Flesh Circus (Jill Kismet #4)
By Lilith Saintcrow; Performed by Joyce Bean
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 7 discs; 9 hours
Themes: / circus / urban fantasy / voodoo / zombies / magic /
When circus performers start dying grotesquely, Jill Kismet has to find out why, or the entire city will become a carnival of horror. She also has to play the resident hellbreed power against the Cirque to keep them in line, and find out why ordinary people are needing exorcisms. And then there’s the murdered voodoo practitioners, and the zombies. Jill Kismet is about to find out that some games are played for keeps.
The descriptions in Flesh Circus were memorable and fun, and touched on all the senses. Characterizations really told a lot about each individual and gave information about both them and the narrator. She was really snarky, selling toughness without overdoing it. There was some repetition in the action scenes, with guns and bones popping frequently. The author employs a liberal use of adverbs, and the plot relies heavily on elements that must have been established in earlier books. I could still follow along, though. The magical details were the best part.
Joyce Bean as narrator was great. She had a husky, slightly rough voice with an understated delivery that let the words really shine. Her characterization of side characters was great, making it easy to keep track of who was speaking.
Posted by Sarah R.
Deadly Sting (Elemental Assassin #8)
By Jennifer Estep, Read by Lauren Fortgang
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 11 hours
Themes: / urban fantasy / assassin / museums / magic /
Red is definitely my color. Good thing, because in my line of work, I end up wearing it a lot. Most people shy away from blood, but for an assassin like me — Gin Blanco, aka the Spider — it’s just part of the job. Still, it would be nice to get a night off, especially when I’m attending the biggest gala event of the summer at Briartop, Ashland’s fanciest art museum. But it’s just not meant to be. For this exhibition of my late nemesis’s priceless possessions is not only the place to be seen, but the place to be robbed and taken hostage at gunpoint as well. No sooner did I get my champagne than a bunch of the unluckiest thieves ever burst into the museum and started looting the place. Unlucky why? Because I brought along a couple of knives in addition to my killer dress. Add these to my Ice and Stone magic, and nothing makes me happier than showing the bad guys why red really is my color.
Our story starts out with Gin moping …she misses Owen and while she is trying to hide it. Her friends and family can feel her despair. Finn tries to shake things out a bit by manipulating her into attending an event where all of Mab Monroe’s treasures are being showcased…which is awesome because Gin has to get a dress! Finn and Eva also have an ulterior motive of getting Gin and Owen to talk. Which does not go so well since Owen has a date and then there is a heist by a group of giants. The giants are banding together because they are sick of being body guards and being taken for granted so they are taking their place in the criminal empire…or so it would seem.
As I read this book I kept thinking of the movie Die Hard and in the end it works out, actually I think it more than worked out the book is a lot more fun than some of the others. I listened to it on audio and as always the narrator Lauren Fortgang does a great job bringing the story to life. It is funny I am not sure if they switched narrators that I would continue with the story. Anyway back to the book the story is very succinct and the plot has a good solid pace. This book could have easily been a novella but the plot was strong enough to keep me entertained throughout the entire book. This time around Gin actually felt more like an assassin, even though she was still bumbling around it made much more sense. It was also nice to see Gin getting mixed up in something where it was not about someone trying to kill her for revenge or an elemental trying to collect power. While she does not get any new powers in this book she seemed to use her stone and ice magic with a lot more finesse. It was also wonderful to see how she choose to deal with Jonah he has been a burr on her butt for a long time.
While I enjoyed the plot of this story I did not care for the lack of growth in the characters. At the end of Widow’s Web one could understand how and why Owen was mixed up and confused. After certain events in this book he should have been crystal clear and even at the end there was a lack of resolution. Add to that Gin still has a need to shoulder everything emotional on her own shoulders almost to the point where it does not make sense. Speaking of things that don’t make sense is Gin can freeze and object and make it animate to a degree so why can’t she just freeze people? The water villain in the last story did it was water so why not ice??
While the lack of character growth was disappointing I did enjoy the overall story. It looks like we have a new nemesis on the scene bringing about a new story arch which could be interesting.
Posted by Dawn V.
Cast in Shadow (The Chronicles of Elantra #1)
By Michelle Sagara; Performed by Khristine Hvam
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: November 2011 (Audible)
[UNABRIDGED] – 14.5 hours
Themes: / urban fantasy / orphans / crime /
Seven years ago Kaylin was an orphan living in the fief of Nightshade but live was very unsafe because something was killing children and after their death the children were found with marks tattooed on their skin – at the same time these odd marks began to appear on Kaylin’s arms. Eventually Kaylin flees to the Hawk fief and begins life anew. For the most part she is successful but the murder of children has begun again in Nightshade and this time Kaylin is an officer and Hawklord has called her into investigate. Kaylin is a natural choice as she survived the killings the first time and knows the street of Nightshade well. But the Hawklord will not send her in alone instead he will send her with a Dragon and her childhood friend/enemy Severn and now Kaylin must confront her past.
I started this book on audio and at first I thought I was not paying enough attention because I had no idea who these races of people are and I did not understand the history of the Barrani nor the Leontines. After starting over a few times I decided to borrow the book from the library to catch up and you know turns out the information was never there. Listening to this book was a challenge, the narrator does a nice job keeping the voices somewhat distinct but the vagueness of the writing made it difficult to follow along. For example there is a lot about Kaylin trying to kill Severn but I was more than halfway in before I found out why then when we get the why behind why she wants to kill him and even then it does not fully make sense why she would run and not get understanding or ask questions. Then there are other descriptions that I did not understand for example there is a lot of commentary about the Leontines paws being moist or dry but I know nothing about cats is this supposed to be good or bad?? The author tells this story from Kaylin’s POV and unfortunately she is rather ignorant in everything. I guess the intent would be for us to learn along with her and while that has the potential to work in many series it only adds to the confusion in this one.
The story was not all bad, I found myself interested in the world and the side characters – like the Fifelord of Nightshade and Severn. I also enjoyed the narrator once I gave up trying to understand and just went with the flow. I will also say the author tried the trick of leaving out details so your imagination can take over and while I appreciate this we need a bit more detail to have something to fill in. By the time I got to the last few hours of the tape I just wanted it over and while I am curious to see what happens with the Fifelord and Severn next time I will read the book and it will be a while before I get around to it.
Posted by Dawn V.
Widow’s Web (Elemental Assassin #7)
By Jennifer Estep; Performed by Lauren Fortgang
Publisher: Brilliance Audio; Audible 2012
[UNABRIDGED] – 9 discs; 10 hours, 43 minutes
Themes: / urban fantasy / assassin / southern / casinos / romance /
I used to murder people for money, but lately it’s become more of a survival technique. Once an assassin, always an assassin. So much for being plain old Gin Blanco. With every lowlife in Ashland gunning for me, I don’t need another problem, but a new one has come to town anyway. Salina might seem like a sweet Southern belle, but she’s really a dangerous enemy whose water elemental magic can go head-to-head with my own Ice and Stone power. Salina also has an intimate history with my lover, Owen Grayson, and now that she’s back, she thinks he’s hers for the taking. Salina’s playing a mysterious game that involves a shady local casino owner with a surprising connection to Owen. But they call me the Spider for a reason. I’m going to untangle her deadly scheme, even if it leaves my love affair hanging by a thread.
In this episode of Gin Blanco’s life, things are going well since her return to Ashland. Then one night after an especially nice dinner Owen and Gin run into Selena, Owen’s ex that he may or may not have gotten over. Selena is more than what meets the eye – so Gin is worried about her relationship with Owen, we have a new character who maybe setting the spider up or maybe he is a friend and in the middle of everything Eva asks Gin to do something where the stakes are almost to high.
I seem to have a love hate relationship with this series. The issue I have in most of these books is Gin is like the worst assassin ever yet she seems to think she is the best. I just want her for once to be able to kill someone without getting her butt handed to her. When we left Gin last time she was emotionally strong and I loved it. In this book she is back to being whiny and insecure. The other challenge in this book was with Owen normally he is much more decisive but this time the rose colored glasses just felt like to much.
The best thing about this book is the introduction to a few new characters. I also loved the beginning and Gins planned attack it was nice to see her with a plan!! I am also enjoying the dream sequences that Gin seems to be having in the past few books, I wonder if she or we will figure out why all these dreams now and what they mean in total not just as lessons she needs to remember to deal with the situation at hand. I was also impressed with Eva, I have always liked her as a character so it is good to see her growing up – but um the romantic factor there is very very ICKY!!
I listened to this version on audio and the reader is the lovely Lauren Fortgang. I really enjoy the voices she gives to the characters it is like the perfect amount of southern charm.
Posted by Dawn V.
Gameboard of the Gods (Age of X #1)
By Richelle Mead; Read by Emily Shaffer
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: June 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 16 hours
Themes: / urban fantasy / ritualistic murder / military /
In a futuristic world nearly destroyed by religious extremists, Justin March lives in exile after failing in his job as an investigator of religious groups and supernatural claims. But Justin is given a second chance when Mae Koskinen comes to bring him back to the Republic of United North America (RUNA). Raised in an aristocratic caste, Mae is now a member of the military’s most elite and terrifying tier, a soldier with enhanced reflexes and skills.
When Justin and Mae are assigned to work together to solve a string of ritualistic murders, they soon realize that their discoveries have exposed them to terrible danger. As their investigation races forward, unknown enemies and powers greater than they can imagine are gathering in the shadows, ready to reclaim the world in which humans are merely game pieces on their board.
I listened to Gameboard of the Gods on audio and to me it feels more like science fiction than urban fantasy. The book is a bit hard to review because it kind of evolves as you go a long and I would not want to spoil it for anyone.
The story takes place in the RUNA (Republic of North America) think a future country that is a unified Canada and USA. Dr. Justin March was a servitor who has been exiled to Panama, his citizenship has been taken from him and emotionally he is barely surviving life. Back in the RUNA there is a serial killer who likes to kill on the full moon. Other servitors have been unsuccessful in solving the crimes. Out of desperation Justin’s old employers have come to Panama with Mae and elite soldier with the RUNA to find and bring Justin back to the RUNA with the hope of getting the murders solved. Justin is dying to come home but he decides to get as much out of the deal as possible and he ends up bringing his friends daughter home with him so she can have the chance at a better education. But things don’t go as planned and Justin and Mae find themselves in an almost hopeless situation.
The story is told from three points of view, Justin, Mae and Tessa. Justin and Tessa make total sense you get a feel for two very different sides of the world and you also find out how similar they actually are to one another. I liked both Justin and Mae. Mae is a beautiful killer yet she is still a sensitive soul despite her upbringing – Justin on the other hand is crazy smart, his mind is continuously working so he uses drugs and alcohol to cope and to relax. I did not care for his comfort in using people to meet his ends especially with women and sex. Tessa on the other hand feels like an afterthought – I did like her character but she did not add much to the plot but perhaps in future books she will do something.
A major challenge with this book is you really do not know what is going on until you are about halfway in. Like it took me forever to figure out what the is a servitor?? It took a bit longer to figure out Horatio and Magnus. SO while it works because it made me curious it was also annoying because I never found answers to some questions like what happened to cause the government to sanction religion?? While I would classify this book as sci-fi the world is clearly challenged with technology – so we have a car that can drive itself and a tablet that does it all but other than that it feels kind of like life here in the old USA which rather sucks for sci-fi. Last but not least I would have liked a bit more mythology – we get a glimpse of them with various cults but I think it could have made for an even better story.
As I mentioned I listened to this book on audio, for me a narrator can make or break a book. Emily Shaffer was not a terrible narrator but I do not think she was the best person for this book. Reading a book with so many POV’s means she should have sounded different but to me she always sounds the same. Justin and Mae are rather hardened people they hide who they are from everyone all the time but Emily made them sound so chipper and curious which for me was the opposite of how they were described. My issues with the narration and the lack of world building information made this a slow going audio book.
The book totally has challenges but in the end I still enjoyed the story and I am looking forward to the next one in the series.
Posted by Dawn V.
Narrated by Candace Thaxton and Kirby Heyborne
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication Date: 23 July 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 14 hours
Come one, come all! The Carniepunk Midway promises you every thrill and chill a traveling carnival can provide. But fear not! Urban fantasy’s biggest stars are here to guide you through this strange and dangerous world. . . .
RACHEL CAINE’s vampires aren’t child’s play, as a naïve teen discovers when her heart leads her far, far astray in “The Cold Girl.” With “Parlor Tricks,” JENNIFER ESTEP pits Gin Blanco, the Elemental Assassin, against the Wheel of Death and some dangerously creepy clowns. SEANAN McGUIRE narrates a poignant, ethereal tale of a mysterious carnival that returns to a dangerous town after twenty years in “Daughter of the Midway, the Mermaid, and the Open, Lonely Sea.” KEVIN HEARNE’s Iron Druid and his wisecracking Irish wolfhound discover in “The Demon Barker of Wheat Street” that the impossibly wholesome sounding Kansas Wheat Festival is actually not a healthy place to hang out. With an eerie, unpredictable twist, ROB THURMAN reveals the fate of a psychopath stalking two young carnies in “Painted Love.”
This was a short story collection with urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and carnival themes. On the whole, the book was fairly average. There were some fantastic stories and there were some terrible stories. I’ve reviewed each story individually, below. The narration was mostly done by Candace Thaxton, though Kirby Heyborne narrated a few including “Painted Love” and “The Demon Barker of Wheat Street.” All in all, I found Thaxton’s narration preferable to Heyborne’s, but that might have been because I liked more of the stories she narrated than Heyborne. Heyborne’s narration bordered on creepy, and while it fit the genre/story, it also made me kind of uncomfortable. In honesty, I’m not sure I can recommend this book unless someone is looking for a specific short story from one of the authors. There were a few stories that I read that I’m now interested in the world, but most were either very average or downright terrible. This is also not a book for younger readers–some of the stories are quite graphic, mostly sexually. So if you want the book, be warned that it’s probably not “good family listening.”
“Painted Love” by Rob Thurman. A creepy tale of a carnival manager and his killer tendencies, seen through the eyes of a demon that escaped from Hell. The demon, called “Doodle,” wants to see the world and so latches onto people as he makes his way around, seeing people of all types. Unexpectedly, Doodle finds that he’s awed by the strength of the psychic at the carnival–and steps in when Bart, the manager, tries to kill her and rape her sister. It was an interesting idea, made all the more creepy by the narrator’s voice. Unfortunately, most of the story was character development of the members of the carnival; the actual meat of the story felt like it was fairly rushed.
“The Three Lives of Lydia” by Delilah S. Dawson. I believe this was said to be a story of “Blud,” though I haven’t read any of Dawson’s work to have familiarity with the story or the characters. This was a sad story of a girl who woke up on the outskirts of a carnival in a different world, a world called “Sang.” The girl, Lydia, is a “stranger” in the world, a transient. She falls in (and in love?) with a vampire, and takes a job at the carnival. Unfortunately, she’s also stalked by some of the less-nice members of the carnival, and skates the line between her waking life and the life in her “dream.” While this was a sad story and somewhat predictable, I actually kind of liked it. I think I might want to read more in this world, if it’s more of the carnival “dream” world.
“The Demon Barker of Wheat Street” by Kevin Hearne. A story from the world of The Iron Druid Chronicles, therefore starring the Druid Atticus O’Sullivan, his Irish wolfound, and his student Granwael (spelled wrong I’m sure). This is supposed to take place a few years after the events in Tricked, which I haven’t read yet (I’ve only read the first book in the series, Hounded). This time, Atticus and Granwael decide to go into a “freak show” in a carnival and find something much more sinister than a typical carnival freak show. It results in a battle with some ghouls, as might be expected. Just like Hounded, this story is pretty light but entertaining enough with a good bit of action, if slightly formulaic.
“The Sweeter the Juice” by Mark Henry. A terrible and disgusting story about a transvestite looking for a new street drug to help pay off her debt at a sex change clinic. This story had a lot of unnecessary detail. It was also needlessly disgusting. I regretted eating while listening. If I could give negative stars, this story would get them.
“The Werewife” by Jaye Wells. Be careful what you wish for, even if it’s only in the darkest recesses of your mind. That goes double when you’re at a carnival with a freak show run by someone who can read minds. A story, as you might guess from the title, about a man and his werewolf-wife. The ending in this was almost “happy” and the story didn’t go where I thought it would. It was a welcome relief after the last story.
“The Cold Girl” by Rachel Caine. A short story in the vein of Twilight, down to the emo teenager “in love.” This particular emo teenager’s boyfriend turns out to be a murderer and she looks to be his next victim. She’s warned by a psychic at the carnival, but is also told that there is nothing she can do, and that she will meet The Cold Girl soon. This was utter rubbish. I suppose that if you liked the Twilight series, you might like this, but the truth is, the Twilight series did terrible things for a wonderful genre, the least of which was inflicting further crap like this on unsuspecting readers.
“A Duet with Darkness” by Allison Pang. This story is listed by Goodreads as “book 0.5″ in the Abby Sinclair series. I’ve never read the series, but I do like the idea of music and synaesthesia as a tie to the magical world. In this story, Melanie is a violinist tied to a fallen angel, Numo (the description of whom reminds me of Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII a bit). She is insanely talented and her pride gets the best of her while at a gig she “duels” (plays violin with/against) someone who is better than her. Her opponent turns out to be the Devil’s violinist. This story was a bit heavy on introduction of characters that didn’t seem to matter much for this story (but probably makes sense for the larger world context). I may have to give this series a go.
“Recession of the Divine” by Hillary Jacques. Can you imprison a goddess? What happens if you try? This story attempts to answer that as Mnemosyne (Goddess of Memory, a Titan) has renounced her Olympian ways and (in this century) is a loss specialist for an insurance company. She ends up at a carnival which has had a string of accidents. She finds that there is much more than meets the eye as one of the carnival members is using other divine techniques to have his way about things–including wooing/luring customers. Realizing what Olivia (Mnemosyne) is, he tries to use her abilities as a part of the show…and that may just be his undoing.
“Parlor tricks” by Jennifer Estep. This is an Elemental Assassin short story, another series I haven’t read but might look into based on this short story. This time, a girl goes missing while at a carnival and “The Spider” and her sister (a police detective) go there to search for her. What they uncover is a fairly typical trope in fantasy, but that doesn’t stop this story from being pretty good. One other thing that I really liked that not many of the stories in this collection have done well is that it only gave us detail we needed. Too many of the other stories in this collection have a lot of detail that is irrelevant to the story. The detail would be needed for a full-length novel or maybe even a novella…but not for the short story. So, in addition to enjoying this story, I have to give Estep credit for the focus in the story.
“Freak House” by Kelly Meding. Another concise story, and another one I was surprised to enjoy. This time, it’s a story of a daughter trying to find her kidnapped father. The twist? Well…how does one exactly kidnap a djinn to start with, and how does one rescue the djinn from whoever was powerful enough to kidnap him in the first place? Shiloh, half-djinn, teams up with a werewolf and a human to do just that…the narration said this was a “Strays” short story, but I can’t find any reference to that series on GR or on Meding’s website. Either way, it was another story, just enough detail without going overboard.
“The Inside Man” by Nicole Peeler. After a few strong stories, I guess I can’t complain too much when this one was not nearly as strong–or as interesting. The concept was interesting: a soul-stealer and those trying to fight against him, to reclaim the souls. The execution, though, was boring. I routinely found myself getting distracted during this story in the Jane True universe.
“A Chance in Hell” by Jackie Kessler. A story that starts and ends with gratuitous sex scenes, this one was also pretty boring. Jezebel used to be a succubus, but she has escaped hell and is living “topside” as a human, getting trained in the ways of being human by her roommates. One of her roommates, Cecilia, wants to go to a carnival, to show her a new view of humanity. What Cecilia doesn’t know, can’t know, is that this carnival is run by a powerful demon. A story in the Hell on Earth series, it was another that was predictably un-entertaining.
“Hell’s Menagerie” by Kelly Gay. At its crux, a story about a girl and her dog with some coming of age thrown in for good measure. This story is from the Charlie Madigan world, though from reading the description of the books in that series, I think it’s just set in the same world, not necessarily with the same character. In this story, Emma travels with her hellhound, Brim, to Charbydon to rescue Brim’s puppies and their mother. They track them to a menagerie and are forced to make the decision to trade Brim for the pups. Now on a mission to rescue Brim, Emma realizes she has some special powers, powers that extend above and beyond her connection with Brim. This story was cute, if predictable. Really, how can anybody not like a story with hellhounds?
“Daughter of the Midway, the Mermaid, and the Open, Lonely Sea” by Seanan McGuire. I don’t really know what to make of this story. It wasn’t bad…but I’m not sure I “got” it. There didn’t seem to be much real story…it was about a young woman who was part (or entirely) mermaid, visiting with a traveling carnival the city where her mother (also mermaid) was found (and subsequently joined the traveling carnival). There is a lot of discussion of a “possible” problem but the actual action was only in the last 10 minutes or so of the 45-minute story…and even then, it was pretty mundane. I haven’t read any of Seanan McGuire’s (or her alter ego, Mira Grant) works, and I’m not sure that this enticed me to do so. I wonder how similar this story is to others she’s written.
Posted by terpkristin.