Top Urban Fantasy Series To Get You Hooked on the Genre

You know you want to get into it! Think of me like your dealer.

According to Wikipedia, “Urban fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy in which the narrative has an urban setting. Works of urban fantasy are set primarily in the real world and contain aspects of fantasy, such as the discovery of earthbound mythological creatures, coexistence or conflict between humans and paranormal beings, and other changes to city life. A contemporary setting is not strictly necessary for a work of urban fantasy: works of the genre may also take place in futuristic and historical settings, real or imagined. 

Basically, it is taking something fantastical, and shoving it into a real-life scenario. This can lead to quite a lot of interpretation, and as the genre develops, many subgenres are evolving out of it. The quite famous paranormal romance being the main one. Some people might take Umbridge with me calling paranormal romance a subgenre, but mostly paranormal romance focuses on a romantic relationship or in the case of Sookie Stackhouse, relationships. It still is urban fantasy. Something fantastical taking place in an urban setting. Book geeks can argue over semantics for days. That is why it is important to note that I am always right. (I am sadly not always right, ahem.)

Jim Butcher – Dresden File Series

This is the grand-master of Urban Fiction. When people talk about stuff in this genre, they usually suffer by comparison to him.

“Holy shit,” I breathed. “Hellhounds.”
“Harry,” Michael said sternly. “You know I hate it when you swear.”
“You’re right. Sorry. Holy shit,” I breathed, “heckhounds.”
― Jim Butcher, Grave Peril

Although there are plenty of other favorite series out there in this genre, this is the most beloved. It even had a meh TV show created a few years ago that was hideously miscast. The first book is a bit weak-sauce. Butcher doesn’t really find his steam until the second book, and it just gets better from there.

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Image courtesy of Goodreads

Ilona Andrews – Kate Daniels Series 

Excellent series from a writing team under the pseudonym Ilona Andrews.

“You know anything about investigative work?”
“Sure. Annoy the people involved until the guilt party tries to make you go away.”
― Ilona Andrews, Magic Bites

Romance element, but a solid foundation of plot outside of that. Utterly fabulous and binge-worthy reads. 

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Image courtesy of Goodreads

Patricia Briggs –  Mercy Thompson

I adore strong female leads where the woman doesn’t need saving. You would not believe how rare a thing that actually is. Mercy is a shifter/car mechanic who basically just wants to go about her life but keeps getting interrupted. There is a romantic element, but again it is not the end all be all of the novels. Her relationships, both platonic and romantic are more of a foundation in her life that allows her to be who she is.

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Image courtesy of Goodreads

Mike Carey – Felix Castor Series 

This series is set in modern-day London with an exorcist for hire. Kinda like Constantine. It is gritty, dark, and he takes no shit.

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Image courtesy of Goodreads

Seanan Macguire – October Daye

Oh geez. Seanan Macguire or Mira Grant depending on what series you are reading by her is becoming a heavy hitter in the urban fantasy realm. For a good reason. Her books are without fail damn good. I rarely reread series, there are too many fantastic books out there to check out, and I have read the October Daye 10 book series three times save for the second book of the series, I usually skip that one on a reread. But they are fantastic.

“She laughed like she’d just invented laughter.​”
― Seanan McGuire, Rosemary and Rue

They are exciting and edgy. Excellent character development, and a particularly snarky but smart heroine I love. There is a romantic element, but again it is more foundational then anything else. She is a knight who solves problems for her court. How cool is that?!

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Image courtesy of Goodreads

Mira Grant – Newsflesh Series

Again this is Seanan Macguire writing under her nom de plume. Here is the blurb from goodreads.com, “The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beaten the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop.
The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED. Now, twenty years after the Rising, bloggers Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the most significant story of their lives—the dark conspiracy behind the infected.
The truth will get out, even if it kills them.” This about sums it up. New reporters writing in an era of a global pandemic. 
 Trying to tell the truth to the masses.

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Image courtesy of Goodreads

Kevin Hearne – Iron Druid Chronicles

I include the blurb from his first novel to better explain. “Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old—when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.” This is a cool series. The lead character is a magic-wielding badass, who has a snarky dog he speaks to telepathically. It sounds so trite and silly, but damn is this a fun romp.

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Image courtesy of Goodreads

Ben Aaronovitch – Rivers of London Series

This is a cool series where the protagonist is not fantastical in any way, just a regular Britsh bloke. From Goodreads, “Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he’ll face is a paper cut. But Peter’s prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost. Peter’s ability to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny. Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic.”

I hope this has sparked some interest in reading some new series. Is this all of the good ones out there, heck no! There are so many fantastic things out there, it is hard to know where to start.  If you start some of these or are looking for some ideas on books, leave me a comment. I am always down to discuss books.

Continue reading “Top Urban Fantasy Series To Get You Hooked on the Genre”

Review of Justice Calling (The Twenty-Sided Sorceress #1)

Review of Justice Calling of the Twenty Sided Sorcery series. Written by Anne Billet

 

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Image Courtesy of Goodreads.com

Bellet, Annie. Justice Calling. CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2014.

 

Content advisory: scattered F-bombs, some violence, and innuendo. (if you are a long time reader of this blog, you should be used to that.)

“Justice Calling,”  is an absolute treat for lovers of Urban Fantasy with strong female characters. A la Mercy Thompson, Kitty Norville, and my favorite Rachel Morgan. Holla at “The Hallows!”  It is an exciting, albeit too short romp through a new world created by Anne Billet. The protagonist is fun, saucy, and not at all annoying. Something that I have missed in the last few Urban Fantasy novels I have read as of late

 

The summary is as follows:

Gamer. Nerd. Sorceress.

Jade Crow lives a quiet life running her comic book and game store in Wylde, Idaho. After twenty-five years fleeing from a powerful sorcerer who wants to eat her heart and take her powers, quiet suits her just fine. Surrounded by friends who are even less human than she is, Jade figures she’s finally safe.

As long as she doesn’t use her magic.

When dark powers threaten her friends’ lives, a sexy shape-shifter enforcer shows up. He’s the shifter world’s judge, jury, and executioner rolled into one, and he thinks Jade is to blame. To clear her name, save her friends, and stop the villain, she’ll have to use her wits… and her sorceress powers.

Except Jade knows that as soon as she does, a far deadlier nemesis awaits.

Justice Calling is the first book in The Twenty-Sided Sorceress urban fantasy series. Readers who enjoyed The Dresden Files or The Iron Druid Chronicles will likely enjoy this series.

Jade Crow, Sorcerous, shop owner, and gamer finds herself in a pickle of a situation. Does she stay or does she run? Does she out herself, and possibly bring ruin upon her future? Can she do all that she needs to do, and not use magic? I think if you are a fan of the Mercy Thompson Series or the world of Kate Daniels this might be a good series for you. Although definitely not as well developed as those worlds, is has the bones of a great series. Good plot points, fun characters, and I have to admit I absolutely love the gamer bent. Me being a gigantic geek myself, I can relate to her quite a bit. I hope that in her later books the author can flesh out the characters a lot more and give us more to read but, great start! Also, Jade has a very cool superpower. She knows every language. That is a superpower for a total geek. I love it!

Things that I don’t dig. Why is it that every Urban Fantasy with a female character needs to have some sort of love angle? No really. C’mon. Not all ladies need to have a love interest. Nor do those ladies need to be saved by the said love interest. Although, props to Anne Billet for letting this lady do the saving. Don’t get me wrong though, I enjoy a good romance now and again, but this particular possible love interest seemed a bit shoehorned. Yes, he is hot, yes he has rippling muscles, yes he turns into a (sexy?) white tiger? Blah blah blah. I think it would have been much more of a compelling character if he was a just a plain normal looking guy. A guy with a particular skill set that led him to the job he is now in (I don’t want to give away to much).  He doesn’t need to speak like a combination of Dolph Lundgren and Daniel Craig to be compelling. At least that’s how I picture him. It makes him much more relatable. How many guys like Daniel Craig have you met in your life? Also, to some extent, there isn’t much of a story. This is more like an introduction to the characters. Which I really like and a very quick problem that they need to overcome. That is fine for me for a start of a series.

Do yourself a favor, read the novella. It is good light fun. Not a barn burner or anything. I don’t think anyone will be getting a Jade Crow tattoos like Twilight and Dresden. But its fun and saucy and thankfully not sugar-coated crap. Read up.

 

 

 

I am Going to Fail Spectacularly

 

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Hi, yall. I am so pretty. Image care of http://animals.sandiegozoo.org/plants/african-protea

My life’s obsession with books and reading is only eclipsed by one thing and one thing only, and that thing is gardening. Maybe books about gardening? (As I stare at the six gardening books I have on my bedside table) My obsession with gardening is only from January until September every year so it is not so bad. Really really, promise. I am one of those people that get giddy when I get new seed catalogs in the mail and instead of buying new shoes or something, I buy a plant. I went practically apoplectic today when I discovered a local nursery had tiny and cheap Japanese Painted Ferns. A plant that I had been looking for for the last 5 months for six freaking dollars.

 

 

Today in the mail I received a teeny tiny packet of protea seeds that I ordered from a dealer in Quebec.   Protea is a type of flower that looks like a Hibiscus and a pincushion had a baby, then spray painted it neon. It is all spikes, and color while being delightfully and garish and tacky. I freaking love everything about proteas. If I had a spirit flower it would probably be them. Here is the kicker. They are ridiculously and stupendously difficult to grow. Sunset magazine says that if you don’t have perfect soil and perfect climate, and perfect gardening practices; give up and enjoy cut flowers. I am never one to shy away from a challenge. CHALLENGE! I throw down my shears and hoe in the face of such a farce of a seed. It will not beat me!

 

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Ohhhh king Protea, you are one sexy bitch.

 

(it totally isn’t going to grow)

But, I will try and it will be a unique and fun experience. Proteas along with the Black Magic Rose are the two Unicorns that I have always wanted to try and grow, succeeding doesn’t really matter. I’ll add updates as this experiment goes along. I think it will be a damn success story if I can get one seed to germinate, like at all. Here goes nothing.

 

ARC – Unicorn Food by Kat Odell

 

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etsy.com

I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

From the Publisher: It’s among the hottest trends in the food world today—magically colorful dishes and drinks that are as bewitchingly beautiful as they are incredibly tasty and nutritious. Now, Kat Odell—a food journalist, author (the just-published Day Drinking), and entrepreneur who started selling her popular unicorn nut milks in 2015—celebrates the unicorn food movement with a rainbow of 75 recipes.
The recipes are vegan. The ingredients are all-natural and super-nutritious, from fresh fruits and vegetables to superfoods like flax, coconut oil, spirulina, chia, and bee pollen. And the offerings are exactly the kinds of hyper-colorful, super-fun dishes that healthy-forward eaters love, including gently flavored nut milks, grain bowls loaded with vegetables, probiotic breakfast custards, toasts with slathers and spreads. This is health food as never seen before, filled with joy, and words can’t do the colors, the (all-natural) sprinkles, the whimsical decorative touches justice—the deep glowing yellow of a Frozen Turmeric Lassi, the greens of Soba Noodles with Arugula and Arugula Pesto, the intense oranges and purples of Sweet and Sour Radish Tacos,  the tie-dye rainbow effect of Veggie Summer Sunset Rolls with Pineapple Kimchi, and the pastels of Chamomile Milk Tea Pudding with Fennel and Pistachios and Strawberry Pink Peppercorn Ice Cream Sticks.
Filled with dazzling full-color photographs, published in a package as special as the dishes themselves, Unicorn Food is a cookbook of real beauty, in the look, in the recipes, in the spirit of the food itself.

bad-ass-unicorn-300x300Joy and ever-freaking rapture! My trapper keeper carrying, hair band loving, Lisa Frank buying, side ponytail wearing inner child of the 80’s,  just did a squee and a backflip.

Drink and eat the Rainbow man. Preferably wearing glitter.

I seriously loved this cookbook for the simple fact that I can pretend that I am a hoity-toity chef making things with the words fennel, kimchi, and infusion at the same time as playing with my colorful food like I would play with playdough. I am absolutely and unequivocally sold on the concept. Plus, it is just a really lovely book to look through.

ccc668a4a949c0fa2054c17194c54a97As far as the writing is concerned, she did a great job. It feels slightly whimsy and straightforward at the same time. I have a real issue with cookbooks that take themselves way too seriously. She doesn’t. Lastly, the book inspired me to try some of these concoctions for both the chance of prancing around my house as a unicorn. (see photo below) But, also my health. I would recommend this to anyone, serious chef or novice. It is just a whole lot of fun.

Review of “Year One” by Nora Roberts

 

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goodreads.com

I was very excited to read Year One by Nora Roberts. First off, I have read close to thirty of her books. For a while there I was plowing through them. She writes great characters and exciting plots. Especially her later work. I also have read pretty much all the post-apocalyptic books I can get my hands on. Except for “The Road” which I won’t touch with a ten-foot stick.

 

My first observation is a positive one. The entire novel rests on an interesting, if not a slightly trite premise. World plague that decimates human the population. The thrilling thing is that the epidemic is based on lore mythology and magic. The disease is itself named “Doom,” and is made of these dark energies escaping and infecting the world. I think. Nora Roberts was a little fuzzy on it. In response to these increasing darkness and sickness infecting, a reaction in people with any spiritual and/or magical is that the latent power these people had increased exponentially. Another point I’m fuzzy on. Otherwords, some people get big woo-woo, others not so much. No idea what it is based on or why. Some people get nothing at all and remain human. Also no clue. It just is. Plot points like these that lay the foundation in novels, in my opinion, need to be rock solid. Otherwise, niggling questions remain and throw the reader’s mind out of the story.

The second observation is also a positive one. Nora Roberts knows how to write good dialog. It may be a little schmaltzy, but it flows like people talk. The dialog was well written. I may not have liked what the characters were saying, but she is damn good at writing it.

Character-wise, it is just damn confusing. She has some well-written ones in there that are fleshed out, and some that are flat as a board (I am looking at you Eric and Allegra) and you scratch your head wondering what the hell. Why are the ones that are vapid come from out of nowhere and give so much page time? Also, the pacing and plot arcs are jarring as hell. I have never read a novel that jarred me like a car accident from one vignette to another.

Lastly the third act of the story. I am going to speak in broad terms so as not to do any spoilers, but I spent 75 pages scratching my head. It was all so bland and wrapped up in a neat little bow. I didn’t give a damn about the characters at the end. The ones that I really liked and thought were interesting got unceremoniously excised from the last act of the novel which was a weird pacing and story arc thing to do. Maybe I was just slightly miffed at that. Where are my Arlys, Fred and Jonah? She should have at least nodded her head at them and told us a little of what was going on.

I want to be very clear here. This isn’t a crap book. Nora Roberts is a master storyteller, but this isn’t her best work. That’s ok not everything is going to be a shining star. It is a serviceable book with highs and lows and is very readable. I will read the next book in the series to see what happens. If I had to give it a rating, I’d rate it 3 out of 5.

I built a Thing. It’s Spicy.

 

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I actually have that quote painted on a board and hanging above my new spice rack, I think that It combines my favorite things, science fiction, and cooking. Only about 1 in 40 people who have seen it know where it comes from so all my smug coolness of it is really only in my head. Garbgeek.com

We decided not long ago that we needed a spice storage solution to the million spice jars that I have in the kitchen. No joke, but I think I have close to seventy. I like to cook, and that requires a lot of different spices. Garam Masala to Chinese five spice, I have quite the collection and before you ask I have used them on a least one dish at some point in the past.  I make killer tea eggs with the Chinese five spice.

A previous solution we had been using utilized the spice holder Bekvam from IKEA just hanging by its lonesome on the wall. It got ridiculous with all the spice. It was almost like a shrine to IKEA. Plus,  they are hard as hell to hang. IKEA totes itself as being easy to build and hang, but I call BS on it. Most of the stuff I have gotten from IKEA has been difficult and required a youtube video to get together.

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Not my hack, but you get the idea. This times 10. 

I had gone through a teal phase with them, then a coral phase. The spice holders were a bevy of different colors by now. Much to the chagrin of my husband, it looked like the seventies threw up in my kitchen.

This is what I did. I took all the myriad of spice racks I had and some scrap wood. screwed them all together. Tried to get it true, then painted it. Voila! Insta-spice rack. The wood I screwed it together with was kinda warped, and the spice shelves are not perfectly level. But it is off my counter and hanging beautifully up. Obviously, this isn’t as a tutorial. I kinda winged it. You get the idea.

 

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Here it is in all its glory. Be awed. Be Amazed. Be jealous. Make one yourself. 

 

One of the things I am going to do in the future is to do a background on the spice rack. The periodic table of spices appeals to my inner geekiness. Also, having it organized and a spot where I can find them easily is a must. Baby steps. They are off my counter.

I Don’t Know If You Know This, But I Am Not, in Fact, a Goat.

tmp_GPxat0_6ad3a2b6ab961103_Starbucks_Crystal_Ball_Frappuccino_purple_hi_resI really try to embrace my inner goat when it comes to trying new things, new flavors of food. Goats tend to eat everything, happily, and there are a lot of exciting things out there to try in this world. When I was in high school and participating in sports. My best friend Hannah and I would go before our swim meets, as a ritual, and drink wheatgrass juice. We would do it as if it were a shot of the most heinous hangover incurring tequila ever. I have never had tequila that tasted as bad as a shot of wheatgrass. I mean who went out into a field and thought. YES! I really should put that in a juicer and extract the awesome out of it. Then I should drink it. Hannah and I thought it gave us super swimming abilities. It did not. It did, however, prove to be a great memory from my swim days. Gagging on the green satan’s butthole then jumping in the pool.

Green tasting foods are hard for me. That extends out to rosewater. Green foods make me feel like my mouth is a lawnmower. Rosewater makes me feel like I am eating grandmothers 15-year-old rose potpourri. They are awful. But, like all food things, I am trying to come around and see if I can come to enjoy them or at least come and appreciate them.

All these shenanigans led me to try Starbucks special crystal ball drink. An herbal peach thingy. I was gitty with anticipation.

downloadGah. Peach and I think matcha. I can’t even tell you what flavor it was. It was a sort of herbal peach green thing that was supposed to tell me my future. The only future I foresaw was me being out five bucks. Seriously, Starbucks you are drunk. I guess marketing-wise, they got me to spend five dollars on this thing. Starbucks got this crystal ball reading wrong.