Category: urban fantasy


So, house keeping post is coming up later in the week. I’ve been falling behind lately and want to address that. Switching over from that, I do have a review for you all today. Thanks to the folks at Tor, who provided me a review copy, here’s The Empty Ones. Enjoy!

The Empty Ones cover

You’ve seen them before. You’ve even seem the charming strangers with nothing behind their eyes. Carey’s been fighting them since the seventies. Kaitlyn just found out about them a couple weeks ago. To being hunted endlessly by the empty one that nearly killed them, they’ll have to track him down first. Meanwhile a blast from Carey’s past turns up and she doesn’t seem interested in helping save the day.

Robert Brockway’s The Empty Ones is a decent follow up to The Unnoticeables and a solid book in its own right. It’s definitely a middle book, though one that has the courtesy of tying up its own story before jumping for the next book.

It being a middle book is sort of where my big complaint comes from. With The Unnoticeables there was an awareness that there had to be more creepies than just what the protagonists were dealing with, but it was pretty well all small scale stuff. It was local, almost personal, to the protagonists so it felt huge and each thing they stumbled into built it up more and reinforced how out of their depths they were. This book doesn’t have that. It physically takes the protagonists out of their usual haunts and has them chasing the monsters. Having that makes the whole plot feel smaller, or less, even as the stakes are higher this time around.

Part of what makes this an issue is the difference between what the reader knows from the 2013 sections and what the reader learns from the 1978 sections of the book. In the first book, the split timelines worked really well because it allowed the reader to see something in action and then learn about it or vice versa. The parallels aren’t nearly as clean in The Empty Ones, so we get a lot of new information in the past that doesn’t really seem to inform the present or the previous book. It can feel  awkward even when it does land right, making scenes feel off kilter and characters feel not like themselves.

That’s a big part of what I meant when I said it’s solid in its own right but only a decent follow up. On its own, The Empty Ones has a lot of the same energy and punch as The Unnoticeables. The characters are still easy to care about. The monsters are still that extra spark of creepy. Even the new things that don’t totally work in context of the previous book are really cool if taken as part of a standalone novel. Reading it as a sequel though leads to comparisons and little rough spots throughout. The wonderful bittersweet ending to The Unnoticeables is suddenly fractured because we don’t have to wonder how Carey got from there to being nearly alone. Sammy Six’s story matters a whole lot less now because of new details. What’s lost is a lot of character stuff, and not necessarily little stuff at that.

On its own this is a really fun book. The antagonists are far stronger than the heroes, so the heroes have to be clever or just runaway. The characters feel very human or that perfect degree of just slightly wrong. The tone is by and large spot on. Emotive scenes hit the right chords, generally at the right times. And ultimately, while I like it better on its own than as a sequel, it makes me want to keep reading. I want to see where everything goes.

So, where does this leave The Empty Ones? As a standalone book it would be nearly a five out of five. The issue is that it follows a book that I would more than happily give a five to and, while it does well on its own, it doesn’t stack up to the book it follows. So that earns The Empty Ones a four out of five.

I’m something approaching  early this week. I wanted to get this posted the day it came out instead of  waiting until tomorrow. I also wanted to do something to apologize for being so late last week, so I’m posting a review tomorrow as well. Bringing this to you thanks to NetGalley, here’s a review of DC Universe Rebirth: Batgirl volume 1: Beyond Burnside. Enjoy!

Batgirl vol 1 Beyond Burnside cover

Batgirl is on vacation, and Barbara Gordon is headed to Okinawa in hopes of interviewing Chiyo Yamashiro, the Fruit Bat, a vigilante from the 30’s. Even on vacation Barbara manages to find trouble in the form of her childhood friend Kai and the three “students” hunting him down. Can she figure out what Kai’s gotten himself into and how to save him or will Batgirl flunk out?

I feel very out of my depth reviewing this. It’s been since Gail Simone left the Book that I’ve read a Batgirl comic and I’ve missed a lot. That said, while there’s some thing’s I’m not a huge fan of, I find myself really liking this iteration of Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl. Hope Larson does a good job with the characters and a more than reasonably good job with the story.

Let’s actually start with that. What makes this Batgirl different than what I’m used to? She feels a lot younger for one, that’s one of those things I’m not real big on, but it also lends a lighter feel to the comic so it balances out. She’s apparently running her own company as well, a company that makes enough that she can travel around the world pretty easily, so that’s something I’m curious about. I’m also interested in what’s going on in Burnside, which seems to be Batgirl’s Bludhaven, her Gotham in a way. So a lot of that actually makes for a really good jumping on point. The character is familiar enough not to alienate a reader who’s either lapsed or someone who knows her from something else, but also fresh enough to feel new.

The flipside is that the arc that Beyond Burnside covers is very standard Batfamily stuff. The new old friend, Kai, just happens to be Barbara’s roommate at the first place she stays. He gets attacked while they’re out seeing a festival and meeting Fruit Bat, thus introducing our villain. Necessary coincidences happen as required. It’s a good building point, and I’m curious about some of the characters, but it does feel like a safe introduction kind of story. This being the first arc for the DC Universe Rebirth for Batgirl, that’s not a bad thing just very safe.

I’m not familiar with Rafael Albuquerque’s art. It’s not my favorite thing, and I do feel like it’s one of the weaker parts of the book. This is mostly due to the lack of backgrounds throughout the book. Having a single solid color backing the panel can be a great way to reinforce the emotion of a scene, if used sparingly. I feel like it’s overused here, which makes it lose its effectiveness and just feels a little off. Albuquerque’s faces can be fantastically emotive, though they can also slip into something just slightly off, something about the angling in some of the close-ups or just going a little too far with an expression.

I enjoyed this a good deal, it was fun, it did the job of introducing the world at large to keep my interest past this arc, and the one-shot story at the end was a good way to tie up loose ends and cool down from the arc. Batgirl Volume 1: Beyond Burnside gets a four out of five from me, it would have been a five if not for the few issues with the art.

And, in a turn of events I’m sure no one saw coming, I am late posting my postponed review. Who would have thought, right? I’d have had it if not for that sleeping curse. But it’s here now, much to everyone’s delight. Thanks to the awesome folks at Tor, here’s The People’s Police. Enjoy!

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When Officer Martin Luther Martin was ordered to serve his own eviction notice he didn’t expect to wind up the face for the following police strike against the loan lizards trying to foreclose on everyone. When bordello owner J. B. Lafitte called the strike on being self serving, only helping the police, he didn’t expect them to agree. When MaryLou Boudreau first woke up from dancing with a full hat and no memory of how it wound up that way she never expected to wind up as Mama Legba, television personality and horse to the Loa. No one expected Papa Legba himself to address Luke on tv or the question he would ask. “What do you offer?”

This one might get a little weird, there may also be a few spoilers so heads up. Norman Spinrad’s The People’s Police is a bit of an odd duck as far as fantasy or urban fantasy novels go. It’s well written in many respects, but I’d have a hard time calling it a fun read. It’s got definite fantasy elements, but is also almost cynical in its approach to politics and the way we’re governed. It’s got a really political thesis, but then avoids a lot of what makes that thesis political, becoming sort of a preaching to the choir deal. It’s actually a little hard to come up with much of an opinion on it because of all that, I’m really not used to that.

So, start from the beginning, does the story live up to its blurb? Yes and no. The actual blurb for the book doesn’t really say much, so it’s hard for the book to not fall into it. At the same time the book lacks a certain degree of coherency for much of its run which, in addition to making it feel like it could have been trimmed a good deal, also leads to it feeling very scattered in places. Several characters could have been worked in much better, but instead weren’t introduced until the last probably fifth of the novel. The same can be said for certain events not having enough lead up and so winding up feeling misplaced.

We also get some weirdness with the language of the book both in that Spinrad occasionally chooses to write in characters’ accents, something I’m not a fan of, and that multiple characters will more or less verbatim use really specific wording. That bit is very like being beaten over the head with propaganda, like video game levels of it that you’re supposed to know what it is so you don’t take it seriously, which doesn’t fit because it’s part of the book’s main idea. It feels clumsy or like Spinrad doesn’t trust his audience to get it.

Here’s the kicker, none of that singly or grouped together runs a serious risk of killing a book for me, at least not usually. He’s also got some stuff that’s usually near guaranteed to get me invested. There’s good character work, any number of scenes are strongly written and play well to the reader’s senses, and the weird cynical optimism often works in the book’s favor. It doesn’t set though. We get a lot of back story in the first half of the book, but a lot of its told rather than shown. The supernatural aspect is interesting and the in book discussion had potential, though I feel like maybe Spinrad could have used something other than the Loa or done more to actively show his work. I know next to nothing about Voodoo, so I could easily be missing the mark entirely on that one, but still. Even the character work falls flat in places with a later character’s focus on his religion making him feel very cardboard where he, if introduced earlier, could have been much more dynamic.

I’m sitting at the point where I can easily see people getting really into The People’s Police and any number of other people reading two chapters and reselling it. Its writing is technically pretty good but lacks flavor, for lack of a better word, and has enough little things that I’m just neutral on the whole thing. So that said, The People’s Police gets a three out of five.

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As mentioned yesterday, I’ve got a giveaway for you all. Thanks to the awesome folks at Tor I’ve got two copies of Norman Spinrad’s new novel, The People’s Police, that means two winners.

The giveaway will run from today until next Sunday the 19th at midnight central time and will be open to entries from the United States and Canada.

Standard rules apply: you’ll need to be following this blog to enter, the winners will be selected using a random number generator, and you’ll need to answer a question for your entry here.

So, question time readers, The People’s Police deals with the issues of those in charge caring more about the interests of the richest among us than the people at large. How do you react when it seems like the deck’s been stacked against you and how do you try and make it better?

The Ghost Host: Tour Stop

The Ghost Host

Somehow, I always knew the people I saw hovering around looking aimless were ghosts, and it never really bothered me. Sometimes I talked to them when I was little. They never talked back. Sometimes they would play with me, though. My mom used to tell people what a good baby I was, how I never cried or fussed. She thought she had just lucked out with an easy first kid. Really, I always had someone standing over my crib smiling at me or making silly faces. Ghosts really seem to like being around babies for some reason.

It wasn’t until I got a little older that I realized some of my ghostly friends were hanging around for a reason. A few of them were just lonely and either weren’t ready to move on or didn’t know how. I haven’t got a clue about how to send them on their way, so I figure the least I can do is keep them company.

Others, they had messages they wanted to pass on. At first, I didn’t know how to do that without getting into trouble. My mom refused to make phone calls or send my letters to who she deemed were random strangers. I found ways to get the letters in the mail, at least, without her knowing, but it wasn’t easy and they occasionally got sent back to us when the address proved inaccurate. Mom wasn’t happy when she found one and realized what I’d been doing.

Holden was the one who came up with the idea for the webshow. It made things a lot easier since my parents think it’s just a funny hoax we like to pull, and it gives us a hobby and keeps me out of trouble for the most part. That’s the biggest reason they let me do it. As I got older and more capable, more able to help the ghosts, they became more insistent. That’s when things got really bad.

Up until that point, I didn’t know the ghosts could affect my dreams, and not in a good way. The nightmares got progressively worse, morphing into full on night terrors. The headaches followed, though I’m still not sure if the ghosts were trying to talk to me, or just doing whatever they could to get my attention. Sometimes, their presence would become so oppressive as they tried to communicate that I would completely zone out… which sent my grades into the toilet and my behavior into the realm of unmanageable. The worst by far is when they try to touch me.

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Ghost HostThe Ghost Host by DelSheree Gladden

Everyone thinks Echo Simmons is crazy, but being The Ghost Host isn’t just a YouTube hoax like people think. It’s the only way to control the ghosts haunting her…at least until the FBI shows up asking questions.

The first eighteen years of Echo Simmons’ life have been less than ideal. On more than one occasion her parents have considered committing her. They don’t believe she sees ghosts or that they harass her on a daily basis. So when a rogue ghost begins tormenting her, they’re the last people she’s going to tell. Her best friends Holden and Zara are doing their best to help, but ghost attacks are only the beginning of Echo’s problems.

Handling the ghosts by giving them a voice on YouTube through her webshow has been her saving grace—even if her parents think it’s all a hoax—but that gets a little complicated when the ghost of Madeline Crew reveals a little too much about her previous life and the FBI shows up at her door wanting to know how she gained access to long-buried government secrets.

It just keeps getting worse from there. Madeline’s message to her great grandson sparks a strange connection between Echo and Malachi, which leads to Georgia, secrets, mistakes, love, lies, and life changing revelations.

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delshereeAuthor DelSheree Gladden

DelSheree Gladden was one of those shy, quiet kids who spent more time reading than talking. Literally. She didn’t speak a single word for the first three months of preschool, but she had already taught herself to read. Her fascination with reading led to many hours spent in the library and bookstores, and eventually to writing. She wrote her first novel when she was sixteen years old, but spent ten years rewriting and perfecting it before having it published.

Native to New Mexico, DelSheree and her husband spent several years in Colorado for college and work before moving back home to be near family again. Their two children love having their cousins close by. When not writing, you can find DelSheree reading, painting, sewing and trying not to get bitten by small children in her work as a dental hygienist. DelSheree has several bestselling young adult series, including “Invisible” which was part of the USA Today Bestselling box set, “Pandora.” The Date Shark Series is her first contemporary romance series, and her first book in her upcoming new adult series, The Ghost Host, will be releasing 2015.

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$25 Blog Tour giveawayBlog Tour Giveaway

$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash

Ends 10/29/15

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Alright folks, lets do this thing.  Halloween is in three days and I’ve got a couple of books ready to find new homes.  This is a short one, three days two prizes, and the usual two ways to win.

Prize one is a once read review copy of C. Aubrey Hall’s Crystal Bones, a teen fantasy novel.

Prize two is a new copy of E.S. Moore’s Blessed By A Demon’s Mark, the third Kat Redding novel.

To enter, follow my blog and comment on this post telling me which prize you want and something that you really enjoy about Halloween.  For a second entry you can follow me on twitter @Tymp3st.

Contest will end at midnight Standard time on the 31st.  I’ll have winners posted on the first.

Remember folks, may the odds be ever in your favor.

I’ve mentioned being on another Slendy kick multiple times recently, so I thought I would mention that I ordered a copy of House of Leaves due to it being referenced a fair deal in the mythos.  It arrived yesterday, wrapped appropriately creepily in plain brown paper and listed only as being from “Family”.  Even if this wasn’t on purpose, I approve wholeheartedly.  I haven’t gotten far in yet and the beginning is a little on the slow side, but I am enjoying it so far.

In other news, I kind of completely wigged on that review and will be posting it as soon as it’s written.

So, I’m a bit late with this one.  Blame the kitten, Jonesy seems to have decided that the best toys ever are my hands and the cables to my laptop. It would be adorable if it didn’t make me worry that she was going to electrocute herself.  That aside, I’m back to working again and have another review partly done for either later this week or early next week.  All that said, this is a review for one of the books that I got last summer, so it isn’t entirely current.  Enjoy the review!

During World War 2 a group of English children were sent to a small town to keep them safe from the war.  In the time they were there each of them was entrusted with one of thirteen ancient artifacts for safe keeping.  These artifacts are all that stand between humanity and a realm of flesh hungry demons.  Fast forward to the present and the septuagenarian keepers are being killed off one by one and their artifacts stolen.  It will be up to bank teller Sara Miller to take up the broken sword and stop nothing less than the end of life as we know it.

Michael Scott and Colette Freedman’s The Thirteen Hallows had promise.  It wasn’t treading any new territory with the plot of hapless heroes with a magical MacGuffin trying to stop some big mysterious evil from destroying the world.  But there was way too much gratuitous stuff for it to be good, and it can’t all be attributed to the villains’ demonic alignment and the dark magic that they’re using to get at the hallows.  Plus, the characters each seem to be clutching their own personal idiot ball whether it is the detective who insists that Sara is an insane serial killer despite evidence to the contrary or the evil sorceress who can magically track our totally mundane heroine but can’t kill her and take the sword.  This is going to be one of the ones that I get a little long winded about because there’s a lot that could have used a second look.

So, the gratuitous stuff, it’s mostly violence and there’s some sex.  The violence could have been hand waved by saying that the levels of brutality used were necessary in every case that popped up, I think it was mentioned that the keepers had to be terrified and in agony for the magic to work.  But it wasn’t needed for the murder of Sara’s family or the random neighbor who tried to help the first on screen victim.  The sex might have been used once or twice for magic stuff, but mostly it seemed to play into the main villain’s being oh so evil just because they can be and sex is apparently the best way to show that.

Following that, the characters were flat.  The villains were evil because why not, the heroes were only the heroes because the plot needed them to be, and the police were really really dumb.  I can’t stress this enough, the characters were just poorly written and that bothers me.  I like my fantasy novels, or any novel I read for that matter to be character driven and these guys didn’t cut it. The main characters where flat enough that I almost started cheering for the villains, but they somehow managed to be even flatter again, evil for evil’s sake.  The worst case for me was the senior cop, Detective Inspector Fowler.  The writers needed a reason for Sara and Owen to stay on the run rather than turning to the police, this could have been accomplished by having the police laugh them off after they told them everything or by having the villains frame Sara for killing one of the officers that were investigating her family’s murder or any number of other things.  Instead, old cop digs in almost immediately and decides that Sara must be some kind of psycho killer despite her reactions indicating otherwise and the sheer number of statistics that suggest that women generally don’t kill people in that violent a manner.  If he had jumped on after the evil junky’s death, then I would be fine with it because people saw her do that.  On the other hand, the comparison between him and his partner, Sergeant Heath, made her one of the only characters in the book that I came anywhere near liking.

Speaking of Heath, the quality of descriptions in this book were also all over the place.  The reader gets lovingly written scenes of violence and gore and yet the only descriptions we really get for her were that she’s blond, butch, and nicer than her partner.  Again, if there had been better reason given for the attention to gore, like if the police were checking the crime scenes and slowly piecing together what was happening with bits of ritual that were left behind among all the blood and viscera.  That would have been cool, and could have given credence to Fowler’s insistence that Sara was a crazed killer until evidence piled up that it was the Dark Man and his sorceress accomplice or one of their underlings.  But it wasn’t, and that seems like a waste.

So, where does this leave me on The Thirteen Hallows?  It had potential, I can say that of it, but that potential was squandered on hollow characters and overall mediocre writing.  It was a fast read but more in a “when does this get good” way than a “this is amazing” way.  This was the first thing I’d read by either author and, while I’ve heard good things about both in reading to see who they were, it may be the last thing I read by either of them.  The ending left room for more books and anything I can find online suggests that there’s supposed to be a sequel at some point but I have a hard time seeing where I could go from here.  I’m giving this one a one out of five for characters that I couldn’t bring myself to care about and a story that couldn’t seem to decide what it was or what it wanted to be.

So, I’m back after only, what two months now?  I’m not dead.  A little zombified sure, but not dead.  So, behind schedule as always, being crushed slowly by work and classes and all that.  Nothing big, just the usual.  But I do have a review for you lovely people, isn’t that exciting.  Here we go and don’t mind the rust.

Amateur detective Anne Marshall and her fiancé Jason Perry are headed down to Florida for Thanks Giving vacation with his parents only to find that his mother’s best friend Maude has been murdered.  The only clue is a fragment of a nursery rhyme pinned to her shirt.  “Pocket full of poesies.”  Anne dives into the mystery, finding out that the victim’s brother had been killed months earlier with a similar note attached to his body.

Jackie Fullerton’s Ring Around the Rosy is, at its core, a book that doesn’t seem to quite know what it is.  It combines the out matched heroine of a cozy mystery with urban fantasy’s just kind of there magic with a romance novel’s dead end love triangle.  Anne makes for an interesting heroine because she knows that she shouldn’t be digging into the police’s investigation.  Her friends tell her not to, her dead father tells her not to, but she does it anyway apparently because she’s the heroine.  So she stumbles around trying to figure out what could cause someone to try to wipe out an entire family.  And of course she’s torn between the comfortable love that she has with her fiancé and the shock of lust she feels for Detective Reynolds.  She’s also teamed up with her father’s ghost who, despite later in the novel revelations about the nature of the other side, seems to mostly exist to be a plot dump and to comfort her about her attraction to Detective Reynolds.  So the book kind of feels mushed together between several genres in ways that don’t really work for me.

The villains are also a bit of a problem.   Carl Martin is teamed up with his own ghost, Jeremiah, in trying to murder this family.  This could have been awesome if the protagonists had been aware of Jeremiah earlier in the novel.  As it stands, Carl is being pushed to take revenge for Jeremiah because of their mutual dead families and grief, but Carl and the reader are the only ones aware of Jeremiah for the first three quarters of the book.  It makes it impossible for the protagonists to figure much out, so they spend pages and pages spinning their wheels until accidents happen to move the plot along.  Plus, again, Anne’s father was following people to find out as much as he could why, after they identified Carl, wasn’t he aware of the other ghost?  Especially given that Jeremiah seems to have known everything he needed to regardless of whether he should’ve or not.

Given all that, Ring Around the Rosy winds up being just sort of flatly mediocre.  It isn’t bad even with a few instances of overly romanticized dialogue and plot troubles, but it isn’t good either despite decent side characters and what could honestly be an interesting dynamic between Anne and her father.  So where does this leave me?  I’m honestly not sure.  As I’ve said, it isn’t a bad novel and some of my issues with it almost definitely come from having read it out of sequence, but I don’t think I would read the other two based on this one.  All in all, it’s a three out of five book that could have used some whittling down and focusing on its plot.

Halloween Giveaway

Because Halloween is awesome and books are awesome I decided to combine the two and run a giveaway from Halloween until the Saturday after.  I’ve got three prize packs up for grabs, all of them books, all of them well worth reading.  And you, my readers, get to choose which ones you want to enter to win.

The prizes are:

Murder and Mayhem:

A copy each of Tess Gerritsen’s The Surgeon and Erica Spindler’s See Jane Die.

Behind the Masquerade:

A copy each of Rachel Caine’s Ill Wind and Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty and the Midnight Hour.

The final prize is a copy of Ilona Andrews’ Gunmetal Magic.

So, how do you enter to win?  It’s easy, follow this blog either by email or through WordPress, comment here telling me what prize you want to be entered for and something about Halloween, then check back Sunday evening when I post the winners.  You can get an optional extra entry by also following me on Twitter @Tymp3st, but that will not qualify you to win on its own.

Best of luck everybody and have a great Halloween!