there’s a Prophecy and a Chosen One, for starters, as well as the more mundane clique of popular girls who flutter around the central Mean Girl and all sorts of relationship drama, both appropriate and not.

The plot zooms along quickly, and sometimes reality can be a slippery thing. Ivy’s investigations are often clouded by the magical elements around her, but even so, she applies her skills and street smarts to get to the shocking truth. The resolution is pitch-perfect, and even though I guessed at the outcome ahead of time, that did not detract at all from the impact and the shock when the answers are finally revealed.

Magic For Liars is, plain and simple, a terrific read. Don’t miss it!

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The details:

Title: Magic For Liars
Author: Sarah Gailey
Publisher: Tor
Publication date: June 4, 2019
Length: 336 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley