Tag Archives: urban fantasy

The Read List: Witches of Lychford, by Paul Cornell

Witches of Lychford

What it’s about:

Traveler, Cleric, Witch.

The villagers in the sleepy hamlet of Lychford are divided. A supermarket wants to build a major branch on their border. Some welcome the employment opportunities, while some object to the modernization of the local environment.

Judith Mawson (local crank) knows the truth — that Lychford lies on the boundary between two worlds, and that the destruction of the border will open wide the gateways to malevolent beings beyond imagination.

But if she is to have her voice heard, she’s going to need the assistance of some unlikely allies…

I picked up Paul Cornell’s Witches of Lychford after I read an excerpt of it on the Tor website (actually, I pre-ordered it right after reading it, as it wasn’t released yet — and I don’t normally place pre-orders, so the excerpt definitely grabbed me). 

Then the ebook was released and sent to my Kindle … and like lots of other ebooks on my Kindle (and my Kobo), it ended up sitting on my Kindle for a while. But then I remembered it, and decided to pick up where I’d left off.

And I’m really glad I did. Even though this is a short book (it’s novella-length), Cornell has no problems building a believable world where magic is worked within the nicks and corners of the normal, magic-less every day.

Set in a small English village, the story pulls in the workings of local politics and is quite epic in scope. The rest of the story turned out to be just as good as the excerpt that had pulled me in, and when I finished, I found myself hoping Cornell would continue to set more stories in this world he’s created.

I had read Cornell’s London Falling a while back and enjoyed it, so reading the Witches of Lychford has reminded me how much I wanted to read his The Severed Streets, too.

 

[TSS] Bookish Bliss: The Benefits of Having a "Books Read" Goal

I had an unbelievable reading week, considering I’m still working on all the deadlines. I’ve discovered that setting a “books read” goal and then keeping track of that goal in a spreadsheet does wonders for any reading ennui I might be feeling.

Yes, apparently I am one who is easily motivated by the thought of adding another book to the spreadsheet.

And because of my “books read” goal, I’ve been finding bits of time in which to read – instead of doing what I used to do, which was wait until I had a nice big chunk of time. Instead, I’ve been dipping in and out of books, reading during breaks from work, reading in the ten or fifteen minutes before going to bed, reading when I’m waiting for Dylan to finish dance class – and astonishingly, all those bits of time have added up to my finishing four books this past week!

Mind you, two of them were graphic novels. I already loved graphic novels before setting my reading goal. I love them even more now.

I think my next book will be:

The Dream Thieves

From everything I’ve heard, The Dream Thieves is a great sequel, and I’m excited, too, that I also have Blue Lily, Lily Blue waiting for me too.

These are the books I read in the past week (and another surprise: none of them are in audio!):

daughter of smoke and bone

Daughter of Smoke & Bone: Such a marvellous read. I don’t know why it took me so long to get to it, but I’m glad I finally did.

days of blood & starlight

Days of Blood & Starlight. Luckily I had book two in the trilogy, so as soon as I finished Daughter of Smoke & Bone, I turned immediately to Days of Blood & Starlight. This one was so eventful, I had to stop about two-thirds of the way through to take a breather.

During this breather, I picked up: The unwritten volume 3 The Unwritten: Dead Man’s Knock, Volume 3 of The Unwritten series. Lovely to be back in the Tommy Taylor world. I finished this one and then went back to Days of Blood & Starlight, and when I read breathlessly to the ending, I decided to pick up the next volume of The Unwritten. Leviathan The Unwritten: Leviathan, Volume 4 of The Unwritten series.

Fingers crossed here that next week will be another great reading week for me!

Reading: Daughter of Smoke & Bone, by Laini Taylor

daughter of smoke and bone

I’m finally reading Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone. It’s been on my to-read list for quite a while now, and as is often the case when I get to a book that I’ve been wanting to read for a while, I end up saying:

What took me so long?!

I really have Suey at It’s All About Books to thank for giving me the nudge I needed to finally read Daughter of Smoke & Bone. Back in December she told me she’d been to a presentation and writing workshop by Laini Taylor where Laini showed how she brainstorms ideas for her books by making lots and lots of lists (I just love this idea, by the way). When I said she’s been on my to-read list for a while now, Suey said, you really have to read her!

So I did.

I am just enthralled with this book. I’m reading it in ebook format, and my ereader tells me I’m on page 232-233 out of 356 pages, so I’m about two-thirds of the way through.

It is so good. From the beginning, the mystery surrounding Karou is so enticing, and I’ve been loving how we learn more as Karou learns more. The world-building is wonderful and the writing is really well done.

I’m glad to say I have Days of Blood & Starlight waiting for me on my ereader. I know what I’ll be reading next …

My Reading Notes: London Falling, by Paul Cornell

I recently downloaded this very handy little iPhone app called Drafts, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover how much use I’m able to get out of it. The feature that appeals to me the most is the app’s ability to append text to plain text documents I’ve got uploaded on Dropbox.

I decided to give the app a try by using it to document all the thoughts running through my head as I’m reading a novel. It worked like a charm, and now I’ll be able to post these thoughts as “My Reading Notes”!

Here are my first set of reading notes, on London Falling by Paul Cornell. This is the first in a series featuring four London police officers who develop “the Sight” after touching a supernatural artifact. I admit, the main reason I wanted to read this book was because I wanted to be familiar with the characters so I could read the second book in the series, The Severed Streets, in which the team tackles a killer who appears to be imitating Jack the Ripper.

london falling by paul cornell

My initial thoughts, on beginning the book:

The beginning is a bit of a challenge for me, but knowing all the supernatural stuff that’s to come is getting me through it. I’m on page 12 now and things are starting to settle with me as I get to know the characters better.

And then things started clicking:

On pg 38: Interview with Toshack. Wow. Okay, now we ‘re rolling.

But I’m still a little confused:

On pg 51: There’s still a lot of things referred to in the text that I don’t understand …

Despite the confusion …

On pg 65: This is getting good!

On pg 98: I love this. No denial crap going on for pages. Thank goodness! I’m hooked now.

On pg 106: I’m starting to see now, a good urban fantasy has a strong element of horror to it. At least, this one does.

Still confusing sometimes as to who’s speaking. Some great lines. Pg 133 “He never told jokes; it had just slipped out and made a change in the world.”

On pg 196: So inventive! Enjoying this thoroughly.

On pg 251: Love the technology they use. Hurray for Google Street View!

On pg 272: Waiting for significance of five over four. Wonder who it will be?

Then, WHOA!

On pg 304: !!! As in, OMG

A good quote:

On pg 327: “It is time that defines whether something is real or not. Time is what makes what people experience a tragedy or a love story or a triumph. Hell is where time has stopped, where there’s no more innovation. No horizon. No change.”

And finally, on finishing the book:

Final thoughts: so much imagination here. Amazing how many different aspects of how the Sight shows you he’s come up with. Think it could have used some tighter editing in parts but overall it was all so inventive and I really enjoyed it. Stayed up till 2:30 am to finish it, which says a lot.

So there you have it. My thoughts on London Falling, in real time, so to speak. I am really looking forward to reading The Severed Streets now!

Back on Track (plus: do you know this book?)

It’s been a while since I last posted about my writing – and that’s because I hadn’t been doing any writing!

After a good start to the summer (I handwrote my way through a Moleskine notebook) I developed major resistance to writing. And while I kept thinking about my writing, I just couldn’t seem to sit down and actually do any writing.

Luckily, I have the best writing buddy in the world. Janel Gradowski kept the magic of writing alive for me through her daily emails to me. She’d write about her progress in her latest WIP and talk about plotting, outlining, POV, making characters come alive – stuff that made the writer in me itch to get to the keyboard. She’d write about organizing things with post-its and index cards (I love organizing with post-its and index cards). She’d send me links to great writing books and posts and interviews.

She never made me feel guilty, though. It was more like she’d hold open the doorway to the writing life, and just gently made sure I knew it was still there, waiting for me.

All of her support helped to eat away at my resistance. Last week, the last remaining bits of resistance suddenly lifted. I found myself embracing two words that I’m not really that fond of: Discipline and Commitment. (“Not really that fond of” is putting it mildly.)

I decided to make my writing a priority. I committed to sitting down to write first thing in the morning, right after my meditation but before I did anything else. I decided I had the discipline to keep that commitment.

Now, I’ve done this before – say to myself, my writing is a priority. And “I’m going to just do it”. And it always kind of fizzled out. But the strange thing is, when you add a dash of Discipline and a spoonful of Commitment into things, things don’t fizzle out.

I’ve been writing a chapter a day (I’m doing a rewrite of my old WIP, WAVERLEY). I have absolutely no resistance to sitting down to the keyboard.

I’m not making excuses, procrastinating, picking up a good book instead, cleaning the dishes, taking a nap, working on the next index, surfing the net – I sit down and I write. I try to write for at least an hour. Mainly I write until I’ve finished the chapter, which might or might not take an hour.

I’m not sure if I’ll be doing NaNoWriMo this year; it depends on whether I get Waverley finished before November 1. But it’s okay, because I’m back on track!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In reading news: I just finished Midnight Riot, by Ben Aaronovitch. It’s a very fun urban fantasy about Constable Peter Grant of London’s Metropolitan Police, who interviews a witness to a murder, only to discover the witness is a ghost. Very tongue-in-cheek, with fun sci-fi and fantasy pop culture references.

Which reminds me of another book I read recently. I’ve been trying to remember the name of it (I forgot to mark it down in any of my usual TBR-recording spaces). It’s a newer release, and it’s about a woman who wakes up in this woman’s body, and all she knows is someone’s trying to kill her. The theme is a little like Midnight Riot, as it’s about a ministry or department in England where people with magical powers police the magical things that are happening.

The woman discovers that the woman whose body she has now, was a doormat, but it turns out her powers are very powerful. There’s a “Court” that the woman turns out to be a part of (and a conspiracy within the court). There’s a being who inhabits a number of bodies all at the same time, and another being who turns out to be a vampire. It was quite an exciting book. I’m hoping the name of it will come to me (if you know what book I’m talking about, please let me know in the comments!) as I’m hoping there’ll be a sequel and if there is, I want to read it!

Update: I was just looking through the latest issue of Shelf Awareness, and I discovered the name of the book! It’s The Rook by Daniel O’Malley. I’m definitely going to keep my eye out for a sequel.

You Know You’re a Big Fantasy Reader When …

One of Ward’s students invited him to a guy’s movie night on the weekend. Ward has been to this student’s house quite a few times before, but that night I received a call from him, asking me to look up the student’s address in his records.

So I did. And then I asked, “Did you forget where he lives?”

And he said, “No, I remembered. I’m there right now.”

And I said, “Why, is the house not there anymore?”

The thing is, I said this in all seriousness. It was the first thing that popped into my mind.

Yes, it’s true. My first thought was that the house must have disappeared. Into thin air.

I didn’t even see the weirdness of this. My husband laughed when I said it. I think he thought I was joking.

But I wasn’t.

So there you go. Now you know I’m a big fantasy reader.

Review: Blood Oath, by Christopher Farnsworth

Blood Oath (The President's Vampire, #1)

What Blood Oath is about:

The ultimate secret. The ultimate agent. The President’s vampire.

Zach Barrows is an ambitious young White House staffer whose career takes an unexpected turn when he’s partnered with Nathaniel Cade, a secret agent sworn to protect the president. But Cade is no ordinary civil servant. Bound by a special blood oath, Cade has spent more than 140 years in service to the president, battling nightmares before they can break into the daylight world of the American dream.

Immediately Zach and Cade receive their first joint assignment: one that uncovers a shadowy government conspiracy and a plot to attack the Unites States with a gruesome new biological weapon. Zach soon learns that the world is far stranger, and far more dangerous, than he ever imagined . . . and that his partner is the least of his problems.

This is the first vampire novel I’ve read since I devoured Justin Cronin’s The Passage last year.

I enjoyed Blood Oath thoroughly (not that it’s anything like The Passage at all, though – the only similarities are that they both feature vampires and there are secret service types involved). Blood Oath is one of those great, action-packed page-turning reads, the kind of book that delivers pure entertainment. Even though it’s a vampire novel, it’s not like your typical paranormal vampire novel. It reads more like an action thriller that just happens to have, as its main protagonist, a vampire.

It turns out, you see, that all of the presidents of the United States have had in their service a vampire, one Nathaniel Cade; it’s Cade’s job to keep the bad guys of the “other world” away from this world and back in the other world where they belong.

Cade does a fine job of things, too. He’s got a new partner now, though: young and quite cocky Zach Barrows, who had ambitions to achieve lofty heights in the political world. Being stuck partnering with a vampire isn’t at all the kind of thing Barrows has been dreaming about. Even though he’s been told it’s the most important position among the President’s staff, it feels more like a punishment to him.

I thought Farnsworth did a good job in terms of world-building; the vampire/other world aspect is tied into the regular world seamlessly and reads quite credibly. I liked Nathaniel Cade, too: his own personal code of vampire ethics, and the hints at the potential consequences of adhering to such a rigid code. Zach Barrows is the perfect partner for Cade, too; his cockiness and quick mouth add to the occasional humor in the story.

The action is fast-paced and extremely readable, and while there is violence, it’s not gratuitous violence at all. I enjoy reading thrillers, but sometimes they’re just too violent for my taste. That doesn’t happen here. The violence is there for a reason, to show the reader what’s happening, and Farnsworth doesn’t take it farther than it has to go.

I’m looking forward to reading the sequel!

Another Saturday Random

A Clean Desk

So yesterday I came downstairs in the morning, and discovered that my husband, who’s been getting up at 5 in the mornings for the past month, had decided to surprise me and clean up the office.

And not just the office, but my desk, too!

I will just say here that after three and a half months of back-to-back deadlines, my desk was not a very pleasant sight. Many, many things have been lost in the mess that was my desk, some of which have disappeared for good, or so it seems.

But now my desk is clean! And I’m not surrounded by teetering piles of papers, books, boxes and magazines.

I can walk to my chair using a direct, straight path! I can sit down in my chair and breathe! I can see again that my desk is a natural pine color!

It’s a change I needed, because I’d been avoiding my desk for a while now. It’s been feeling too much like work.

And now it feels like my writing space. I will definitely be finishing up the first draft of ELEMENTAL in the next 30 days. I have it my time all planned out – writing at least an hour a day, I should be able to wrap up this first draft.

Clean deskMy Clean Desk

The book in the picture above, by the way, is Creative is a Verb, by Patti Digh – I have Molly at My Cozy Book Nook to thank for this, as I first read about it on her blog. And yes, it’s as lovely as it sounds. The book, I mean. And Molly’s blog, too!

I’m in such an appreciative mood right now.

(And I’m now intending cleaner bathrooms without having to lift a finger …)

Vampires

Did I say in my last post, I haven’t really taken to the whole vampire sub-genre in urban fantasy?

So wouldn’t you just know it – guess what the next two books I started reading are about?

Vampires. Of course.

It’s not that I don’t like vampire books. In fact, my top read of 2010 was Justin Cronin’s The Passage. And the year before that, I devoured The Strain, which I read one eerie fog-filled day on the shores of Nova Scotia while on summer holidays.

But for some reason, I’ve just not really felt called to a lot of the other vampire-driven books out there – and in the past year, there’ve been a lot of these.

I’ve been enjoying these two latest reads, though. Maybe because they have a different feel to them than other vampire books I’ve heard about.

One is a secret agent thriller, the other one combines magic and vampires and science and history and evolution (yes, it’s as delicious as it sounds).

They are also very different from each other. I’ll be reviewing both this coming week; I’ve already finished Blood Oath, by Christopher Farnsworth (the secret agent thriller one), and am deep in A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness (the magic/vampires/science/history/evolution one), and enjoying it very much.

What about you? Have you read any vampire-based urban fantasies you’ve really enjoyed recently?

Join My Husband on Facebook!

Well, not my husband, exactly – his dojo!

Last year, I created a Facebook page for his dojo, Renseikan Dojo. I’ve unofficially been the “keeper of the page” for the past while (which basically meant, I didn’t do much with it), but recently stepped fully into the role (you can just call me the dojo’s Social Media Director, okay?).

I decided this past week to be the official updater of the page because it occurred to me, even though the dojo is a local business, its Facebook page doesn’t have to be, nor should it.

I mean, it’s a fantastic dojo, a great place to train, but with the emphasis my husband puts on not only the martial arts, but also meditation and the spiritual aspects of practice, it’s a way to share what the dojo’s all about with more than just the actual, local, physical members of the dojo.

I only just started really updating the page this past week, so right now it’s been mainly about the events we have coming up, but I’m planning on regular updates that will feature quotes about Zen, meditation and spiritual practice (that’s the kind of dojo my husband runs, so it’s a good fit) and lots of inspiring videos.

So, if you enjoy the martial arts, or meditation, or Zen or spirituality, or uplifting and inspiring videos, please like Renseikan Dojo on Facebook!

Speaking of My Husband

I know a few of you follow Ward on his cooking blog, Sensei Cooks. And you’ve probably noticed he hasn’t been posting much lately.

We were talking about it a few weeks ago; he told me he just doesn’t like the writing part of it much. He does like writing out his recipes, though; it’s just the words that go before it that he has trouble with, so he procrastinates writing more posts.

So I hit on a great idea. He’s not too sure of it, so I’m working on him. But hopefully, soon you’ll be seeing more posts on there regularly – and you’ll see Sensei Cooks transform into a vlog!

I think he’d be a natural; he’s used to talking to an audience because that’s part of what he does when he’s teaching. All he has to do is talk about the recipe he’s posting, what changes he’s made to it (and he’s always fiddling around with changes), what he liked about it, what he didn’t like.

And maybe one day I’ll get him to actually let me film him doing the cooking, going through all the steps!

That’s my bit of randomness for this Saturday. What have you all been up to this past week?

Review: 666 Park Avenue, by Gabriella Pierce

imageThe Story:

What if your mother-in-law turned out to be an evil, cold-blooded witch . . . literally?

Ever since fabulously wealthy Malcolm Doran walked into her life and swept her off her feet, fledgling architect Jane Boyle has been living a fairy tale. When he proposes with a stunning diamond to seal the deal, Jane can’t believe her incredible luck and decides to leave her Paris-based job to make a new start with Malcolm in New York.

But when Malcolm introduces Jane to the esteemed Doran clan, one of Manhattan’s most feared and revered families, Jane’s fairy tale takes a darker turn. Soon everything she thought she knew about the world—and herself—is upended. Now Jane must struggle with newfound magical abilities and the threat of those who will stop at nothing to get them.

My Thoughts:

So you thought your mother-in-law was bad? Just wait until you meet Jane Boyle’s mother-in-law-to-be!

I enjoyed 666 Park Avenue, perhaps more so through the last half of the book than the beginning. When I finished the book, though, I knew one thing: the sequel, The Dark Glamour, which will be released in the fall, will definitely be on my wishlist.

I love urban fantasy, but have never really taken to much of the vampire-driven subgenre that’s been so prevalent since Twilight.

I liked 666 Park Avenue for a few reasons: I found its perkiness and chick lit overtones refreshing; Jane really grew as a character, and I always like when that happens in a novel; and the whole witch in Manhattan high society thing was quite interesting.

A word of warning, though: the first few chapters do read like a chick lit novel. If you’re not fond of chick lit, don’t let that put you off. Persevere, and soon you’ll be in the meat of the magical parts.

There probably could have been a lot more magic in the book; Jane, for example, is quite disinterested in learning more about her magic powers. I, for one, would be far more likely to react like Dee, another character in the book. But on the whole, the “I don’t want to do magic” thing that Jane has going works quite well with Jane’s character; after all, she’s a fashionably stylish architect who grew up in France. She’s far more interested in the latest creations being shown off on fashion runways than she is in spells and potions and the like.

This is what happened for me: I hit the middle of the book, and it all really came together. There’s a ton of excitement, the secondary characters start coming into their own, and it’s fun to watch Jane step into her potential.

Altogether, 666 Park Avenue was a quick, fun read – a definite page turner near the end.

Note: Thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins for my review copy, and my iPad and the Bluefire Reader app for making the ebook experience such a good one!

Review: Virals, by Kathy Reichs

imageSynopsis:

Tory Brennan, niece of acclaimed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan (of the Bones novels and hit TV show), is the leader of a ragtag band of teenage "sci-philes" who live on a secluded island off the coast of South Carolina. When the group rescues a dog caged for medical testing on a nearby island, they are exposed to an experimental strain of canine parvovirus that changes their lives forever.

As the friends discover their heightened senses and animal-quick reflexes, they must combine their scientific curiosity with their newfound physical gifts to solve a cold-case murder that has suddenly become very hot–if they can stay alive long enough to catch the killer’s scent.

Fortunately, they are now more than friends–they’re a pack. They are Virals.

I have a confession to make: while I’ve read several of the Temperance Brennan novels by Kathy Reichs, it’s the TV show Bones I really like. There’s something about the camaraderie of the characters on the show that’s really appealing to me.

And, as I’ve mentioned before (in one of my first reviews on this blog, actually!), I’m not particularly fond of the gothic damsel-in-distress style that Reichs sometimes uses in the Brennan series. Personally, I think even one “had I but known …” is one too many, and the Brennan books tend to have more than just one.

But I couldn’t resist the premise behind Virals. A group of teenagers who catch a virus that turns them into wolves? Beautiful!

I’m happy to say, Reichs writes with a very authentic YA voice in Virals – and there’s not a single “had I but known” in sight, thank goodness. The novel gripped me from the start – I read it in ebook format, first on my iPhone, and then the concluding chapters on my iPad (with too long a stretch in between due to work deadlines).

Tory is a great character. She’s sure of herself, but not sure of herself, in that lovable way that’s true of many of the teenagers I know. She’s smart and quick-thinking. And funny.

The team she forms with her three friends is a true team. I found myself rooting for them from the very beginning. And there’s a lot of smart-ass, make-you-smile dialogue, the kind of conversations that, if you live with teenagers, make you nod your head and say to yourself, “Now, didn’t I hear that just the other day?”

My only problem with Virals came at the end. I would have preferred a different ending, with the “villain” of the place acting in a smarter, more credible way. Still, it was a galloping good read, the kind of novel that’s really difficult to put down.

And yes, I’m definitely looking forward to the sequel.