[Book Review] Evening conversations with a long-dead Mayan priestess

thefallingwomanThe Falling Woman by Pat Murphy

“I was mad because I said words they did not wish to hear, because they could not control me, they could not drag me along like a tethered dog. And so they said I was mad.”

When Elizabeth, an archaeologist with a track record of making incredible discoveries, looks at a historic site, she sees not just the ruins, but the ghosts of the people and civilizations that once existed there.  It’s a gift she’s learned to live with, and keeps secret lest it gets her labeled crazy and thrown out of academia and into a hospital. But her simple archaeological routine is shattered when, during an investigation of ancient Mayan ruins, the shadow of a long-dead priestess sees Liz and speaks to her…and Liz’ daughter arrives out of the blue, mourning her father’s death and hoping to reconnect with her mother. Continue reading

[Book Review] Where magic is murder

Book Review: Trickster by Jeff Somers

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I can’t get enough of urban fantasy worlds.

There’s something about that intersection of our everyday mundane existence and that extra, fantastic reality just on the edge of perception that just gets me. In each new book in this genre, the edges of reality are peeled away just a bit to uncover that something extra amid plot and mystery and compelling characters.

In this, Trickster doesn’t disappoint.

In Trickster’s world, shedding blood powers magic, and the only rule is anything goes as long if you have the power to pull it off.

This is the first world I’ve read in which there is no lip service to policing the magic community, no on-the-hill governing body that tracks down magical criminals, no good wizards tasked with tracking down the bad apples. In fact, it’s a grimy, desperate, and harsh underworld of magic that rewards serial killers with status and mass murderers with the power to move mountains. Continue reading

[Book Review] Can I have some more magic to go with my desert planet rebellion?

Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells

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If you’ve ever thought, “You know what Dune needed more of? More magic and a biker gang!” then this book was written for you. If you are looking for your next stick-it-to-the-corporation space opera rebellion, this book is also for you.

During a routine run through the desert, the gun-toting and chain-smoking biker Hob discovers the bullet-ridden body of her leader’s brother. The dead man’s daughter is still missing, and all the signs point to TransRifts Inc., the company that has the entire planet in a stranglehold. So begins a story of biker gang meets post-apocalyptic desert planet with a dash of Dune and a pinch of X-men. Continue reading

[Book Review] Possessed priest seeks renegade shaman

Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold 

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Penric, a demon-possessed sorcerer and a divine of the Bastard’s Order, is content doing scholarly things in the court of the Princess-Archdivine. But when an investigator needs the services of a sorcerer to track a runaway shaman accused of murder, the Princess-Archdivine assigns Penric to accompany Senior Locator Oswyl on his mission into the snowblown winter mountains to capture the shaman and bring him to justice.

Bujold has yet to disappoint. With a few deft strokes, she paints a cast of intriguing characters with rich internal lives and motivations. Brilliant pacing, an engaging plot, and all delivered with that deft  touch I’ve long come to associate with this series. This is also one of the few – if not the only – series (and I count all the Five Gods books in this) that I can think of that handles religion and fantasy beautifully, with a mixture of grace, humanity and irreverent humor. (Lackey’s Valdemar world is the only other one that comes to mind, but there, the spiritualism takes more of a ba Continue reading

Love, ghosts, and traitors in WWI London

The Book I Ended Up Reading. Cuz Cover.

Ghost Talkers

Yep. It’s historic fantasy, a genre I don’t often read, but after a couple weeks of agony and watching the publication date of this new release creep up on me (and past), I broke down and went for it.

Man, am I glad I did.

The Plot:

London. World War I. Ginger Stuyvesant is an American heiress and a powerful medium serving in the British Spirit Corps, a secret, spiritualist force in the military tasked with hearing the field reports of dead soldiers and passing along military intelligence. Continue reading

[Book Review] Magic, mayhem, and other stuff they didn’t cover in the police academy.

Soul Breaker by Clara Coulson

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YES. The book gods have heard my whining and sent me this book. Shout it from the rooftops, it’s urban fantasy with plot.

Detective Calvin Kinsey is  a rookie in a paranormal investigative branch of the police force –a pseudo hush-hush operation in charge of catching supernatural criminals of the werewolf, vampire, and nonhuman sort. Calvin’s first murder case, though,  puts him in a face-off against an ancient and angry entity slashing and burning its way through the city, one victim at a time.

Oh, where to start with this one. I love books I can’t predict, and Soul Breaker delivered. The mystery in Soul Breaker is mysterious, melodrama is kept low-key, the investigation isn’t solved with some nonsense handwaving, and the fight scenes are gritty, fast, and unexpected. There a dash of romance, plenty of desperation in the face of overwhelming odds, and some inter-species politicking.

From chapter one, the book launches you into a well-paced, quick-moving, non-stop suspense. A thoughtful main character who’s not above the frequent blunder, Calvin joins Harry Dresden in my short list of favorite Urban Fantasy heroes who just can’t catch a break.

Beyond my relief and delight at finding this lovely bit of urban fantasy though, one canary did get knocked off the reading perch for the stiff dialogue. Let’s face it, when the narration sounds more natural than anything spoken out loud, that’s a problem. Another canary flew the coop over some odd characterization choices. But then it came back, because the non-stop suspense was just that good and it couldn’t resist.

 

Canary verdict:

I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book.

Book provided for review by the author.

[Book Review] One soulmate, too many space princes

Shrouded by Frances Pauli

“When Vashia arrives on Shroud as an indentured bride, Dolfan recognizes immediately that they are meant to be together. Broken, lost, and on the run, she trusts no one, but Dolfan has enough faith for the both of them… Until his people’s sacred ritual gives Vashia to someone else.”

“This one looks right up your alley,” my friend told me. “It’s science fiction full of planet royalty and court machinations and forbidden romance.”

“Nnnngghh,” I said. At that point, I may have been lying on the floor, holding a pillow over my face.

“Four words: Arranged Marriage Space Opera.”

Oh. Well, why didn’t you just say so? Continue reading

[Book Review] Not your grandmother’s San Diego: Dogs, dragons, and shady dealings

Black Dog Blues by Rhys Ford

Wowza. It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed an urban fantasy novel that packed this kind of punch.

Here’s the setup. Kai is a Stalker, a freelance mercenary who hunts down deadly magical beasties for a bounty, in a California where our world and the fae world merged and magic and technology exists side by side. When a sidhe lord named Ryder arrives in San Diego to set up his own Court, Kai is strong-armed into doing a job for him. It’s supposed to be a simple escort run up the coast, but becomes something so much more as Kai’s secrets, sidhe politics, and family feuds collide.

Looks like Black Dog Blues was Ford’s first foray into fantasy, and it’s a gorgeous, action-packed piece of work. This book hits all the right notes for me. An alternative modern day world that combines high tech with magic, a main character with terrible secrets and a brutal past he’s trying to escape, fast-paced action, dangerous and deadly monsters, vicious plotting, magic, smart dialogue, clever characters, an array of possible romantic entanglements, and some painful questions of identity, family and humanity. Continue reading

[Book Review] In the Company of Thieves by Kage Baker

In the Company of Thieves

I don’t usually do short story anthologies. But let’s face it. If Kage Baker had done a phone book, I’d still read it. From her delightful riff on fantasy with The Anvil of the World, to her epic fantasy in House of the Stag, to her brilliant time-travel Company series, I’ve pretty much loved everything Kage Baker has ever done.

In The Company of Thieves, we get a collection of five previously published short stories and one original to the anthology, written posthumously and based off of the late Kage Baker’s writing notes. In this, Kathleen Bartholomew, Kage Baker’s sister, joins the ranks of the many writers who have continue their late family members’ legacies: Christopher Tolkien, Todd McCaffrey, Brandon Sanderson at the request of Robert Jordan’s wife, Brian Herbert…

It’s a bittersweet experience, reading posthumous publications of a favorite author written by someone else, and it always leaves me feeling both desperately grateful and bereft. Still, this collection brings Kage Baker’s lyrical style, dark humor, and lovely prose. I adore how her characters come to fully fledged life, no matter what style she uses, and how they stick around, long after I put the book away.

Because the stories in this anthology tie-in directly to Baker’s time traveling Company series you can, but probably shouldn’t, read them as standalones. But if you are already familiar with her science fiction, you’ll get a whole lot more out of the collection.

Book for review provided by Tachyon Publications.

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[Book Review] There’s a zombie inside us all, and it wants out

Parasite by Mira Grant

Parasite (Parasitology, #1)

Talk about a perfect Halloween read! I sat down on October 31st to read this, and just blazed through it. Next time I looked up, it was hours later, long after dark, and I had zombies on my brain. Zombies. Zommbbbiiiieeeees!

Enter Sally, a survivor of a horrific crash who wakes up with no memory of her life before the car accident. (YES! Amnesia plots are my favorite.) She’s a miracle survivor, so for the last six years, as she’s slowly re-learned who her family is, who she is, and even how to speak, she’s been a bit of a natural science experiment for the company whose medical breakthrough (a living tapeworm-like implant that fixes your body) made her survival possible.

But the company (and the government for whom her father works) are keeping secrets, and as people start collapsing from a mysterious sleeping sickness – and saying her name! – Sal finds herself caught right in the middle of it.

I’m no zombie fan. Never. But this wasn’t really a zombie story. It was a speculative (medical?) suspense thriller full of corporate machinations, amnesia, and…a side-plot of zombie apocalypse. Mira Grant is a master of suspense, putting me on the edge of my seat in anticipation that just built and built as Sal navigates her life, her turbulent relationship with who people tell her she used to be, and all the medical tests she has to take. The take on zombies is also novel and intriguing. It’s medicine run amok, humans overreaching, the guilty in denial, and a moral question of whether the zombie cure is worse than murder. Continue reading