The Adventure Continues for the Spy-in-Training: “Curtsies & Conspiracies”

15723286Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: November 5, 2013 (Young Adult; Steampunk)

My rating: Beach vacation vintagesuitcase3vintagesuitcase3vintagesuitcase3

Curtsies & Conspiracies is Carriger’s second book in her YA Finishing School series. Sophronia, our intrepid spy-in-training, has settled into life at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality; however, that’s not to say that school life has become routine. In fact, Sophronia’s closest friend, Dimity, faces kidnapping and it seems that the teachers are all bent on some sort of conspiracy. Never a dull day at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s.

Like the first book, Etiquette & Espionage, I also listened to this one on audiobook. Once again, I have to say that the narration was inspired. Moria Quirk really brings life to her narration immersing the listener right into Carriger’s paranormal world. Quirk’s narration just makes this a really fun read. (more…)


A New Kind of Finishing School in “Etiquette & Espionage”

10874177Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: February 5, 2013 (Young Adult; Steampunk)

My rating: Beach vacation vintagesuitcase3vintagesuitcase3vintagesuitcase3

Etiquette & Espionage is my latest foray into the world of audiobooks, and I gotta say, after finishing this one I feel that I should be speaking in a British accent.

Carriger’s YA novel was a lot of fun! I had read her adult mystery, Soulless, but never finished the series. The YA book caught my eye and brought back everything I enjoyed about Soulless.

Set in the same world as Soulless, Etiquette & Espionage focuses on Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing School for Young Ladies of Quality. However, when Miss Sophronia Temminnick is unexpectedly enrolled, she soon finds out there is a great deal more involved in “finishing” than the normal expectations for young ladies. It seems Mademoiselle Geraldine’s is a school training it’s young charges to become not only ladies, but intelligencers as well; not even the headmistress knows. (more…)

Lots of Women of the Otherworld in ‘Otherworld Nights’

otherworldnightsOtherworld Nights by Kelley Armstrong
Published by Orbit: October 7th, 2014 (Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance/Novellas)*

My (overall) rating: The view was nice, but the food was bad (meh) vintagesuitcase3vintagesuitcase3

Otherworld Nights collects several (eight) stories in the Women of the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong. The sum of all my knowledge about the series comes from the TV show, Bitten. While I enjoy the TV show, I’m not sure that I’ll read the books. For one, the love triangle in Bitten, which features Elena, Clay, and Elena’s human boyfriend (for the uninitiated, Elena is the only female werewolf in this world, Clay is her former lover/fiancé, who turned Elena into a werewolf without her knowledge or permission) is too much a love triangle for me, and even though the result is obvious, I liked both men in the love triangle enough – well, I almost liked her human boyfriend better. The other reason is that I can’t get on board with only one female werewolf. There are plenty of stories, the Mercy Thompson and Alpha & Omega series by Patricia Briggs among them, where women survive the change less often than men (because they’re inherently weaker, or less… survivalist – and let’s not even touch that one for the moment), but to just have one female werewolf makes no sense to me. If one was turned, surely there have been other women strong enough to survive. It feels like an obviously convenient plot device that only serves to make the heroine Special.

All that said. It’s probably no surprise that I didn’t enjoy the short stories about Elena and Clay.

Now, for my review.


Howl with Werewolves (Halloween Special Part 2)

In the second installment of our Halloween Special series (see the first, on Vampires), we look at my personal favorite supernatural: the Werewolf. Check out some good, better, and best werewolf stories in the list below. Word to the wise urban fantasy reader: Werewolves are sexy, so beware – many of these are romantic to varying degrees.

Just reviewed this week, a witty take on supernaturals living among us.


The Silver Wolf. The book that got me started on werewolves: a young, poor orphan, in the decaying Roman empire, sold by her family in marriage for well, the usual – money.


In Written in Red, Meg Corbyn, a blood prophet, finds sanctuary from the humans who tortured her in an enclave of the terra indigine, creatures like vampires and werewolves and other shapeshifters. Simon Wolfgard, leader of the enclave, doesn’t know why she doesn’t smell like food, or why he and the others find her so interesting. As Meg learns what it is to live in the wild, Simon discovers how much he wants to protect this strange human.


So, this one – not my favorite. But that doesn’t mean you won’t like it! It’s a humorous story about a witch just trying to get by, when werewolves nose their way into her orderly life.


The Mercy Thompson books are some of my absolute favorite stories, series, werewolves, EVER. Witty, sometimes dark, romantic, spooky, and upbeat, this is one of the best in the genre.


By the same excellent author, starring a different kind of heroine. Anna, victim of a vicious werewolf pack, is an Omega. Yup, that means she’s special. While not as stunningly amazing as the Mercy Thompson series, it’s still worth a read. You’ll want to start with the opening novella, Alpha and Omega. It may or may not be part of your copy of Cry Wolf.


Just started Silver, a serendipitous library find, and it has a different focus: Silver is a young wolf who has been tortured, poisoned, and is flirting (pretty sure I meant flitting there) between reality and visions. When Andrew Dare, enforcer for the East Coast packs, finds her, he’s driven to protect her and find out what happened.


Admittedly, I’ve only seen the TV series. But it’s a fun show! Might be a good book, too…


This is the second in a series about a former cop, who left the force to become a private eye because she developed a degenerative sight condition. In this one, her new sort-of-partner, Henry Fitzroy, bastard son of King Henry VIII and vampire, head out to the country to solve a mystery involving werewolves. Tanya Huff writes superbly drawn characters and complex settings and plots. A longer haul than most urban fantasy, this is totally worth it.


Sort of a tongue-in-cheek comedy of manners set in a steampunk Victorian England where the Queen has werewolf investigators and deals with vampires, Soulless begins a fun series about a soulless young woman, Alexia, and her encounters and involvement with the supernaturals in the community.


Crimefighting meets werewolves again in this one by Eileen Wilks. Lily Yu, a police detective, needs the help of Rule Turner to infiltrate the werewolf clans and find a killer.


I nearly forgot this one, though I don’t know how! The Psy-Changeling series is a truly enjoyable series that mixes humans, weres (mostly panthers and wolves) and a psychic race, in an alternate, sort of futuristic United States. Each book pairs a new hero and heroine, so if you’re into urban fantasy romance, you’ll probably enjoy these. Start with Slave to Sensation.

And if you want to get your werewolf fix in 5 minutes or less, here is the famous music video werewolf:

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.


Sink Fangs into Vampire Myths and Legends (Halloween Special Part 1)

vampire forensics Vampire Forensics: Uncovering the Origins of an Enduring Legend by Mark Collins Jenkins
Published: February 2010 by National Geographic

My Rating: The view was nice, but the food was bad (2/5)

I found this exploration into the myths and legends of vampires underwhelming, in a word.

I expected the book to delve into the historical and literary evidence for vampires, and to a certain extent, that is what the author does. However, the exploration jumps around, and at times the author doesn’t explain how one factor/myth/legend/story indicates the existence of, or belief in, vampires.

In the last chapters, the author enumerates (yes, it is essentially a list) of various traditions in distant regions (i.e. not Eurasia, whose legends have the most definitive connection to the modern-day vampire) of the world, even though they are not vampires. It’s as if the author only wants to say that traditions of ghouls, witches, sorcerers, and demons exist all over the world, in many diverse cultures. Their connection to modern-day vampires is never made.

Additionally, the author never draws a firm conclusion. The most compelling evidence provided in this book is that some corpses decompose differently than others – with distinctive characteristics that tend to match the characteristics our Eurasian societies have given to “vampires.” (more…)

Steampunk Win with ‘Forged by Desire’

17901769Forged by Desire by Bec McMaster (London Steampunk #4)
Sourcebooks Casablanca, September 2, 2014 (Steampunk Romance)*

My rating: I’d go there again! (4/5)

I’ve been a fan of McMaster’s London Steampunk series since I read Kiss of Steel when it came out in 2012. Since then I’ve been hooked on the series. McMaster writes great romance but also offers an interesting alternative history. In this London, vampires (where are known as blue bloods) are real and pretty much rule the upper class. From book one, I’ve enjoyed how the author has explored this notion of class and all that it entails. In the fourth book, the author takes this a step further with a woman who has escaped from the privileged world and carved a life for herself as one of the sole women vampires.

As a Nighthawk, Perry has successfully hidden her past as a privileged daughter of the Echelon. She’s content with her work; however, the past she ran from is never far from her thoughts. When she begins investigating a serial murder, it seems that Perry’s past might not be as far away as she would like.

Joining Perry in her search is new Captain of the Nighthawk’s Garrett Reed – who just so happens to be the man that Perry has been in love with since she joined the Nighthawks. While Garrett hasn’t actually noticed Perry as more than a partner, he certainly has had a change in perspective thanks to an investigation in the previous book. Of course now that things are actually moving in a romantic direction, a serial killer has to run rampant, Garrett has to battle his own degrading nature, and Perry has to make the decision on whether or not to flee the city. (more…)

‘Break Out’ of comfortable sub-genres

breakoutBreak Out by Nina Croft
St. Martin’s Press: September 30th, 2014 (Paranormal Romance / Space Opera)

My rating: The view was nice, but the food was bad (2/5)*

Break Out is a mash-up of paranormal (vampires), space opera (futuristic spaceships and travel), and thieving adventure (okay, I made that one up) sub-genres. A pretty odd mix, it works if you’re willing to roll with it. And if you’re not looking for anything serious or deep. (more…)

Spies, Vampires, and Stoats: Another Great Pink Carnation Book

18693637The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla by Lauren Wilig (Pink Carnation #11)
NAL Trade, August 5, 2014 (Historical Mystery; Historical Romance)

My rating: Outstanding Adventure (5/5)

This latest installment in the Pink Carnation series reminded me of what I love about this series so much. It’s intellectual, funny, and just plain entertaining. This one is zany and it tackles the absurd with wit and sly historical references. It may not show the true experience of spies during the Napoleonic Wars, but if it did, I doubt I would be reading it. I like history, but it needs to be captured in an engaging way for me to enjoy it, and that is certainly true of this book.

The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla is Sally Fitzhugh’s story. Readers of the series will remember Sally from The Mischief of the Mistletoe, where her brother, Turnip, routed out some spies at a young ladies academy while falling in love with one of the teachers, Arabella. Sally made her debut a year ago, and now into her second season, she’s, well, she’s bored. Luckily, excitement ripples through the ton with the return of the Duke of Belliston, reputed vampire.

Naturally, Sally doesn’t believe that nonsense about Lucien being a vampire, but she is certain that he needs some assistance in making his way in the ton: (more…)

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…)