Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Mage in Black by Jaye Wells

Sabina Kane doesn't have the best track record when it comes to family. After all, her own grandmother, the leader of the vampire race, just tried to kill her. When she arrives in New York to meet the mage side of her family, the reunion takes the fun out of dysfunctional. 
On top of that, the Hekate Council wants to use her as a pawn in the brewing war against the vampires. Her mission will take her into the bowels of New York's Black Light district, entangles her in mage politics, and challenges her beliefs about the race she was raised to distrust. And Sabina thought vampires were bloodthirsty.


Shockingly I am progressing through this series rather quickly and I have to say that I am glad I finally found this series. There is something about then general tone of the books that appeal to me. I think it's the author voice in general, she seems like the kind of smart ass girl I would love to be friends with, mainly because I think she would get my sense of humor too. She writes her books pretty intelligently but she does so in a way that remains pretty quirky, while being very true to the character of Sabina that she has created. 

Now if you have not read the first book please do not proceed with this review because I am going to ruin the first book for you in the span of a couple of paragraphs. First off to say Sabina got screwed in the last book would probably be the understatement of the year. Sabina got the short end of the stick her entire life, being raised by vampires, a race that seriously resented her for being born. So I guess it wasn't that much of a stretch for them to betray her in the end, turned out she was just a pawn the entire time in her, let's face it evil, grandmother's plan. 

So book two basically picks up right where we left off in book one, Sabina going to meet her long lost twin sister that she never knew existed, and really having to put her life in the hands of mages, a race she had been taught to hate, after being betrayed by the race who raised her. Sabina doesn't have it easy, and the first hard blow for her, and for me as a reader was that Adam was sent away as soon as they make it to NYC. I don't know about ya'll but for me Adam is an awesome character, and I really wanted to see where that whole thing was going, so when I saw that Adam was being removed from the situation I have to say I was a tad bit on the annoyed side. But I should have trusted the author. 

Wells brings in a lot of new characters in this book, because well lets face it the people Sabina didn't leave behind are dead, so there was a lot of room open for new characters. I think the really interesting thing about this book is that book one was more vampire than anything else, told from Sabina's point of view. But since Sabina was an outsider basically, you as a reader felt like you had the basic information about how vampire society works but never really felt like you were a part of it. Book two is basically all mages all the time, but this time you are learning along side with Sabina, and it's a totally different feel. You really get to go along with Sabina through her journey to figure out who she really is and what she really wants (and that is not to say she has it figured out by the end of this book). 

So with the new found mage cast of characters, I have to say I like a lot of them. I enjoyed the introduction of Slade, the vampire Sabina clearly has a past with, who has this great cocky personality throughout the entire book. Then you have Rhea who is really Sabina's main teacher of all things mage. She seems like the wise woman who takes crap from no one. And then of course when you back her into a corner you realize "wow shouldn't have done that", she can hold her own like nobodies business. Although there is one scene where she literally wears a helmet while training Sabina which was just too cute for words. And of course then you have Maisie, who in my opinion is a great sister. She really wants to do the right thing by her people as well as by her family. She just seems genuine in every sense of the word. That being said I think I wish I had gotten to know her a little bit better. She had a couple of surprising moments within the book, but for the most part I feel like I want to know more. 

Overall this book ends with just a big of an "omg what next" as the first book does. So needless to say I am already working my way through book three. I love this series. It's just a fun ride. I think a lot of it comes from tone like I mentioned earlier. But the story is good, and it's a fun ride from beginning to end. And if you don't think mages are you thing, I seriously urge you to reconsider. This series kind of has it all, all of the awesome supernatural races can be found her, and I have a feeling that is not going to change as the series progresses. So if you are an urban fantasy fan I urge you to pick up this series I think just about everyone will enjoy it. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Red-Headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells

In a world where being of mixed-blood is a major liability, Sabina Kane has the only profession fit for an outcast: assassin. But, her latest mission threatens the fragile peace between the vampire and mage races and Sabina must scramble to figure out which side she's on. She's never brought her work home with her---until now. 
This time, it's personal.

I received the forth book in this series to review, and I was more than interested in reading it. However, I don't know about all of you out there, but I absolutely hate walking into a series without having read all the books first. So what was my solution? I bought the three books in the series to read first, so the author still got some of my money even though I got one book for free to review. But that's okay I love authors, and we should all support them by buying their books as often as possible. 

So this is a pretty cool concept. Without even really looking at the story line, which I promise I will get to, but just on the world building alone it's cool. You have all of the major supernatural races out there, and they all seem to reproduce naturally. What I mean by that is vampire's get pregnant, vampires can have babies with mages, so you have all these races and it would seem everyone can reproduce with anyone. While this is not accepted or even allowed, it's possible, which is cool. 

Which brings us to our main character, Sabrina. She's an assassin, and she's every bit the assassin you would expect her to be on the surface. Except underneath she has some series baggage. Her heritage leaves her with a lot of issues. Her mother is a noble of the vampire race, and her father is a mage, a big no no. So she lives with a lot of prejudice which personally I think makes her an even better assassin because she has has to learn to put her feelings in a box her entire life. 

However, clearly at the beginning of the book you realize something more is going on within the supernatural races, full of deception and political maneuvering. And guess what, Sabrina is right in the middle of it. Throughout the course of the book, the reader learns along with Sabrina more and more about her past and her creation. And all of that brings her into having to make probably the biggest decision of her life. 

The characters in the story are very different from one another, which makes things much more interesting in my opinion. You have everything from a demon, to mage, to vampires, and fae. And they all have such personality. You can totally see how any reader could find someone in the book to enjoy and relate to. 

There is action and adventure, investigation and learning. There are so many moments in the book where you are heartbroken right along with the characters or full of adrenaline just like they are. There are some interesting little unique elements like the mythology behind the races and vampires having a seriesly bad reaction to apples. 

My one complaint with the book is that it didn't get started all that quick. It wasn't until about half way in that I was fully invested. Not that the beginning was bad or too slow, it's just it took longer than I would have liked for it to for me to get really invested in the characters. But by the end, I was seriously invested and wanted to know what happened next. 

So long story short, I think this book is a great start to what I hope is going to be a fantastic series. It offers so much for anyone who likes urban fantasy, and I think anyone who enjoys urban fantasy even a little bit will enjoy this book, so you should all check it out. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Shirin Dubbin Guest Post

Many Voices

It’s surprising how many people confuse schizophrenia with multiple personality disorder. The first makes it difficult for a person to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s unreal—commonly categorized by hearing voices. The second has caused a lot of argument as to whether it’s real or not, but is the development of several distinct personalities in one body.

Oddly enough, in their most basic definitions, either could describe authors. We hear voices and tend to become any range of distinct creatures both realistic and mythic in service of our stories. Not only that but “voice’ is the key to our finding our places on the literary landscape.

It took me a little while to figure out what voice is. I’m the kid who asked my mom if I could be more than one thing. Pinpointing a single style, a singular means of storytelling seemed such an odd thing to me. Like choosing one part of myself to give greater importance over the rest. How could my fantasy self override my romance side? Could my literary voice be more important than my genre one? Why did I have to choose comics over screenplays?

You, like my mother, probably know the truth. I didn’t have to choose. I only had to look to Neil Gaiman, who writes comics, children’s books, epic novels, teleplays, screenplays (and, sidebar, draws a mean sketch). They all contain his slightly fractured whimsically dark voice, but he hits a plethora of delightful notes.

Or I could turn to Steven Moffat, a television powerhouse, who writes shows as disparate as Coupling (comedy) and Jekyll (occult), Sherlock (mystery) and Doctor Who (science fiction), yet excels at them all. Sometimes I gape at the genius of Moffat episodes like Blink or A Study In Pink. How about you?

Then there’s one of my favorite people to ever walk this earth, Leslie Esdaile Banks aka Alexis Grant aka L.A. Banks. This woman had an imagination that filled the width and breadth of the universe. She wrote romances and suspense and women’s fiction and paranormal, and she did it all with a voice so distinct we didn’t need to see her name to know who was speaking.

I guess that’s what voice is. Despite the fact some might mistake it for crazy, it’s the freedom to flagrantly fly your freak flag, or be pedantically highbrow, salaciously lowbrow, ridiculous, brilliant, sappy or odd—as long as it’s authentically you. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Casting Shadows by J. Kelley Anderson

Edward Kelley wants to destroy the world. His family is dead and his odd habits have made him a pariah in the small town of Hurst, Ohio. After the unexpected arrival of an anonymous package, Edward quickly discovers the tools to forge his malevolent fantasies into reality. Yet, he soon finds that he is not the villain of his own story and, with the help of a surrogate grandmother, an undead servant, and a foul-mouthed cop, he is fast on the road to becoming an unlikely hero. Casting Shadows is a quirky amalgamation of Contemporary Fantasy and Magical Realism, with a sprinkling of Classical Literature, Necromancy, and Russian Folklore added for good measure.

I don't think I have read many books involving necromancy, or rather necromancy as a man elements. I know there are series out there, and some of them are really good according to many of the opinions of others. So I was glad to have the chance to try it out, after all I know a lot of people that love necromancers, and hey I even played a necromancer in Guild Wars (not well mind you). 

Anyways on to the book. Edward is very much a broken guy, he has had some bad things happen to him in his life, and his grief would of course make him find an outlet for that grief. Although he does act out in a rather interesting, and of course oh so paranormal way. 

I have to say first and foremost, that the author does some pretty quality writing, and the descriptions within the book are really good. The descriptions are very vivid and I think it makes it all the more easier for a reader to connect with the setting and the world when the descriptions are so vivid and entertaining to read. 

On the other hand, every book does have at least one thing that can be improved upon. My biggest issue on this one is that I think it need a little bit of editing. I can handle a couple mistakes in a book, after all major publishing houses publish books all the time with one or two errors. But when I notice things more often then normal, at that point I think it's time the book should be sent to an editor. 

That being said the book is still pretty good even with the minor editing issues. I really like some of the other characters in the book besides Edward. Edward is a flawed character from the beginning, so it makes sense that he comes across that to the reader. Although I think he does have a bit of a immature streak, and that I think he needs to grow up. But Edward as a character evolves throughout the book, so that also helps out. 

The book is a pretty quick read, and it is an enjoyable ride. I found it fun and interesting to try out the whole necromancy concept, which was actually way more fun that I anticipated. I would have to say I think anyone who enjoys urban fantasy will probably enjoy this book.