Capital Murder (Arcane Casebook #7) ★★★★☆

Capital Murder

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Capital Murder
Series: Arcane Casebook #7
Author: Dan Willis
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 336
Words: 110K





Synopsis:

Alex Lockerby gets snagged into going to Washington, DC (the capital of the United States of America) with one of the Sorcerous Six. Of course, he immediately gets sucked into multiple investigations, all of which are “Top Priority” by the clients.

Then it turns out his girlfriend Sorsha is involved in one of the cases and the papers are publicly speculating that she can’t solve it without Alex’s help. As a top FBI agent, this doesn’t sit well with her. Placing more strain on an already irregular relationship, Alex and Sorsha have to figure out if they can both have their careers and each other.

The main case ends up involving The Legion, a secret society of Runewrights dedicated to Evil, wanting to abscond with a whole military base’s worth of secret runewright papers. They partially succeed but Alex manages to stop the majority. In doing so, he gets a target on his back from the Legion and the book ends with Sorsha in a coma and an up and coming Legion member preparing to hunt Alex down.

My Thoughts:

Another thoroughly enjoyable entry in the Arcane Casebook series. As convoluted, over the top and larger than life as usual, this hit all the points that continue to intrigue me about this series.

I do hope that Willis can slow down the pace here a bit. Alternate World War II is looming and it’s obvious Runewrights will be largely involved. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, I don’t like intensive ramping up of the plot “just because”.

Sorsha and Alex’s relationship hits the skids and while they haven’t broken up and have decided to really make it work, they haven’t addressed the issues that are causing the problems in the first place. I’m concerned that Willis will treat it shallowly. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since the series is pretty light but you can’t treat a heavy subject lightly without a disconcerting dichotomy in your literary tone.

Willis is really churning these out and I’m pretty happy at the pace he’s setting. Book 8 is already scheduled for April of ’22. Yee-haw!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

ps,
the bleeping editor has changed YET AGAIN. I hate wordpress for their continual messing about under the skirts. Having to re-learn the damnable block editor every couple of weeks or months, it’s too much. I need stability in my blogging platform.

Crusade (Saint Tommy, NYPD #5) ★★★✬☆

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Title: Crusade
Series: Saint Tommy, NYPD #5
Author: Declan Finn
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 171
Words: 53.5K



Synopsis:

From the Publishers & Me

Still working abroad, Detective Tommy Nolan has a hot tip that leads him to Germany. Women and children are disappearing from Catholic Bavaria. The local police have their hands tied. Tommy is the last hope for answers.

Yet again, Tommy is in over his head. What starts as a sex trafficking ring turns into a terrorist conspiracy to unleash Hell on Europe. To stop it, Tommy must fight Nazi vampires, terrorists, and a swarm of succubi who want him as their next meal.

With the help of a local german police officer, a jewish rabbi with the secret of the golem at his fingertips and a group of bavarian special forces armed with paintball guns filled with holy water, it’s up to Tommy to put a stop to the rite that will raise Asmodeous the demon. Unfortunately, Tommy doesn’t get there in time and a hell gate is opened. This allows Jade, the succubus who ran the sex trafficking ring to gain incredible amounts of power and become a low level demon herself. She and Tommy duke it out, Tommy wins and they find Asmodeous trapped within a circle. The battle exorcist from the previous book is left to deal with him.

Tommy adopts one of the girls rescued from the sex ring and it turns out she has some sort of psychic powers. With his wife just having given birth to his own biological daughter, Tommy’s family is growing by leaps and bounds,

My Thoughts:

I think the first thing I need to say is that this book doesn’t shy away from some very tough subjects. Sex trafficking is not only happening in Africa or the Middle East or South America. It is happening here in the United States and in all of Europe as well. It is pervasive and evil and Finn doesn’t sugar coat it. He’s not graphic nor describing the horrors in detail, but one woman is raped to death off page as an object lesson to the other prisoners. With that said, lets talk about the more pleasant aspects of the book.

Tommy gets to fight nazi vampire muslim terrorists. No joke. Vampires, unfortunately, play a very small part. They simply crumble to dust when touched by Saint Tommy. The author does go into speculation about pre-history, much as he did in the previous book about the stone and vampires are grouped into that era of lore. There are some seriously cool fight scenes but that leads into the one thing that made me knock half a star off the rating.

Finn is constantly making pop-culture references throughout this book. It was apropos and funny but those things have a very limited shelf life and I don’t like them in the books I read. I find it cheapens them. Most of it was John Wick related this time. I love the movie John Wick and got it all, but in several years, even if the movie has cult status sticking power, people simply aren’t going to know what Finn is referencing. Then there was the golem mecha vs the dragon succubi and I had to roll my eyes at that fight. It was just to over the top for my taste.

I’ve got one more book available to me in this series then I have to decide if I want to continue or not. Finn is up to book 8 and from the reviews I’ve seen he does have an end game plan, but it won’t be for several books after 8. Upon reflection it would seem that my best option is to stop after book 6 and let him finish the series. Good thing I had this little conversation with myself!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

City of Shadows (Saint Tommy, NYPD #3) ★★★✬☆

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Title: City of Shadows
Series: Saint Tommy, NYPD #3
Author: Declan Finn
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 160
Words: 49K



Synopsis:

Tommy, now working for the Vatican as a spy for the New York Police Department, is assigned to go to London, as a new level of darkness seems to be hovering over the city. His “official” assignment is to help recover a lost jewel that was stolen from a museum. With known associates of an imam from the local mosque being shown on video as the ones committing the crime, Tommy thinks it’s going to be an easy peasy piece of cake.

Then the imam accuses him of racism. The cops take his guns away. The cops try to arrest him. He’s attacked by a group of young muslims with bottles of acid. He’s attacked by muslims with what appear to be super powers. He’s attacked by the shadows themselves. And the clients, a Power Couple of low royalty, who hired him to recover the jewel accuse him being in cahoots with whoever stole the jewel. Not a good time for Tommy.

This jewel, according to legend, was given to Pharoah by a god and is supposed to contain enough power, once properly charged with hatred, despair and death, to destroy a city, or control it. The imam wants to wipe London off the map, the Power Couple want to control England and Tommy wants the jewel destroyed. By the end of the book nobody gets what they want.

Tommy does save London, cleanses the jewel with a baptismal font’s worth of holy water and gives it over to be hidden away in the archives of the Vatican.

My Thoughts:

This was probably the most action packed book so far. There’s a riot scene where the muslims are out burning, looting and raping and Tommy bilocates many, many, many times to save anyone he can and ends up dying over and over and over in horribly gruesome ways. They don’t just fade away, they are him and he feels it.

The author also makes a lot of hay, with my FULL support, about the ridiculousness of the London “knife” laws they have on the books. The main point wasn’t that Authority had taken away the citizens right to defend themselves but that they had voluntarily given it up. It was depressing. At the same time Finn makes sure to focus on the fact that the real fight isn’t against people but against the powers and principalities of this world, ie, demons. Tommy never makes the mistake of making even the iman his enemy. Right up until they confront a trio of the angelic host he tries to give them the chance to repent and at the end, they simply reject it. And suffer the wrath of archangels in consequence.

I did get a good laugh when he takes a poke at Evangelicals as self-righteous know it alls, because you’re going to meet people like that and I’ve met them. The problem is, he ignores the fact that those same exact kind of people also are part of the roman catholic church. And I’d like to make one point here, while this is advertised as a “Catholic Adventure” series, it is really a “Roman Catholic Adventure” series. While Finn would say there is no difference, as a 7th Day Adventist, there is a world of difference.

I continue to enjoy this action packed series with a more realistic look at what urban fantasy would look like from a Christian perspective. It also makes me thankful for the relative peace and quiet that I enjoy where I live.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Wonders of the Invisible World ★★★★☆


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Title: Wonders of the Invisible World
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 276
Words: 98.5K



Synopsis:
  • “Introduction” by Charles de Lint
  • “Wonders of the Invisible World” (from Full Spectrum 5, Aug. 1995) – a researcher goes back in time to record Cotton Mather’s religious visions, finding his ravings not what they expected.
  • “Out of the Woods” (from Flights: Extreme Visions of Fantasy, Jun. 2004) – a reflection on how magic is often missed by those searching for it.
  • “The Kelpie” (from The Fair Folk, Jan. 2005) – a story of courtship and obsession illustrating the overlap between life and art.
  • “Hunter’s Moon” (from The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest, May 2002) – a seductive, chilling encounter with the dangers of Faerie.
  • “Oak Hill” (from The Essential Bordertown, Aug. 1998) – an ugly young woman on the way to Bordertown is trapped in a terrifying cityscape known as Oak Hill, and explores it in search of magic.
  • “The Fortune-Teller” (from The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales, Jun. 2007) – a young woman thieves a pack of strange cards from an unconscious roadside fortune-teller.
  • “Jack O’Lantern” (from Firebirds Rising: An Anthology of Original Science Fiction and Fantasy, Apr. 2006) – a young girl struggling with the impending marriage of her sister seeks out magic during a picnic, fearing it will her last chance before she grows up.
  • “Knight of the Well” (from A Book of Wizards, May 2008) – a society built around the veneration of water finds that element inexplicably rejecting them.
  • “Naming Day” (from Wizards: Magical Tales from the Masters of Modern Fantasy, May 2007) – a teenage witch who cannot decide on her magical name is compelled to chase after an imp during the titular Naming Day Ceremony.
  • “Byndley” (from Firebirds: An Anthology of Original Fantasy and Science Fiction, Sep. 2003) – a man who once escaped the world of faerie seeks to return that which he stole.
  • “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” (from A Wolf at the Door and Other Retold Fairy Tales, Jul. 2000) – a macabre retelling of a traditional fairy tale.
  • “Undine” (from The Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm, Jun. 2004) – a water spirit falls victim to her own prey.
  • “Xmas Cruise” (from Christmas Forever, Nov. 1993) – a surreal tale that follows two couples aboard an environmentalism cruise.
  • “A Gift to Be Simple” (from Not of Woman Born, Mar. 1999) – a fictional pseudo-Christian religious faction realize that their numbers are dwindling and decide to take drastic action.
  • “The Old Woman and the Storm” (from Imaginary Lands, Dec. 1985) – an allegory.
  • “The Doorkeeper of Khaat” (from Full Spectrum 2, Apr. 1989) – a science fiction tale regarding two alien species with very different cultures, and the poet who attempts to cross that divide in search of meaning and art.
  • “What Inspires Me: Guest of Honor Speech at WisCon 28, 2004”
My Thoughts:

I was sure that when I read Harrowing the Dragon last year that that was my last McKillip read until I started the cycle again. I’m not even sure how I stumbled across this book of her short stories but stumble I did and so I have one final McKillip to read and review.

McKillip is an odd duck when it comes to short stories. Some of them are so fantastic that you wonder why she doesn’t stick with the format. Then you read some others and are like “Oh, that is why”. Some of these just ended, like she’d taken a butcher’s knife to the story. It was very disconcerting. Others, you could see the same genius flitting about the story that she exhibits when writing her novels.

I did enjoy the final chapter where she talks about her life and writing. Now, as many of you know, I am firmly of the camp of “Authors are not People” so I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading her recollections. I do need to track this down in hardcover and get a copy for my collection.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Infernal Affairs (Saint Tommy, NYPD #3) ★★★★☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Infernal Affairs
Series: Saint Tommy, NYPD #3
Author: Declan Finn
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 182
Words: 51K



Synopsis:

From Amazon.com & Me

Detective Tommy Nolan is having a bad day. Gunfights are no longer a rare occurrence in his life. Not since he caught a serial killer demon and destroyed a death cult. He’s already had to relocate his family once. If things don’t settle down soon, he might have to leave New York for good.

And the NYPD can’t keep ignoring all the chaos and slaughter around Tommy. Add a murdered priest, a SWAT team raid, an internal affairs investigation and a million-dollar bounty into the mix, and Tommy’s whole week is ruined.

Every demon, monster, and gangbanger in New York and New Jersey are crawling out of the pit to claim the reward on Tommy’s head. It’s hard enough to fight demons when they’re breaking the law. But what can you do when they’re hiding behind it?

Turns out the Mayor is the mysterious Warlock and he wants Tommy dead to pay off his spiritual debts, of which the mayor has run up a lot of. With enough power, the mayor can turn New York City into a living hell and pay for his powers with the misery until the end of time.

Tommy’s not about to let that happen! When the mayor takes a direct hand in attacking Saint Tommy, the bodies fly. But when the mayor’s debt comes due, Hell doesn’t care if he has Tommy in his grasp; the bill is due NOW and nothing is going to stop the demons from taking payment.

Tommy is saved to fight another day.

My Thoughts:

Another great action packed volume. And we get vampires. Well, to be honest, Tommy sees them and when they touch his blood they go up in smoke, so they disappear. I’m hoping we get more of them in later books. You get some demonic drones too.

It has been a couple of months since the previous book and life for Tommy and his family has settled down. Once the bounty goes out though, Tommy puts his family with D (the “good” criminal) and goes hell for leather with his partner. When he realizes he can’t single handedly take down the Warlock due to the scumbag hiding behind the law, Tommy brings in the Feds. This has the affect of bringing Tommy to the attention of a single individual who seems to be doing what Tommy does, but on a national or international scale. Definitely opens up the literary vistas for us to explore.

Another thing I like is how short these are. At under 200 pages, I can read them on a weekend afternoon or a snow day and still have time left over to start the next book in my rotation. Makes me feel like I’m A Powerful Book Lord (more than I already am I mean).

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Death Cult (Saint Tommy, NYPD #2) ★★★★☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Death Cult
Series: Saint Tommy, NYPD #2
Author: Declan Finn
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 184
Words: 50.5K





Synopsis:

Even though Tommy defeated the demon in the previous book, the cultists who raised it are still at large and very unhappy that Tommy stopped them in their tracks.

Tommy is in the process of moving out from his old house with his family when they are attacked one night by what can only be described as zombies. Tommy realizes the cult is after him and his family and begins investigating.

Once again his investigating brings him into contact with the “Medical Facilities” where abortions are performed, whether the patient wants it or not. Tommy tracks down truck loads of discarded baby bodies which the cultists are using in their satanic rituals, which include eating said babies.

With pressure from the Mayor, Tommy is unsanctioned and has to go after the cult without police backup. Once the cult kidnaps his son, Tommy realizes he can’t wait either. With help from a gang, Tommy and those who believe in his Wonder Worker powers go up against the cult.

Tommy and Co take down the Cult, destroy an idol of Moloch and think they destroy the man who has been creating and controlling the zombies. The book ends with Tommy having a face off with the Mayor and one of the Mayor’s more powerful appointees turns out to be the voodoo man, still very much alive and well.

My Thoughts:

Once again, I thoroughly enjoyed this read. Part of my enjoyment stems from the fact that the author seems to really consider just how things would play out in these scenarios. If you stopped a cult, do you think they’d be “Oh, we lost. Good game. Ta ta.” Yeah, I don’t think that either. Finn also shows what an uphill battle Tommy has because of people in power. He also shows that Tommy isn’t living in a vacuum and that his choices affect those around him.

But at the same time, Tommy is never overcome. He trust that God gave him the powers he has for a reason and he’s willing to use them to the fullest extent possible. When his son is kidnapped, Tommy is fully cognizant that to save his son he’s probably going to have to sacrifice his own. Not once does Tommy whine or complain or act like a self-entitled wimp. When things go wrong, he doesn’t blame God nor does he blame those around him. In short, Tommy is the kind of character I like to read about.

The introduction of zombies and the bokor (the person controlling the zombies) being a man of power in the city certainly made sense and also created some future battles. Having destroyed the idol of Moloch, the bokor’s totem of power, you know he’s going to continue going after Tommy and his family. And that is something else that I liked and want to talk about. Tommy never snivels about how he needs to be alone and cut off from his family to protect them. He realizes that he is stronger for being with them AND that part of his duty as a husband and a father is protect them. His wife has several guns, knows how to use them and does so. Tommy’s son has a pistol, is learning krav maga and knows what to do when certain scenarios happen. Tommy and his family have thought through scenarios from each place in their house and have what the proper response is and they practice that. The man is enabling his family instead of crippling them with fear and a “hide and hope for the best” attitude. Oh, I am loving this series just for that. Tommy is a hero and one that I am enjoying reading about.

The action, while not quite as intense as the previous book, is still high and tight. Gun battles are great to read about, that is for sure.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Blood Relation (Arcane Casebook #6) ★★★★☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Librarything & Bookype by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Blood Relation
Series: Arcane Casebook #6
Author: Dan Willis
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 306
Words: 102.5K



Synopsis:

Alex Lockerby, now working on commission for one of the Great Sorcerers, tries to keep his head in the detective game by doing small jobs here and there. He has also hired a small time rune wright who he is teaching to use the finding rune to find lost objects, thus ensuring a steady trickle of business.

A string of gruesome murders start occurring and Alex is called in, as all of the scenes are covered in what appear to be runes. If they are runes, they are a type that Alex has never seen before, nor has Iggy.

German spies attempt to poison Sorsha and Alex and when that fails, to shoot Alex point blank. Sorsha is guarding a political big wig who is in town on secret business.

Turns out that the blood runes and murders are being committed by a man who was gifted much like Alex but then turned on his mentors and lost the ability to use standard runes. As such, he turned to blood magic to stay young and to build his power. Alex defeats him, but no body is found.

Alex also figures out what the secret project is and has to warn Sorsha to prevent the Germans from stealing a flying bomb and destroying half the city.

In the end, Alex has a talk with Moriarty and realizes that the magic Rune book has another whole level that Iggy never found. This opens Alex up to another level of Rune Wright’ery and shows him just how small the knowledge he has is.

My Thoughts:

Once again, I enjoyed myself immensely while reading this. This time around, the two biggest things I enjoyed was the pace wasn’t as frenetic as before (Alex isn’t investigating 7 cases all at once) and the Power Creep slowed down.

Having a Rune Wright be one of the main villains this time around was also refreshing. He shows Alex that magic or even runes, aren’t a monolithic entity, but a fractured puzzle that can be put together in almost infinite number of ways. This has the side effect of allowing Alex to be on a bit more of an equal footing with the likes of Sorsha, his sorceress on again off again girlfriend.

I think my only real issue is how Willis creates characters only to not use them as much as they could be. Danny Pak is the perfect example. He started out as bosom buddies with Alex but he barely gets a mention now. I’m afraid Alex is entering into the “Only I can do anything” zone. I guess I’d like to see more of the side characters fleshed out beyond a name and a function.

Other than that, this review really suffers from “I Like This” syndrome. This was another great book in the series and I enjoyed it. I just can’t muster up much to talk about it. I’m sure you can relate. Willis has been writing this series pretty hard and I am impressed that he’s keeping the quality to what it is. I am looking forward to the next book and we’ll see what the world brings into Alex Lockerby’s life next.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Rosemary and Rue (October Daye #1) ★☆☆☆☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Librarything & Bookype by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Rosemary and Rue
Series: October Daye #1
Author: Seanan McGuire
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 287
Words: 106K



Synopsis:

From October-daye.fandom.com/wiki/Rosemary_and_Rue

Prologue: June 9, 1995

Half-fae changeling October Daye is on a stakeout for her private investigator / knight errant job when she gets a call from her human boyfriend Cliff and Gillian. Simon Torquill appears and Toby follows him to the Japanese Tea Gardens in Golden Gate Park in the hopes of locating the missing Luna and Rayseline Torquill. Simon meets up with Oleander, then turns Toby into a fish when he catches her spying. She is kicked into the koi ponds where she and Lily are trapped and forgotten for fourteen years.

Chapter 1-2: December 23, 2009

Toby regains her true form and seeks help from her longtime friend Evening Winterrose to set up a new human identity. She rejects most of Faerie including Sylvester and her changeling friends Mitch, Stacy, and Kerry, choosing instead to work at Safeway and occasionally offer toothpicks as aid in the local pixies’ territory wars. When Mitch visits the store, she pretends not to know him even though Gillian and his daughter Cassandra used to be playmates.

While heading home from a work shift, Toby is caught by the dawn and her human illusions are forcibly stripped away. Tybalt appears while she recovers from the pain of the magic, and they banter before going their separate ways. She arrives home to find a page of Duke Sylvester’s service waiting with a message, but she refuses to hear it as she has refused all the other messages.

Toby dreams about her mother Amandine, who had been married to Toby’s human father until Toby’s Changeling’s Choice, administered by Sylvester, forced mother and daughter back to the Summerlands. She also dreams of the day she escaped the koi pond and sought Evening’s help to get back on her feet, even as Cliff and Gillian rejected her for abandoning them for fourteen years.

Chapter 3-4: Awoken by her cats Cagney and Lacey, Toby listens to several increasingly frantic voicemails from Evening which culminate in Evening binding Toby to find Evening’s killer right before Toby hears Evening get murdered over the line. Toby drives to Evening’s apartment where she magics the human police into believing she belongs there. She finds splatters of Evening’s blood and the human-like corpse left by the night-haunts. She uses her Daoine Sidhe abilities to taste the blood and relive Evening’s final moments, learning that unidentified attackers killed her with iron bullets.

Chapter 5-7: Toby travels to the Court of the Queen of the Mists to announce the death using the fae’s formal customs, but the semi-mad Queen refuses to believe her. Next Toby goes to Home, an underground community of Changelings led by Devin, who had given refuge to Toby as a teenager after she ran away from Amandine and the Summerlands. Toby confronts teenagers Dare and Manuel before they allow her to see Devin. She recalls her own time as Devin’s lover and lackey, and how she and Devin had argued when Toby started dating Cliff and became pregnant with Gillian. In the present, Devin insists that he would have helped Toby after her return from the pond if Toby had allowed it. He explains that Evening was a benefactor for Home, and he pledges Home’s resources to helping Toby find her killer. In exchange, Toby will be in his debt. Devin encourages her to break ties with Sylvester, since although she won’t talk to Sylvester she is still his sworn knight, but she refuses.

Chapter 8-10: On the way home, Toby encounters a rose goblin who gives her an unmarked key. Evening’s binding tells Toby that the key is important, so Toby next heads to Evening’s mortal place of business, Third Road Enterprises. The binding tells her that the key will “open the way into Goldengreen,” Evening’s knowe. Using the key at the mortal business gives Toby access to the offices and leads her to a hidden hope chest. Toby recognizes that she must hide it, so she makes a bargain with Tybalt to keep it safe. He refuses at first, telling her to take it to the Queen or the Tea Gardens, but then accepts it and puts Toby in his debt.

Chapter 11-12: Although she is exhausted, Evening’s binding uses increasingly painful means to urge Toby to keep hunting the truth. Toby visits Shadowed Hills to inform the Torquills of Evening’s death and to ask for help. She recalls that Sylvester went mad when Luna, Raysel, and Toby all disappeared, and only snapped out of it when his wife and daughter returned to him. Toby’s magical abilities are tested by a footman who makes her design a court outfit with her magic, which adds to her magic burn. Quentin, the page who visited her home earlier, announces her to the Torquills. Sylvester is delighted to see her but shocked by the news of Evening, and more shocked by Toby’s binding to find the killer. As the Torquills mourn Evening’s death, Toby flees to the rose gardens and is followed by Connor, who attempts to make small talk with her but is clearly unhappy in his politically arranged marriage to Rayseline.

Chapter 13: Quentin finds Toby after Connor leaves, and she learns that he is in blind fosterage to Shadowed Hills. She tries to relax his pureblood prejudices and formal mannerisms, and they agree to hang out after things calm down. Sylvester and Luna are upset that Toby indebted herself to Home on her quest, and they reiterate her welcome at Shadowed Hills. She promises to stay in touch.

Chapter 14-16: On her way home, Toby realizes someone is in the car with her and she drives manically to keep them off-kilter. The intruder shoots her with iron and she flees the car, escaping on a city bus that takes her to Golden Gate Park. She tricks the Tea Garden’s gate attendant into letting her in and, growing increasingly weaker, she falls into a koi pond only to be rescued by Tybalt, who brings her to Lily. The Undine heals Toby, then chides her for her apparent death wish before sending her off with Julie and Ross as escorts. The trio are attacked en route to the taxi and Ross is killed. Tybalt kills the attacker and claims he helped so he won’t be stuck with the hope chest.

Chapter 17: Toby is driven home by Danny to find Devin waiting on her doorstep. Devin administers to Toby’s latest wounds and they sleep together, Devin trying to convince her to give up her hunt.

Chapter 18: Toby is fired from Safeway for being no call-no show. She can’t make herself care given everything going on. A doppleganger posing as Gillian visits and attacks Toby, who wants to believe her daughter is ready to make amends. Dare and Manuel come to the rescue and Dare kills the doppleganger with her iron knife, but in the attack Toby is yet again injured.

Chapter 19-20:They take her to Home, where Devin yells at the kids for slacking on guard duty. He tries to persuade Toby to give up her hunt for Evening’s killer, which she physically cannot do even if she wanted to. Dare asks how Toby met Devin, and Toby recalls how he rescued her from the streets as a teenager. She encourages Dare to break free of Devin, but Dare brushes her off. Devin tells Toby that he will send word to Sylvester that she is safe. Toby learns that Devin called in a favor from the Luidaeg to heal her.

Chapter 21: Toby, Manuel, and Dare head to Goldengreen to investigate further. She runs into Connor, who was sent by Sylvester, and discovers that Devin lied about updating the Duke. She makes Connor cut himself to prove he is not another doppelganger, identifying him by the scent of his blood and magic. Toby suggests that Raysel might be the killer, and they again acknowledge their mutual attraction even though Toby refuses to let Connor cheat on Raysel. They realize they are not alone in Goldengreen, and in fleeing they accidentally jump off a cliff into the ocean. Connor uses his selkie abilities to rescue Toby from panic-drowning as she flashes back to the pond.

Chapter 22: Dare and Manuel find them on the shore and they return to Shadowed Hills. Luna agrees to give the teens sanctuary. She also recognizes that Toby has been healed by the Luidaeg and tells Toby she must visit the Luidaeg to learn how to escape Evening’s binding. The rose goblin shows her the way.

Chapter 23: The Luidaeg introduces herself, shows Toby a vision of Maeve’s Firstborn, and identifies herself as one of them. Toby barters Evening’s key for the answers to her questions. She learns that hope chests can turn changelings fully human and that Devin has future plans for Toby. Toby does not ask her final question, which leaves the Luidaeg furiously in her debt.

Chapter 24: Back at home, Toby names the rose goblin Spike; the cats have warily accepted its presence. Toby asks Cagney and Lacey to bring her to Tybalt, being his subjects, and they grudgingly take her to the Court of Cats. She asks Tybalt for the bloody shirt he had worn at the park, and Julie attacks her because she blames Toby for Ross’s death. Tybalt asserts dominance over Julie, gives Toby the shirt, and tells Toby to leave as Julie continues to struggle.

Chapter 26: Toby seeks Lily’s help to reawaken the blood on Tybalt’s shirt. Lily tries unsuccessfully to dissuade Toby from riding the blood, and Toby learns that Devin is Evening’s killer. The binding nearly lulls Toby into a peaceful death, but Lily snaps her out of it. Danny takes Toby to Home where she confronts Devin. He says he killed Evening so he could use the hope chest to become a pureblood. He wishes Toby had come back to him, then orders Manuel to shoot her. Manuel hesitates and he, Dare, Devin, and Toby fight. Devin kills Dare. Manuel kills Devin.

Chapter 27: Sylvester and Shadowed Hills arrive for cleanup. Dare is buried. The hope chest is returned to the Queen, who is now in Toby’s debt. Toby accepts her place in the world of the fae.

My Thoughts:

I had seen several reviewers who were long time fans of this series (it’s up to book 14 or 15 I think?) and from what they had written, it sounded very interesting. I knew this was Urban Fantasy, a genre I have a VERY mixed relationship with, but was hoping it would stay away from the tropes that have driven me away from the genre in general. Unfortunately, as you can tell from the rating I gave the book, this read didn’t work out as I was hoping it would.

This was the very definition of female urban fantasy as far as I’m concerned. Everything that bugs the living daylights out of me about UF was here, in spades.

  • Spunky, full of attitude woman
  • multiple love interests from the past
  • family drama ramped up to 11
  • poor decisions by the main character leading to drama ramped up to 20
  • main character “taking care of herself” even while being rescued by others over and over and over
  • did I mention attitude coupled with bad decisions?
  • Bad Decisions
  • doing things for the good of others without asking them, talking to them about it or in any way seeing if it actually IS good for them
  • alienating family, friends and pretty much anyone who could help in the name of being spunky and full of attitude

And that’s enough for me. I will not read a main character who acts stupidly, gets away with it because of authorial fiat and then gets to call it “I can take care of myself” bullshit. Toby Daye (the titular character’s named shortened obviously) is exactly the kind of character who I hate. Not the kind of character I love to hate, or love to hate and read about, but simply hate.

I hated almost every page I read and seriously thought about DNF’ing this at the 9% mark. I guess I fell into the trap of thinking that this couldn’t possibly stay this bad and so kept reading. By the end, I was seething on the inside, almost frothing on the outside and felt like I had wasted my time. Even Psychic Grandma rattled her chains at me for being so dumb as to go all the way to the end. Considering I never listen to her about her ironing tips, I wasn’t about to start with “reading advice” from her either though.

The only good thing is that at under 300 pages I didn’t invest much time and I can now get rid of the whole series from my tbr list. 13’ish books gone in one fell swoop and able to add another series to my reading rotation.

If the bullet list of things sound like something you’d like, then go for it and may you find more joy than I did.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Hell Spawn (Saint Tommy, NYPD #1) ★★★★☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Hell Spawn
Series: Saint Tommy, NYPD #1
Author: Declan Finn
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 206
Words: 59K



Synopsis:

Tommy Nolan is a detective in New York City. With his wife and young son, Tommy lives within walking distance of his precinct offices. One day Tommy begins to experience some strange things, things he can’t really explain. But that all is washed away when a little girl is murdered right in Tommy’s neighborhood and the killer leaves a personal message for Tommy written in the girl’s blood. Then one of Tommy’s neighbors is murdered in the same fashion. The problem is, Tommy had talked to her on the phone, long after it was possible for her to be alive.

Turn’s out there’s a demon loose in New York City and it has teamed up with a psycho killer who is a discredited medical doctor. Discredited because he experimented on live victims without their consent. Tommy manages to put the perp in jail but the demon’s name is Legion and takes over many of the inmates and causes a riot that even the SWAT can’t put down. Possessed men aren’t too worried about a few paltry bullets or tear gas after all.

Tommy, after getting some backup from his local priest and all the surrounding priests, heads into the prison to confront the demon and exorcise it. He’s a man on a mission from God and begins to experience the powers that Saints throughout history have been recorded as having.

Exorcising the demon gets the prison under control, but Tommy’s life is forever changed as the demon reveals that Tommy has been chosen to be the Patron Saint of Detectives. While this situation has been dealt with, Tommy knows that a righteous man’s work isn’t finished while he has breath in his body.

My Thoughts:

First things first. On Amazon, right in the title, this bills itself as “A Catholic Action Horror Novel”. It certainly is. Considering how other urban fantasy series shove paganism down their readers’ throats without a second thought, I don’t see that being a problem though. Unless you’re a religious bigot that is.

Now, was that a great opening paragraph or what? I was aiming for abrasive and since I bristled at myself when I read it out loud to see how it sounded, I knew I had succeeded. But seriously folks, if you can deal with Dresden or the Iron Druid Chronicles or Jayne Yellowrock or that author Jim Hines, well, you should have zero problems with the views put forth here. Especially if you espouse tolerance as the mainstay of your beliefs.

I enjoyed this a lot. While I have my issues with specific doctrines of Catholicism and even with the whole “Saints” thing, thinking of this as a supernaturally powered cop worked just fine. And it helped that Tommy had to obey some really strict rules that had 1000’s of years of history behind them. Every ability exhibited was one that previous saints had shown, so Tommy isn’t simply pulling power out of his butt. The internal consistency was refreshing. Too many times the rules of urban fantasy seem to get made up as the author goes along, or to not really have any rules beyond “it’s supernatural, we just don’t understand”. While the rules are being revealed to us as readers, they have a deep and abiding history backing them up.

One word of caution however. This is graphic in terms of violence. Finn doesn’t shy away from describing in detail just how the demon possessed man kills his victims. It is really horrific. What is even more horrific is when it is revealed what those killings are based on in real life.

Another thing I did like was the whole family dynamic. Tommy and his wife aren’t having drama to ratchet up the tension. She’s the wife of a cop and knows what that entails. Tommy is teaching his son krav maga so he can defend himself and to help others who are being bullied. His son isn’t a psycho emo goth whatever who Tommy is trying to “connect” with. Tommy is being the dad that every dad should be. It was just great to see a main character being in a stable family. They helped each other instead of draining each other.

Overall, I was very pleased with this read and am looking forward to more in the series. I believe there are currently 7. I know that Finn has also authored several other series. One of them falls squarely into the paranormal romance category though, so even if it too gets the “A Catholic Action Horror Novel” I’ll be avoiding it like the plague.

★★★★☆

Limelight (Arcane Casebook #5) ★★★★☆

limelightThis review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Limelight
Series: Arcane Casebook #5
Author: Dan Willis
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 319
Words: 106.5K

 

Synopsis:

Alex Lockerby is doing well. Business is booming, his clientelle are a lot richer and even the police are giving him a modicum of respect (of course, that might have more to do with Alex being on a first name basis with several of the Sorcerer Six).

A Murder Mystery author dies and Alex’s mentor wants him to investigate as he believes it was murder. This leads into Alex investigating an old case from over 10 years ago about a beautiful stage actress who died on stage but no one was ever convicted. Alex gets his friend Danny Pak assigned to the case, with an understanding from the Captain that if Danny can solve this case, he’ll be promoted to Captain himself. As long as Alex stays in the background.

At the same time, Alex gets dragged into another police case, where Rune Wrights are apparently using runes to blow holes in walls and rob bank vaults. From all that Alex knows, this is impossible. But if something IS happening, then it isn’t impossible and it’s up to Alex as the cities top Rune Wright to figure out what is going on.

Then some inexplicable deaths start happening throughout the city, all of them magic related. In each case, it would appear that the victim had no magical power but died from using magic that went out of control. Alex teams up with Sorsha Kincaid and tracks it down to a substance called Limelight, which seems to give non-magic users magic and to enhance those with the ability already.

And if that is not enough, Alex still has to worry about his new secretary. What is her agenda and is she working for Moriarty, Legion or some other unknown?

If that isn’t enough, by the end of the book we find out another Rune Wright has figured out how to turn electricity into magical power. He’s also figured out how to transfer said power to himself. With the city’s generators at his power, he can become the most powerful Sorcerer the world has ever known.

In the end Danny solves his case, Limelight ties together Alex’s cases, the mad Rune Wright is stopped and the secretary is revealed to be a 3000 year old high priestess. Oh, and Alex is prophecied to be the greatest Rune Wright to ever have lived and possibly be King of All Magic.

 

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this story so while my review might be a tad more critical than the previous Arcane Casebook reviews, please do keep that in mind.

First concern is that Alex is exactly the same as he was in the first book. Now, that could very well be deliberate, as that can be a character type (look at most of the old school noir detectives and even a character like Garrett that Glen Cook writes). Depending on your taste, this will be a bigger or smaller thing. For me, it was a small thing but noticeable. I think I noticed it more because we’re up to book 5?

Secondly, the ramping up of threats and potential. The threat was seriously ramped up in the previous book when Moriarty reveals that another World War is coming and that groups like Legion are already preparing for it. Here, Alex’s potential as The King of Games, errrrr, I mean, Master of Magic is revealed. kingofgames I can’t articulate why this kind of thing is a burr under my saddle but power creep definitely bothers me. Personally, I’d rather Alex have stayed a lower powered Rune Wright and for the author to tell more detective stories than for this world threat to happen.

I do enjoy the mysteries. It is just fun to watch the twists and turns and little sidesteps that happen. I must admit that it is exhausting to keep 3 to 5 different balls in the air and usually by the end of the book I’m ready for some of the special coffee that Alex drinks so much of.

The cover continues to be as fantastic as ever. This time I looked and it is done by someone named Mihaela Voicu. She appears to be a digital artist and I found a bit of her stuff on her facebook page. Probably going to be a shoe-in for July’s Cover Love.

Still highly recommend this series if you feel in the need for a dose of Noir’ish Urban Fantasy Mystery! 😀

★★★★☆

 

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