Anthologies: Night Shift (2014)
The SPI Files
The Grendel Affair (2013)
I came across this on a book blog–although I have absolutely no idea which one it was. It was an early review (the book was published on the last day of the year), and it looked intriguing, so I put it onto my wish list. A month or so later, I saw it had temporarily dropped in price, so I pre-ordered it, and New Year’s Day as I was looking for something to read I decided to give this a try.
I finished it that day.
Makenna Fraser is a Seer for SPI (Supernatural Protection & Investigations). She grew up in a small town filled with supernatural creatures and people living hidden in plain sight, in a town that drew them in. So when she moved to NYC, she wasn’t particularly surprised to find the supernatural. What did surprise her was that there was group dedicated to both helping the supernatural hide and protecting humans from some of the more unsavory creatures and people who would prey upon them.
I think her background is something I especially liked. She grew up knowing about the hidden supernatural but not about an agency dedicated to the supernatural.
I also liked that her powers were–not minor, because they weren’t small–but that they were passive. She could see things, but couldn’t use her magic to fight. That didn’t make her weak, but it was a nice change to have a heroine who was physically normal (so to speak) and had to live by her wits more than power.
Actually, I enjoy the same in heroes as well.
There was another aspect to her growing up in a small town that was well done as well. She had grown up with guns and target shooting etc but discovers that shooting in the country is very different from reacting in a real life situation.
Being able to clear a line of beer cans from an old washer would never save anyone’s life, and I’d never actually heard of a deer taking a hunter hostage and using him as a shield while being hoisted into a helicopter. So I could hit a target. Big deal. That didn’t teach me when to shoot, when to hold my fire; or if I did shoot, the why and how of that decision, a split-second choice that could mean life or death for another SPI agent, me, or a friend who was in the right place but at the worst time.
I’ve heard many many people say, “well, if she’d had a gun…” or “if I’d been in that situation…” but I don’t think most people could, in fact, react heroically in such situations. I believe that it takes lots of training to be able to act and react in such situations. So I really appreciated her reactions when she was placed in danger. She didn’t scream or faint or wait for a hero to rescue her, but she also had what felt like a real reaction.
So, I thoroughly enjoyed this story, and look forward to more books.
Published by Ace
Audible version (2013/2014) narrated by Johanna Parker
This is a really fun series. Mac Frasier has moved from her little town in the south to New York City, but instead of making it as a reporter, she’s now working for SPI (Supernatural Protection & Investigations) when they discovered she was a Seer–a human able to see through all magic glamours.
There are many thing to like about Mac–first and foremost is that she knows her limitations–and she has a lot of them.
The narrator does a good job with the book–there are a lot of accents to cover, primary being Mac’s southern accent, and she does a decent job of them. Does she make a great Russian werewolf? Perhaps not, but she’s not terrible, so that’s good enough for me.
Published by Audible
The Dragon Conspiracy (2015)
This is the second book of the SPI files, and a fun romp.
But is also has a few things that are quite different from other books in this genre. Such as this:
Starting a romantic relationship with Ian and having it go bad would make our time at work awkward.
I wanted to do a happy dance when I read that.
But it’s also just plain fun.
I was confused. “But isn’t the Queen of Dreams the pink diamond?”
“But pink’s a nice color.”
“Not for goblins. Pink is the color of pure evil.”
I had a flashback to shopping for one of my nieces in the all-pink Barbie aisle at Toys “R” Us. I had to admit, it had creeped me out. I nodded. “I can see that.”
It’s a witty romp where the main character is female, isn’t unbreakable and KNOWS it, and although she appreciates fine looking men, is capable of concentrating on her work.
I really like this series.
Published by Ace
Audible Version (2015) narrated by Johanna Parker
This is another audio book I finished earlier in the fall and forgot to review.
The second SPI files book finds Makenna and Ian at a Gala opening at the Met, displaying a collection of rare gems that will soon be up for action. Gems owned by a dragon and with magical properties.
I really do like this series.
Published by Audible
The Brimstone Deception (2016)
Makenna Fraser is a seer for the SPI–the government agency in charge of supernatural crimes (and seeing that the supernatural don’t come to the attention of the public).
Her talent is a rare one, and the previous individuals to hold her job all died under mysterious circumstances, so Mac is partnered with someone whose job is to protect her. Because she doesn’t have magical healing or regeneration or super fighting skills or strength, she’s just a human who can see magic.
This means she does not have the skills to kick ass, and is well-aware of this fact.
As soon as the elevator doors closed, Ian drew his gun, which was loaded with silver-infused hollow points. “Stay here,” he told me.
“I can do that.” Not only could I do that, I was glad to do that.
Mind you, the agency is training her in self-defense, but she is well-aware that fighting is not her forte, and I really like that about her. Because as much as I like kick-ass heroines, I really like Mac’s realistic assessment of her strengths and abilities.
It’s a lovely change.
I was smart enough to know and accept that I could be trained by the best and still never qualify as a badass. My goal was simply to make it to work each day and home every night.
Fred was a solid presence at my back. Though considering what I most wanted to do was turn and run, a solid Fred right behind me wasn’t good for either one of us, unless he wanted to get trampled.
And the writing is witty and amusing.
Our head of HSR (Human and Supernatural Resources) was a voodoo high priestess. SPI’s non-disclosure agreements for new employees were signed in her office and in their blood. It didn’t matter who or what you did or didn’t worship, nobody messed with voodoo. No one had ever even thought about blabbing about the agency to the press or anyone else.
Even with all the foot traffic, I had no trouble spotting him.
He’d taken off his balaclava to try to blend in, but all that did was give him a serious case of hat hair.
I really like this series, and highly recommend it when you want something fun to read.
Published by Ace
The Ghoul Vendetta (2017)
The nephew of a vampire lord is kidnapped at an elite yacht party Mac is attending with Rake (the wealthy goblin businessman and dark mage she’s sort-of dating, but still isn’t sure about.). This is followed by ghouls breaking into secured bank vaults, stealing a select few items, and then eating the guards. Needless to say this is a nightmare for the PR people who are supposed to keep the supernatural world under wraps, and thus the case becomes a priority for SPI.
Unfortunately, the leader of the ghouls turns out to be a monster who has been haunting Mac’s partner Ian, which makes things more complicated, since as the only seer for NY SPI, Ian is as much Mac’s bodyguard as partner. Mac has useful skills, but those skills don’t include extreme weapons abilities or defensive abilities.
I appreciated Ian’s training efforts in that area as well as hand-to-hand combat, but I’d pretty much gotten as good as I was going to get, though I kept trying, and Ian kept teaching.
That last bit is one of the things I adore about Mac and this series. She’s SENSIBLE.
All that being said, I had a gun, I’d been trained, and I almost had the confidence to use it. Though suddenly, I went from having one target to what SPI’s shooting instructor called a “target-rich environment.”
You didn’t walk into a dark hole in the ground unless you were qualified to handle what you found— or what found you. Anyone other than a seasoned battle mage would be woefully— and fatally— unqualified.
We got the hell out.
One of the other things I love is the thought that went into the world-building.
She’d begun her career as a midwife, and had become the first licensed female doctor in the city. Every few decades, she “retired” from one position and took another. She’d been in her mid-twenties when she’d been turned so she didn’t stand out when she went back to school after a “retirement” to catch up on the latest medical advances. She’d learned to glamour and glamour well. As a result, she’d never had problems blending in or with being found out.
Vivienne Sagadraco had a lot of pull in this town, and one of the ways she used it was getting supernaturals placed in strategic jobs. In addition to supernaturals in the NYPD, there were mages who, like Dr. Van Daal, could place a glamour on a dead supernatural and hold it there until the body was turned over to the family. Or if no one claimed the body, until it was cremated or buried by the city. These mages were in homicide divisions, the medical examiner’s office, and CSI teams.
(T)he Prime Bank was founded by and largely caters to supernaturals. When one has an extended lifespan, it’s less awkward and more convenient to bank where you don’t have to pretend to die every ninety years.
As a psychometric, Dr. Tierney got psychic vibes from objects, even furniture, especially antique furniture. As a psychiatrist, he needed to keep his concentration on his patients. That explained why all of his office furniture came from Ikea. He even assembled it himself so that the frustration of the people who had to put it together didn’t sink into the wood and fabric.
Those are the little touches that delight me when I come across them in a story.
Plus, I love bits like this:
“We have other agents who are just as qualified—”
“Name one,” Ian snarled.
“Every senior agent in the bull pen.”
Plus, there’s a great scene when they’re in the restricted archives, and she describes the reaction to the archivists to someone touching an old document.
I really love this series and am already waiting impatiently for the next installment.
Published by Ace
Wild Card (2014)
I fully admit that despite being elves and goblins and not set in this world, I like it. Probably because it was a PI story, so the world building gets to take second place to the mystery. But also because everything is close enough that you don’t need huge explanations as to how things work and things have normal names (like coffee).
Raine Benares is an elven Seeker, which sounds pretty much like what it is: she finds things. She comes from a family of pirates but keeps herself mostly on the straight-and-narrow (at least as long as local law enforcement is concerned).
When a goblin Lady asks her to retrieve her jewelry–stolen by her no-good husband, who substituted paste for the real gems–things immediately get complicated.
This was a fun little story–well crafted and I didn’t need any familiarity with the books to get the story.
Published by NLA Digital LLC
Magic Lost, Trouble Found (2007)
I came across Lisa Shearin through her SPI files, which I thoroughly enjoyed. So I decided I should probably look into checking out her Raine Benares. I then read a short story set in this world that was a prequel to the first book. It also was interesting, so I decided to take a gamble.
So how’d that work out for me?
First, this is straight-up fantasy, which I don’t read a lot of anymore.
Second, this is, I now realize, book one in a six book story arc.
Did I enjoy the story? Yes. I found some of the names confusing, especially having two main characters, both male, whose first names started with P. Piaris and Phaelan aren’t that similar, I know, but at a glance (I read very quickly) they look similar, and so I kept losing track of who was who.
Despite that occasional confusion, I enjoyed the writing quite a bit.
My godfather didn’t keep anything of value except his privacy, but that he held dear above all else.
(A) man didn’t have to have power to be corrupted, but it sure happened faster when he did.
I also appreciated Raine’s fashion ideals.
I approved of the leather and even the corset I’d have to wear underneath. I wouldn’t be comfortable, but at least I’d have marginal protection against pointy steel objects that went stab in the night.
That is one of the nicest things about straight-up fantasy: you can mix different eras and sensibilities without offending history. So you can have a female fighter who wears trouser at the same time you have women wearing corsets and fancy gowns.
So am I going to read the rest of this series?
Most likely not.
I enjoyed the story and the characters, but not enough to commit to reading five more books to get the full story. Which brings us back to why I don’t read much straight-up fantasy anymore. I don’t want to commit to a long series that probably has cliff hangers. I want a series I can read some of, then take a break, and come back later and jump right back in without feeling lost.
So, it was a good book, I just don’t want to read five more like it to find out what happens.
Published by Ace
Let me be clear from the start: I read only two of these stories. In fact, I was going to read only one story, Ilona Andrews’ story “Magic Steals” until I realized the next story was a Lisa Shearin SPI files story. I very much adored the first SPI Files book, so was delighted to read a novella set in that world.
I already knew I don’t care for Nalini Singh’s stories (they simply aren’t my thing), and the last story didn’t pique my interest. I might read it at a later time, but possibly not. So I’ll review the two stories I did read.
Magic Steals is Jim and Dali story, and one that I (and many others) have been waiting for since their last story, “Magic Dreams”.
Jim and Dali are dating, except that Dali is so certain that handsome, confident alpha Jim is going to come to his senses at any moment and dump her, that she refuses to admit they are dating.
This sounds dumb, but you’ll have to trust me that it isn’t. Dali is a tiny, vegetarian, half-blind woman who turns into a massive white tiger–who is afraid to fight, doesn’t like the taste of blood even in her tiger form, and is befuddled following her change to her tiger form.
Yes, she is a very rare shifter who is also magic user, but her calligraphy magic doesn’t always work as she expects. So, her lack of self-confidence is understandable. But what this story makes clear is that Dali has value, to Jim and to her community.
I really enjoyed this story, despite all the boinking.
I also enjoyed Dali’s relationship with her mother.
Not to mention that she would be so overjoyed that I was having sex in the first place, she would probably call all of our relatives and tell them about it. They’d throw a party to celebrate.
Lisa Sherain’s story, “Lucky Charms” is a light-hearted story (like the first book in the series) and although there is snogging, it’s not a boinking story.
But much of the story does take place in… an unusual location.
“There’re behaviors that aren’t suspicious in a strip club?”
It’s about Mac’s first case with the SPI, so it’s set prior to the first book.
I quite enjoyed the story, but I can see that people who were expecting boinking and romance and all that might be… disappointed in it.
Published by Berkley