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Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier

I enjoyed reading Rachel Neumeier’s House of Shadows so I jumped at the chance to read Black Dog when I was offered a review copy. I was intrigued when I first found out the premise of the book. Also, I wanted to see how Rachel’s writing will translate from epic fantasy to urban fantasy.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Black DogNatividad is Pure, one of the rare girls born able to wield magic. Pure magic can protect humans against the supernatural evils they only half-acknowledge – the blood kin or the black dogs. In rare cases – like for Natividad’s father and older brother – Pure magic can help black dogs find the strength to control their dark powers.

But before Natividad’s mother can finish teaching her magic their enemies find them. Their entire village in the remote hills of Mexico is slaughtered by black dogs. Their parents die protecting them. Natividad and her brothers must flee across a strange country to the only possible shelter: the infamous black dogs of Dimilioc, who have sworn to protect the Pure.

In the snowy forests of Vermont they are discovered by Ezekiel Korte, despite his youth the strongest black dog at Dimilioc and the appointed pack executioner. Intrigued by Natividad he takes them to Dimilioc instead of killing them.

Now they must pass the tests of the Dimilioc Master. Alejandro must prove he can learn loyalty and control even without his sister’s Pure magic. Natividad’s twin Miguel must prove that an ordinary human can be more than a burden to be protected. And even at Dimilioc a Pure girl like Natividad cannot remain unclaimed to cause fighting and distraction. If she is to stay she must choose a black dog mate.

But, first, they must all survive the looming battle

It’s been weeks since I finished reading Black Dog and I still have fond memories of it. I remember staying up late one week night to finish reading this novel. It didn’t take that much effort for me to be immersed in the story and I found myself absorbed until I reached the end. I found the characters intriguing and felt that the worldbuilding was solid. I like how the reader is thrown into the story without lengthy descriptions, you just learn more about the world as you keep reading. The magic in this world can be found in black dogs and the Pure. Black dogs are shapeshifters who can change from their human to black dog forms as needed. While Pure women are able to wield their magic to invoke peace and to protect other people from malicious magic. The calmness that the Pure can provide serves as a counterpoint to the anger and violence that are part of a black dog’s nature. Natividad is a Pure, her brother Alejandro is a black dog while her twin Miguel is human. I like how these three siblings each have their own strengths and weaknesses. They each have something to contribute to their family, and eventually the Dimilioc clan. Even Miguel, who has no supernatural abilities, has skills in other areas. Aside from having magical skills, I also found it interesting that these siblings are half-Mexican and half-American. They were brought up in Mexico but had to flee to North America to run away from danger, and to hopefully gain allies in the Dimilioc clan. The Dimilioc black dogs also have a mix of interesting characters and I was curious about them as well.

I like how the point of view shifts from Natividad to Alejandro, giving us a better understanding of what this world is like from both Pure and black dog perspectives. I did wonder if the story would have been richer if we also got Miguel’s POV but it wasn’t a major issue. Black Dog was such an enjoyable read for me. I liked how the story progressed until the climax was reached. So many things happened in a short span of time but I thought the events were paced well. I really wasn’t able to predict how things will go, so I kept turning the pages to find out. It’s a good introduction to the world in this series and it made me want to read the sequel even though it hasn’t even been released. I would be more than interested to find out how the members of the Dimilioc clan will adapt based on recent changes that they’ve implemented. The world is on the cusp of change as they enter a new age where vampires no longer exist. I found that aspect of the story intriguing, as well as the history and culture of black dogs. There’s also a tentative romance in the first book that I’m hoping will be further developed in the sequel. I felt that the love story was barely there and would have loved more scenes between the two characters. I also thought that Black Dog had beautiful writing – here’s a non-spoilery snippet to illustrate my point:

“Out there in the cold, mountains rose against the sky, white and gray and black: snow and naked trees and granite and the sky above all… The sky itself was different here, crystalline and transparent, seeming farther away than any Mexican sky. The sun seemed smaller here, too, than the one that burned across the dry mountains of Nuevo Leon: this sun poured out not heat, but a cold brilliant luminiscence that the endless snow reflected back into the sky, until the whole world seemed made of light.”

Further proof of how much I enjoyed reading this book was that it reminded a little of the World of the Lupi series by Eileen Wilks, which was one of my favorite discoveries last year. I’m happy to report that I feel like Rachel Neumeier made a successful foray into urban fantasy with Black Dog. Like I said, I look forward to reading the next installment in the series.

Other reviews:
Random Musings of a Bibliphile
By Singing Light
Charlotte’s Library


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Blood Lines by Eileen Wilks

Blood LinesBlood Lines is the third book in the World of the Lupi urban fantasy series by Eileen Wilks. The first two books are Tempting Danger and Mortal Danger. The series has to be read in order. It follows Lily Yu, a third generation Chinese immigrant in the States, working as a cop. The story in the books also revolves around Lily’s connection with Rule Turner, the heir of Nokolai, one of the dominant lupi clans in the world. I like reading about how they’re both changing and adapting to their lives. They’re both strong-willed and well-respected in their own circles and it’s fun to see both of them give way to the other person when the occasion calls for it. There’s also a strong need for both of them to protect each other, which is a difficult task considering the adventures that they get into. As I’ve mentioned in my reviews of the first two books, the series also highlights the complex relationships that both Lily and Rule have with their families. One of my favorite characters in the series is Lily’s grandmother, Li Lei Yu, and it’s such a delight to come across scenes that include her. In this installment, friends also play significant roles in the book’s plot. Cullen Seaborne and Cynna Weaver are as much a part of this story as Lily and Rule are. The former is Rule’s fellow lupus, who is a talented sorcerer while the latter is Lily’s co-worker who also has her own magical abilities. It may sound confusing to keep track of so many characters but keep in mind that this is already the third book and there has been enough time to introduce other characters and let readers get to know them.

I feel like the writing in the series keeps improving as I go along, which makes me look forward to the most recently published books. Eileen Wilks continues to build upon the world that she created, adding more layers to the setting that was initially introduced. There’s more information about the lupi as well as other magical beings in the world. Even though the characters are based in the United States, I like how the setting encompasses the rest of the world – e.g. not just the American lupi clans are represented in the books. Most of my downtime this past weekend was spent reading as much as I can of this series. I finished the first book before the weekend started and it’s Monday night and I’m currently in the middle of the fourth book. At this point, I feel like I’m just coming up for air so I can talk about the books. It’s challenging to keep these reviews spoiler-free (I haven’t mentioned details in the first two books that can be considered spoilers and I didn’t even include the synopsis for each) but I want more readers to give this series a try. I don’t know if I’m just in the right mood for a new urban fantasy series to follow but I find the World of the Lupi engaging. Maybe I can just write about the series as a whole after I finish reading all the novels that have been released. When I read a series as quickly as I’ve been doing with this one, the plots in each book start to blur together and it all becomes just one big story arc in my mind. Besides, I would rather dive straight into the next book rather than pause and gather my thoughts so I could write a review for the one that I just finished. It’s funny because when I finished the first book, I said there were too many books in the series. I have a feeling I’ll be able to finish all of them soon.


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Mortal Danger by Eileen Wilks

Mortal DangerMortal Danger by Eileen Wilks is the second book in the World of the Lupi series. I started reading this one right after I read and reviewed Tempting Danger. Should the series be read in order? Yes, because we follow the same set of characters throughout the whole series and it would be too confusing if the books aren’t read according to how they were published. For the benefit of those who haven’t read the first book, I won’t be going into specifics to avoid bringing up spoilers. Even just the premise of the second book already has spoilers for the first one so skip reading that if you’d rather not know too much before going into the series. Before I get into anything else, I just have to comment on Mortal Danger’s cover because I’m really not a fan of it – all blue background with a fuzzy picture of a scowling guy. I don’t think it represents the contents of the book well, I’m not even sure who that guy in the background is supposed to be – Rule? Cullen? So if you’re being discouraged to try the book because of its cover then you can go ahead and ignore it. In this case, you really shouldn’t judge the book by its cover.

As the title of the series suggests, Eileen Wilks’ urban fantasy world does have werewolves in it. They’re more politely referred to as lupi (singular: lupus). And they’re not the only magical beings in this world. What makes the setting interesting is everything is changing as the series starts – lupi have recently been recognized as citizens (with human rights) instead of being hunted down as they used to be. They’re a very secretive bunch, as a result of their persecution in the past, and I keep reading because I want to know more about them. We do learn a little more about the lupi in the second book but there’s still more to their culture and history that can be explored. With all the changes happening in their lives, the main characters – Lily and Rule – grow as people. As a result, their relationship also develops. What I like about their connection is even though the physical bond is there, they still have to work on the emotional side and all the baggage that comes with it. Both of them are also big on family so their relatives play a big part in their relationship. That’s something that I feel will continue with the rest of the series.

“She wasn’t entertainment for him. He didn’t need her to make him laugh or bolster his ego or to figure him out so he wouldn’t have to. A lot of men who said they were looking for a relationship really wanted a combination sex buddy, therapist, and mirror.”

The romance is an important aspect of the series but there’s more to the books than Lily and Rule’s love story. That comes with the territory, given that they lead complicated lives because of their roles in society. I felt that the first book had a slower pace that what I’d usually like in my urban fantasy reads and I guessed that it was because it served as introduction to the series. I was partially correct because the second book had more action than the first one. However, there’s still a lot of explanation and speculation going on – people trying to figure out the unusual and unexpected things happening in their world and trying to come up with ways to adapt to them. And also to solve the problems that pop up along the way. I didn’t have much of a problem with the pace, I’m currently in the middle of the third book and I feel like I’ve gotten used to the writing. It helps that all those explanations help us readers to understand the world better and there are many details to like in this world. Not the least of which is Lily’s Chinese heritage and how her background and her family give the series an Asian flavor. I was also surprised at the direction that Mortal Danger took and like I keep saying, it’s a good thing when the book that you’re reading manages to surprise you. Everything got resolved in a very satisfying way but still left me hungry for the next installment. I recommend this series to fans of adult urban fantasy. As my friend Estara pointed out: the World of the Lupi was published before Kate Daniels, Mercy Thompson, the Alpha and Omega as well as the October Daye series. And yet it isn’t as well-known as all of those other novels. As I continue reading Eileen Wilks’ books, let’s see if I can try to convince more readers to pick them up too. They are definitely worth checking out.


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Retro Friday: Tempting Danger by Eileen Wilks

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.

I have been meaning to read more urban fantasy because I want to find a series to follow aside from Kate Daniels. I’ve read the first three Mercy Thompson books and the first two October Daye novels but felt no need to continue with both series. I know so many friends love those two series and it makes me a bit sad that I wasn’t able to connect with them like I wanted. I might change my mind later on and give those two a try again but for now, I’m interested in discovering new-to-me series. The World of Lupi books by Eileen Wilks come highly recommended by Estara, she says it’s a must read for urban fantasy fans. It’s funny because I started the first book and immediate thought that it feels like a mix of both Mercy Thompson (werewolf hierarchy, culture and history) and October Daye (both MCs are investigating murders and they have special skills that come in handy for the situation).

Tempting DangerHere’s the summary from Goodreads:

Lily Yu is a San Diego police detective investigating a series of grisly murders that appear to be the work of a werewolf. To hunt down the killer, she must infiltrate the clans. Only one man can help her – a were named Rule Turner, a prince of the lupi, whose charismatic presence disturbs Lily. Rule has his own reasons for helping the investigation – reasons he doesn’t want to share with Lily. Logic and honor demand she keep her distance, but the attraction between them is immediate and devastating-and beyond human reason. Now, in a race to fend off evil, Lily finds herself in uncharted territory, tested as never before, and at her back a man who she’s not sure she can trust.

Lily Yu is a third generation immigrant in the US and I think it’s awesome that this series has an Asian female protagonist. There are no lengthy introductions about the world at the start of the novel, readers are just thrown into it and we learn more details as we go along. I did find the pace a bit slow but first books tend to be like that, to serve as an introduction to the series. I felt like there was more speculation, more thinking on Lily’s part rather than action. It’s a minor quibble because I was still engaged and kept reading to find out more. I found myself curious about this world and how magic is structured in it. The lupi seem like they have a rich culture and history, that isn’t well-known to outsiders. I look forward to learning more about them. Of course, I was also interested in the attraction between Lily and Rule. I wanted to find out how both of them will react to this unexpected connection between them.

Both Lily and Rule are complicated people and we get to know them a little in this first installment. However, I feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface and there’s a lot of room for more character development and worldbuilding. I like how the story isn’t just focused on the two MCs, we also get to know their friends and family. Families are very important to both of them. I’m a fan of Lily’s traditionally Chinese grandma, would love to know more about her. While Tempting Danger can stand well on its own, I am curious enough about the characters and the world to continue with the rest of the series. There’s obviously more in store for Lily and Rule. I just find it a bit surprising that there are already nine books that have been released with more in the pipeline. I’m not sure if one couple’s story arc that takes that long will be able to hold my attention. I haven’t read the summaries for the latter books because I don’t want to see spoilers. I know there can be a lot that can happen by also focusing on secondary characters, all those friends and family that are significant in Lily and Rule’s lives. I guess we’ll just have to see how it goes. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this series will work for me! I’ve already started the second book. I recommend Tempting Danger to urban fantasy fans, specifically the Mercy Thompson and October Daye series. I find it a bit surprising that Eileen Wilks isn’t more well-known.


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Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews

I’ve been saying this a lot recently: the Kate Daniels series by Ilona and Gordon is my favorite urban fantasy series. The latest installment, Magic Rises, was one of my most anticipated releases this year. When a title I’m excited about becomes available, I usually read it as soon as I can. But since I haven’t reread this series since I first discovered it, I thought it would be a better idea to reread the earlier books instead of diving right into Magic Rises. I crammed as much reading time as I can during the past few days. I was hoping that I’d have time to catch up on reviews and other blog posts while rereading but no, I was sucked into Kate’s world again and ignored the blog while I was rereading. If you haven’t read the series, then please skip this review because I wouldn’t want you to see any spoilers.

Here’s the reading order:
Magic BitesMagic BurnsMagic StrikesMagic BleedsMagic SlaysGunmetal Magic

Summary from Goodreads:

Magic RisesAtlanta is a city plagued by magical problems. Kate Daniels will fight to solve them — no matter the cost.

Mercenary Kate Daniels and her mate, Curran, the Beast Lord, are struggling to solve a heartbreaking crisis. Unable to control their beasts, many of the Pack’s shapeshifting children fail to survive to adulthood. While there is a medicine that can help, the secret to its making is closely guarded by the European packs, and there’s little available in Atlanta.

Kate can’t bear to watch innocents suffer, but the solution she and Curran have found threatens to be even more painful. The European shapeshifters who once outmaneuvered the Beast Lord have asked him to arbitrate a dispute — and they’ll pay him in medicine. With the young people’s survival and the Pack’s future at stake, Kate and Curran know they must accept the offer — but they have little doubt that they’re heading straight into a trap…

It feels great to be immersed in a make-believe world that I love, one that is filled with characters I’m fully invested in. When it comes to good storytelling, the authors continue to build upon an established setting as the series progresses and that is exactly what Ilona and Gordon have been doing with the Kate Daniels world. In each book, a different kind of mythology is presented and we get introduced to new (good and bad) characters. What sets Magic Rises apart from the other books in the series is that Kate, Curran and company travel to a different region and the readers get a glimpse of how things are like outside the United States. The beautiful Mediterranean setting was like a breath of fresh air and it was interesting to see how different European shapeshifter packs are compared to the Atlanta Pack that we’re used to. I love how relationships got explored and developed further in this novel. After a couple of books into the series, we already know some of the characters quite well and yet there are some aspects of their personalities that were shown in a different light. I may not have been a fan of the actions of certain individuals in this one but I had a feeling that they were being done for a reason so I didn’t let it bother me. I was just going with the flow, waiting for the story to unfold.

There was one scenario that occurred in the book that I was able to predict beforehand and I had so much fun reading about it. I found it funny, especially because it made things more complicated. Yes, I am being very vague on purpose. I don’t want to ruin the reading experience for those of you who haven’t had a chance to read this yet. Magic Rises managed to surprise me in different ways and as a result, kept me glued to the screen of my Kindle – it is an action packed story peppered with the humor and wit that we’ve come to expect from the series. The fight scenes in this one were made of pure win, I really enjoyed reading them even though I know next to nothing about physical combat. They were the kind of scenes that I would love to see on a movie screen. On the night that I started reading Magic Rises, I stayed up late to go through as many chapters as I can. I would have kept going if I didn’t have to worry about getting up in the morning to go to work. When I got to the office the next day, I couldn’t wait for the work day to end so I could get back to reading this and I was distracted for most of the day, thinking about the book. Definitely one of my favorite reads this year. I can’t wait for the next novel! For some reason, I thought the next one will be the last in the series but apparently we will be getting more Kate Daniels books. I look forward to reading all of them.

Other reviews:
The Nocturnal Library
Ivy Book Bindings
Adina’s Book Blog
Fantasy Cafe
Lurv ala Mode


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YAckers Discussion: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

YAckers

Remember the YAckers Secret Santa that I mentioned a few weeks ago? Well, I participated in my first ever YAckers discussion and we talked about The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. The post can now be viewed over at the YAckers blog. Head on over there to check out our thoughts about the book. I’m glad the latest pick was a book that I’ve been planning to read for a while, The Raven Boys was one of my anticipated titles this year because I loved The Scorpio Races last year.

The Raven Boys from the library

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

I had a lot of fun reading and discussing this with fellow YAckers and I look forward to more YAcking in the coming months.


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Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

I know I’ve said this before but I love how hilarious Sarah Rees Brennan is. I follow her on her blog and Twitter and I think she’s really funny. I also know she has excellent taste in books, as proven by her Queen’s Thief Week guest post and by the number of recommendations that I’ve gotten from her. I’ve also enjoyed reading the first two Demon’s Lexicon novels (I know, I know, really need to pick up the third). So I was mighty curious when I first heard about Unspoken’s premise. I read this before leaving Manila a few weeks ago but because I’ve been having a reviewing slump, I haven’t gotten the chance to talk about it. Since it’s being released soon, I thought it’s high time I write a post about it.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.

But all that changes when the Lynburns return.

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown — in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?

Kami lives in a quiet little town called Sorry-in-the-Vale. She has a pretty unusual life for a teenage girl – she has a quirky family and a best friend who’s beautiful but anti-social. Add the fact that she keeps talking to someone in her mind and it’s not surprising that her classmates find her a bit weird. Here’s a nice little snippet early on that illustrates this:

“Kami had been hearing a voice in her head all her life. When she was eight, people had thought it was cute that she had an imaginary friend. It was very different now that she was seventeen. Kami was accustomed to people thinking she was crazy.”

I liked Kami right from the start – she’s smart, petite, partly Asian, dreams of becoming an investigative reporter and has a unique fashion sense that I envy. I feel like we’d get along if we ever met in person. She’s like a modern-day Nancy Drew or a Mary Stewart heroine. The connection between Kami and Jared just added to my curiosity – I wanted to know what was behind their ability to silently communicate with each other even if they’ve never met in person.

“If I wasn’t going to be a world-famous journalist and if I didn’t have such respect for truth and justice, I could be an amazing master criminal.”

Kami, as illustrated by Jasmin Darnell

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Kami and her interactions with Jared, as well as the rest of the characters in the books. I liked that we get to know the secondary characters really well even though the focus of the story is Kami and Jared’s relationship. There was a lot of banter in the novel, which I expected since it’s written by Sarah Rees Brennan. I’m usually not a fan of love triangles but I didn’t mind that Unspoken sort of had something like that. Just a heads up though, there’s a cliffhanger ending so if you’re the type of reader who doesn’t like that, it might be better if you wait for the sequel. Can’t wait to find out what happens next to both Kami and Jared! Unspoken is a really good read, I liked it even better than the two Demon’s Lexicon novels that I’ve read. Highly recommended so go and grab a copy when it comes out on September 11. As an added bonus, Sarah Rees Brennan released this prequel short story called The Summer Before I Met You.

Other reviews:
Book Harbinger
Random Musings of a Bibliophile
Cuddlebuggery Book Blog


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Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

I’ve given up reading YA paranormal romance because I’ve discovered that it’s not something that I enjoy. However, Unearthly received positive feedback from many reader friends last year so I thought it would be a good idea to give it a try. Readalong buddies Holly and Janice agreed to pick up Unearthly as our next read. Can I just say that I love that our readalongs have become a regular thing? Thanks again to my book BFF Celina for my copy of Unearthly.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Clara Gardner has recently learned that she’s part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn’t easy.

Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place—and out of place at the same time. Because there’s another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara’s less angelic side.

As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she’d have to make—between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?

Unearthly was a pretty easy read for me. I was surprised by how fast I went through it and I apologized to my readalong buddies that I wasn’t able to pace myself to read it in chunks for our discussion. It’s just that I kept wanting to find out more about the angel-bloods and Clara’s purpose (basically her mission in life as an angel-blood). However, I’m sorry to say that I didn’t enjoy reading Unearthly as much as I expected. I don’t know if it’s because my expectations were raised based on all the glowing reviews that I’ve seen or it’s really just a case of YA paranormal romance not being a good fit for me. The things that put me off the genre were present in Unearthly – girl chasing after a hot guy who seems perfect (even if it’s supposedly tied to her life’s purpose), love triangles, the story focusing more on the romance than on the worldbuilding. Clara is a smart girl and I wanted to tell her that she can find out more about her purpose, without having to go crazy over a good-looking guy who is already in a relationship with someone else. I wanted to whack her in the head with something. By the time a more reasonable love interest came along, I was too annoyed to find the romance swoon-worthy.

Did I regret reading Unearthly? No, I’m more frustrated than anything else that I don’t have the gene present in other readers who loved this. Like I said, Unearthly was easy to fall into. It’s just that I wanted the story to have a more solid foundation – maybe a concrete history of angel-bloods or deeper friendships between Clara and her new buddies. It felt like the mythology was a bit flimsy and I wanted something other than the romance to hold on to. If paranormal YA is your kind of thing or if you find the premise intriguing, then I have a feeling you’ll love this more than I did. I’m still curious about the sequel (and I already borrowed a copy) because I want to know more about Clara’s purpose – maybe her mom will reveal more details about her past. But I’m definitely not getting my hopes up. I have a feeling I’d find Hallowed easy to read but I don’t think it will end up in my list of favorites. Unearthly reminded me a bit of Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, which I thought was amazing but didn’t work for other readers. So you never really know unless you give the book a try. Heads up, this post from Heidi of Bunbury in the Stacks shows pictures featuring the setting of the book – it might give you a better idea of how everything looks like.

Other reviews:
Janicu’s Book Blog
Bunbury in the Stacks
One More Page
The Readventurer


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Trese by Budjette Tan and KaJo Baldisimo

Whenever I ask for Filipino fiction recommendations, the Trese graphic novels keep popping up. I thought I’d dive right in and check it out when I received the whole set for my birthday. There are four installments in the series right now: Murder on Balete Drive, Unreported Murders, Mass Murders and Last Seen After Midnight. I think I put off reading this one because I don’t read a lot of graphic novels or comics and I’m not a big fan of horror books either (because I’m a big scaredy-cat). But I keep saying I need to read more books written by Filipino authors so here we go. Here’s the summary of Murder On Balete Drive, the first book in the series, from Goodreads:

When the sun sets in the city of Manila, don’t you dare make a wrong turn and end up in that dimly-lit side of the metro, where aswang run the most-wanted kidnapping rings, where kapre are the kingpins of crime, and engkantos slip through the cracks and steal your most precious possessions. When crime takes a turn for the weird, the police call Alexandra Trese.

I want to kick myself for not getting into this series sooner but then again, maybe it’s better that I discovered it late because at least I was able to devour all four graphic novels one right after the other. I didn’t have to worry about the horror aspects of the Trese series – I read the books at night and wasn’t the least bit scared. I’d like to think of the series more as a blend of dark urban fantasy and mystery instead of horror. I had so much fun going through these books, the pages just flew by. It’s funny because even before I finished reading the series, I was already recommending it to my friends. I think that’s a sign that I’ve become a fan, yes? I love strong female protagonists and I’m delighted that there’s a kick*ss heroine in Filipino fiction that I can root for. You go, Alexandra Trese! She’s more commonly known as just Trese though. Here’s a snapshot that nicely describes Trese’s character:

Each graphic novel is composed of several short stories and by the time I finished the first installment, I had a lot of questions about Trese’s background. This is why the third book, Mass Murders, is my favorite – it focuses on Trese and how she became such an expert when it comes to Philippine mythology. Also, all of the short stories in Mass Murders are tied together so it’s like one story arc, broken out into several chapters. I felt like I was more invested in the story because of this and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that future installments will follow the same format. Aside from having recognizable local settings, one other thing that heightened my enjoyment of the series is my familiarity with the supernatural creatures that Trese regularly encounters. The stories are rooted in Filipino superstition and I’ve heard a lot about duwende, manananggal and aswang while growing up here in the Philippines. We’re not even halfway through the year but I’m pretty sure the Trese graphic novels will be included in my favorite discoveries in 2012.

If you’re curious about Filipino mythology or want to try a different kind of graphic novel, I highly recommend the Trese series. I asked Budjette if these books are internationally available and he replied that they could be ordered through the National Bookstore website. I believe they’re also working on releasing ebook versions and I’ll gladly spread the word about those when the time comes. I’m curious how the series will stand up to readers who aren’t familiar with Philippine mythology. More samples of the black and white artwork in the novels:

Other reviews:
One More Page
Ficsation
Taking a Break
Code Name Blue
Bookmarked


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Fate’s Edge by Ilona Andrews

I’m an Ilona Andrews fan girl. I used to think I wasn’t a fan of urban fantasy until I discovered the Kate Daniels series and then the Edge series. Now, I have two urban fantasy installments to look forward to every year. Fate’s Edge is the third book in the Edge series, the first is On the Edge and the second is Bayou Moon. I enjoyed reading both and I’ve been eagerly anticipating the release of Fate’s Edge throughout the months of 2011.

Here’s the summary from Ilona Andrews’ website:

Born to a family of conmen, Audrey Callahan left behind her life in the Edge for an unmagical existence in the Broken. Audrey is determined to stay on the straight and narrow, but when her brother gets into hot water, the former thief takes on one last heist and finds herself matching wits with a jack of all trades.

Kaldar Mar is a gambler, a lawyer, a thief, and a spy with some unusual talents that guarantee him lucrative work. When his latest assignment has him tracking down a stolen item, Kaldar doesn’t expect much of a challenge — until Audrey turns up to give him a run for his money. But when the missing item falls into the hands of a lethal criminal, Kaldar realizes that in order to finish the job and survive, he’s going to need Audrey’s help.

I think it’s great that each of the Edge books focuses on a different romantic pair. That makes it different from the Kate Daniels series and allows readers to get to know more characters. I really liked Kaldar in Bayou Moon and I was thrilled to discover that the next Edge book would be about him. A scoundrel, thief and conman for a leading man? Definitely my kind of character! As I keep saying here on my blog, I love thieves in fiction. In Fate’s Edge, Kaldar is out for revenge – he works for the Mirror, the secret service of Andrianglia because he wants to crush its rival organization, the Hand. Can I just say that the agents of the Hand are really creepy? But they make great enemies and I loved the fight scenes in this book just as much as the ones in the previous installments. Also, yay for secret agents – another type of character that I enjoy in my fiction reads! Kaldar is one smooth operator but he finally meets his match when he encounters Audrey. I thought their first meeting was hilarious. They both recognized each other’s skills right from the start and were trying to outsmart each other. This is how Audrey first describes Kaldar:

“This man was a rogue, not because circumstances forced him to be a criminal but because he was born that way. He was probably conning his mother out of her milk the moment he could grin. He’d charm the clothes off a virgin in twenty minutes. And if the poor fool took him home, he’d drink her dad under the table, beguile her mother, charm her grandparents, and treat the girl to a night she’d never forget. In the morning, her dad would be sick with alcohol poisoning, the good silver would be missing together with the family car, and in a month, both the former virgin and her mother would be expecting.”

It was a lot of fun seeing both of these characters fight their attraction for each other (well, it was mostly Audrey who was fighting it) while working on the case and while supervising their sidekicks: Gaston, George and Jack (younger characters from the other books in the series). I enjoyed all the scenes with George and Jack in them and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll see more of them in the fourth (and last?) book or I’m hoping they’d get their own book. Fate’s Edge shows a deeper side to Kaldar’s character – he’s very loyal to his family and everything that he works for is to improve the lives of the Mars. What I like about Audrey is that she’s also different from the other two Edge heroines, Rose and Cerise, who are both fighters. Audrey’s skills lie in stealth and her magic reflects that. Another interesting aspect of the worldbuilding is how the authors keep on adding details to the world that they started – like how each person’s magic is tied to his or her personality so we get different kinds of magic for each character. I feel like I keep saying this whenever I review an Ilona Andrews but it’s the truth: I will read everything that they write. All of their books are fast-paced, entertaining and full of the kind of banter that I love. If you’re an Ilona Andrews fan, you probably don’t need any encouragement to pick this up. So I’m recommending this to fans of urban fantasy although I suggest that you read the first two books before this – why miss out on the fun?

Other reviews:
Lurv ala Mode
Dear Author
The Book Pushers
Bookyurt

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