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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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review 2017-05-22 19:18
"Kitty Saves The World - Kitty Norville #14 - last in the series
Kitty Saves the World - Carrie Vaughn

"Kitty Saves The World", the last Kitty Norville book, reflects my experience of the series as a whole, strong on good guys, albeit sometimes flawed and haunted good guys, but weak on really evil villains who are a terrifying threat to the world.


Still, if you enjoyed the first thirteen books, the lack of palpable evil will neither surprise nor disappoint you.


The book read like a fond farewell, bringing back some of my favourite characters, having Kitty give another great performance on "The Midnight Hour", showing Kitty and Ben as a strong and loving couple and finally resolving the conflict with Roman so that Kitty can indeed, save the world.


I liked Kitty in this book. She continued to be strong and brave and witty, even when deeply afraid, but she was also willing to lead and to accept her right to take the help offered by her friends.


The resolution with Roman was clever, original and plausible, within the context of the series. It was drama rather than melodrama. I enjoyed it partly because it felt like something that Carrie Vaughn had been carefully leading up to for some time, rather than a "how am I gonna end this so I don't have to write any more of them?" ending.


It seems to me that Carrie Vaughn has never quite known what to do with the pack that Kitty and Ben lead. She had one book, after Kitty took over, where the pack dynamics were important but mostly, Kitty's pack have been passive elements in the story. Sadly, this remained true for the final book, although there was a good explanation for it.


I ended the book and the series very glad to have spent time with Kitty and watched her grow from a frightened victim of terrible abuse into a strong and compassionate leader who inspired loyalty and created hope.


I think the final book honored Kitty and her readers by staying true to the spirit of the series and by bringing many story arcs to satisfying conclusions without closing everything off so neatly that it became too "happily ever after".


I'm sure the Kitty books are over but I have a suspicion that Carrie Vaughn isn't quite done with Cormac yet. Which is a very fine way to end a series.

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review 2017-05-15 16:37
"Cold Reign - Jane Yellowrock #11" by Faith Hunter.
Cold Reign - Faith Hunter

"Cold Reign" was a fun read that brought the series back to form.

Finally, the evil European Vampires have arrived. We've been waiting for them for what feels like forever. Their arrival picks up the pace, challenges existing relationships, reveals long-planned treachery, and unleashes lots and lot of violence.

I enjoyed seeing Jane moving with more freedom now that she no longer has to hide her true nature. I was glad to see Beast playing a significant part in the action. I always enjoy seeing the world from her unique point of view.

The story made sense (at least in part - there's more to come) of the various additions to Jane's household, the alliances that she's made and the magical objects she's acquired. It's clear that she's going to have to draw on all of them to survive the arrival of the European Vampires.

Jane's powers continue to evolve in useful ways and she, perhaps more importantly, she continues to grow and to make better connections with the people around her and the "family" or clan she has built for herself.

"Cold Reign" casts-off two problems that I'd been having with earlier books: Jane was losing her humanity and she was spending her time protecting some not very nice vampires. In this book, Jane leaves her humanity behind and accepts that she has become something else. Something that she relishes and that those she cares about accept and value. Protecting the vampires is put in a more positive light now that the "take over the world and kill them all" European vampires  have arrived. They are a threat worth fighting against.

This book is about as good as it gets in the Jane Yellowrock universe: vivid battle action with blades, bullets, stakes, fangs, claws and lots and lots of blood, snarky humour, byzantine plot, new players and new magics and, at the heart of it all, a set of people worth protecting.

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