Jocelynn Drake, Dead Man’s Deal, Harper Voyager, ISBN 9780062117885, 371 pgs., $14.99

This is the second book in Drake’s Asylum Tales universe. In this one, tattoo artist Gage, who has managed to escape the ivory towers to become a wizard in exile, now finds himself in debt to a local criminal who has control over Gage’s brother as well as information on Gage.  Gage finds himself forced to do what the crime boss wants or his friends will bear the dead manconsequences.  While this is going on, Gage is trying to stay alive while being hounded by some wizards with grudges, he’s trying to help the elves figure out why they have gone barren, and he’s managed to get himself in the middle of a rebellion against the ivory towers.

This is a lot for one guy, and it’s a guy who’s self esteem and sense of self worth is not all that high to begin with.  I did comment in the review of the first book that the protagonist read like a woman even though the character was male.  That has been fixed in this book.  But there are still some issues here.  first of all there’s just too much being thrown at this character.  No one, I don’t care who they are, becomes the pivot point for four or five major problems all at the same time.  And the guy is not superman so while I can buy his figuring out one I can’t quite grasp his figuring out them all.

The book essentially moves from one crisis to the next to the next and they are all life threatening.  And, to add to the indignity, none of them involve tattoos, which is kind of this guys specialty.

I don’t know. I liked the book enough to read it all the way through to the end but found myself getting poked in the eye each time I was asked to suspend disbelief one more time.  I can do it once, maybe twice but the third time is a bit jarring.

I’m going to recommend it because I think the series has potential if Drake can just ratchet it back a bit.

And, if you’d like to get your very own copy to see what I am talking about all you have to do is click right here: Dead Man’s Deal: The Asylum Tales

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Into The Woods, Kim Harrison, Harper Voyager, ISBN 9780061974328, 513 pgs., $24.99

Kim Harrison is the creator of the Hollows series, a universe where magic and reality intersect just outside of Cincinnati. The Hollows, a place where elves and humans and warlocks and grandmothers and vampires and businessmen and werewolves and pixies all co-exist. Sort of. 10 novels make up the serieinto the woodss so far, each centering on Rachel, a witch in trouble and her vampire room mate. As the series has progressed characters have been added and grown and progressed as well.  A while ago a non-fiction book about the Hollows came out.  Now there is this anthology.

Eleven stories make up this book.  Seven involve the Hollows and the other four are supernatural additions.  The seven which involve the Hollows include a new novella and two new short stories.  The other four short stories have been published elsewhere but are collected here for the first time.

Needless to say, if you are a fan of the series this is a must read.  I would add that even if you have not read the series this anthology works as a stand alone since short fiction usually does not require a lot of background to work in the first place.  So, if you just like supernatural fiction there is actually no better place to go than here.

Harrison is a gifted writer with a very smooth writing style.  Her ability to create characters that you relate to is a genuine gift.  I do have to admit that I think she is in best form in her longer works but there is still plenty of enjoyment to be had here.

Definitely recommended for those who want to know more on the background of many of the characters and who want to fill in a few holes that were left in the novels.  It’s all here for the taking so go ahead and enjoy.

And if you want your very own copy all you have to do is click here: Into the Woods: Tales from the Hollows and Beyond (Hollows Story Collection)

City of Ghosts, Stacia Kane, Del Rey, ISBN 978-0345515599, 416 pgs, $7.99

Ches Putnam has a problem–a number of problems actually. The guy she likes won’t talk to her after he finds her with another man, she’s been put under a binding spell which won’t let her talk about her latest assignment, she’s being required to tell everything to the guy who runs theCity of Ghosts downside neighborhood where she lives, and she’s being forced to work with a woman who’s her antithesis. Oh yeah, and the case she has could possibly undermine the church which is the only thing controlling the supernatural chaos that surrounds everyone. As she begins to investigate just what is going on she’ll come face to face with nasty after nasty all while trying to put her own life in order. Assuming she survives, she’ll still have to deal with the chaos of her own, drug hazed life.

This is the third book in the series and it continues to follow protagonist Ches Putnam as she does her work for the Church of Real Truth and struggles to keep her life in some semblance of order. This is not an easy task since Putnam is a major drug addict. And this is, perhaps, one of the things which kept me from fully enjoying the book. First, I don’t have too many issues with picking a drug addict as a protagonist but there are certainly identification issues involved here. While most of us readers do want to identify with the protagonist I can’t imagine too many who would really want to be an addict who can’t seem to get through any five minute period without her next fix. I think this also works against the competence of the protagonist as I am not sure you can be that high, for that period of time and yet function as well as she does.

The universe that Stacia Kane has built is definitely an interesting one; full of supernatural beings with deadly intent controlled only by the Church which, itself, is controlling society. Kane moves her protagonist through this world, and through the downtown world which parallels it, with equal aplomb. It’s a unique setting that feeds the action in a natural way and keeps pushing the action forward.

I enjoyed this book just like I enjoyed the first two in the series although, as noted above, I struggled a bit with protagonist credibility. That aside there’s plenty of action and a world that’s interesting to be in which makes the whole package very entertaining. Recommended if you are looking for a new, and different, urban supernatural fantasy fix.

If you’d like to get your very own copy of this book all you have to do is click right here: City of Ghosts (Downside Ghosts, Book 3)

The Dead Run, Adam Mansbach, Harper Voyager, ISBN 9780062199652, 297 pgs., $25.99

Jess Galvin finds himself on the wrong end of a fight in Mexico and ends up in prison. And it’s not the nice kind of prison. But he’s in luck, sort dead runof. He’ll get released and be free if he only delivers a package across the border. The catch? He has to do it in 24 hours or less, the trail is pure southwestern desert, and he’s pretty sure the iron box he’ll be carrying is nothing less than a package from the devil.  Galvin accepts the bargain as it is the only way he is ever going to get out of the prison and get back to his daughter who is living with his unbalanced, ex-wife.  Galvin is to cross the desert and give the box to Aaron Seth.  Simple.  What Galvin does not know is that Seth is the son of the demon who gave him the box in the first place and this is to be the final step in transferring power from father to son.

As Galvin navigates the desert he is beset by girls who claw their way out of the sand to attack him.  Former victims of the demon who are rising to bring an end to this evil for once and forever.  At the same time, local law man Bob Nichols finds his small town beset by crime and, oddly enough, cult leader Aaron Seth seems to be involved.  the disappearance of a sixteen year old girl, who is linked to Seth, sets Nichols investigating deeper than he normally would.

As the box gets closer and closer an ancient evil begins to stir, drawing all of the pieces together for one final cataclysm.  Is it the end of the world or just that part of Texas. For those involved it hardly matters.

Okay, this was a fun book, if a book about evil and the end of the world built on the backs of young, sacrificed girls can be considered fun.  Still, it is full of possibilities of redemption and that’s what most of us want in a horror novel.  Plenty of gruesome gore and ultimate redemption for the ones who make the ultimate choices.

Mansbach puts together a pretty tight and fun novel, with plenty of chills and shivers and a story that’s got more than a few twists to it.  The characters are also a diverse and fun group, or I should maybe say interesting group.  I really enjoyed the book, didn’t see a lot of the twists coming, could not guess the end except for a very broad way, and found myself thoroughly entertained.

Recommended if you like horror, suspense and macabre humor.

to get your very own copy, click here: The Dead Run: A Novel

Angel’s Ink, Jocelynn Drake, Harper Voyager, ISSBN 9780062117854, 338 pgs., $14.99

Jocelynn Drake

Jocelynn Drake (Photo credit: rtbookreviews)

Jocelynn Drake is best known for the Dark Days series. With Angel’s Ink she sets off in a new universe, albeit one still framed by the urban fantasy genre. In this case the setting is a tatoo parlor in a world where magic and magical creatures exist but under the aegis of the Ivory Tower, the mage ruling body. Gage is a tatoo artist who has turned his back on the tower and has been allowed to live although it’s often touch and go on that point. Working for Gage is an elf and a troll. The thing about Gage’s tatoos is that he imbues his ink with materials that often render them more than just body art. A good luck symbol will bring good luck, a love charm affection and wings a cancer cure. It’s the latter that gets Gage into hot water not only with the tower but with Death himself.

I have to admit that I found Drake’s previous series to be a bit waffly.  That is I found it to be inconsistent.  Partially because she was doing things in terms of structure that changed the lay of the fictional landscape.  So, I entered here with some trepidation.  What I found was an engaging story, albeit with some big holes in the plot, like why did the tower allow Gage to remain alive when they killed everyone, else.  Odd behavior from powerful wizards I think.  And there were a couple of other places where characters seemed too conveniently placed.  But, hey, I can suspend with the best of them.  Having said all that I have to admit that one thing kept throwing me over and over and that was that I, for some reason, kept thinking of the male protagonist as a woman.  So, when he checks out a female customer, I’m going, whoa, wait, when did she become a lesbian.  And then realized that the character was male.  Stuck with me through the whole novel.

In the long run I found myself enjoying the book and I have the sequel or second book depending on whether or not there is a third, sitting in my read pile right now.  So, it’s good enough to recommend although if you are a stickler for realism in your fiction then this may not be the best choice for you.

To get your very own copy, you can go here:Angel’s Ink: The Asylum Tales

Kill City Blues, Richard Kadrey, Harper Voyager,. ISBN 9780062094599, $24.99, 383 pgs.

James Stark, better known as Sandman Slim, is no longer Satan and ruling hell. He’s given up the title and retired to LA. But, in the process he’s Kill City Blueslost a very powerful weapon. The Qomrama Om Ya belongs to the banished older gods, you know, the ones that God, in his singular form, stole the universe from. They want the weapon, and the universe, back. Stark needs to find it before them. And if you think God might help him think again. The old dude’s had a bit of a breakdown, fracturing into multiple copies each a bit more batty than the last.. All Stark has to do is visit the old burned out mall in Santa Monica, fight his way in, talk to a really old dead guy and then fight his way out. All in a day’s work for Stark and those who hang around him.

This is the fifth book in this series; the Sandman Slim series, and it’s as good as the previous ones which is to say it’s great.  Sandman Slim is an irreverent son of a bitch with plenty of attitude and the know how to back it up.  He’s got a conscience and plenty of interesting friends.  He’s almost always working his way out of trouble, sometimes because of his own actions, and he goes through more clothes than you would ever imagine.

This is one of those series where, when a new book arrives, I put aside whatever I am reading at the moment to dive in.  Kadrey writes this stuff well.  And, unlike a lot of other series, the supporting characters give as good as they get.  This is fun stuff.  This is read from first page to last page in one sitting.  This is must have kind of material.  I can not recommend it highly enough.  It’s fun, it’s quirky, and it’s philosophical (in an off hand kind of way).  If I have one complaint it’s that the time between books is too long.

To get a copy of your very own, click here:Kill City Blues

Ever After, Kim Harrison, Harper Voyager Books, ISBN 9780061957918, $27.99, 435 pgs

ever afterEverything’s going to hell. Quite literally. Or maybe it’s just that hell is being destroyed and letting everything loose. Well, not hell literally but the Ever After, the place where demons live. Whatever the case, Rachel Morgan is the one responsible for it all. Sort of. At least she’s being held responsible for it by the demons who are not looking forward to being destroyed in the process. She holds herself responsible as well and is working hard trying to find solutions. The problem is that the whole thing is being manipulated by Ku’Sox Sha-Ku’ru, the soul eater, who has vowed to destroy her, or have her destroyed, whichever comes first.  Rachel finds herself in an unusual position, having to team up with Elf Trent Kalamack, which brings its own dangers.  Trent is just as likely to get her destroyed as the demons.  The whole thing is a mess and full of complications, which is usually the case when Rachel Morgan gets involved.

This is the eleventh book in the hollows series, assuming you don’t count the non-fiction book or the collection of shorter tales.  And it’s one of the final books in the series as well.  Harrision has done her usual expert job of crafting a story that twists and turns at a fairly frantic pace pulling in all the characters and placing them all at perilous risk.  It’s tightly plotted and wonderfully written.  There’s not a mis-step in the whole thing and it’s pure enjoyment from beginning to end.  Of course this assumes that you’ve been keeping up.

I’ve enjoyed this series, which I consider one of the best of the supernatural romance genre although it’s more heavily weighted on the supernatural side.  I think Harrison does a great job with balancing her characters.  It’s tough to write strong women in a field dominated by men and Harrison does this very well.  I’m going to miss the series when it concludes.  This is one of the few series where, when a new book comes out, I have no fear of adding it to my reading pile because I know it’s going to be enjoyable.  Definitely recommended and if you have not yet had the chance to get into this series there is no time like the present.

To get your very own copy you can go here:Ever After (Hollows)