contemporary fantasy

Heroine Complex: It’s Complicated


Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Berkley Publishing Group DAW: July 5, 2016
Source: Free from publisher

I’d go there again!

In a familiar-but-different San Francisco, a portal to another dimension opened eight years ago and spewed demons bent on conquering Earth. A handful of San Franciscans received minor otherworldly magical powers from the first demons to arrive. Ever since, smaller portals have opened that spew mini-demons who tend to take the form of the first thing they see, such as cupcakes. Cupcake demons, folks.

Evie is personal assistant to Aveda Jupiter, San Francisco’s local demon-fighting superheroine, who also happens to be Evie’s best friend. Evie, Aveda, and their friend Scott are a few of the people who received magical abilities. Aveda Jupiter, in fact, does not have enough telekinesis to fight demons, so she relies on her physical abilities and a strong PR strategy instead.


“Carousel Seas” – In Which the Pace Matches Maine Life

carouselseasCarousel Seas by Sharon Lee
Baen: January 6, 2015 (Fantasy)*

The view was nice, but the food was bad vintagesuitcase3vintagesuitcase3

Over the course of this trilogy, I have felt less and less satisfied with the details of life in a small Maine town, working a carousel at an amusement park, and getting along with all the natives, in human and other forms. This is not the fault of the story, of the details themselves, but belongs more to the pacing of the novel. This month, I appear to be looking for more fast-paced books with more action in them, and less description. The plot moves along so slowly that it doesn’t grab my attention. A note here: the pacing adds another dimension to the setting, since it reflects a slower pace of life. The language, too, is very “Maine,” and I think these added features really do help to bring the setting to life.


The Witches of Echo Park (Unfinished)

witchesofechopark The Witches of Echo Park, by Amber Benson.
Published January 6th, 2015 by Berkley Publishing (Urban Fantasy)*

My rating: vintagesuitcase3

Per my 2015 reading resolution, I read 100 pages of this book – but by the time I got there, the action still had not really started, I felt nothing for any of the characters, and the world and magic rules didn’t make much sense. By the end of the first chapter following page 100, I had reason to finish this book. Flashbacks and descriptive passages, along with unlikeable characters and inconsistent characterizations, left me with a feeling of relief when I finally put it down.

Lyse, an orphan raised by her great aunt Eleonora, returns to LA when she discovers Eleonora has cancer – and only months to live. Eleonora is glad to have Lyse back, mostly because Lyse is needed to take over the coven that Eleonora leads. There are witches in Echo Park (you guessed that, right?) and Eleonora is the Head Witch. There is some Great Evil preparing to descend on the world, and Lyse is Our Only Hope to defeat it. Trouble is, she doesn’t know magic exists. Or, more specifically, that her great-aunt is a witch.


Prepare to be Charmed by Charming

charming Charming by Elliott James
Published by Orbit: September, 2013 (Urban Fantasy)

My Rating: Outstanding Adventure!

John Charming is half werewolf, half Knight Templar. During a supernaturally long lifespan, he has been a knight-in-training, an orphan, a despised werewolf, and a fugitive (from the same knights who raised  and trained him). He’s become apathetic about his life, tending bar in a small town in Appalachia, when a vampire and a blonde walk into his bar. That’s how it starts, and it doesn’t end until he’s been co-opted into a band of vampire hunters, nearly killed at least twice, stalked and ambushed, and visited by his fiancee’s ghost.

The action never stops, with tension, distrust, and attraction between the main characters; a sociopathic teenage vampire with delusions of world domination and a hatred of everyone; and jealousy among the vampire hunting cohort. Which doesn’t stop at turning green, but involves some ambushing and hand-to-hand combat, among other exciting things.


Sword-Wielding Heroines: A Reader’s Map

It’s been a while since we’ve done a reader’s map at Spicy Nodes. Today, you can interact with a map of books (mostly fantasy) that feature women who wield swords. There’s a Celtic fantasy series, several books about mercenaries, “sword and sorcery” books, an alternate fantasy, and of course, romantic fantasies.

Click the image below to be taken to the interactive map.

Do you know of any other books with swashbuckling, bada$$ women who wield swords? Share in the comments and I’ll add them to the map!

Ghosts, Demons, and Vampires in ‘Deadly Curiosities’

deadlycuriositiesDeadly Curiosities by Gail Z. Martin
Solaris, June 24th, 2014 (Urban Fantasy)*

My rating: I’ll go there again! (4/5)

Not your typical romantic urban fantasy, Deadly Curiosities focuses on the supernatural powers, the fighting of demons, and the magic of paranormal fantasy. The story is set in modern-day Charleston (and having had a chance to visit the city while I finished the book, it seems the author portrays the city pretty accurately. And the houses she mentions? With the porches and gardens and side doors? Absolutely gorgeous. But I digress).

Cassidy Kincaide owns and runs her family’s antiques shop, but her assistant manager is a Weaver who can weave magic in threads and in data (he’s a magical hacker!), and her business partner is a centuries-old vampire who has worked alongside her family for generations. Cassidy herself has the ability to read objects’ histories and moods when she touches them. Together, Teag (the Weaver), Sorren (the vampire), and Cassidy defend the city and its inhabitants against ghosts and objects that have negative and harmful resonances, buying these objects from people, sometimes neutralizing their energies, and hiding them away. (more…)

Still cursed in ‘The Curse Breakers’

19154146The Curse Breakers by Denise Grover Swank

Amazon Publishing,  April 29, 2014 (Contemporary/Romantic Fantasy)*

My rating: The plane was delayed, the luggage lost, and the museums closed (1/5)

This second installment in the Curse Keepers series disappointed me. For much of the novel, I found myself uninterested and/or skimming. My main impression was one of slow plot lines, minimal action (except during those times when Ellie gets attacked – again – by vengeful spirits), and a rather painful love triangle.

This story continues the upturned life of Ellie Lancaster, who at the end of the first book watched her father die, was betrayed by her partner and lover, Collin Daley, and witnessed the Pandora’s box of Native American spirits opening up into the human world. She’s still struggling with her feelings (attraction, betrayal) for Collin, and still trying to avoid the dangerous spirits and stay alive. Still working partial shifts at the other restaurant while her former restaurant remains closed. (more…)

“The Line” is heavily, poorly drawn

thelineThe Line by J.D. Horn
47North (Amazon Publishing), 25th November 2013 (Urban Fantasy / New Adult?)

My rating: The plane was delayed, the luggage lost, and the museums closed

In this book, a young woman from a magical family without any powers discovers her own potential for magic and learns the secrets her family has been keeping from her for her entire life.

Overall, nothing about this book felt true. The relationships seemed stiff and unlikely. The world building was weak and forced. The plot, transparent and unrealistic.

The characters were pretty two-dimensional and often acted just to move the plot forward (or sideways in some cases). Mercy was clearly more special than everyone around her guessed, knew, or was telling. From the beginning, it was clear that Mercy was a Chosen One. Yet, she kept being duped by everyone around her, and I felt that her simplicity and trusting nature were really a means to surprise the readers with the denouement. The relationship between Mercy and her twin sister was simplified in some ways. The jealousy and dislike was realistic, but the way the relationship ended seemed simplified and forced.


February, Month of Fantasy!

silversFellow Adventurers,

I am still heavily involved in the book I’m currently reading: The Flight of the Silvers by Daniel Price. Intense, fascinating, and with an entirely new (to me) concept, I’ve been glued to this wild ride for the past week. I can’t figure out what’s going to happen, though a few of the characters with precognitive abilities already know – and I’m holding on and hoping that those characters are wrong.

I don’t know about you, but I have great expectations for this year.  Already, 2014 is off to a great start. I read some pretty spectacular books in January, including The Other Tree by D.K. Mok, Dirty Magic by Jaye Wells, and the novella The Dream Runner by Kerry Schafer. Luckily, I have some fantasy books lined up for February that look to continue this trend.


Carousel Sun – where the mundane world meets five other magical worlds

carousel sunCarousel Sun by Sharon Lee
Baen, February 4th, 2014 (Contemporary Fantasy)*

My rating: Vacation by the beach (Archer’s Beach, har har)

Carousel Sun, the sequel to Carousel Tides, dips back into Kate Archer’s life as Guardian of the land in Archer’s Beach, Maine. Only a little time has passed, and Kate is still growing into her power. So she’s taking magic lessons with her maternal grandfather, one of the great Ozali (mages) from the Land of the Flowers (an alternate universe, where magic is power and everyone is beautiful). Her grandmother, a dryad, is weary from her expedition to save her daughter, Kate’s mother. Borgan, Guardian of the Gulf of Maine near Archer’s Beach, is recovering from a grave wound he got in the last battle in Carousel Tides. A man named Joe Nemeier is the baddie – he’s the local drug lord causing disturbances in Archer’s Beach. Throughout, the land grows more lively, and the people of the carnival where Kate owns the carousel scheme to take advantage of an extended tourism season and the resulting prosperity.