Review of “Magic to the Bone” by Annie Bellett

The Twenty Sided Sorceress #7

29558243.jpgBellet, Annie. Magic to the Bone. Doomed Muse Press, 2016.

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.)

 

Holy crap on a cracker it is boss fight time, but before we get to that let’s talk about what we know beforehand and what is going on with the characters. (scattered spoilers ahead) First off we left our girl Jade Crow in the hands of her father. A Dragon, whatever the hell that means, to basically level up her character. She needs formal training badly. Her friends, the paper characters, are all back at the druid-ranch playing catch-me-if-you-can with Samir’s bodyguards and hired mercenaries. Her ex-boyfriend, the biggest jerkface on the planet, is about to try and make himself a god. He wants to bring back the era of high magic and gods and get rid of all of us puny mortals. Grand plans, but Jade can’t let that happen because of..reasons. We also know that the story arc is coming to head like a giant magical pimple. Most of Jade’s power derives from something deep down into her bones. This is generally glossed over in the first few books, she basically bounces around like she is a magical bubble. Now we know though that deep in her bones is the magic answer to her problems. I am going to try and not give too much away. But it rhymes with pragon. Plot wise it is almost a bit Deus ex machinea for me. She seems very much like an overpowered character in a beginning level. It is anti-climatic and rushed as hell.  Annie Bellet does try to set limitations on her training and power, but they are fuzzy and useless. The guidelines for being a sorceress have always been a bit mutable in this series, but this is ridiculous. What is the point of having the main character so overpowered that it really doesn’t matter? The boss fight that we have waited six books for is over so quickly and easily. There is no drama, at that point, you are really just going through the motions.

Now that I have almost finished this series, inexplicably there is another book, we can talk about how it feels overall. As far as a series goes, it feels a bit uneven. Some books were wow! Others, especially book seven left me feeling very flat. It was way too rushed to be enjoyable. To much has been taken for granted and the build-up really lost steam. What was the point of having all these subsidiary characters if they serve no purpose in the finale? They did nothing to offer anything to the story except a place for the main character to quip off of. It is really disappointing because the first novels were so exciting. One thing that the writer did do well kept to the very serviceable plot device of novice building and growing, discovering something badass about herself, and then killing the big baddy. I can think of a handful of series off the top of my head that does just that. Sookie Stackhouse, The Hallows, Illona Andrews, and even to some extent Dresden Files. It works as a plot device even though it isn’t refreshing.

I know that it sounds like I didn’t wholly like the book, that’s not true. I did like the book and in extension the entire series. Save for the eighth book. I am not even sure what I am supposed to do with that unless the author plans on another story arc. I liked the series, even if it was uneven and ended oddly. It is fun and a quick read. It allows you a couple of hours of fun. It is worth it.

 

Review of “Hunting Season” by Annie Bellet

The Twenty Sided Sorceress – Book 4

23303229.jpgBellet, Annie. Hunting Season. Doomed Muse Press, 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.)

Yaaaassss. Queen. Slay all day. This series keeps getting better and better. Jade Crow is just killing it. (pun intended)

This book has more of all the fun stuff. More magic, more gore, more action and definitely more backstory. We are learning a bit about her past and that maybe

‘”We fight with what we have,” he murmured. “Not what we wish to have.
“Okay, Obi-Wan.” I nipped his chin and settled into his arms.
“I am not quoting Star Wars,” he said, glaring down at me in mock annoyance.
“No, but you sound wise for your years.”
“Protect you, I will,” he said. “Love you, I do.”‘”

there is something special about her. Ya. I know, not exactly the most original plot device. But, you know what that is ok. It is a plot device because it is useful. Bellet is not slamming us over the head with the fact that there is something unknown about Jade. There just is. Deal with it and we will find out in due time.

Also, I have to say that I totally dig all the gaming and pop culture references. On one hand, it gives a subtle nod to those of us out there who appreciate geekdom, on the other hand, it might make it so this book doesn’t have the longevity for reading that other series might have. It is one of the reasons I enjoyed “Ready Player One” so much. I am a child of the eighties and totally got the references. It was a roller coaster in pop culture awesomeness.

Also. Unicorns. My head just exploded a little.

Go ahead start at book 1, I’ll wait.

Review of “Pack of Lies” by Anne Bellett

23365287.jpgBellet, Annie. Pack of Lies. Doomed Muse Press, 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.)

 

Let’s hear it for independent publishers and let’s hear it for writers who get better and not worse from book to book. I thought the first book in this series was serviceable. Decent. Fun, but obviously Anne Bellett was snuggling in, and getting comfy with these characters. Book three is an entirely different and better offering than the first two books in the series. She is happy with the personalities she has created and they just keep getting better and better. The love angle is also a whole lot more enjoyable to read and more believable. He is not some cardboard cutout but is evolving into a more fleshed out person.  Less of a go-to hot guy and more of a person with feelings and personality.

As far as the story goes, I think Anne Bellett excels at both pushing the main story forward inches at a time while having a contained separate story arc for each book. This is no exception.

“Recovering from a broken heart and coming to terms with her family history, all sorceress Jade Crow wants is to resume running her comic book store and gaming with her friends. With a town full of strange wolf shifters, a hundred-and-fifty-year-old peace accord hanging in the balance, and the Justice who broke her heart back in her life, Jade’s plans go out the proverbial window.

Wolves are killing wolves, innocent human lives are caught in the crossfire, and not everyone in town is who they appear to be. As the bodies stack up and the doubts build, Jade and her friends race to find the true killer. “

Talk about exciting action. Wolves, 150-year-old peace accord, and a weird baddy to deal with; this story really had it all. I totally dug it.  Plus it was short and mighty. Perfect for winding a couple hours in the afternoon away. Check it out.

O’ Children – The Orphans of Harry Potter

The influence of a song on a scene in Harry Potter

I was laying in the tub today trying to grasp a slippery thought. I have most of my semi-deep, to semi-ridiculous ideas while neck deep in the suds. Goes back to my deep and unabiding love of bath bombs from Lush. The problem was that I had had a song on repeat in my head for two days. It was maddening. Especially when it is only a few bars of it. It was as if the thought was made of eel and Vasoline in equal parts, and every time I got just enough of it to push the song into coalescence it slipped through my mental fingers. By the time I had become sufficiently pruned, and the last of our sad little hot water heater was sputtering its last blessed drops, I had figured it out. I had the epiphanic moment.

The song was “O’Children” by Nick Cave, and the Bad Seeds and the scene was the dance scene from Harry Potter 8.

The connection that had been maddeningly bouncing around my neurons for two days was it’s connection to Harry Potter. Weird right. But I

Hey little train! Wait for me!
I was held in chains but now I’m free
I’m hanging in there, don’t you see
In this process of elimination

have funny thoughts pass through my brain a lot while nackt in der Badewanne (naked in the bath – practicing my German). There is a scene in Harry Potter 8 that is both lovely and mellow; until this point, I wouldn’t have described it as brilliant.  But it is utterly brilliant, and wonderfully written. When Harry and Hermione are waiting together in their tent. Ron had just left their expedition in a fit of madness and rage. Both Ron and Hermione are feeling down in different ways. It is an exceptionally well-acted scene, showcasing the talents of Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliff. They are listening to the radio, waiting for news, for death, for anything, when Nick Cave comes on. His voice is melodious but dark and deep and slow.  This is definitely not music you would usually dance to.

Do you remember where you were when you saw this scene? Did you hate it? Love it? In the Harry Potter film universe, it is one of the most divisive scenes ever written. On first watching, you could assume that it is hinting at a possible romantic connection between the lead characters. But, not everything has to be about romantic love. Harry and Hermione are completely worn down like butter scraped over to much bread. The body language of the scene suggests this. Hermione is almost fetal while Harry is at the far edge of the scene. The lighting of the scene suggests a somber dark and shadowy environment. Harry walks over to Hermione and takes her hand and begins to dance in a goofy way. For one blissful moment, they escape their lives

O children
Lift up your voice, lift up your voice
Children
Rejoice, rejoice

and dance together in the joy of friendship. A way that two friends would do to cheer themselves up. To bring a moment of levity into their world that is falling apart. The music is, for me, one of the best selections in a cinematic scene ever done. Bold words.

Here me out, and take a look at the lyrics.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – O’ Children

[Verse 1]
Pass me that lovely little gun
My dear, my darling one
The cleaners are coming, one by one
You don’t even want to let them start

They are knocking now upon your door
They measure the room, they know the score
They’re mopping up the butcher’s floor
Of your broken little hearts

O children
Forgive us now for what we’ve done
It started out as a bit of fun

Here, take these before we run away
The keys to the gulag

[Chorus]
O children
Lift up your voice, lift up your voice
Children
Rejoice, rejoice

Come on, come on, come on, come on

[Verse 2]
Here comes Frank and poor old Jim
They’re gathering round with all my friends

We’re older now, the light is dim

And you are only just beginning

O children

We have the answer to all your fears
It’s short, it’s simple, it’s crystal clear
It’s round about and it’s somewhere here
Lost amongst our winnings

[Chorus]
O children
Lift up your voice, lift up your voice
Children
Rejoice, rejoice

[Verse 3]
The cleaners have done their job on you
They’re hip to it, man, they’re in the groove

They’ve hosed you down, you’re good as new
And they’re lining up to inspect you

O children
Poor old Jim’s white as a ghost
He’s found the answer that we lost

We’re all weeping now, weeping because
There ain’t nothing we can do to protect you

[Chorus]
O children
Lift up your voice, lift up your voice
Children
Rejoice, rejoice
[Outro]
Hey little train! We are all jumping on
The train that goes to the Kingdom
We’re happy, Ma, we’re having fun
And the train ain’t even left the station

Hey, little train! Wait for me!
I once was blind but now I see
Have you left a seat for me?
Is that such a stretch of the imagination?

Hey little train! Wait for me!
I was held in chains but now I’m free
I’m hanging in there, don’t you see
In this process of elimination

Hey little train! We are all jumping on
The train that goes to the Kingdom
We’re happy, Ma, we’re having fun
It’s beyond my wildest expectation

Hey little train! We are all jumping on
The train that goes to the Kingdom
We’re happy, Ma, we’re having fun
And the train ain’t even left the station

The lyrics talk of a world being destroyed by the adults of the system, and it is up to the children to sort it out. It is hopeful. The bombs may be dropping, the world might be ending, but lift your voice children for there is always hope. Rejoice in that.

This is what the Harry Potter story is. I think it is even more powerful when you think of Harry and Hermione as lone orphans. Harry against his will, and Hermione to protect her parents. Both children, fighting a battle and losing. Alone in the world, and now abandoned by their third. Lift your voice children and dance.  Rejoice.

It is a really damn powerful scene, and I have so much more appreciation for it now that I can look at it through the lens of time.

Weird Beauty Products, and why you should just give up and Use Lush

Lush is so, so good.

Don’t you feel a little confused about all of the beauty products out there? From a seaweed bath soak that comes complete with dead crustaceans attached, to an eyebrow product that literally stamps your eyebrows on, it is hard to know what you can use that makes you feel good and is not made of crap. Sometimes literally.

For me personally, that means drastic simplification. I enjoy wearing makeup and usually when I wear makeup I don’t look like a clown. Except when I attempt winged liner.

You are bathing in suds and glory.

That is a whole bunch of next level crap I haven’t mastered. My life just doesn’t seem to allow me much time to do a full face of makeup except on date night. Even then.  Sorry hubby, get used to it.  I do however search out for products that smell good and make me feel right about my very limited beauty routine. Specifically, they are bath bombs and the Whoosh shower gel from Lush.

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Yaaaas queen. Let me huff you. (Image courtesy of lush.com)

The bath bombs need no explaining. They are a bomb of awesome that is plunked with anticipation into your bathwater. They fizzle, glitter, and smell amazing. Cleaning your tub sucks. But who the hell cares! You are bathing in suds and glory.

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The aptly named sex bomb. Jasmine lusciousness. (Image courtesy of lush.com)

The shower gel is for me the most perfect smell and this is coming from someone who has a pretty extensive perfume collection. I sometimes sit in the restroom and just huff it. There is something about the herbal/citrus smell that gets to me. I have searched pretty hard for something that smells like an equivalent, and have yet to find anything.

The third beauty product I am going to mention here is perfume. I like to smell like a french whore. Yes, I love myself. Yes, I know that that is not something that is generally aimed for. Yes, I am ok with this.

I think I have pretty good taste in perfumes, but what the hell do I know. Fun fact about me: I am slightly anosmic. Which means that I have very little to no sense of smell. It is not entirely gone, I can smell some things. But generally, they have to be very strong or very specific. This carries into they way perfumes smell for me. Belk.jpegMy very favorite fragrance that does not wholly annoy my ultra sensitive nose of a husband (aren’t we a pair) is by MAC cosmetics. It smells like I have slathered honey and sexiness all over my body. It is called Velvet Teddy. See see, french whore.

Sometimes I sit in the bathroom and huff it

Close second concerning smell is all class, Coco Chanel. I feel so fancy wearing it. Two very different price points. Depending on the day and if I want to feel a little low-class slutty, I wear the Velvet Teddy. High-class “Pretty Woman” slutty, it’s all Coco Chanel. If I want to keep it all to myself, just the shower gel after a shower.

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.