City of Ghosts By Stacia Kane

From Barnesandnoble.com:  

IT’S A THIN LINE BETWEEN ALIVE AND UNDEAD.
 
Chess Putnam has a lot on her plate. Mangled human corpses have started to show up on the streets of Downside, and Chess’s bosses at the Church of Real Truth have ordered her to team up with the ultra-powerful Black Squad agency to crack the grisly case.

Chess is under a binding spell that threatens death if she talks about the investigation, but the city’s most notorious crime boss—and Chess’s drug dealer—gets wind of her new assignment and insists on being kept informed. If that isn’t bad enough, a sinister street vendor appears to have information Chess needs. Only he’s not telling what he knows, or what it all has to do with the vast underground City of Eternity.

Now Chess will have to navigate killer wraiths, First Elders, and a lot of seriously nasty magic—all while coping with some not-so-small issues of her own. And the only man Chess can trust to help her through it all has every reason to want her dead.

Whoa.   I literally just finished this book and ‘Whoa’ pretty much sums up how I feel about it.  I don’t want to recap this book.  There are just so many twists and turns that there is no way I can discuss without giving something away.  And I don’t want to give anything away!  If you read the first two Downside books, you know what to expect, but Stacia Kane really upped the stakes this time.  If the first two books were ‘dark urban fantasy’, this one teeters on horror.  Some of the scenes were downright disturbing to the point where I had to force myself to keep reading.  But it’s not mindless horror like the latest Saw movie, where people you barely know are butchered for cheap thrills.  It’s horrific things happening to you have come to genuinely care about.  People that are so incredibly damaged but still manage to do the right thing…even when they just keep getting beaten down.    You barely make it out of a scene alive and suddenly you find yourself swooning over a huge, ugly hitman and a drug addict witch and praying that they can somehow find a slice of happiness in the Downside.  To me, that’s why these books are so great.  One minute I was reading with one eye open barely hanging on while a fire rages in a slaughterhouse, and the next minute Terrible drops Chess down a tunnel and has me in tears…AGAIN.   I really cannot recall a series that evoked this much emotion.  I would say Harry Potter is the closest thing, but there is absolutely no way to compare the two.   Here is what I can say: this book has it all.  Mystery, horror, fantasy, suspense (Oh the suspense!), and romance all flowing seamlessly.  Some of the best, most though-provoking characters I have ever read.   And the sex…wow.  (Cause let’s be honest, we were all praying for some Chess and Terrible closure.)   I want to discuss that tunnel scene so bad I can hardly stand it!!  To say it was hot would just cheapen it.  There were way too many emotions for ‘hot.’  Gut-wrenchingly satisfying is a much better description.   So to conclude my mindless gushing I will say this: if you read the first two, then why the hell aren’t you reading this one yet?  If you didn’t, then you need some Terrible in your life ASAP. 

Rating:  Off the charts.

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Magic Bites (Kate Daniels #1) By Ilona Andrews

From Goodreads.com:  When the magic is up, rogue mages cast their spells and monsters appear, while guns refuse to fire and cars fail to start. But then technology returns, and the magic recedes as unpredictably as it arose, leaving all kinds of paranormal problems in its wake.  Kate Daniels is a down-on-her-luck mercenary who makes her living cleaning up these magical problems. But when Kate’s guardian is murdered, her quest for justice draws her into a power struggle between two strong factions within Atlanta’s magic circles.
The Masters of the Dead, necromancers who can control vampires, and the Pack, a paramilitary clan of shapechangers, blame each other for a series of bizarre killings—and the death of Kate’s guardian may be part of the same mystery. Pressured by both sides to find the killer, Kate realizes she’s way out of her league—but she wouldn’t have it any other way…

The Good:  Let me start by saying after I made it through the first 50 pages or so, I liked this book more than I thought I would.  I liked most of the plot, espcecailly the fresh take on vampires and the need to be piloted by a human.  It was refreshing to see vamps as gross, not hot and/or sparkly.    I liked Kate, and I really liked Curran.   But what I liked most was the setting.  You see, I have lived in Atlanta my entire life, so reading about all these landmarks and even suburbs (I live very close to the Shifter compound, btw) of Atlanta was great!  There was also a quote that I just have to include because it was so nice to see: 

“‘Lovely morning isn’t it?” he said, the unmistakeable harmonies of coastal Georgia vibrating in his voice.

“Shouldn’t it be ‘ain’t it?'” I said.  My voice sounded weak.

“Only if you are an uneducated fool,” the man said. “Or if you wish to appear country.  And I’m too old to appear anything that I’m not.'”

THANK GOD.  I love this because it’s almost as if the authors were warning you up front to not expect any hick jackasses just because it’s based in Atlantan which I appreciated.

The Bad:  I think the worst thing about this book was the lack of explanation.  At some point, something happened and magic started causing problems for technology.  We don’t really know what happened, and it’s hard to understand why the “tech goes out.”  I just felt that there wasn’t enough background on the current atmoshpere as well as the characters to feel a connection.  It’s obvious that Kate has a lot of secrets, and I am sure we learn about them as time goes on, but I needed a little more for her.  The villain was confusing, I had to re-read sections to make sure I understood what exactly has was.  And be warned, his scenes are grusome and distrubing.  This is pretty dark urban fantasy.  The level of detail was a little much for me, I found myself skimming a lot in this one. Honestly, if I didn’t already know the series gets a lot better (and really enjoyed The Edge series), I probably wouldn’t continue reading.  Liked Kate and Curran, but don’t really care at this point.

The Bumpin’ Uglies:  Le Sigh.  No one bumps the uglies in this one.  I know it’s not PNR, so not required, but it might have been nice for Kate to have one lighter scene to break up all the darkness.   But I am keeping my eye on Curran, he has potential.

Rating: 6.5

Unholy Ghosts (Downside Ghosts #1) By Stacia Kane

From Goodreads.com:  THE DEPARTED HAVE ARRIVED.
 
The world is not the way it was. The dead have risen, and the living are under attack. The powerful
Church of Real Truth, in charge since the government fell, has sworn to reimburse citizens being harassed by the deceased. Enter Chess Putnam, a fully tattooed witch and freewheeling ghost hunter. She’s got a real talent for banishing the wicked dead. But Chess is keeping a dark secret: She owes a lot of money to a murderous drug lord named Bump, who wants immediate payback in the form of a dangerous job that involves black magic, human sacrifice, a nefarious demonic creature, and enough wicked energy to wipe out a city of souls. Toss in lust for a rival gang leader and a dangerous attraction to Bump’s ruthless enforcer, and Chess begins to wonder if the rush is really worth it. Hell, yeah.

 

Let me try to put this complicated, fantastical plot into words.  Somehow, in 1997, the world’s dead broke back into the world of the living and almost wiped it out.  Since everyone now knew what the afterlife was all about, there was no longer any need for religion or government, all the people needed was the Church of Real Truth.  The Church protects the living from ghosts capable of murder (they did prevent total destruction in ’97 after all), but also regulates those who make false haunting claims.  Chess works for the Church because she was born with magical abilities enabling her to banish ghosts back to the City of Eternity.  Because she was born into this gritty, post-apocalyptic world, she has serious issues and has tuned to drugs like many others.  Her pill habit is so bad; she owes her drug dealer, Bump, a ton of money.  Bump wants to reopen a local airport to start flying his drugs out, but there are reports that ghosts are sabotaging planes.  So he makes a deal with Chess to rid the place of ghosts and sends his head hit man Terrible out with her to investigate.  Of course, rival drug lord Lex, does not want Bump to open said airport, so he also makes a deal with Chess.  During the investigation, Chess discovers someone has unleashed a seriously powerful entity that could kill thousands.  As the investigation goes on, Chess is pulled between Lex and Bump, while trying to survive vicious ghost attacks.

The Good:  I loved this book.  Seriously, I couldn’t put it down.  Not once during my reading did I feel any familiarity with the plot or characters, which was so refreshing.  I know that the post-apocalyptic setting is gaining popularity, but this is a huge twist on that concept.  Apocalypse a-la ghost.  My heart broke for Chess and what I am sure is a horrific past, and I appreciated how she hadn’t become a total a**hole, just a druggie.  I loved how dry she was, but I hated her tragically low self-esteem. Terrible was a really intriguing character, and things got really interesting when he became a potential love interest.  The Church was really fascinating, kind of like an eerie Church of Scientology or something, sans couch jumping.  Admittedly, I was a little confused as to who the actual bad guys were and how they all met up, but I just reread a couple of pages and really liked the way it turned out. Honestly, the whole time I was reading, I had almost convinced myself to let my husband borrow my Kindle to read this book.  That didn’t happen of course, but I thought it! More than once! Not sure I can pay an author a higher compliment.

The Bad:  Nothing I am about to say is actually bad, it just slightly annoyed me.  My only real complaint is the lack of detailed explanation for the events that took place in 1997.  I tried not to let this bother me since I know there are more books coming out soon, but the curiosity is killing me!  I was also left wondering why the Downsiders minus Chess speak differently from the Church members.  And what odd language hybrid was that supposed to be anyway?  To me it was like Cajuny Gangsta English with a bunch of Scottish ‘Aye’s.  And what is the City of Eternity really like?  And why did the Church replace the Government and not just mainstream religion? I realize that too much explanation can sometimes ruin a book, but I just had so many questions!  Must. Be. Patient.  Besides, I am sure Chess will end up in the City eventually and I will learn more than I ever wanted to know about it.

The Bumpin’ Uglies:  Terrible….oh Terrible (the person, not adjective).  The idea of Terrible makes my shallow little brain hurt.  Terrible is big, muscular, sweet in his own brutish way, and…ugly.  But not all the way ugly, just thuggish ugly.  He reminds me of someone like Benicio Del Toro; from certain angles you are all “whoa! Thought he was kinda hot!” but then he talks and acts and you are all “well, I wouldn’t throw him out of bed or anything.”  He is portrayed as a man who works with what he’s got, and this almost convinced me that not all leading men have to be hot.  Almost.  And then there was Lex, who becomes an actual love interest and I guess is supposed to be hot, but he did nothing for me.  Lex in one word: Meh.  Lex and Chess love scenes in two words: Where’s Terrible?Terrible stole every scene he was in, and I was actually disappointed when he wasn’t around.  And I was REALLY disappointed with that bathroom scene!! That wasn’t very nice Ms. Kane.  But I have very high hopes for the next book and this nice little love triangle we have developing.  It’s not every day you get a peek inside a drug lord – pill popper – rival drug lord’s head henchman love triangle!

Rating: 9.5

Greywalker By Kat Richardson

From barnesandnoble.com:

Kat Richardson excels at creating vivid, fast-moving novels that blend urban fantasy with paranormal mystery. In Greywalker, Seattle P.I. Harper Blaine is viciously attacked and murdered—but after exactly two minutes, somehow she returns to life. Now she’s seeing strange things all around her—dark visions from the shadow world—and living a normal life may no longer be possible no matter how hard she tries.

Greywalker begins with Harper Blaine, P.I., getting the crap beat out of her and then dying for two minutes.  Because of the time she spends hovering between life and death, she becomes a “greywalker,” which basically means she can walk in and out of the shadow world that seems to surround the real world.  All this really means for us readers is that Harper can see ghosts, vampires and other creepy shadow things and will stay sick for the rest of the book. 

My extraordinarily shallow sounding review:  I thought reviewing a book I didn’t like would be easy.  If we are being honest with ourselves, what girl does not excel at bitching about things?  Right?  Yeah, this book just left me bored.  My only real complaint is that the one potential love scene in the book was skipped over, and all we see is the morning after.  Who actually wants to see the morning after?  Can’t we just think back to college for that??  Aside from the lack of hotness, the book was just not fun.  The explanations of the Grey and the physics behind different energy states were painful.  And I am a scientist in real life, for the record.  I dork out on physics all the time.  The descriptions of the Grey itself left me confused.  I feel like it was different every time Harper went in.  Oh and speaking of our heroine…wait maybe we should define heroine.  Heroine:  a woman possessing heroic qualities or a woman who has performed heroic deeds.  Okay, so never mind, there was no heroine in the book, because Harper stayed sick and achy the entire time from going into the Grey, while her ‘friends’ saved the day.  The supporting cast was okay, but no one had real personality.  The villain was only seen for about 5 seconds and I was sorta fuzzy on his motives anyway.   So yeah, when I read books from these genres, I expect fun, attractive characters, decent plots and entertaining dialogue.  Oh and SEX SCENES or sexual tension at the very least.  This book had none of these things, and I just couldn’t get into it. 

Rating: A very generous 3

Black Magic Sanction (The Hollows #8) By Kim Harrison

From barnesandnoble.com:  In New York Times bestselling author Kim Harrison’s most complex and nuanced adventure yet, bounty hunter and witch Rachel Morgan fights a deadly battle—mind, body, and soul.  Rachel Morgan has fought and hunted vampires, werewolves, banshees, demons, and other supernatural dangers as both witch and bounty hunter—and lived to tell the tale. But she’s never faced off against her own kind . . . until now. Denounced and shunned for dealing with demons and black magic, her best hope is life imprisonment—at worst, a forced lobotomy and genetic slavery. Only her enemies are strong enough to help her win her freedom, but trust comes hard when it hinges on the unscrupulous tycoon Trent Kalamack, the demon Algaliarept, and an ex-boyfriend turned thief.

It takes a witch to catch a witch, but survival bears a heavy price.

My Spoiler-Laden Thoughts on Black Magic Sanction

The Recap:  Tink’s Dildos I couldn’t put this book down! What a wild ride! Our girl Rache has come so far!  At this point we are 8 books in to Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series and our favorite itchy witch is really in a mess this time around.  Unlike so many other series where the lead characters run around destroying cities and lives with zero consequences, every one of Rachel’s actions are now biting her in the ass.  She is now publicly shunned for dealing with demons, hunted by the “White” witches in the Coven for being a potential quasi-demon baby making machine, and hanging out in the Ever-After every Saturday with Big Al, all while dealing with her usual dysfunctional relationships and newly found daddy issues.  Rachel Morgan is a busy girl.

The Drama:  Where to begin!?  Most of the action in Black Magic Sanction revolves around the Coven summoning Rachel, Rachel escaping, the Coven attacking the church, lather, rinse, repeat.  After thousands of pages spent hanging out in Rachel and Ivy’s church, I felt almost violated when it went under attack!  The scene with the fairy attack was especially infuriating and I spent the evening alternating between being super pissed and sobbing uncontrollably over the death of a very special character.   I really enjoyed Rachel struggling with what to do with the surviving fairies, as I really couldn’t say what I would have done.  I love Jenks so much its retarded, and I wanted serious revenge for him, but at the same time, Rachel slaughtering 7 inch tall fairies might have made for awkward reading.  We also learn a lot more about Rachel’s family and the strange dynamic going on with her sorta crazy mom, rock star dad, and sorta douchey brother.  Honestly, I didn’t care for these scenes, I just wanted her brother to stop talking and give her the damn spell book!  Several supporting characters show back up, like Lee who I thought was terrifying in earlier, but is now super chill and laid back?! Whatevs.  And of course, D-bag Nic-k is back for the action, but thankfully Rache has FINALLY realized his douchbaggery knows no limits.

The Smut:  Oh Pierce. Piercey, Pierce, Pierce.  Me no likely the stalker ghost.  At one point, I was ready to skip over Pierce’s dialogue all together just to avoid any more “opines.”   I really tried to get behind the Rachel-Pierce thing, but I just don’t feel the spark.  And then we finally get to the good stuff, and Rachel feels the need to explain to us that male witches are less endowed than humans!! HUH?  I understand that this is technically an UF series and therefore we aren’t treated to as much smutty goodness, but still!  Was that really necessary?  And in a hole in the ground?? Anyway, I am enjoying Big Al sorta kinda tossing his name into the hat of potential suitors.  I am really excited to see how Ms. Harrison pulls off the softer side of a murderous demon with an affinity for velvet and lace.  And then there is always hottie Trent, who I can’t for the life of me explain why I have such a crush on.  But I do, and I really hope they end up together for some reason.  But I also kinda hope Jenks will decide to go back to full-sized hotness and hook up with someone.  Rachel, Ivy, I don’t really care, I just want to see the pixy in action!  Speaking of Ivy, it looks like she is finally moving past her feelings for Rachel, and I am really hoping for some Ivy-Glenn smuttiness in the next installment!

The Rant:  While I thought the Coven, especially Brooke and Vivian, were truly horrifying, I didn’t really understand their motives.  Brooke wanted to lobotomize Rachel, treated her like a freak of nature, all the while plotting for a demon baby all her own?  Not only does that seriously break the girl code, it doesn’t even make sense!  If he wants a mini-Rachel, then Rachel can’t be all that bad!  I really hope Brooke stays in the Ever-after, I don’t want her to turn into another Lee, where we just shrug off all the evil-bitchiness and keep going. 

Related rant:  Apparently publishing companies don’t get it.  If you own an e-reader of any kind, chances are you are pretty savvy about all things books and are probably a pretty hard-core reader.  So shame on HarperCollins for delaying the e-version of Black Magic Sanction.  They must really not care about pissing off hard-core fans.   I just so happened to read all the Hollows books over the past few weeks, so when I saw I had to wait a month longer than everyone else for book 8, I was not happy.  Most kindlers like the convenience, and I especially find it really irritating to tote around a hardback after enjoying my little light weight gadget for so long.  How can I hold my glass of wine if both my hands are keeping a hardback book open?!  Alas, I decided I didn’t want to wait.  So I may or may not have bought the hard back at B&N, read it that night, and returned it the next day.  Take that HarperCollins!!

Should I buy-with-1-click?  Oh yes.  I mean, Jenks is in it, what more do you need?  But no really, if you are a fan of the Hollows (and you have read the previous 7 books), you will not be disappointed.  This book has it all: action, emotion, humor, romance, and pixies.  You may want to shake Rachel for some of her decisions, but that’s what makes her so lovable, right? 

Rating: Definitely 10.  OBSESSED…like I am a 12 year-old girl and Jenks is my Edward Cullen.

Crux (Southern Arcana #1) by Moira Rogers

From barnesandnoble.com:  Jackson Holt makes a decent living as a private investigator in New Orleans, home of one of the largest underground supernatural populations in the United States. He and his partners have never met a case they couldn’t crack…until a local bar owner asks him to do a little digging on her newest hire.  New Orleans is the fourth destination in as many months for Mackenzie Brooks, a woman on the run from a deranged stalker. After all, any man who shows up on her doorstep claiming to be her destined lover has more than a few screws loose. But crazy doesn’t explain why he always finds her no matter how far she runs.  When her well-meaning boss puts a PI on her case, Mackenzie comes face to face with the incredible truth: magic is real, and whatever spell has kept her hidden and separate from the paranormal world is rapidly deteriorating.  With time running out, she has no choice but to trust Jackson as he struggles to uncover the truth of her past—and her destiny.

Mackenzie Brooks is on the run from what she thinks is a crazy stalker.  When she ends up at Nicole Peyton’s bar in New Orleans, she makes a whole lot of new friends.  It doesn’t take long for Nicole and her PI best friend Jackson Holt to figure out Mackenzie is in serious trouble.  A crazy old Cougar, Charles is desperate to keep his species alive and is determined to make Mackenzie have all kinds of little cougar cubs whether she likes it or not.  Nation-wide shenanigans ensue as Jackson and his friends try to stop Charles and find Mackenzie before its too late.

The Good:  As with any new series, there were a whole slew of potentially interesting characters introduced in Crux.  I am really interested to hear more about the Nicole and Derek star-crossed lovers’ storyline. Oh, and I reaalllyyy curious about Wesley. Anyone who says stuff like this: “Jesus Fuck, Holt.  It takes an act of God to get you on the phone,” is my kind of man.  And while shifters, weres, and witches are nothing new, I liked the concept of combining magic and shifting with the Seers. As for the plot, I was kinda shocked that what I thought should have been the climax happened so early, while the actual climax happened much later and was sort of lackluster.  I appreciated the deviation from the standard story arc, but I am not sure it worked in this case.  As for Mackenzie and Jackson (I love that name, its sooo Steel Magnolias), I was so pleasantly surprised that they weren’t declaring their undying love for each other and/or married after a few days.  So refreshing.  I felt like they were more in lust than love, which is exactly what should happen when you meet some dude in a bar.  And neither of them wore leather pants!! In fact, there was no leather anywhere in the book!  Hooray for jeans!

The Bad:  Well, the first sentence…”Nicole Peyton as I live and breath,’ and all the mama’s and darlin’s afterwards really made me cringe.  ::Rant Alert:: See, I am from Georgia, so southern stereotypes really irk me.  No one actually says darlin’ anymore unless they are my 84 year-old extremely sassy grandmother, and she only pulls it off because of said sass.  Unless you are from Backwoodsville, (insert southern state), you don’t say mama, or even worse “mama en em.”  So Jackson Holt being from Georgia and somewhere around my age should have maybe had a slight twang, an affinity for sweet tea, and used the term ‘y’all’ but not ‘mama’ ::Rant complete:: .  Anywho, my only other real complaint is that the witty banter and charm seemed exclusive to Mackenzie and Jackson.  I really didn’t get a feel for anyone else’s personalities, except for maybe Alec, who is just bitter.  Because of this, the fact that all these other people would be willing to risk their lives for a girl they met three days ago felt a little contrived.  Hopefully, the upcoming books will give us a better feel for the rest of the characters and their motives.

The Bumpin’ Uglies:  I can honestly say this is the first time I didn’t want everyone to shut up during the sex scenes.  Jackson and Mackenzie’s pillow talk was HOT.  I especially like this line:  “God damn it Jackson, if you tell me you’re not going to violate me in about ten different ways, I’m going to use my newly discovered super strength to kick your ass.”  Rob and Big would call Mackenzie a “chacha sucia.”  Hehe…yeah, I couldn’t really even remember what Mackenzie and Jackson looked like, but those sex scenes were STEAMY. 

The Morning After:  I think this series has a lot of potential.  Hell, the pillow talk alone will keep me coming back.  And if you are even shallower than me and will read a book for just the sex scenes, then you should definitely check out Crux.  Rating: 7.5