All Ilona Andrews!

[Links in this post lead to one of two places: the author’s website or Amazon.]

I decided to go back and re-read the entire original 10-book Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews. I rarely re-read books, but these are some of my all-time favorites. Kate is one of my absolute favorite protagonists ever. It’s an urban fantasy world in which magic is eating away at the remnants of technology, creating a sort of slow-motion apocalypse. Kate is a mercenary, and kind of a thug, really, but she genuinely likes helping people in a world where not many people do. She has inherited mysterious, powerful magic that she doesn’t really understand or know how to use, and she’s been learning to fight from a master of the art since she was a babe. She’s also been placed on a collision course with a powerful being whom she’s been tasked to kill.

The books are not just as good as I remember; they may actually be better. It’s fantastic to go back and catch interesting things that I didn’t notice before, or see the seeds of future plots and stories when they were just beginning. There are also so many amazing scenes in these books that I love reading over again. We get to see Kate at her best and at her worst, as she grows from a thug-in-hiding to… well, you’ll have to discover that for yourself.

I was so sad when the series ended. But wait, there’s more! Recently Ilona Andrews (which is actually a husband-and-wife writing team) started a new Kate Daniels series–Kate Daniels: the Wilmington Years–set a few years after the end of the last one. Hurrah! Only two books so far, and I can’t wait for more.

Now, it should be noted that there are various novellas and short stories and such set in and around the series, so check out the list of novellas, which includes two for Andrea and Raphael, two for Dali and Jim, and one for Derek. There’s the first Iron Covenant book if you want to see more of Hugh after reading about him in Kate’s books. There’s Blood Heir if you want to see where Julie ended up–and I can’t wait for more about her!

The writing in these books is so fun and so good that I didn’t want to stop once I re-read those twelve books. So, um, I decided to read everything else I could get via Kindle that Ilona Andrews has written. I do mean everything. The release schedule of Andrews’ books (on their site) will help you be sure you’ve got everything.

The Hidden Legacy series is urban fantasy about magical families in a modern world, and it starts off focused on a woman who’s a private detective with a seemingly small magic: she can tell when someone lies to her. Whatever you do, make sure you read the novella Diamond Fire between books three and four or you will be very lost!

The Innkeeper Chronicles is a series about… well, an innkeeper. It seems that there are lots of inhabited planets out there. An agreement in place keeps them from revealing themselves to Earth, but Earth has certain inns set up to receive aliens when they have to be here. The inns are semi-sentient, and they bond with an innkeeper who has almost ultimate power within the inn’s boundaries. But the inn needs visitors in order to flourish, and an innkeeper who misuses their power is likely to find their inn abandoned. The stories of alien visitors and how Dina keeps them from screwing with Earth are quite amazing. This is sort of urban-fantasy-meets-scifi. Some parts get surprisingly dark given how light-hearted the concept sounds.

The Edge is an urban fantasy series about a magical world that overlaps with our own, and the people who live in “the edge” between the two. Most of those people live a pretty sad life. They tend to have too much magic to live in our world, but not enough to live in the other world. Some of them are exiles from the world of magic. There’s some fascinating politics that go on, a touch of steampunk in the magical realm, and some great dashes of romance. Note that romance figures in all of these series to some extent–in some series you’ll see the traditional one-relationship-per-book setup, while in most of them you’ll kind of follow a single couple for several books.

Unlike I did, be sure to read The Edge series before the Innkeeper Chronicles so you can catch the amazing thing that I can’t believe I missed. Several characters from The Edge play major roles in the Innkeeper Chronicles! Now I may have to re-read the Innkeeper Chronicles just so I have that in mind when I do.

The Kinsmen Universe, together with Fated Blades, comprise a series set in the future–pretty much science fiction this time. There are various families who have genetically-engineered “gifts” and who engage in all sorts of shenanigans. This is one of those instances where it’s one-relationship-per-book, and I really enjoyed them.

You’ll also find some additional short stories linked to from that aforementioned release schedule. I highly recommend them. Be sure to check out what it would look like if texting were a thing in the Kate Daniels universe. And yes, I do remember Klausner!

I still hold the Kate Daniels books (and the surrounding “Kate Daniels World” books) as my faves. The rest of the series are very good however, and I’m quite glad I read them. If you want some absolutely amazing high-stakes urban fantasy/science fiction shenanigans, give them a try!

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Still catching up with a few more recommendations!

I guess I really have been getting back into reading lately, because that last post didn’t cover all of them. Here are a few more:

First, the latest in Skyla Dawn Cameron’s excellent Livi Talbot series, a wonderful melange of dark urban fantasy and adventure: Charon’s Gold. If you aren’t familiar with the series, start with Solomon’s Seal. Livi is a down-on-her-luck single mom and treasure hunter in a modern world to which magic is returning.

Rachel Hawkins’s Reckless Girls starts off a little slow, but it’s sooo worth it for the way things ultimately unfold. A young couple with a boat gets hired to take two girls to a deserted island for two weeks. But they aren’t the only ones there…

Kealan Patrick Burke’s Guests is a stranded-in-a-snowstorm horror tale that starts out a little predictably, but swiftly turns into something fantastic.

Cassandra Khaw’s The Salt Grows Heavy is a fascinating and gorgeous horror tale of a very deadly mermaid, her daughters, and a plague doctor.

Victoria Helen Stone’s The Hook is a story of a handful of women who are recruited to help each other out–that is, to help each other get revenge on the people who wronged them!

Identity, by Nora Roberts, is an enjoyable tale of a bartender whose life is ruined by a murderous con artist, and who tries to start her life over again. It’s a romance and a thriller, and just plain fun.

Kate Alice Marshall’s What Lies in the Woods unravels a story of three women who survived a horrific attack when they were teens. They put their attacker away in jail… or did they?

I think this’ll do it for now. Have fun with your reading!

Posted in Reviews

I am determined to keep recommending books every few months…

…even if I don’t have time/energy for full reviews.

Looking for some terrifying, not exactly fully-resolved, horror involving monsters… and some of them are of the human kind? Laurel Hightower’s Below is an icy winter tale of getting lost, being hunted, and maybe finding yourself along the way. Maybe.

Skyla Dawn Cameron’s Dweller on the Threshold is a wonderful, unique haunted house tale (set during Covid-19–best literary reason I’ve ever seen for why someone can’t just leave the haunted house) that held me spellbound. Don’t worry–the cats stay safe! It’s my favorite haunted house tale.

Skyla Dawn Cameron’s Watcher of the Woods is a tale of two out-of-sorts lesbians at a haunted cabin-in-the-woods. Will the “vacation” solve their relationship problems? Haunting and scary with some fascinating turns to it!

Check out a great urban fantasy series by Michelle Manus, starting with Guardian of Chaos. I’ve read the first two books so far and look forward to continuing!

I’m a sucker for deep-space horror, and S.A. Barnes’s Dead Silence is an excellent entry into that field! I’ll never get tired of the “crew finds derelict spaceship and horror ensues” plot.

Paul Cooley’s The Black is the start to a really fun bio-horror series about drilling too deep beneath the ocean’s floor for oil… and what we might find instead.

After that last entry, I had to check out Cooley’s Derelict series, which is about… you guessed it… attempting to salvage a derelict spaceship. I’m on book four of the series right now and loving it.

You can definitely tell I’ve been going for deep-space sci-fi lately, because next is Joshua James’ Saturn’s Legacy series. Action-packed and really creative!

Tim Lebbon’s The Last Storm is a tense end-of-the-world tale in which the world finds itself mighty short on water, and one woman’s special inherited ability might be the answer. If she doesn’t go insane first, and if her father’s enemy doesn’t kill her.

Deanna Raybourn’s Killers of a Certain Age definitely doesn’t fit the theme of the rest of this post, but I urge you to give it a read. A group of female killers is getting on in years and planning their retirement… when it turns out that their employer has something else in mind.

The Grace of Sorcerers, by Maria Ying, is the start to a fabulous and highly unusual series about sorcerers, demons, and love. (Content note for explicit sex.)

Hailey Piper put out Even the Worm Will Turn, a sequel to her fabulous cosmic horror tale, “The Worm and His Kings.” I highly recommend re-reading the first book before reading this one or you may get a little lost. Totally worth the extra time!

T. Kingfisher’s A House with Good Bones is a wild horror tale about a mother who seems to have… changed.

Mariko Koike’s The Graveyard Apartment is a moody, scary tale of an apartment building that borders on a graveyard, and one family that decides the asking price is too good to pass up.

Mira Grant’s Unbreakable is a story of what a world with Magical Girls in it might really be like. And it isn’t all sunshine and roses.

I was extremely sad when the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews came to an end. So imagine how happy I was to see that there’s a new Kate Daniels series starting with Magic Tides! It’s set a little later than the original series, in a different location, but has all the wonderful things we’ve come to love about the setting and characters.

The “Alien” franchise never gets old for me, and I love Mary SanGiovanni’s entry: Alien: Enemy of my Enemy. It’s everything you could want from an Alien novel!

Posted in Reviews

Whoa, this feels weird (a few books I’ve read recently)

Okay, it’s been a while. I’ve been kind of busy with work and don’t have much in the way of spoons left for anything else. But hey, here’s a few words on some books I’ve enjoyed lately.

Hailey Piper’s Your Mind is a Terrible Thing takes place on a spaceship full of corpses, when horrifying monsters attack. It’s surprisingly deep in certain ways, given how much of a fun “classic monster SF” vibe it gives off. I love the main character.

I caught up on some Val McDermid with Splinter the Silence, Insidious Intent, and How the Dead Speak. I love the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan books, and these three will whomp you upside the head and leave you reeling.

I just forced my roommate to read Ilona Andrews’s Kate Daniels book Small Magics and read it myself since somehow I managed to miss its coming out. If you love this series, this book is a delightful addition to the world.

T. Kingfisher’s Nettle and Bone is a breathtaking take on fairy-tale structures and tropes. Like all Kingfisher novels, it’s magic.

Premee Mohamed’s The Void Ascendant was a gloriously satisfying finish to her Beneath the Rising series. It’s hard to believe there were originally only meant to be two books, because it needed this one.

The Broken Room, by Peter Clines, is outstanding. He mates mad science with cosmic horror with such aplomb and amazing characters.

I heartily recommend all of these books!

Posted in Reviews

A few more recent reads

Dean Koontz’s Breathless: A Novel of Suspense was rather fun, with an excellent dash of horror running through. Two mysterious, intelligent beings make an appearance, and a wide variety of seemingly unconnected people are sent hurtling toward their fates. There’s murder-for-hire, reunited families, a veterinarian trying to make sense of a new creature, and more. It’s a little on the amorphous side as stories go, but it definitely had some good stuff in it. The twins (adults, not children) were probably my favorite part. Let’s call it a 4/5.

Grady Hendrix’s The Final Girl Support Group–yes, I finally got around to reading this–was freaking genius. Lynne is part of a therapy group for final girls, the last survivors of massacres. Their lives have been franchised. Their enemies have fan clubs. And Lynne? Does Lynne even really belong at all? When the final girls start dying off one by one, who will be the final Final Girl? There’s just so much to delight over in this one. Red herrings, clever details… so much to keep you glued to the page! This one is definitely a 5/5.

Next was James S.A. Corey’s Leviathan Falls (The Expanse Book 9). It’s hard to believe this wonderful series is over. And it’s amazing to think that for me at least, this final installment lived up to the build-up. That’s really hard to do. When it was over I felt a blend of satisfaction and melancholy. Again, a 5/5.

J.D. Robb’s Forgotten in Death: An Eve Dallas Novel (In Death, 53) is the story of two women who died decades apart, and who seem to have gone wholly un-missed. Eve has to get justice for the recent death of a homeless woman and the long-ago death of a well-dressed pregnant woman. As usual, this installment is a wonderful chance to see justice served as Eve bullishly sets her mind and skills to helping the dead. I’d say a solid 4/5.

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Four quick plugs for great books

No full reviews, because I just haven’t had time. But here are a few quick plugs for neat books.

The Devil You Know is the second book in Kit Rocha’s “Mercenary Librarians” series. It’s post-apocalyptic super-soldier librarians and their allies, with plenty of action and a great dollop of romance and explicit sex. It’s funny, whimsical, dark, optimistic, creative, terrifying, and uplifting. This is a definite 5 out of 5. Can’t wait for book three!

The anthology Giving the Devil His Due: Special Edition is a collection of stories about revenge against those who abuse women. Very narrow focus, but if you’re in the mood for it, it’s great. Just note that of course there’s depiction of abuse. I give this one a 4 out of 5. (IMO most anthologies end up with a 4/5 because not every story is likely to appeal to any given reader.)

Stephen Graham Jones’s My Heart Is a Chainsaw is over-the-top in a surprisingly affecting way. Jade is obsessed with horror tropes, and becomes convinced a “final girl” has come to town and a slasher plot is about to take off. She may well be my favorite main character ever. An easy 5 out of 5.

Luke Walker’s The Nameless is a great conclusion to his wild horror series in which the Old Gods come to Earth… and then we see what happens next! I really enjoyed this unusual tale; it’s probably a 4.5 out of 5.

I highly recommend all four of these books–definitely check them out!

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Yep, it’s been a while…

I’m working full-time now, taking public transportation, and kind of tired by the end of the day, so reviews will be sporadic and unpredictable. I may also do a lot more as short takes rather than longer reviews. On the plus side, I actually like my job! I’m a release of information specialist at a hospital. I’m looking forward to working the evening shift starting soon–it’s a lot quieter in the evening and it’ll be easier to make time to go to doctors’ appointments and run errands.

Posted in News & Musings

Review: “The Mirror of the Nameless,” Luke Walker

Rating: 5 out of 5

Luke Walker’s horror novel The Mirror Of The Nameless was written before his The Day of the New Gods, but in-world it takes place afterward. I read Day first, and I’d recommend doing it that way. It makes the events of that book more surprising.

Dave Anderson, 41, made the mistake of walking down the wrong streets at night. The Children of Naz Yaah, the Worm, chose him as a sacrifice to their god. When he’s rescued by a mysterious young man named Tom who claims to be in love with Dave’s daughter Ashleigh, the two of them head off to hunt her down and save her from an attempt to do something very dangerous. For 30 years now the gods have ruled the earth: Gatur the Green, who drives people so insane that they attack and kill the very people they love. Segoth, the giant zombie who drops burning, rotting flesh that melts people and turns them into his minions. And Naz Yaah, the least understood of the three, the giant worm dripping acid who rules her younger siblings. Ashleigh believes that the writings of an author named Makepeace hold the key to rescuing humanity and freeing them from the rule of the gods, but Tom thinks she’s going to get herself killed–or worse.

Much like Day‘s main character, Brian, Dave spends most of the book fighting tooth and nail to get to and save his daughter. However, Ashleigh is a bit older than Brianna, very much knows her own mind, and has a plan. So the relationship ends up being very different between them. Dave is a bartender who writes on the side (it’s basically heresy to write fiction, so he ghost-writes celebrity books), and he has a lot less practice at being tough than Brian did. He doesn’t have the firepower Brian had, and has to rely on his wits as well as whatever improvised weapons may come to hand. Tom isn’t an amazingly deep character, but it is interesting to watch his somewhat sheltered views get shattered.

What’s really fascinating for me in this book is the opportunity to glimpse civilization several decades after the arrival of the cosmic horrors from beyond. It’s wild to read about–both the ways in which civilization has continued to exist, and the ways in which it falters.

Content note for brutal death and dismemberment, as well as alluded-to offscreen rape.

Usually, sunset came anywhere between nine and midnight. Some nights, it didn’t come at all.

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10 Fantasy and Sci-Fi Books with Asexual Characters

Luminosity Library has come out with a great list of 10 Fantasy & Sci-Fi Books with Asexual Characters. If you’re looking for ace rep, I highly recommend hopping on over there–some of those books look fantastic!

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Short Take: “The Invasion,” William Meikle

Rating: 5 out of 5

I’m a huge fan of Meikle’s creature-features and cosmic horror, so when I found out he had an alien invasion novel, I had to pick up The Invasion. I’m so glad I did.

A strange green rain (in some areas, snow) touches down and consumes all organic matter that it touches. Once it’s done, waves of the resultant green sludge mow down the survivors. Then the real invasion begins. Alice barely survived the initial snow, since she got just a few flakes on her hand. She’s teamed up with two surviving brothers in the effort to stay alive, and she’s starting to discover she has a unique gift that gives her some protection from the aliens–but also turns her into a target. Meanwhile, Hiscock feels pretty great about the fact that he was ready with his bunker and supplies, but in actuality he’s pretty lonely. And he’s starting to worry that even down in his bunker he might not be safe from the invasion. Eventually both survivors get caught up in a plot to drive away the aliens that might or might not save the last of humanity as well.

The life cycle of alien organisms is absolutely fascinating, and the alien world-building that we catch a glimpse of through Alice is amazing. The devastation the few survivors go through is on point, and the aliens are definitely scary. I love the fact that the aliens are not all-powerful, omniscient, or perfect–they make mistakes as well. The characters have a fair amount of depth for a novella, and I really liked the directions both Alice and Hiscock went in.

If you enjoy alien invasion stories and want a quick read, this is a great choice!

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