Tag Archives: urban fantasy

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Book Review: Blood Witch Rising, by Joe Ulric

I received a free Audible code for a copy of Blood Witch Rising, by Joe Ulric.

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A storm is brewing, and the world isn’t ready for it. Join Jack Ladd as he sheds light on the hidden world of magic and monsters. A world you already live in, but do your best to ignore.

Ages ago, the earth was cut off from other mythical realms in order to protect it from the depredations of the Asgardians. Now, a portal discovered in the Pacific Northwest is seen by a mysterious group as an opportunity to reverse that ancient act.

Aided by a sometimes helpful—but always irreverent—spirit familiar, Jack leaves the comfort of home to stop that from happening. His roommate Joshua, a Native American shaman, decides to come along. Big mistake. They are forced to navigate a world where refugees from the fabled Norse realms have been living in hiding since the bronze age. Old racial tensions and mistrust complicates this task as they take on nightmarish creatures intent on showing us how insignificant we are.

When Jack inadvertently uncovers secrets from his past, he must question his closest ally’s motives and decide if he is on the right path.

One thing is certain: should he fail, all manner of legendary beings could quickly overrun the earth. Beings still angry at being kept out of their playground for over five thousand years.

my review

I won’t go so far as to say that I disliked this. I didn’t. But I wasn’t particularly keen on it either. I finished it merely to have finished it.

I found the pacing inconsistent, the villains opaque, the characterizations shallow, and the world vague. The result was that I never felt deeply invested in the story or the characters. I also felt very much like there should be a previous book. There was just so much history merely hinted at—Jack’s brief military career, how he came to live and work with the dwarfs, the purpose of both all his combat and black smith training, how and why he chose to bond with a spirit familiar, him and his ‘aunt’s’ relationship, etc. I felt like a big chunk of the story was missing.

Having said all of that, I did like Jack. He was noble and tried doing the right thing in difficult situations. I thought the idea of dwarfs and elves in the modern world was interesting. And I appreciated the diversity in the cast. All in all, I think this book just needs to find it’s proper audience. Like I said, I didn’t think it was bad. I just didn’t think it worked particularly well for me.

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the assassin's daughter

Book Review: The Assassin’s Daughter, by Shana Vernon

Author, shana Vernon, sent me a copy of The Assassin’s Daughter for review.
the assassin's daughter Shana Vernon

She’s a deadly assassin…

…but there’s something she doesn’t know.

Will learning the truth cost her everything?

Lenna entered the guild under a secret identity because if they found out who she really was, it could get her killed.

But she had no choice.

She had to find out what happened to her father.

As they each learned about their powers and the world of rogue vampires, the stakes grew. Lenna couldn’t afford any romantic distractions. Cade, her instructor, though, was hard to resist. It wasn’t the first time they had met and if he recognized her, it could be deadly.

She was willing to risk everything…

…but finding her father wouldn’t be easy.

Something was going on at the Guild and she needed to get to the bottom of it. There was only one chance for Lenna to get answers and the odds were against her.

Could she count on her new friends?

my review

This is essentially an academy novel, though I don’t think that’s what the author set out to write. And I think that’s part of why I didn’t get along with this book. It didn’t know what it wanted to be, so it was just too many thing…poorly.

The writing is pedestrian, but readable. I don’t remember any big editing mishaps and the cast is diverse. Plus, the plot seems like it has a kernel of a good idea. That’s about all the nice things I have to say.

The characters are supposed to be in their 20s. Several were in the military and all had finished at least high school. But they literally felt 16…which made the sex feel a bit out of place. Lenna is supposed to be some super trained assassin, but she’s basically useless. She almost dies several times when everyone else barely got scratches. (These injuries felt overblown though.) The whole Maximus angle wasn’t utilized enough to have been included at all. And, worst of all, the plotting was non-existent. Nothing develops or was allowed to entice the reader, things just happened.

She went to find a dangerous, well-guarded vampire and did so within moments. (Though this, at least, is later explained.) She decided to enter the assassin guild and within a day did it. She walked in the door exactly as they were starting a new training class (there was no indication that she did this on purpose) and just joined, la-di-da. The guild just handed out the superpowers the same night, despite not knowing her. She immediately made friends (revealed her closest held secret) and found an insta-love. Lenna twice (TWICE) accidentally stumbled across people discussing secrets for her to overhear and eventually founds her father by accident. There is no nuance or delicacy here.

And on a personal irritant level, two small things especially irked me.  As someone who worked with children’s services, the fact that Lenna’s secret identity is supposed to have bounced from foster home to foster home but have been home schooled struck me as ridiculous. That just isn’t possible. It’s unlikely that most states would even allow it and it would be basically impossible to find multiple foster parents who were willing and able to home school. They have too much else on their plate! I realize this is a small thing and it’s a fantasy book. But it was mentioned several times and I called BS every-time, which pulled me out of the narrative.

Then there was the little rich girl character who Lenna disliked and disparaged because she was like “Daddy” this and “Daddy” that. But the whole time Lenna was like “Papa” this and “Papa” that and I was like, “You’re the same, so maybe shut it with your attitude.” I found Lenna really unlikable in such moments.

Oh, and I hated—HATED—the ending! I wasn’t surprised by it, but I still hated it.

All in all, this is an intensely YA novel, even if it’s not meant to be. (YA, not even NA, IMO.) The Amazon blurb calls it an “Adult Urban Supernatural Fantasy,” which is the only reason I accepted it for review, but I can’t see that as true. All in all, I didn’t particularly enjoy it. By 40% I was fighting the urge to skim and by the halfway mark I’d given in and skimmed the rest (which isn’t something I do often). I’d have DNFed it if I hadn’t committed to reviewing it.

But to be fair, the book as plenty of good reviews. So, it could just be a “not right book for me” scenario.

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Other Reviews:

Gizmo’s Reviews: Assassin’s Daughter

The Assassin’s Daughter by Shana Vernon


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Book Review: How to Howl at the Moon, by Eli Easton

I’ve actually owned Eli Easton‘s How to Howl at the Moon since February of 2019. But I picked it up to read now because I recently set myself a Christmas Challenge and I included it,  thinking it was a holiday themed book. I guess I was just fooled by the snow and red on the cover. Important parts of the book are set in winter, but it’s not set during the holidays. So, I took off the challenge list. But I’ve read it now.
how to howl at the moon eli easton

Sheriff Lance Beaufort is not going to let trouble into his town, no sir. Tucked away in the California mountains, Mad Creek has secrets to keep, like the fact that half the town consists of ‘quickened’—dogs who have gained the ability to become human. Descended on both sides from Border Collies, Lance is as alert a guardian as they come.

Tim Weston is looking for a safe haven. After learning that his boss patented all of Tim’s work on vegetable hybrids in his own name, Tim quit his old job. A client offers him use of her cabin in Mad Creek, and Tim sees a chance for a new start. But the shy gardener has a way of fumbling and sounding like a liar around strangers, particularly gorgeous alpha men like Sheriff Beaufort.

Lance’s hackles are definitely raised by the lanky young stranger. He’s concerned about marijuana growers moving into Mad Creek, and he’s not satisfied with the boy’s story. Lance decides a bit of undercover work is called for. When Tim hits a beautiful black collie with his car and adopts the dog, its love at first sight for both Tim and Lance’s inner dog. Pretending to be a pet is about to get Sheriff Beaufort in very hot water.

my review

I thought this was really cute and sweet. But I also think I was predisposed to enjoy it, considering it has a border collie in it as a main character. You see, I have a border collie/blue healer mix (Batou, the mostly white one) and an Australian shepherd/border collie mix (Motoko, the predominantly black one). Batou and Motoko

The first of which tends much more toward the border collie behaviors, but the second is much closer to how I imagined Chance looking. I am well acquainted with the border collie focus and intensity, as well as the border collie stare. So, it was fun for me to see these behaviors enacted by border collie shifters.

But I also enjoyed the quirky characters Easton populated the town with, Tim’s runaway mouth, and the easy way the book reads. I did think Tim tended a little too toward child-like naivete, especially when alone with Chance. But I look forward to continuing the series.

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Other Reviews:

Review: How to Howl at the Moon by Eli Easton

Review: How to Howl at the Moon by Eli Easton