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review 2017-09-01 12:06
"Blood Gamble - Disrupted Magic #2" by Melissa F. Olson
Blood Gamble (Disrupted Magic) - Melissa F. Olson

"Blood Gamble" continues the walking disaster that is Scarlet Bernard's life as a Null: a human who cancels out the magic of supernaturals in her presence, vampires and werewolves become human and witches' spell bounce off her.

 

This book takes Scarlet out of LA, where she is supported by people she trusts, and into Las Vegas, a city she has a bad history with and where she has to fall back on her own resources. She is made more vulnerable by the fact that her cover story for being in Las Vegas is to attend her sister-in-law's belated hen-party weekend. This gives her enemies potential targets. It also gives us the fun of her seeing her suffer through various girly rituals that she has no wish to take part in.

 

It was refreshing to see Scarlet in a new environment. I thought the tacky-but-hard-to-look-away-from nature of Vegas was captured well. The plot was original, held a few surprises, gave me a few laughs and made just enough (mostly remote) use of well-loved characters from earlier books to keep continuity.

 

Scarlet did a lot of growing up in the last book, "Midnight Curse", finally pulling herself out from her victim status and becoming an actor in her own right. She continues that here, for the most part, acting independently and often quite aggressively.  She is dragged into her past again by another Null that she met when she was a teenager and who she is sympathetic towards, despite his flaws because she sees that she could easily have become what he now is.

 

This is a well done, first person account, that works because Scarlet is a mostly ordinary, mostly nice person who keeps finding herself with life and death choices. What could be more engaging than that?

 

Read this if you're in the mood for an urban supernatural adventure that's heavy on snark and attitude that hides a heart of gold.

 

I recommend the audiobook version as Amy McFadden is the perfect narrator for Scarlet's books.

 

Try a sample for yourself by clicking on the link below.

 

https://soundcloud.com/brilliance-audio/blood-gamble-by-melissa-f-olson

 

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review 2017-08-18 15:56
"Day Shift - Midnight Texas #2" by Charlaine Harris
Day Shift - Charlaine Harris

"Day Shift" continues the story of the small Texas town of Midnight, that started with "Midnight Crossroad"

 

Charlaine Harris uses Midnight as a place to collect characters from her earlier books, mix them with other enigmatic inhabitants with supernatural skills and or unusual gifts and get them involved with events that range from the slightly strange to the fundamentally weird.

 

If you have an afternoon to spare and you're in the mood for a gentle supernatural mystery, seasoned with quiet humour and mostly nice people trying to be mostly good, you'll enjoy this book.

 

If you're looking for fast-paced excitement, hair-raising thrills, and maybe some eroticised blood spilling, move on to a different book.

 

This is an afternoon television kind of Urban Fantasy. Think "Warehouse 13" with even less going on. It's a soap, stocked with characters looking for a plot.

 

Of course, it's a Charlaine Harris soap, so it's well written and the characters hold the attention but really, nothing much happens here. Midnight is a kind of Urban Fantasy Lake Wobegone. It invites you to come sit awhile and catch up with your favourite characters in an environment that is odd but somehow benign.

 

I enjoyed "Day Shift" (I have no idea why it's called that) enough to finish it but not enough to be waiting eagerly for the next one. If there is a next one, I may wander through it but I won't be expecting much by way of excitement except one or two small surprises.

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review 2017-06-16 13:23
"Clean Sweep - Inn Keeper Chronicles #1" by Ilona Andrews
Clean Sweep - Ilona Andrews

"Clean Sweep" made me smile. Despite dealing with werewolves, vampires and predatory aliens locked in mortal hand to hand combat (which is describedin great detail) it manages to be completely charming and often quite amusing.

 

Set in modern-day Texas, it tells the story of a young Inn Keeper who's bed and breakfast is actually part of a network of magical Inns that offer a neutral place for travelers from different worlds and species to stay in in safety.

 

Ilona Andrews has created an original universe that cleverly combines and redefines urban fantasy and science fiction tropes into something new and intriguing. She's then used it as a setting for taking a tongue-in-cheek tilt at the romance themes that typically wrap themselves like vines around vampire. werewolf, magic maiden threesomes in Urban Fantasy. While the book never tips over into either slapstick or satire and has many scenes of graphic violence, humour rather than tension is the dominant scent in this book.

 

The Inn Keeper is fascinating. She speaks softly and draws upon formal Southern manners but is unphased by carrying out an autopsy on an alien who has attacked her and will happily slaughter her enemies in droves when necessary. The depth of her character is what makes the book. The male characters, regardless of species, seem to be mainly foils to display our Inn Keeper or generate laughter at the (self-evidently inferior) approach males take to problem solving.

 

The humour sometimes made it hard for me to take the science fiction seriously (the names of the planets could have come directly from Molière's comedies) but the comic scene in which one of the scary predators gets its ass kicked in a Costco aisle, more that made up for that.

 

"Clean Sweep" has been on my TBR pile for a while, partly because I kept selecting Ilona Andrew's Kate Daniels books instead. I don't have the same hunger for another Inn Keeper book that the Kate Daniels books always leave me with but I'll reach for the next in the series when I need a light, unchallenging but original read that will make me smile.

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review 2017-06-04 22:54
"Magic Breaks - Kate Daniels #7" by Ilona Andrews
Magic Breaks - Ilona Andrews

I enjoyed "Magic Breaks" because it moved the series along, had some original magic in it, had great fight scenes and kept me guessing about what was going to happen next but...

 

...well it was a little weird and I ended up with a feeling that this was a book that entertained me and disappointed or frustrated me at the same time.

 

The first piece of weirdness was the authors telling me in the introduction that this wasn't the last book in the series. Huh?

 

Then they told me they were already under contract to write more. OK. So why the warning? Having read the book, I can why (although I'm not going to tell you - no spoilers here), but I think the warning wasn't needed. If this had been the ending of the series then anti-climatic would have been an understatement.

 

Most of the weirdness was around Kate. For the first part of the book, she's left to lead the Pack alone, a thankless task that she is becoming rather disenchanted with. It was good to see Kate in action on her own but it really showed that she's not cut out for politics or building a power base on any other basis than being able to kill anyone who comes against her. You can feel that she's in some kind of transition but it's hard to see from what to what.

 

Then there's the fact that her blood magic and her parentage both seem to be known by just about everybody. They were the deep dark secrets she was desperately trying to keep in earlier books and now she's been outed and the world hasn't ended. Kate's power, the stuff she inherited from her big bad world-eating father is growing, making her less and less human and, in some ways, less and less Kate.

 

The parts of the book that I enjoyed most were in more traditional territory: Kate getting into traps and fighting against impossible odds. Kate and Curran taking on the world, solving puzzles, taking risks and slicing the enemies apart.

 

Then we got to he big climatic ending and everything twisted out of shape.

Kate goes all cold-blooded avenger, not only killing her enemy but punishing her along the way with an efficiency that was chilling. Kate's enemy was not a nice person and you could argue she deserved what she got but that doesn't make me like Kate any better for being able to mete out that kind of punishment. This whole thing was made worse because the punishment was a display put on for her father's benefit.

 

I can't make my mind up if the end of the book was a clever way of re-configuring all of the players so that the struggle changes from an unwinnable final conflict into something more ambiguous and complex or whether the whole thing was just anti-climatic.

 

 

The quality of the writing and the momentum of the series carried me through. Maybe book eight will help me decide if I still care what happens to Kate.

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review 2017-05-31 22:44
"Nice Dragons Finish Last - Heartstrikers #1" by Rachel Aaron
Nice Dragons Finish Last - Rachel Aaron

I picked up "Nice Dragons Come Last" because I was looking for some lighhearted escapism that would make me smile. Rachel Aaron's book delivered that and a good deal more; surprisingly strong and original world-building, intriguing characters, gentle humour and some great actions scenes.

This is a book about being nice, decent, honest, trustworthy and reasonable, It is not one of those knowing, self-mocking books. It occasionally goes right up to the cliff-edge of cute but never drops into the abyss of sugary wholesomeness. Instead it works through the idea that being nice doesn't have to make you weak, that being fair doesn't have to make you vulnerable and that being who you are is better than hiding from who everyone else wants you to be.

What spices all that up is that the person addicted to niceness is a dragon. Dragons don't hold with niceness. Dragon's are about cunning and power and strength and above all, about winning. Our hero is simply too nice to be a successful dragon, yet, if he fails to display a sufficiently draconian approach to the mission he has been given a couple of days to achieve, his mother will eat him. He teams up with a young mage, who, although she's human, behaves much more like a dragon than he does: she's fierce, territorial, always looking to find an angle and never backs down from anyone. Together they make the perfect odd couple.

There is a quest of a kind, labyrinthine intrigues, warring seers, hungry monsters determined to feed and lots of men with guns,

Our hero is congenitally incapable of being nasty and much of the humour in the book comes from the incredulity with which our hero's attempt to find win-win, conflict-avoiding, solutions to problems that are traditionally resolved by combat.

I found myself slipping more deeply into this world than I'd expected and liking the characters of dragons, even the scary or annoying ones.

So, I've bought the next book in the series "One Good Dragon Deserves Another" and I'm saving it for the next time I'm craving lighthearted entertainment backed up by clever ideas and likeable characters.

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