Review, Grave Witch, Kalayna Price

Book blerb
Not even death can save her now.

As a grave witch, Alex Craft can speak to the dead-she’s even on good terms with Death himself. As a consultant for the police, she’s seen a lot of dark magic, but nothing has prepared her for her latest case. When she’s raising a “shade” involved in a high profile murder, it attacks her, and then someone makes an attempt on her life. Someone really doesn’t want her to know what the dead have to say, and she’ll have to work with mysterious homicide detective Falin Andrews to figure out why…

Review
Set in a near-future where magic has reappeared and the Fey have come out of the proverbial closet, Alex Craft is a grave witch who able to raise the shades of the dead, making them visible to others. She is about to embark on the most difficult task of her career; be the first grave witch to raise a shade to testify in court. It will be a landmark change for her industry and has made her a target.

Or is she a target because of the favour she does for her estranged sister, looking into the death of a politician?

There are a number of engaging characters in this world, including a prophetic gargoyle, handsome and mysterious detective, even Death himself.

This is more of a murder mystery than many other offerings in the urban fantasy field, and it holds up well. Yes, it is somewhat formulaic and some sections could use a touch more editing, but overall it is engaging, funny, well-written, and action-packed. The romance is dealt with deftly, the myriad of threads all weave together well and the world is distinct and fully-formed.

I look forward to the next instalment in this series.

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Review, Play Dead, John Levitt

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Mason used to be an enforcer, ensuring that those magic practitioners without a moral compass walked the straight and narrow. But now he just wants to keep his head down, play guitar, and maintain a low profile with Lou, his magical canine companion. But Mason is down on his luck, and when a job with a large payout comes along, he finds the offer hard to resist-not knowing it might mean sacrificing what both man and his best friend hold most dear.

Review
Mason and Louie are back again!

I have been a fan of Levitt’s series since I picked up the first book, Dog Days, simply to fill a ‘buy 3 get 4’ pile. It turned out to be the best of the four books I purchased at the time, and Levitt has not let me down with any of the books in the series.

His main characters are so fully formed and interesting you wish you could find out where Mason is playing and swing by to take a listen. Bringing lots of bacon for Louie, of course. Levitt manages to juggle a number of diverse sceondary characters with flair, making them work well (or not) with others while still maintaining their own identity. The magic system set out in this world is exacting and well-documented, and even Mason`s innovations make sense given his minor abilities and tendency to improvise. Finally, he gives us a San Francisco that both is and isn`t so naturally that you are not all together sure that it all may not be true after all. San Francisco does have that magical quality about it, after all…

In Play Dead, Mason is once again forced to make choices based on his need to make ends meet (and haven`t we all been there), taking on an assignment from a black practitioner. It seems straightforward, but when dealing with those who deal in darker magics – and then Mason is involved – it turns out to be far more complicated, with implications that could change not only Mason and Louie`s lives, but the lives of all magic users in San Francisco. With a little au courant environmental activism and several double-crosses thrown in, this tale is one that winds tighter and tighter – like a snake – as things progress to its splashy conclusion.

The only drawback is the somewhat cliffhanger conclusion, which leaves this devoted fan desparate for more….

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Review, The Better Part of Darkness, Kelly Gay


Book Blurb:
Atlanta: it’s the promised city for the off-worlders, foreigners from the alternate dimensions of heaven-like Elysia and hell-like Charbydon. Some bring good works and miracles. And some bring unimaginable evil….

Charlie Madigan is a divorced mother of one, and a kick-ass cop trained to take down the toughest human and off-world criminals. She’s recently returned from the dead after a brutal attack, an unexplained revival that has left her plagued by ruthless nightmares and random outbursts of strength that make doing her job for Atlanta P.D.’s Integration Task Force even harder. Since the Revelation, the criminal element in Underground Atlanta has grown, leaving Charlie and her partner Hank to keep the chaos to a dull roar. But now an insidious new danger is descending on her city with terrifying speed, threatening innocent lives: a deadly, off-world narcotic known as ash. Charlie is determined to uncover the source of ash before it targets another victim — but can she protect those she loves from a force more powerful than heaven and hell combined?

Review
Charlie Madigan is a police officer in an Atlanta that is working hard to integrate the radically different off-worlders who are starting to make Earth their home. She’s tough, has a great partner and a supportive police Chief, but a little overworked as she struggles to balance a recent return from death, unruly off-worlders, being a single mom, and an ex who desparately wants back into her life. It is a precarious juggling act, one made harder by someone determined to stop her from solving her current investigation into an off-world drug. Someone who is more than willing to threaten her family, friends, partner and Charlie herself.

Kelly Gay has created a creative and detailed world full of diverse characters. I found her portrayal of Charlie’s rich family life both realistic and also something you don’t see often in urban fantasy, particularly a situation where the heroine is not only a mother but also the principal caregiver – in addition to being able to kick serious paranormal ass. The story moves at a brisk and exciting pace and Charlie’s challenging life leaves readers gasping for breath but definitely wanting more.

I am eagerly looking forward to the next in the Charlie Madigan series.

Find out more about Kelly Gay at her site or by following her on Twitter.

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Win “Deader Still” by Anton Strout!

I posted a review for Anton Strout’s first book in this series, “Dead to Me” here, giving it 5 Dragons. I mentioned that the next in the series, “Deader Still” was coming out on Feb 24th… well it is out now!

And Bitten by Books is giving you an opportunity to win a copy of the book.

Stop over and follow all their rules for how you can win the book (there are lots of ways to get an entry (or more). And remember… if you win ’cause you say it here you have to share the book with me. J/K (or am I?)

Good luck!

Review: Dead to Me, Anton Strout

Book blurb
Psychometry – the power to touch an object and divine information about its history-has meant a life of petty crime for Simon Canderous, but now he’s gone over to the good side. At New York’s underfunded and (mostly) secret Department of Extraordinary Affairs, he’s learning about red tape, office politics, and the basics of paranormal investigation. But it’s not the paperwork that has him breathless.

After Simon spills his coffee on (okay, through) the ghost of a beautiful woman – who doesn’t know she’s dead – he and his mentor plan to find her killers. But Simon’s not prepared for the nefarious plot that unfolds before him, involving politically correct cultists, a large wooden fish, a homicidal bookcase, and the forces of Darkness, which kind of have a crush on him.”

Review
What happens when Good and Evil meet at the junction of bureaucracy?

Simon Canderous has spent years using his special gift of psychometry for nefarious purposes, but he is working for Good now, in the form of New York City’s Department of Extraordinary Affairs. Author Anton Strout’s description of life in the bureaucratic hell that is a government agency is spot on – even if the agency’s role is to protect the Good. Mountains of paperwork, fascinating but bizarre characters and the occasional zombie cleanup definitely make Simon’s determination not to fall back into a life of crime interesting.

While still trying hard to learn the job under the tutelage of his mentor Connor, Simon manages to find himself mixed up with a very confused ghost, evil cultists, a wooden fish, and a bunch of FOGies.

Much like the forces of Darkness, I too have a bit of a crush on Simon. Or maybe it is on Anton Strout for creating him. I love this world he has created and I am going to be eagerly waiting for the door to the bookstores to open on February 24th when the second Simon Canderous story, Deader Still, comes out.

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Review: New Tricks, John Levitt

Book blurb
Mason used to be an enforcer, ensuring that suspect magic practitioners stayed in line. But he gave all that up for a quiet life scraping out a living playing guitar, keeping a low profile with Louie, his magical… well, let’s call him a dog. Luckily, Louie has a sixth sense for danger, and Mason knows exactly how dead he’d be without him.

It’s Halloween in the Castro district of San Francisco, which means that for once Mason doesn’t have to worry about the fact that vampires and ghosts are stalking the streets. What he does have to worry about is how his old flame Sarah became the victim of an attempted possession – leaving her an empty shell.

Mason’s only clue is the green rune stone found is her hand…

Review
Mason is not having a bad year. He’s got no girlfriend, no money, no upcoming gigs; he’s even gone back to working as a practitioner just to make ends meet. He’s in a major funk, and even partying on Castro Street isn’t helping.

When he is called on to help find a fellow practitioner who has gone missing, Mason finds himself with a new mystery to solve: what – or who – had left one of his old flame’s an empty shell.

Poor Mason. He really doesn’t have much luck with his old girlfriends does he? And things don’t necessarily get better in New Tricks.

Mason is joined in this tale by the some of the same characters found in the first book – including the required Louie – as well as some new ones who prove intriguing, though I admit I did figure out whodunit early.

Still, as in the first book, the plot is very enjoyable. We are given an opportunity to learn more about the possible genesis of ifrits, including a theory which, when acted upon, results in the creation of a horrible and deadly situation. It also begs the other questions: how far should practitioners go to help themselves rather than others, and does the end justify the means?

After reading this book I am even more invested in this series, and eagerly looking forward to more tales about Mason and Louie.

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