Random (but not really)

Friday, July 19, 2019

The Books of Midyear 2019: Supernatural Fantasy

Because apparently I didn’t read any other kind of fantasy yet.

Supernatural Fantasy


Storm Cursed (2019) Patricia Briggs (Rating: 8.5/10) (Mercy Thompson)

Mercy is called when a rogue goblin is noticed by a farmer–a goblin who looks like on wanted for the murder of a policeman. Mercy takes Mary Jane and Ben with her–but also is smart enough to call Larry, the goblin king, to come deal with his wayward subject.

The video of the incident was all over the news,” I began, but paused when Larry glanced my way for a hair’s breadth. Long enough for me to see the odd expression on his face.

“And people say humans don’t have magic,” he muttered,

But this is only the start of Mercy’s long day, as she is called out to deal with another problem.

“Miniature zombie goats,” I corrected. “Or miniature goat zombies. The ‘miniature’ is important. ‘Zombie goats’ just sound satanic.”

This is the 11th book in the series I’ve been reading from the start.

Although there are some weaker books in the series (the previous book was one I didn’t particularly care for, for several different reasons) there isn’t a book that I haven’t re-read more than once.

If you haven’t read this series previous, don’t begin here. Start at the beginning. There is a large cast of characters (many of whom have had their own short stories) and you’ll be missing so much if you jump in here.


The Phoenix Illusion (2018) Lisa Shearin (Rating: 8/10) (SPI Files)

The 6th SPI Files book finds Mac and and her friends celebrating when a house suddenly appears in an empty lot–and catches on fire.

More distressingly, the house that appeared is Rake’s, and it’s from his homeworld (which isn’t Earth).

She’s switched to self-publishing this series now, which means it’s difficult for me to catch these books when they come out, but I still really enjoy this series. It’s got supernatural creatures, police procedure, and mystery. (Pretty much ALL my catnip.)

Mac is another heroine I adore, because her power doesn’t render her invincible, but rather places her in more danger, because she’s in a world with strong and dangerous creatures. And unlike some heroines (side eye to Mercy up there) Mac knows she can’t hold her own and is perfectly glad to get out of the way when something comes down.


Ben Aaronovitch


Lies Sleeping (2018) (Rating: 8.5/10)

This is the seventh Rivers of London novel. And it’s set in 2014, because the story moved slower than real publishing time.

You can read this if you haven’t read the novella or comics, but if you haven’t read the previous books? Forget it.

The story opens with the following epigraph.

The best revenge is not to become like your enemy.

A LOT of various threads are wrapped up in this book, but there is a new book coming out, although I haven’t checked to see precisely what it’s about, because I prefer not knowing.

As I’ve said before, one of the things I LOVE about this series is how multi-cultural it is, without making a point of being multi-cultural. It’s just that characters happen to be women or of color or Muslim (or all three in the case of Guleed). Yes, Peter and Guleed do make comments about being black, but those are almost throw-away lines, much like Peter’s obsession with architecture or Molly’s strange foods.

I do love this series, but do NOT start here if you haven’t been reading along from the start.

The October Man (2019) (Rating: 8.5/10)

This is set in the same world as the Rivers of London, but is NOT a Peter Grant book.

Just so you know.

Policeman Tobias Winter is an investigator for the Abteilung KDA, the German equivalent of the Folly.

I ended up in the Abteilung KDA because I didn’t talk myself out of it fast enough, and because the Director has a vile sense of humour. I ended up learning magic because you can’t trust the British to keep to an agreement over the long term.

I’ll be honest, I went not expecting a lot, mostly because the last several Rivers of London comics have been lousy.

With those expectations in mind, I was pleased with this story.

Tobias is clearly not Peter, even if he is somewhat in awe of Peter Grant and the Folly. Germans do things differently, and they have quite different feelings about the Folly.

It’s an interesting aside, and I quite enjoyed it.


Supernatural Fantasy, LGBT


The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal (2013) K.J. Charles (Rating: 8/10)

This is a M/M historical fantasy, with boinking, set in England between 1894 and 1914.

Simon Feximal helps the dead to rest. He doesn’t exorcise them, send them on, but instead allows them to finish telling their stories.

He was covered in writing. It was scrawled in black and red ink, from wrist to shoulder of both muscular arms, across his broad, powerful shoulders and chest. None of it was in a language I recognised, or could read, but it was unmistakably writing… and it was still being written.

I gaped. The lines, some spidery, some looping, still others jagged, etched themselves over his skin, a constant silent chatter of messages.

“What—” My voice failed.

“The stories write themselves,” he said, very matter-of-fact. “I serve as their page.”

I really like the world-building in this story, and how each short story tells you a little more about each of the characters. Theoretically each of these stories could stand alone, but in reality they build upon one another.


Angel Martinez

I stumbled upon Angel Martinez this year, and ADORE everything I’ve read by her. Most of it is fun and silly and just delightful.

Uncommonly Tidy Poltergeists (2017) (Rating: 8/10)

Taro has to make a confession to his family–and he’s afraid they’re going to freak out.

He’s won the biggest power ball in history, and is going to keep it a secret from everyone but them. He is also, after buying his parents a vacation home and setting up accounts for his siblings and nieces and nephews, going to buy houses around the world and try to become a travel writer.

But somewhere along the way he seems to have picked up a ghost–a ghost who insists that the house must be clean. So when he heads back to New York, he ends up hiring a ghost hunter.

This was the most recent story I read, and I adored Taro (even if I’m probably Jack).

Also, Taro is demisexual, and this was the first story about a Gray Ace I’d read.

But mostly it was just a cute and fun story.


Offbeat Crimes

Feral Dust Bunnies (2017) (Rating: 8.5/10),  The Pill Bugs of Time (2016), Skim Blood and Savage Verse (2017), Feral Dust Bunnies (2017) (Rating: 8.5/10), Jackalopes and Woofen-Poofs (2017) (Rating: 8.5/10), All the World’s an Undead Stage (2018) (Rating: 8/10)

This was the first series I came across, and the title of the first book in the series is so over-the-top I really hesitated. Well, the over the top title and the ridiculous covers. (Ugh.)

It starts here:

Kyle Monroe has been a cop at the 77th precinct for several months, when he is assigned a new partner: the extremely stoic and handsome Vikash Soren. He wants to dislike Vikash, but instead falls for him–which is a terrible idea, since they’re partners.

These are M/M supernatural fantasy romance police procedural, and although the ideas are VERY silly, the stories were very enjoyable. Partially because it is joyfully geeky,

“Should get an Odo bucket,” Vikash murmured.

“A what?”

Kyle chuckled into his coffee. “Seriously, Carr? You never watched Deep Space Nine?

and partially because she works to get the non fantasy bits correct.

“All right, people.” Lieutenant Dunfee shook her head. “I have two officers on medical, one close to collapse and the rest of you look like crap.”

“Well, thank you for that.” Carrington sniffed in offense from his corner.

“If we try to solve this tonight, we’re asking for disaster. Everyone get the hell out of my building. We’ll start again in the morning.” She pointed toward the shadowed back wall. “Except Loveless, who wants to be a smartass.

Yet despite all that, my favorite character ends up being Alex Wolf, wolf who had been turned into a human as a child. He is utterly delightful, his mother is wonderful, and I adore how his group accepts him as he is, doing their best to help him with his quirks.

Here is Alex Wolf texting with his mother.

I hv her. Srry.

You took her to WORK?

“Damn it.”

I have all her stuff. It’s OK, Mom. She has peeps watching her.

Mom typed for a long time, then finally sent—

They better not be peeps. Marshmallow chicks should not watch kittens.

For the second time in fifteen minutes, Wolf sagged in relief. If Mom was making bad jokes, she wasn’t so mad anymore.

I adore everything about that passage, especially seeing just how patient his mother is with him, even when she is frustrated.

Although I hate time-travel, and although I don’t much care for the Carrington story arcs, I can still recommend this series without hesitation. It’s just adorably fun.

Brandywine Investigations

Open for Business (2016) (Rating: 7.5/10), Family Matters (2018) (Rating: 8.5/10)

Mythological beings.
M/M romance.
Murder and mystery.

That noise?

Those were a bunch of my buttons being pushed all at the same time.

This book is three novellas with overlapping characters, the main of which is Hades, who has things to work out.

(Orpheus) kept skimming even as he spoke, turning pages faster and faster. “Guys, this is bad.”

“How bad?”

“Epically bad.” Orpheus dropped the divorce papers on the table, shaking his fingers out as if the words had singed him. “(Persephone)’s kicking him out, too. Keeping the palace and the dog.”

So Hades decides to become a PI.

These stories were a bit darker than the others I’ve read, but they are still good. One character starts as an alcoholic street-person. Two are utterly co-dependent and their story is far darker than anything else in these two books. But it’s in the middle of the first book, so that made the darkness easier to deal with.

Mostly the stories are mystery and mythology and try to see the world the way millenia-old beings would.

“I’ve enjoyed reading fiction ever since humans began writing their stories down.”

“See, that kinda made me sad. When they started doing that.” Azeban sat on his haunches like a proper raccoon, gesturing at the shelves. “All these stories are stuck. They can’t change. When humans used to tell each other stories, stuff changed all the time. It was exciting to hear what they’d do with a story. Now they write it down, and that’s it. That’s the story.”

Again there is lots of boinking here, but also again, the stories are quite good, and I highly recommend them.


Charlie Adhara

Big Bad Wolf

The Wolf at the Door (2018) (Rating: 8/10), The Wolf at Bay (2018) (Rating: 8/10), Thrown to the Wolves (2019) (Rating: 8/10)

Agent Cooper Dayton was transferred from the FBI to the BSI after a werewolf attack. The job of the BSI is to deal with werewolf crime–and keep the existence of werewolves from becoming known to the general public.

The public could never know about werewolves, though. That was one of the few things the BSI and the Trust agreed on. The panic, the prejudice, the senseless violence that would surely come if the truth was revealed.

After a teenage werewolf is shot and killed, the BSI and the Trust (the face of the werewolves) decide something new needs to be tried–that a BSI agent and a Trust agent should work together to search for what appears to be a new serial killer.

So this is a supernatural fantasy police procedural with a romance.

There was a lot for me to like in this series. They mysteries were good, Cooper has medical issues from the attack, and those issues don’t just magical go away, and in fact cause problems if Cooper ignores them.

I also like that both Park and Cooper have complicated families, but are willing to be patient with each other as they deal with their pasts.

I also appreciated that Cooper was full of self-doubt.

“I’m sorry,” Cooper blurted. His heart was beating hard, but fuck it, what were they here for if not this?

Park looked at him. He had that same odd look on his face he’d had when they first got to Jagger Valley that looked so much like nerves, but a little hopeful, too. “For what?”

“Everything. Well, for earlier, and for being, you know, me.” Cooper laughed awkwardly.

“What the hell, Dayton,” Park said, sounding angry. “That’s a horrible thing to say.”

And I love that Park calls him on it.

The mysteries were good, and I liked seeing their relationship develop over the books–and the amount of work they had to put into making things work.

Really, that’s one reason I thought I disliked romance, because the HEA made things feel magical and easy. But then I discovered that there are romances where the characters have to work towards understanding, and not just solving a big misunderstanding, but dealing with the day-to-day compromises that are part of being in love and in a relationship.

It’s not just series that does that, but it’s one of the things I particularly like about this series.


Audio Books

The Rook, Audio Edition (2012) Daniel O’Malley narrated by Susan Duerden (Rating: 9.5/10) (The Rook)

Stiletto, Audio Edition (2016) Daniel O’Malley narrated by Moira Quirk (Rating: 9.5/10)

Salsa Nocturna: Stories, Audio Edition (2012/2014) Daniel José Older, narrated by Daniel José Older (Rating: 9/10)

All three of these were books I’ve listened to several times before, and I was delighted to listen to them again.

The Books of Mid-Year 2019 Great Covers
The Books of Midyear 2019: Romance
The Books of Midyear 2019: Mysteries

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