jpskewedthrone: (Vacant)
I've been reading Seanan McGuire since her first release from DAW, and while I've fallen slightly behind (she's fairly prolific after all), I'm still an avid fan. This is the fifth book in her October Daye urban fantasy series, and I'm happy to say that it's by far the best one in the series so far.





This time, October "Toby" Daye finds herself pressed into the service of the Luidwaeg, who asks Toby to find the two kidnapped sons of the Duchess of Saltmist, who's convinced that the Queen of the Mists has something to do with the abduction. If Toby can't find them within three days, war will break out between land and sea. And while the Mists are preparing for battle, they haven't fought a war in hundreds of years. Saltmist is far more prepared for battle. Toby will have to travel to the undersea kingdom with the help of the Luidwaeg to track the kidnappers down. But before the end, the hunt will become far more personal than Toby ever dreamed.

One of my issues with past October Daye books is that Toby's investigations did not often make much sense. They felt loose, with Toby wandering from place to place, action to action, without any significant plot thread connecting each sequence or scene. Toby often acted completely on impulse or instinct, or was simply reacting to events around her, rather than following her own course of action. So while the stories were still fun to read, her decisions and the plots often left me frustrated as a reader. This is why they often received only 3 or 4 stars: fun and interesting, but frustrating.

Not so with One Salt Sea. This is the first book in the series where I felt the plot was rock solid and Toby's investigation into the two boys' disappearances made total sense. Toby wasn't just reacting to the events around her, she was actively controlling them and following the leads that she found as she investigated. Toby's special abilities also factored into the search in significant ways. Overall, it was a much more satisfying read as both urban fantasy and mystery than any of the previous books.

In fact, the overall writing was excellent. Not just the plot was rock solid, but the characters and their development as well. It was smooth reading and great flow all the way through. While I enjoyed Seanan's previous books in this series, I walked away from this book completely satisfied.

I'm certainly looking forward to the sixth book in this series now, and have even moved it up higher in my short TBR stack near my bed (as opposed to the huge TBR stack that's relegated to a separate room). I'd definitely recommend this book to any urban fantasy enthusiast.
jpskewedthrone: (Vacant)
It's September first! Which means there's a new month of new DAW Books, including new Tad Williams, Seanan McGuire, and the paperback release of Sherwood Smith's most recent release. Here are little blurbs about each. Which ones are you dying to get your hands on? They hit the shelves September 3rd!

*******************

First up is Tad Williams second Bobby Dollar novel Happy Hour in Hell, releasing in hardcover.





I’ve been told to go to Hell more times than I can count. But this time I’m actually going.

My name’s Bobby Dollar, sometimes known as Doloriel, and of course, Hell isn’t a great place for someone like me--I’m an angel. They don’t like my kind down there, not even the slightly fallen variety. But they have my girlfriend, who happens to be a beautiful demon named Casimira, Countess of Cold Hands. Why does an angel have a demon girlfriend? Well, certainly not because it helps my career.

She’s being held hostage by one of the nastiest, most powerful demons in all of the netherworld--Eligor, Grand Duke of Hell. He already hates me, and he’d like nothing better than to get his hands on me and rip my immortal soul right out of my borrowed but oh-so-mortal body.

But wait, it gets better! Not only do I have to sneak into Hell, make my way across thousands of miles of terror and suffering to reach Pandemonium, capital of the fiery depths, but then I have to steal Caz right out from under Eligor’s burning eyes and smuggle her out again, past demon soldiers, hellhounds, and all the murderous creatures imprisoned there for eternity. And even if I somehow manage to escape Hell, I’m also being stalked by an undead psychopath named Smyler who’s been following me for weeks. Oh, and did I mention that he can’t be killed?

So if I somehow survive Hell, elude the Grand Duke and all his hideous minions and make it back to the real world, I’ll still be the most hunted soul in Creation. But at least I’ll have Caz. Gotta have something to look forward to, right?

So just pour me that damn drink, will you? I’ve got somewhere to go.

*************

Next we have Seanan McGuire latest October "Toby" Daye novel, Chimes at Midnight.





Things are starting to look up for October "Toby" Daye. She's training her squire, doing her job, and has finally allowed herself to grow closer to the local King of Cats. It seems like her life may finally be settling down . . . at least until dead changelings start appearing in the alleys of San Francisco, killed by an overdose of goblin fruit.

Toby's efforts to take the problem to the Queen of the Mists are met with harsh reprisals, leaving her under sentence of exile from her home and everyone she loves. Now Toby must find a way to reverse the Queens decree, get the goblin fruit off the streets--and, oh, yes, save her own life, since more than a few of her problems have once again followed her home. And then there's the question of the Queen herself, who seems increasingly unlikely to have a valid claim to the throne. . . .

To find the answers, October and her friends will have to travel from the legendary Library of Stars into the hidden depths of the Kingdom of the Mists--and they'll have to do it fast, because time is running out. In faerie, some fates are worse than death.

October Daye is about to find out what they are.

**************************

And lastly, we have the paperback release of Sherwood Smith's Revenant Eve.





Once upon a time, I had known nothing about my family. Gran never, ever spoke about her family, and I never asked. My parents and I knew that Gran had come from Europe, but anyone would have known that from her beautiful, aristocratic French. But being me, I just couldn't leave it alone. So I went to Europe and found out. And then my life fell apart.

Or should I say, my old life fell apart. And my new life . . . well, it was like something right out of a fairy tale.

I had been ta teacher on the college level, and now I was a member of one of the royal families of Dobrenica, an obscure European country with some very unusual attributes.

Like magic. Yes, there was magic in Dobrencia. For instance, if certain members of two royal lines married at a specific time, Dobrenia vanished. And ghosts, I could now see ghosts. And vampires . . . but I still can't quite wrap my brain around that one. Let's just say that Dobrenica was one strange little country.

I was truly happy. I was engaged to the heir apparent to the throne of Dobrenica, and we were in love. Wedding preparations were underway and, although the thought of being a princess made me feel weird, being with Alec was like living a dream.

So my mood was high as I walked under the triumphal arch in the center of the capital city and ducked through a lichen-dotted medieval archway. Trailing my fingers along the wall, I soon passed the odd little painting of a door that had intrigued me ever since I first came to Dobrenica. It was rendered so realistically that on first glance it seemed three-dimensional, but as I passed my hands over the painted doorknob, my fingres closed on cold metal, and the false door swung inward, revealing a sun-drenched landscape and a teenage girl with honey-colored braids.

"I am Xanpia," she said, and somehow I knew she wasn't just another girl named after the patron saint of Dobrenica.

"This door," I blurted, "how does it work?"

"It is a door between your past and your future," she responded.

"Oh, no! No, no, no--I'm about to married!" I said in desperation, trying to back away.

"You are called to guide the child Aurelie," she said. "But that is only half your task: To save Dobrenica, you must bring her here."

And with that, she disappeared, leaving me floating like a spirit in a strange world, two hundred years in the past. . . .

****************

And those are DAW's September releases! Storm the bookstores! Then read, read, read!
jpskewedthrone: (Default)
This is the first book in a new series from Seanan McGuire, best known for her October Daye urban fantasy novels featuring Toby Daye and the fae living among us. Those novels are rather dark in tone and nature, with nearly all of the fae creatures tending toward their more wicked and tricksy original roots.





Not so with the new Incriptid series. The premise is that Verity Price, a member of a family intent on saving the crytids of the world from destruction by the fanatical group called the Covenant, is in New York City to decide whether she wants to continue with the family business she's been trained for since birth . . . or to become a professional dancer. Between dance competitions and her job at a stripper bar, she hunts down cryptids who are preying on humans, while helping to keep the rest of the less deadly cryptids hidden. Everything's fine until a new member of the Covenant shows up to determine if NYC needs a purge . . . and cryptids begin disappearing. It doesn't help that Verity is attracted to the enemy. Only far too many cryptids are disappearing--too many to lay at the Covenant's doorstep anyway. Something else is going on, and it might just take both Verity, the cryptids she's protecting, and the Covenant member to find out who and what is going on.

As you can guess from the description, the tone of this series is much lighter than that of the October Daye books. Oh, there are dark moments--people die, there's fighting, etc--but overall the atmosphere is much less dreary and a lot more fun. And that's how I'd describe this book: fun. There are a slew of new cryptids, including talking mice that celebrate . . . well, everything, and a bunch of creatures from other lands and folklore. It runs across cultures, which is appropriate for a melting pot like NYC. Verity is a strong character and is totally believable as a cryptid hunter (when necessary) and protector. And she's supported by a whole crew of individual and interesting characters, both human and non-human. There's also a much stronger streak of romance in this series.

I did have a few complaints, mostly dealing with the Covenant agent. It's emphasized over and over again that the Covenant is huge and powerful and deadly . . . and yet the agent sent to NYC to determine if the cryptid population there has grown so large that it needs to be purged comes across constantly as weak, uninformed, and honestly, not all that intelligent. After the buildup of the Covenant's reputation, I expect their agent to be just as powerful and deadly as Verity can be, but he doesn't come across that way. Sure, he kills some cryptids, but he doesn't seem to know much about anything regarding the cryptids overall. I wanted him to be a more competent and stronger individual, so that what happens between him and Verity is that much more powerful. You can still have a strong character with certain beliefs waver over the course of a book.

My other issue was with Verity herself: perhaps she's too strong. She has weak moments, gets hurt, and can be vulnerable, but overall her conviction is so strong that moments of doubt are just that--moments. She doubts herself for perhaps a breath or two, and then she's back storming away. I didn't get the sense that Verity changed herself during the course of the book. In fact, I felt that the story was really the Covenant agent's story, since he's the one that changed the most. Which is probably why I wanted him to be a stronger character.

In any case, that doesn't matter. The book is thoroughly enjoyable regardless and, as I said, a ton of fun. If you liked the October Daye books, I'd say you'll also love Verity Price and this new Incryptid series.
jpskewedthrone: (Default)
As part of the promo for the After Hours: Tales From the Ur-bar release, I figured I’d highlight all of the contributors to the anthology individually. And while we’re at it, run a contest as well! So here’s the deal, to enter the contest you have to either friend the [livejournal.com profile] afterhoursurbar community here on LiveJournal OR you have to like the After Hours: Tales From the Ur-bar Facebook page (search for the title of the anthology to find the page). If you do both, you’re entered into the contest twice! The contest will end March 31st, 2011. Prizes will include copies of the contributors books (sometimes entire trilogies), After Hours: Tales From the Ur-bar M&Ms, and perhaps other prizes. They will be awarded by random drawing from those who’ve liked or friended the appropriate pages. If you’ve already friended or liked the pages, then you’re already entered into the contest! Find out more about the anthology at its website!





And now for the ninth contributor: Seanan McGuire ([livejournal.com profile] seanan_mcguire)! Seanan’s contribution to the anthology is the short story The Alchemy of Alcohol, which takes the Ur-bar to San Francisco in 1899 and includes the recipes for the cocktails that wake the Winter Queen and Winter King out of season . Here’s the official description:

"The Alchemy of Alcohol" by Seanan McGuire: In 1899 San Francisco, a young alchemist is forced to wake the Winter Queen weeks ahead of time in order to save her from death.

I met Seanan McGuire for the first time in person at Worldcon in Montreal at the DAW dinner. Well, just previous to the DAW dinner actually. I’d already corresponded and IMed with her online, but in person is always better. After the dinner, a few of us authors and the editors retired to a bar in order to partake of some absinthe. It’s distressing that I haven’t managed to be at another con with her since then. IM just isn’t the same. *sigh* Here’s her author bio from the anthology:

Seanan McGuire was born and raised in Northern California, which explains a lot about her approach to venomous reptiles and the concept of "weather." She’s been writing since she was nine, driving everyone around her crazy; her first book, Rosemary and Rue, came out from DAW in September 2009. More have followed. Seanan lives with two blue cats (Siamese and Maine Coon), too many books, and a great many horror movies. Her favorite drink is the Corpse Reviver #2: gin, Cointreau, Lillet blanc, lemon juice, absinthe, a cherry, and defiance of nature’s laws. Delicious, delicious defiance. Seanan doesn’t sleep much.

We’ll be giving away the first three books in her October Daye series as prizes in the contest.



jpskewedthrone: (Default)
Feed is a post apocalyptic zombie novel, and it's a damn good one. The writing is so smooth and easy to read that you're swept along on the ride with little effort on your part and as a consequence you get caught up in all of the action. The author, Mira Grant, also writes under the name Seanan McGuire, and I've read the other books currently out under that name . . . and this book is better. It is, by far, the best book that Seanan/Mira has written, which is saying quite a bit. I also expect to see greater things for Seanan/Mira in the future, including the sequels to Feed and the upcoming October Daye novel An Artificial Night.





The interesting thing about this book is that it is set AFTER the apocalypse. Unlike every other zombie novel I've read, we aren't thrust into the zombie attack as it first begins. Instead, the zombie attack happened years ago, and we get to see how the world not only survived, but how it had to adjust to the presence and threat of zombies in the world, because they're here to stay. And guess what? Their existence is our own fault. So instead of following a bunch of characters as they try to survive the zombie outbreak, we get to see the adapted world, and THAT is what's interesting here. The world goes on, including news reports on the upcoming presidential race and election.

That's where the heart of the novel is: following three blog reporters as they become part of a presidential campaign. And as with most political stories, we have betrayal and intrigue and conspiracies. The fact that the world is infested with zombies is a backdrop to this main story. The setting--the world after the zombie apocalypse--is essential to the story, but it isn't the story itself.

I'd strongly recommend this bood to anyone who enjoys zombies, political thrillers, or anything along those lines from the fiction section. It reminds me most strongly of Stephen King's novels, although it is not a rip-off of any of Stephen King's books. I will definitely be reading the sequel, Blackout, when it comes out.
jpskewedthrone: (Default)
A Local Habitation is Seanan McGuire's second book in her October Daye series. I read the first one and enjoyed the writing and the characters and the worldbuilding, but felt that there was some random wandering around in the middle of the novel.





Not so here. This book was extremely focused and kept me riveted to the story throughout the entire book. The basic idea of the world setting is that the fairies haven't gone anywhere, they've just learned to live alongside the rest of the humanity. So in San Francisco, you have the human world and, hidden by gateways in places like Golden Gate Park, the fairy realms alongside them. In A Local Habitation, the main character October Daye is send to an adjacent fairy realm called Tamed Lightning localted "next to" Fremont, CA, sort of a buffer realm between two much more powerful realms. This buffer realm is ruled over by January O'Leary, the niece of October (call me Toby) Daye's leige. He's sent her to check up on his niece, since he's lost contact with her and he doesn't trust the other more powerful realm not to have taken over the buffer realm.

Of course, what Toby finds when she gets there isn't what she expected. When people begin to die, she has to use all of her powers to find out who the killer is and what their motives are. This is a mystery in the grand tradition, all mixed up with the urban fantasy setting that many of us adore.

I have to admit that I'm not a huge urban fantasy fan. I haven't read too many that I've actually enjoyed that much, ones where the world sucked me in and held me there, but Seanan McGuire has done that for me. I love the set-up of the world; I love the main character; and at least for this novel in the series, I loved the story and the mystery and the resolution.

The best thing about the story is that we get to see some rather cool uses for Toby's blood magic and we get to learn more about the way the fairy world works. There are two instances of her magic in here that really pushed my WOW factor, but I can't explain them without spoiling some of the plot. But very, very cool. My only qualm about the story itself was that at one point I got incredibly frustrated with Toby because a few of the characters kept not answering her questions and she let the non-answers slide when it was obvious that the answer was a key to the entire mystery. In one or two of the instances where this occurred, I was OK with it, because Toby was nearly unconscious and couldn't press the issue realistically, but there were still one or two spots where I thought she should have been more forceful in getting an answer immediately. However, this qualm didn't destroy my enjoyment of the novel in the slightest.

So, in summary, A Local Habitation rocked and has put Seanan McGuire on my must read list for future novels. Anyone who enjoys urban fantasy--especially ones without vampires or werewolves as main characters--MUST check these books out.

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Joshua Palmatier

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