Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween fellow book lovers! For the last couple years, my book’o’lanterns have been based on current reads, but this year I went classic with a tribute to Sherlock Holmes:










Last year I featured a carving inspired by Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys:









And my inaugural book’o’lantern was based on the paperback cover of  The Night Circus  by Erin Morgenstern:









Here are some spooky and supernatural reads for the season:

Hansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Dead Set by Richard Kadrey

Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison



Fiction, Romance, Urban Fantasy

Urban Fantasy Mini Reviews: For a Few Demons More/A Kiss of Shadows

For a Few Demons More (ISBN 9781400104536)

Cover image for For a Few Demons More by Kim HarrisonAfter starting out with Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison and reading the first four books in The Hollows series in print, I had mostly decided the series wasn’t quite my thing. I was annoyed by the frequent spelling and grammar errors, cringing at a lot of the dialogue, and not really enjoying the constant stand offs between Ivy and Rachel. While browsing my library’s audiobook collection for something to alleviate the boredom of packing to move to a new apartment, I downloaded For a Few Demons More, narrated by Marguerite Gavin, which follows Rachel as she tries to solve a series of supernatural murders plaguing Cincinnati. Listening to the book in audio form sometimes highlights the bad dialogue, but not having to read the print pages took care of the fact that I was constantly being jarred out of the story by weird spelling errors. Combined with the fact that Rachel and Ivy have mostly stopped setting one another off every other chapter, I was actually able to really get into Harrison’s fast-paced action and enjoy this story. It seems that audio rather than print is the format for me to enjoy this series.

A Kiss of Shadows (ISBN 9780345490650)

Cover image for A Kiss of Shadows by Laurell K. Hamilton If I had looked into this book a little bit more before impulse purchasing it as an Amazon Kindle Daily Deal, I probably would have known that A Kiss of Shadows by Laurell K. Hamilton wouldn’t quite be my thing. I like my Urban Fantasy with a side of Romance, but this is really more Romance, or even Erotica, with a side of Fantasy that is only incidentally Urban. Merry Gentry is a fae princess who has been hiding among humans in Los Angeles, escaping the wrath of her aunt, Andais, Queen of Air and Darkness, and the Unseelie Court. Working for a detective agency, she stumbles over a case that involves the fae, and leads to her aunt discovering her whereabouts. But it seems that Andais has had a change of heart, and wants to bring Merry home to choose a consort, and help continue the faltering fae bloodline. While Merry makes for a strong and well-developed central character, I was struck by the relative lack of other female characters of any depth. Queen Andais mostly plays to type, and there are only incidental encounters with Merry’s Gran, and her childhood friend Keelin. Otherwise, the cast is overwhelmingly male. I also didn’t particularly enjoy the idea of Merry being welcomed home on the condition that she become a brood mare for the court. Overall, this series is definitely not for me.


More Urban Fantasy

Skin Game by Jim Butcher

Dark Currents by Jacqueline Carey

Fiction, Urban Fantasy

Every Which Way But Dead (Hollows #3)

Cover image for Every Which Way But Dead by Kim Harrisonby Kim Harrison

ISBN 9780060572990

“How many mistakes can one life survive?”

Rachel Morgan has succeeded in getting master vampire Piscary put in prison for five centuries for murder, but her troubles have only just begun. With Piscary behind bars, her deal with Algaliarept has become enforceable, and she must follow through on her promise to become his familiar. Piscary’s absence also forces Ivy and Kisten into a difficult position, as Ivy continues resist fulfilling her duties as his scion, and Kisten continues to pretend Ivy hasn’t ousted him. Piscary’s imprisonment also offers the perfect opportunity for a new player to gain a foothold in Cincinnati’s supernatural underworld, challenging Piscary’s interests, and horning in on Trent Kalamack’s business as well. Rachel is no fan of either Piscary or Kalamack, but Saladan’s aggressive incursions are costing lives, and Rachel isn’t one to stand idly by when she could help.

The plot of Every Which Way But Dead is diffuse, as Kim Harrison follows up a number of threads left over from previous books, such as Rachel’s deal with Algaliarept, and the fallout of her battle with Piscary. Harrison doesn’t go in for overly neat endings, and events from one book tend to have real repercussions and carryover to the next. The desire to follow up these threads has kept me reading, even as I’ve struggled to get past the numerous spelling and grammar errors that plague this series.

With such a diffuse plot, much of the book is focused on character development. Surprisingly, Ivy’s decision in The Good, the Bad, and the Undead to become a practicing vampire again actually marks an improvement in her relationship with Rachel. Because she is sating her blood lust elsewhere, she has a much easier time resisting Rachel. This means that their scenes together can focus on more substantial interactions, rather than every conversation devolving into Ivy vamping out. Trent Kalamack is another character who continues to receive significant development. Although he seemed like a bad guy at the beginning of the series, each new reveal moves his character further into a gray area. It seems likely that eventually he and Rachel will be willing allies, and he may even develop into a love interest at some point. For those who like some romance in their urban fantasy, Rachel’s love life becomes significantly more complicated in this installment, and Harrison has also ramped up the sex a bit.

The Hollows series continues to suffer from spelling and grammar mistakes, and continuity errors, and dialogue is not Harrison’s strong suit. These books are fun reads for fast-paced action and a bit of humour, but still leave much to be desired. I will probably continue to pick them up as vacation reading, or as an interlude between heavier fare, but three books in, the Hollows series has serious weaknesses that don’t seem to be going away any time soon.

Fiction, Urban Fantasy

The Good, the Bad, and the Undead (Hollows #2)

good-bad-undeadby Kim Harrison

ISBN 9780060572976

“Maybe if I didn’t say anything about what happened, we could get back to the way we were. Ignoring a problem was a perfectly acceptable way to deal with it, as long as both people agree never to bring it up again.”

Rachel Morgan has gotten out from under the IS death threat that resulted from breaking her contract, and has been running her own agency for a few months, along with her partners Jenks and Ivy. Money is still tight, so Rachel is grateful when Captain Edden calls her in to consult on a missing person’s case for the FIB. It quickly becomes clear that the missing warlock is connected to the serial murders of the witch hunter, a killer who has had Cincinnati’s Inderlander population edge for months. When Rachel discovers that all of the victims have a connection to Trent Kalamack, she thinks she might finally get a second shot at putting the councilman behind bars, but in order to do so, she may need to draw on the very ley line magic she is so suspicious of, putting her soul at risk in the bargain.

In the first book in the Hollows series, Dead Witch Walking, Rachel is basically on the run, struggling to stay alive under a death threat. We don’t learn much about her past, so it is great to see Kim Harrison delve into this more with The Good, the Bad, and the Undead. We meet Rachel’s mother, and learn more about her father’s connection to Trent Kalamack, as well as some details about her childhood. Trent also becomes a more rounded character, and he is shaping up to be an intriguing, multi-faceted antagonist with understandable motivations rather than a one-dimensional villain.

If Rachel and Trent make some interesting progress, the interactions between Rachel and Ivy begin to border on the repetitive. While the tense character dynamic was intriguing in Dead Witch Walking, it goes a bit over the top in The Good, the Bad, and the Undead. Almost every scene featuring both characters turns into Ivy jumping Rachel and almost biting her. Instead of the growth I was hoping for, their partnership has experienced a fairly serious, albeit inevitable, setback, and one which I wasn’t expecting to happen so early in the series. Hopefully in the later books we will get to see Rachel and Ivy really work together on a case, so that there is more to their relationship than trying to figure out how to live together without killing one another.

As in Dead Witch Walking, the writing itself is a little rough. There are numerous basic spelling and grammar errors, and Harrison continues to use awkward turns of phrase. When you have to read a sentence three times to figure out what the author is trying to say, it understandably detracts from the story’s forward momentum. Harrison has created an intriguing world, and knows how to write a rollicking plot-line, but the numerous errors in grammar, spelling, and continuity distract from the story in a fairly substantial way. Others have compared Harrison to urban fantasy greats, such as Patricia Briggs, but for me, this series just isn’t there yet. I’m willing to give it another book or two to get going, but I’m still not committed to finishing the series.

Fiction, Urban Fantasy

Dead Witch Walking

Cover image for Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrisonby Kim Harrison

ISBN 978-0-06-057296-9

Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher as part of the Harper Voyager Super Reader Program.

“People are motivated by three things, Rachel. Love …” A red marker clattered in with the rest. “Revenge …” A black one landed next to it. “And power,” she finished, tossing in a green one. “Trent has enough money to buy all three.”
“You forgot one,” I said, wondering if I should just keep my mouth shut. “Family.”

Rachel Morgan is a runner for Inderlander Security in Cincinnati, using her powers as a white witch to track down supernatural criminals. Rachel’s world diverged from our own in the sixties, when the government focused funding on bioengineering rather than the space race. The result was the Angel virus, spread by genetically modified tomatoes, which wiped out half of the human population. Only the presence of the Inderlanders—witches, vampires, and weres immune to the virus—kept the world’s infrastructure from collapsing. Long a shadowy minority, the Inderlanders rose to prominence and power, but never gained the trust of the diminished human population. Since the Turn, humans have crowded into city centres to be close to one another, leaving the former suburbs to the supernatural. In Cincinnati, these neighbourhoods are called the Hollows.

Tired of getting the worst assignments from a boss who hates her, Rachel decides to quit the I.S. and go out on her own, refusing to believe rumours of hits on ex-runners who renege on their thirty year contracts. Unfortunately, she attracts her boss’s ire when his top runner, vampire Ivy Tamwood, decides to quit to join Rachel, and the hit becomes all too real. Desperate to pay off her contract before she ends up dead, Rachel sets her eye on bringing down one of the I.S’s oldest and most elusive targets, Councillor Trent Kalamack. Biodrugs have been illegal since the Angel epidemic, but Rachel has reason to believe that Kalamack is mixed up in the drug trade. Bringing down Kalamack would be enough to pay off her contract and get the I.S. hit cancelled, but if she doesn’t play it right, she’ll have two powerful enemies instead of one.

Rachel and Ivy have a tense but intriguing relationship. They joined the I.S. around the same time and worked together for a year, but didn’t exactly jive. Rachel is extremely surprised when Ivy asks to be her business partner, and the situation becomes unexpectedly tense when the hit on Rachel causes her land lady to evict her, forcing her into close living quarters with Ivy. While professional at work, Ivy is a living vampire, not fully turned, and sworn off blood, but Rachel can’t quite trust her not to bite. Although Ivy obviously considers Rachel to be a good runner, Rachel likes to fly by the seat of her pants, whereas Ivy always needs to have a plan for every angle. Their talents have the potential to be complimentary, but as their partnership gets off to a rough start, they end up butting heads instead. Back up and comic relief is provided by Jenks, a feisty pixy with a passel of pixy children. Although I wasn’t enamoured of the writing style, I enjoyed the character dynamics immensely, as Ivy, Rachel, and Jenks try to figure out how to work as a team in their new business.

When it comes to the writing, Dead Witch Walking is undeniably a bit rough around the edges. With a bit of stilted dialogue here, a forced twist of the plot there, and some inconsistent grammar and punctuation, more polishing and editing wouldn’t have gone amiss. Sometimes Rachel will drop a new piece of slang without explanation, and other times there are long detours from the story to clarify the terminology. But Kim Harrison has assembled an intriguing cast of quirky characters, and made a good start on her world-building. The action is intense and well-paced, and has a real sense of urgency. The success of the Hollows series in the ten years since Dead Witch Walking debuted makes me think that it is worth giving the series a chance, despite a slightly bumpy start.