the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘urban fantasy

In no particular order, here are the new books that have come into my house recently. (and this doesn’t even the count the ratty used paperbacks I’ve purchased, the e-book of Mythic Delirium I bought, and other books that friends have let me borrow).  My love for books is happily out of control!

 

What looks good to you?

As they say, if you can read a Steven Brust book, do it.  Witty characters, meaningful snark, well crafted mysteries, subtle clues and references.  I zipped through his newest, Good Guys, last weekend.  Compulsively readable, I need to read it again before I write a review, as I’m sure I missed a ton of good stuff.

You ever wonder what’s really happening when your tummy rumbles? Want to know more than you ever wanted about poop? If you answered Yes to at least one of those questions, Gut is for you.  I was looking for a paperback copy of The Secret Language of Trees, and came across Gut instead (yeah, B&N has zero organization to their science books).  I like knowing how my insides work.

 

Latchkey by Nicole Kornher-Stace comes out in July, it is the sequel to her acclaimed novel Archivist Wasp. I’m a jerk, and never read the first book, but here’s hoping I can just dive right into the new one!

I think I kinda freaked out Jerry Gordon at ConFusion when he said he’d written a novel about David Koresh and I was like “who in their right mind would do that, holy shit  tell me more”.  I’ve been waiting for this ARC to show up in my mailbox ever since, and I started reading it, oh, about 5 minutes after I ripped it out of the envelope.  Breaking the World releases on April 19th, we’ll see if I can get the book finished and a review up before then.

 

In that same envelope with Breaking the World was the April issue of Apex Magazine. Yes, this is available in print now! Subscriptions are reasonable, and it is hella bragging rights for me to walk around with a magazine that I am in. so, yeah. the April issue has an essay from Jerry Gordon, talking all about the behind-the-scenes of Breaking the World. Guess I better come up with some way better interview questions for him. . .

Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson is  for my local scifi bookclub. I’m about halfway through and kinda losing the thread. I dig the main character, but am having trouble getting invested in the plot. I think too much is being jammed into too few pages? Anyone read this? What did you think?

 

The Freeze-Frame Revolution comes out in June, and I meant to just read the first chapter or two to get a taste of it, and two days later I was done and wanted to read it again. Review is already in the works, but I figure I better wait till just a little closer to June before posting. Short version of the review? this book is very, very good. Way too much crammed into too few pages, and it works beautifully.  because, you know, Peter Watts.

Rock Manning Goes for Broke by Charlie Jane Anders doesn’t come out till September, so I guess it should sit on the TBR pile (my entire living room is turning into a TBR pile) until the summer. Looks like a fast fun read, maybe sort of Cory Doctorow-ish?

 

One of Us comes out in July, I’m not sure what exactly this is, but the early critical reviews are basically “this book will break you”.

Apocalypse Nyx comes out in July,  so once I finish all the stuff I’ve been dipping my toes into, I better get this one read. June will be hear before you know it!

 

Phoresis by Greg Egan comes out at the end of April.  It’s Egan, so that means it is dense and hard scifi. I’ve dipped my toes into this one, read maybe half of it. There is lots of “let’s science the shit out of this”. What I really need to do is start it again, from the beginning, and take notes. Because, Egan.

Silver Spoon was a happy surprise at B&N. I loved the anime of this, and really, anything by Arakawa is going to be fantastic. I’m interested to see how faithful the anime was to her original manga. The story follows a city boy who doesn’t know what he wants to do for college, so he ends up at an agricultural school, and finds himself surrounded by new friends who grew up on farms. It’s a nice coming of age story.

 

 

well? what looks good to you?  if these books were floating around your house, what would you read first?

 

 

 

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Borderline, by Mishell Baker

Published in 2016

Where I got it: It was a freebie at an event I attended (free book? SCORE!)

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You know the TV show Torchwood? Imagine if it was urban fantasy:  swap the aliens for fey creatures, swap the alien technology for magic, swap Cardiff for Hollywood, and double up on the snark and you’re on your way to having something a little like Mishel Baker’s Borderline.  I’ve got a weakness for snarky novels written in first person, so I was hooked on Borderline about 20 pages in.

 

Millie hasn’t got much going on these days.  Her stay at a psychiatric center is paid up for another six months, and she’s gotten pretty used to her prosthetic legs.  When a strange beautiful woman waltzes in and offers her a job, Millie says yes out of a combination of boredom and curiosity.

 

Upon arrival at what is known as Residence Four, Millie learns the first rule is “don’t ask”.  Everyone here has some kind of medical, physical, metaphysical, or mental health condition, and it is and disrespectful and rude to assume, presume, or make light of someone’s predicament.  You wait until someone feels comfortable enough with you to tell you about their personal life. And if they never feel comfortable enough? Well, that’s your problem, not theirs. Oh, and all these people work for a group that helps control the traffic between our world and the Fey world by ensuring Fey glamours are functioning, and that only authorized Fey are here on Earth and that there is no violence between the two groups. Part of the pact is that if we harm any Fey, they will slaughter us. Hmm… so I guess a little more like Men in Black than Torchwood? Also, how come no one will tell Millie who Elliott is?

 

Millie brought a lot more than her physical baggage to Residence Four.  She has Borderline Personality Disorder, she’s still working through the events that led to her failed attempt at suicide, she’s still getting used to her scarred and battered body that doesn’t look like how she feels, and now that she’s free of both film school and a psychiatric center she’s also interested in some end result based flirting.  None of which jives with the ad hoc family at Residence Four, so things are pretty awkward for her right from the get go. Through her first person perspective, we get a lot of “because of my Borderline Personality Disorder, I often . . . “, giving me just enough information to be really dangerous. I do some of those things, sometimes. Does that mean I have BPD?

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Imprinted (available January 2018) is the forthcoming novelette in Jim C. Hines’s Libriomancer series, and The Squirrel on the Train (November 2017, Subterannean Press) is Kevin Hearne’s latest Oberon’s Meaty Mysteries novella.  Two super fun and funny little stories!

 

Jim C. Hines concluded his Magic Ex Libris series with the fourth book in the series, Revisionary.  The magic of this series sounds rather basic at first – the world’s collective love for books, stories, and the items found therein allows Libriomancers to pull physical items out of books. Urban fantasy awesomeness and characters who will absolutely shred your heart ensue.  Because character relationships, people’s abilities, and the danger ramp up pretty quickly, this is a series that needs to be read in order.  But. . .  with an itty bitty spoiler (that really doesn’t spoil anything) you can read Imprinted even if you are not caught up on Magic Ex Libris.  That’s me, by the way. I’m the person who isn’t caught up on Magic Ex Libris.

 

Revisionary was supposed to have been the end of the series, right? Well, it wasn’t for Jeneta. She still has a story to tell!

 

Seventeen year old Librariomancer Jeneta Aboderin has a unique libriomantic ability, it’s an ability Isaac might never even thought of had he not met Jeneta. But her power brings risk with it. What if she isn’t strong enough to control her ability? What if she is able to control it, and ends up disrupting the foundations of libriomancy?

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xxxholic omnibus 1xxxHolic, omnibus #1

published in 2007 (I think?)

where I got it:  have owned it forever.

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I’ve been reading Manga on and off for probably ten years. I don’t mention manga much, because there are very few series I’ve liked enough to invest in.  One of the early reviews on this blog was for the first volume (or first few? I can’t tell) of xxxHolic, by CLAMP. The Manga section of Barnes and Noble is full of 3 volume omnibuses these days, but back in the old days, a three volume omnibus was an oddity. No one planned to make more than one of these monsters, so sometimes there wasn’t even a  number on the spine.  And speaking of “way back when”, xxxHolic has been floating around in one form or another since 2004 or there abouts.

 

I wrote a halfway decent review of this back in 2010, it’s nice to see I did a decent job of writing a plot based review!   It’s interesting to see what I got out of xxxHolic then, and what’s I’m getting out of it now. The surface stuff is always the easy stuff – Yuko’s hidden “shop”, the crossover plotlines and funny little jokes from other CLAMP works, the “monster of the week” episodic feel of these first three volumes, the gorgeous artwork.   If you’re used to American style graphic novels, Japanese manga, CLAMP works especially, may be a shock to you – everything is in black and white, there is far less dialog per page, motion is depicted very differently, and the human body is drawn differently than you might be used to.

are you the spacetime witch

Back in the day, I stalled out six or seven volumes into xxxHolic, I felt the story wasn’t really going anywhere.  At the time, seven volumes was a pretty big investment to make in a series if I wasn’t going to continue.  Yuko might be the space time witch who offers to help Watanuki get rid of his spirits problem, but I needed more than just urban fantasy slice of life.  I didn’t continue reading it, but my husband did, eventually trading in our single volumes for these hefty 3-volume omnibuses. And he let me know the story gets deeper, deadlier, and darker. So now I want to give it another try, because I like all of those things!  Watanuki might be getting dragged on Yuko’s errands, but it’s important later for him to have safely been exposed to all this urban fantasy type stuff. Even at the ghost story telling ceremony with Domeki, Watanuki might might not feel safe, but if Yuko is in the room she’ll never let anything permanent happen to him. Or at least I don’t think she’d let anything happen to him . . .

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The Dispatcher, by John Scalzi

published in print in 2017, audible version in 2016

where I got it: received advanced reading copy from the publisher (Thanks Subterranean!)

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.Wow was this a fun little novella!

 

The story is nearly all dialog, and while I was reading I kept thinking to myself “All this banter and chatter, this would make a fantastic audio book!”.  I hopped online, wondering if there were any reviews up yet of this novella to learn that I live under a rock.

 

Last year, Scalzi wrote The Dispatcher as an audio only novella, to be exclusively offered on Audible.com for a certain length of time. And Zachary Quinto narrates it!  As a huge thank you to his fans and everyone who loves audible, the download was free for a short window.  So, I am apparently the last person to know that Scalzi wrote a very fun little  novella called The Dispatcher.  I’m ok with this.

 

I recently reviewed Mira Grant’s Last Girls, and my experience with Scalzi has been similar to my experience reading Grant/McGuire: I’m mostly meh on their novel length works, but I usually enjoy their short fiction.

 

The Dispatcher is just over 120 pages, but feels much shorter since it is nearly all dialog. The gist of the story is that people aren’t really dying anymore.  Sure, you can die from old age, or from driving drunk and wrapping your car around a tree, but if someone else intentionally kills you, you’ll wake up a few hours later at home, as good as new.

 

No one quite understands how or why this is happening, but 999 times out a thousand, it works. What about people who are on the edge of death? They’ve been brought to  the emergency room after a terrible car accident, or they had a surgery that had horrible complications?  This is where professional dispatchers come in. If you’re about to die, a dispatcher shoots you in the head, intentionally causing your death.  About five minutes later, you wake up good as new, at home. About five minutes after that, the dispatcher cashes their check from your health insurance company.  It sounds ridiculous, but it works, and it makes for an increasingly fun little story.

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Lost Souls,  by Kelley Armstrong (Cainsville series)

published March 31 2017

Where I got it: received ARC from the publisher. Thanks Subterranean!!

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These ongoing series are fantastic, aren’t they?  Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series, Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series, Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files.  You never run out of books to read!

 

On the downside, a huge series like that can be daunting for someone who hasn’t even started it yet.  You mean I have to read 7 novels before the backstory starts up?  You most certainly do not.  Find yourself a short story or novella that takes place in that world as a “dipping your toes in”, as it were. Will you be reading things out of order? Yeah. Might there be spoilers? Yep!  But, you’ll get a feel for if this is a world you want to invest more time in.

 

Kelley Armstrong’s first novel, Bitten, came out in 2001, and since then she’s written over 25 novels, primarily supernatural urban fantasy, but also mystery and a few books for kids.

 

Her newest novella, Lost Souls, is part of her Cainsville series, in which people are desperately trying to escape their past and live normal lives.  This novella was my first  first Armstrong (I know, right?), and I’m pleased to say I came out of it caring about these characters and wanting to keep their secrets safe. Even better news?  If, like me, you haven’t read any of the Cainsville urban fantasy novels,  this Lost Souls is a good jumping in point.  Spoilers? Oh,sure,  a few.  But knowing the future is kinda fun, because when you go back and read the first two Cainsville novels,  you’ll feel like you’re in on a big secret that no one else knows.

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fix-steinmetzFix by Ferrett Steinmetz

published Sept 2016

where I got it: purchased new

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Fix is the final entry in Ferrett Steinmetz’s ‘Mancy trilogy.  If you’re just joining us, check out my reviews of the first two books, Flex and The Flux, and don’t read any further in this review because hey, spoilers for the first two books.   Fix takes place a few years after The Flux – Aliyah is a teenager, Paul and Imani are back together, Valentine and Robert are trying to make things work, and the whole family is living in hiding. But what are you gonna do with a bored and lonely teenager?  Take her to play some soccer, of course.  Take the world’s youngest and most talented videogamemancer to play youth soccer?? This is not going to end well.

Not only does the soccer game go poorer than anyone expected, Aliyah’s magic is exposed and now she’s on the radar of the Unimancers, the government hive mind of their captured ‘mancers.  Paul and Valentine are literally going to have to up their game to ensure Aliyah’s safety.

I’ve been lucky enough to see Ferrett Steinmetz at Conventions and attend his readings. My friends, if you ever find yourself in the same city as Ferrett, get yourself in the same room with him in the hopes you will hear him read his work. The man has an amazing voice.  At first it seems he’s reading slowly. But no, those are deliberate, planned pauses. Those are moments in which the words he is saying (and not just the sound, but the words and the meaning and the weight) sink in. He’s doing you a favor – giving you time to absorb and digest what you are hearing.  While I was reading Fix I heard Ferrett’s voice reading it to me.  Slower than I usually read, a kindly and sympathetic voice encouraged me to slow down to experience the full effect of getting kicked in the feels in nearly every chapter. Thanks Ferrett, for making my cry for like an hour while finishing this book!

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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