Fragile Things: Short Fictions & Wonders by Neil Gaiman

Fragile things cover

Let me tell you a story. No, wait, one’s not enough.

I’ll begin again?

Let me tell you stories of the months of the year, of ghosts and heartbreak, of dread and desire. Let me tell you of after-hours drinking and unanswered phones, of good deeds and bad days, of breaking down and making up, of dead men walking and missing fathers, of little French ladies in Miami, of trusting wolves and how to talk to girls.

There are stories within stories, whispered in ears in the quiet of the night, shouted above the roar of the day, and played out between lovers and enemies, strangers and friends. But all, all are fragile things made up using just 26 letters arranged and rearranged again and again to form tales and imaginings which, if you let them, will dazzle your senses, haunt your imagination and move you to the very depths of your soul.

My Review of Fragile Things: Short Fictions & Wonders

Fragile Things: Short Fictions & WondersFragile Things: Short Fictions & Wonders by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Some stories I liked, some I wasn’t sold on. I do love his imagination and his writing style though, and I think this is a book that will benefit from re-reads.

My favourite story was Instructions – a guide to how to survive in a fairytale! I absolutely love this one and it’s the main reason I went with four stars instead of three.

When you come back, return the way you came.
Favors will be returned, debts be repaid.
Do not forget your manners.
Do not look back.
Ride the wise eagle (you shall not fall).
Ride the silver fish (you will not drown).
Ride the grey wolf (hold tightly to his fur).

Fragile Things: Short Fictions & Wonders
Neil Gaiman
Fantasy
September 25th 2006
Paperback
422

Wizard of the Pigeons by Megan Lindholm

Wizard of the Pigeons Cover

Seattle: a place as magical as the Emerald City.

Subtle magic seeps through the cracks in the paving stones of the sprawling metropolis. But only the inhabitants who possess special gifts are open to the city’s consciousness; finding portents in the graffiti, reading messages in the rubbish or listening to warnings in the skipping-rope chants of children.

Wizard is bound to Seattle and her magic. His gift is the Knowing – a powerful enchantment allowing him to know the truth of things; to hear the life-stories of ancient mummies locked behind glass cabinets, to receive true fortunes from the carnival machines, to reveal to ordinary people the answers to their troubles and to safeguard the city’s equilibrium.

The magic has its price; Wizard must never have more than a dollar in his pocket, must remain celibate, and he must feed and protect the pigeons.

But a threat to Seattle has begun to emerge in the portents. A malevolent force born of Wizard’s forgotten past has returned to prey upon his power and taunt him with images of his obscure history; and he is the only wizard in Seattle who can face the evil and save the city, his friends and himself.

My Review of Wizard of the Pigeons

Wizard of the PigeonsWizard of the Pigeons by Megan Lindholm
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Written in the 1980’s Wizard of the Pigeons is an urban fantasy set in Seattle. Wizard, the title character, is living by his wits on the streets, protecting the pigeons and telling the truth when he Knows it. He has no memory of his previous life before he arrived in Seattle and found his magic.

Megan Lindholm is very, very good at world building and creating atmosphere. She brought Seattle in the 80’s to life for me and filled it with such a strong cast of characters. Cassie and Rasputin also have magic – Cassie always has a different appearance and can only be recognised if you have magic and Rasputin is constantly in motion, his hands dancing if he can’t.

There are a lot of layers and hidden meanings in the story, and in the end, it leaves you to make up your own mind – is Wizard a Vietnam vet with a mental health problem imagining his magic powers or is he really a wizard? Is he protecting Seattle from the evil Mir or is the greyness in his own mind? Is Cassie real or does Wizard imagine her in the women that he meets?

Normally I don’t like books where the plot and the ending are ambiguous but I think it gives you enough to be able to decide for yourself one way or the other. The layers and the ambiguity and hidden meanings seem to add to the story rather than make it murky.

It’s a dark and unique urban fantasy story, and I very much enjoyed it. If you like Neil Gainman’s dark and inventive style then I think you would get on with this one.

Wizard of the Pigeons
Megan Lindholm
Urban Fantasy
January 1st 1986)
Paperback
304

Masked by Moonlight (By Moonlight #1) by Nancy Gideon

Masked by Moonlight Cover

IN THIS STUNNING FIRST BOOK FROM NANCY GIDEON’S SIZZLING NEW SERIES, A TENACIOUS COP AND HER SHAPE-SHIFTING ENEMY SACRIFICE EVERYTHING FOR FORBIDDEN DESIRE. ALL SHE WANTS IS REVENGE.

New Orleans homicide detective Charlotte Caissie is dedicated to bringing down the crime boss responsible for her father’s murder. Using Jimmy Legere’s mysterious and irresistible right-hand man is a dangerous gamble, and not only due to his reputation as more monster than man. Because her feelings for Max Savoie are complicated.

THEN HE RISKS HIS LIFE TO SAVE HERS. Rescued from the swamps as a child, Max exists silently in Legere’s shadow, heeding only his voice—until Charlotte Caissie awakens his emotions and tests his loyalties. Stepping outside his cautious rules threatens more than just his heart. He could expose his darkest secret.

NOW THEY’RE BOTH IN OVER THEIR HEADS. Testing boundaries they weren’t meant to cross means facing the truth about who and what they are—and what they need from each other. If Max is the murderer she seeks, Charlotte could be his next victim. She can’t afford to trust any man. Good thing Max isn’t one.

My Review of Masked by Moonlight

Masked by Moonlight (Moonlight, #1)Masked by Moonlight by Nancy Gideon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Way more of a romance than an urban fantasy.

Charlotte is a detective in New Orleans. A rubbish one but that’s ok because the murder mystery doesn’t amount to much anyway. Max is the bodyguard of the underworld crime king and he has been in love with Charlotte for years. Cue much angst and drama.

The setting of New Orleans is massively underused. I understand that New Orleans is an unusual city with a distinctive style and atmosphere but this could have been set anywhere. The story outside of Charlotte and Max’s relationship starts with potential but gets lost in all the romance drama.

There isn’t one scene that Charlotte and Max don’t end up together in, talking and flirting. Normally with Urban Fantasy, I get annoyed because the love interests spend so little time together so you’d think I should have liked this. But, I don’t know why, it just got too much, even for me. I think it was done at the expense of building Charlotte’s world and so it all feels very limited.

Max is a sweetheart and my heart breaks for him the way he’s head over heels and just wants to be with Charlotte. For a character that’s supposed to be a hardened killer, he seems like just a big softie. He carries the whole book and I read it really just for him.

Charlotte is independent and fun to read but also she’s kinda mean and closed off. She has her reasons but Max is such a sympathetic character and it’s easy to forget he’s a killer so it makes it hard to like Charlotte when she is so cruel to him.

The writing is average, there are some dodgy bits here and there but it’s not offputting and it’s a fun and easy read. There are 10 books in the series though so hopefully it will improve as it goes on!

I intend to read the next one, all the setup has been done so I’m hoping for a bit of a more in-depth story. If not I’ll be quite happy with just reading another book with a lot of Max in it!

Masked by Moonlight is a fun, quick Urban Fantasy romance read with a likeable and very sweet love interest!

Terrible cover though.

Masked by Moonlight
By Moonlight
Nancy Gideon
Urban Fantasy
May 25th 2010
Kindle
375

The Prophetess by Desy Smith

the prophetess

Fallen from Heaven and forced to live amongst the humans in exile, angel Ezekiel bares the tragic fate of a disgraced angel. Having overheard the rebellious Lucifer’s plans to rise up against the sanctuary of Heaven Ezekiel remains silent. For his inaction he is cast from the pearly gates and into the unforgiving lands of the mortals. Two thousand years pass  and  Ezekiel resigns himself to his fate.

However, in the year 2016 the winds of fate begin to change and Ezekiel is given a chance to return to his home. If Ezekiel can stop Molach from helping Lucifer return he will be welcomed back into Heaven. However, there is more than just a demon in his path. Ezekiel must uncover what else fate has in store for him, including a lovely solitary Prophetess named Isabelle and the endless possibility for joy and whimsy she offers.

My review of The Prophetess

The Prophetess by Desy Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m struggling to give a rating for this one. I enjoyed the story but there are a lot of issues with it.

It’s massively in need of a good editing. There’s a lot of spelling mistakes, and some layout issues that make it difficult to tell which character is speaking. A lot of the action doesn’t flow, it jumps between scenes and things don’t logically follow on from each other. I think it’s self published though so I can forgive things like this, a good editor will sort things like this.

I had major issues with Isabelle. Meant to be 23, she acts like she’s 13. Rude, aggressive, immature and completely unlikable. Branding other women as whores because they give a man their phone number (or for any reason really) is inexcusable. Knowing your own mind and standing up for yourself is good but whinging and throwing insults around doesn’t achieve anything.

Ezekiel is the saving grace in this book. I liked his character, and I enjoyed reading his viewpoint. And I loved the thing with the gold dust from his wings!

There’s a decent story in here too as much as I disliked Isabelle I was enjoying the romance that was building up between the two of them. I genuinely felt a bit angry when the book ended because I wanted to see where it was going! There is some good world building in places, but most of the scenes ended up too focused on Isabelle instead of on what was happening. A lot of chances at creating atmosphere or pulling the reader into the story were missed.

I hated Isabelle but I liked the story and Ezekiel is lovely. I’m think I’m going to have to go with three stars, simply because of the feeling when it ended. Surely that’s the best judge of a book?

I received a free copy from the author in return for an honest review.

The Prophetess
Desy Smith
Urban Fantasy
170

Books with Ghosts in Them

books with ghosts in

A Halloween influenced book list this month! These are a few of my favourite books with ghosts in 🙂

The Time of the Ghost by Diana Wynn Jones

A ghost story told from the point of view of the ghost! The ghost is one of four sisters but she doesn’t remember which one she is, or how she came to be a ghost.

The characters in this book are brilliantly done, each of the sisters is unique and complex. It’s very well written and the story had me guessing right up to the end.

Four and Twenty Blackbirds (Eden Moore #1) by Cherie Priest

Eden Moore is a tough young woman who can see ghosts. For most of her life, she has had three dead women who appear when she is in danger and when she starts to investigate who they were she starts uncovering secrets about her past.

This is a moody and atmospheric ghost story from one of my favourite authors. I love the voice of the main character and there are lots of creepy moments, including the investigation of an abandoned and haunted mental hospital.

Cthulu and Other Monsters by Sam Stone

This one is a collection of short horror stories about monsters and Cthulu.

Sam Stone manages to skip between and combine genres without it being jarring. The stories in this collection are all horror stories but they also combine other genres too. Some are a bit steampunk, and some are more sci-fi, some set in the past and some in the present. She’s clearly full of ideas and there’s a lot of originality in these stories.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Nobody Owens, known as Bod, is an orphan being raised by the dead in a graveyard. It’s written for children but has more than enough intelligence, humour and pathos for adults to enjoy it too.

If you want a book that’s full of ghosts then The Graveyard Book is it!

Rivers of London (Peter Grant/Rivers of London #1) by Ben Aaronovitch

Peter Grant is a probationary constable in London. When an eyewitness to a crime he’s talking to turns out to be a ghost, Peter uncovers a different side to London where gods, ghosts and magic are commonplace.

This is more of a supernatural police procedural than a spooky, ghostly book. But it’s funny and entertaining and had me gripped as Peter investigates the evil that’s rising in London.

The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding

I loved this book – it’s full of adventure and strong characters and there are plenty of genuinely scary moments. Plus, it has monsters and ghosts and airships! It’s supposed to be a young adults book but it certainly is suitable for grown-ups too.

Moon Called (Mercy Thompson #1) by Patricia Briggs

moon called cover

Mercedes Thompson, aka Mercy, is a talented Volkswagen mechanic living in the Tri-Cities area of Washington. She also happens to be a walker, a magical being with the power to shift into a coyote at will.

Mercy’s next-door neighbour is a werewolf. Her former boss is a gremlin. And she’s fixing a bus for a vampire. This is the world of Mercy Thompson, one that looks a lot like ours but is populated by those things that go bump in the night. And Mercy’s connection to those things is about to get her into some serious hot water

My Review of Moon Called

Moon Called (Mercy Thompson, #1)Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Urban Fantasy books like this live or die on their main character. Luckily, Mercy is pretty awesome. She’s independent and a bit cheeky but knows her limits. She works as a mechanic and has her life sorted, and there are hints of possible romances, but she doesn’t fawn over anyone and it’s not a big part of the story.

Mercy has to explain things to us at certain points, but it doesn’t go overboard with this. The world building feels like it happens naturally, with just little additions from Mercy every now and again.

When it’s finally revealed the ‘bad guys’ plot was very convoluted. Up to this point, I was finding Moon Called a fun, light read and I struggled to switch gears and pay attention enough to understand what was going on. I don’t think it helped that it’s all (or mostly) revealed by Mercy sitting and thinking about it. I’m a bit fed up of books where the main character sits and thinks a bit and then makes some big mental leaps to end up right on the truth.

All through the book, there were hints of attraction between Mercy and Adam, and Mercy and Sam (love triangle warning!). It built up some interesting tension between the characters that I was enjoying. I was disappointed that the ending seemed to drop this completely. There are something like 14 books now though, and I have read that nothing really happens on the romance front until book 4, so maybe (hopefully) the tension is brought back in future books.

I think it’s a good start for a series though, I enjoyed it even though the complicated ending knocked it down from 4 stars to 3 for me.

I will be reading the next one for sure!

Moon Called
Mercy Thompson
Patricia Briggs
Urban Fantasy
January 31st 2006
Paperback
317

Sunshine by Robin McKinley

Sunshine Cover

There are places in the world where darkness rules, where it’s unwise to walk. But there hadn’t been any trouble out at the lake for years, and Sunshine just needed a spot where she could be alone with her thoughts. Vampires never entered her mind.

Until they found her…

My Review of Sunshine

SunshineSunshine by Robin McKinley
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Somewhere in here lurks a decent story, but it’s so overwhelmed by the ramblings of Sunshine that it’s almost completely lost. In the first five pages, I know where Sunshine works, where she lives, her Monday movie nights and all about her landlady’s niece, but I still don’t know why she’s all on her own at the lake.

I liked the actual story, but it does start to drag. The vampires are satisfyingly nasty and mean, like in the film Lost Boys.

Sunshine is likeable enough, but by the halfway point I just really wanted her to stop talking. Cut out all the rambling and the repetition (how many times do we need to be told no one ever gets away from vampires?) and the book would be less than half the long 405 pages it actually is.

The author spends so much time explaining the world that it’s hard to believe this was ever intended to be standalone. So many concepts are explained in depth that are then not actually relevant to the story that I’m convinced this was the setup for a longer series, more like True Blood.

After all the long, long build-up, the big fight with the main villain is almost a non-event after all the talking. The villain himself is a moustache-twirling cartoon style villain, with some seriously dodgy dialogue. And he doesn’t do anything. Disappointing.

Could have been good, but needs some serious pruning to remove all the irrelevant rambling.

Sunshine
Robin McKinley
Urban Fantasy
November 30th 2004
Kindle
405

Full Moon Rising (Riley Jenson Guardian #1) by Keri Arthur

Full Moon Rising

Full Moon Rising Blurb

A rare hybrid of vampire and werewolf, Riley Jenson and her twin brother, Rhoan, work for Melbourne’s Directorate of Other Races, an organization created to police the supernatural races–and protect humans from their depredations.

While Rhoan is an exalted guardian, a.k.a. assassin, Riley is merely an office worker–until her brother goes missing on one of his missions. The timing couldn’t be worse. More werewolf than vampire, Riley is vulnerable to the moon heat, the weeklong period before the full moon, when her need to mate becomes all-consuming.

My Review of Full Moon Rising

Full Moon Rising (Riley Jenson Guardian, #1)Full Moon Rising by Keri Arthur
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this because I was having a lazy Sunday and I wanted a book I could read with half my brain turned off.

This has been sat on my shelf for months because I was expecting it to be a bit rubbish, the blurb makes it sound like a cheap Anita Blake knock off, focused 100% on sex. But actually, it was ok.

Main character Riley Jenson is interesting if verging a little too far towards a perfect wish fulfilment character for my liking. She’s described as a “drop dead gorgeous red head with long legs”. She works as a guardian assistant but is better at the guardian job than the actual guardians. Everyone she meets seems to think she’s amazing.

It’s saved by Riley’s internal dialogue, it avoids the super annoying thing where the super special character has no confidence and thinks they’re ugly and rubbish at everything. she’s confident and funny and quite happy to be good at things.

The Second half gets very repetitive though. Riley gets kidnapped, the full moon fever takes over, she finds out more info from the ‘bad guys’ and then she escapes. About 5 or 6 times. And the stuff about the full moon fever was daft and got very dull.

So it was fun for an afternoon, but I’m not bothered about reading the next one.

Full Moon Rising
Riley Jenson Guardian
Keri Arthur
Urban Fantasy
2007
Paperback

My Favourite Books with Tattooed Characters

books with tattooed characters

Tenuous link for my book list this month: I recently got a tattoo. So here is a list of my favourite books with tattooed characters in 🙂

It’s a lot shorter than I thought it would be, so if you have any suggestions please share them in the comments or on twitter.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

An obvious choice to kick off with, Lisbeth Salander is tattooed, independent, and doesn’t care what others think of her.

Under Locke by Mariana Zapata

A romance where the main character Iris works in a tattoo palour and the love interest is a tattooist. I’ve mentioned Mariana Zapta before on this blog, she’s one of my favourite slow burning romance writers out there.

This couple go from hating each other to being friends before finally falling in love and their journey is believable (for a romance novel) and sweet. I could have done without the motorbike gang stuff, but other than that this is a lovely story.

Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland

Loveday Cardew is a quiet, antisocial bookworm working in a small bookshop in York. She closes herself off from relationships and finds herself lost for words when she tries to talk to people.

But she wasn’t always this way, and through flashbacks and memories we find out what happened in Loveday’s past that has left her so guarded and reluctant to trust anyone.

I only picked this up because it’s about a bookworm with a nose ring and tattoos, and it’s set in York, a city that I love to visit. But this is a very thoughtful and beautifully written story, with flawed and interesting characters with a lot of depth to them.

One of my favourites of the year so far.

The Derby Girl (Getting Physical) by Tamara Morgan

Another romance, this time the main character Gretchen is a tattooed roller derby girl. I’m not blown away by the love interest, he’s a bit too corporate for my liking, but Gretchen is funny, feisty and flawed and I kinda want to be her.

The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester

Sci-fi where the main character has a full face tattoo. I’m not sure I’d say I enjoyed this book, there’s some pretty grim stuff in it, but it’s thought provoking and interesting. It’s also the only sci-fi I could think of to add to this list!

Downside Ghosts by Stacia Kane

A series I think I’ve mentioned before, Downside Ghosts’ main character Chessie has full body tattoos that also help her work magic. It’s my favourite urban fantasy, and it has a bit of romance thrown in. The love interest Terrible is by far my favourite book boyfriend.

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge Blurb

A sharp and funny urban fantasy for “new adults” about a secret society of bartenders who fight monsters with alcohol-fueled magic.

College grad Bailey Chen has a few demons: no job, no parental support, and a rocky relationship with Zane, the only friend who’s around when she moves back home. But when Zane introduces Bailey to his cadre of monster-fighting bartenders, her demons get a lot more literal. Like, soul-sucking hell-beast literal. Soon, it’s up to Bailey and the ragtag band of magical mixologists to take on whatever—or whoever—is behind the mysterious rash of gruesome deaths in Chicago, and complete the lost recipes of an ancient tome of cocktail lore.

My Review of Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge

Last Call at the Nightshade LoungeLast Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge, bartenders are all that stand between us and monsters called Tremens that roam the night, hunting feeding on people.

Luckily the bartenders have a secret weapon – magic powers they can gain by mixing perfect cocktails using specially distilled alcohol.

This definitely reminds me a lot of Buffy the Vampire slayer – a young woman that doesn’t really know where she’s going in life fights monsters while building friendships. That’s a good thing for me, and there are enough unique elements in here to give it it’s own personality.

I loved the diverse mix of characters and they had unique and distinct personalities. They brought the book to life and their interactions with Bailey were often entertaining.

Bailey isn’t the nicest person in the world, she isn’t instantly everyone’s best friend and the people around her don’t think she’s amazing. I kinda love her for this. She’s not a special snowflake and has to prove herself and work at her friendships.

My big problem with this book though is that it doesn’t go in much for explaining things. It’s quite short and mostly action, which makes for a fun read, but a bit of depth would have helped it all feel more real.

Bailey is an overachiever who has left university and lost all direction. It doesn’t go into why Bailey has gone straight home to her parents and not tried to get herself a job. It seems out of character for her, so it could have done with a bit more explanation for her motives for it to make sense.

While working for Vincent, Bailey seems to build a close relationship with him. This happens mostly off page though and it means that events later in the book aren’t as moving as they perhaps could have been.

The Tremens aren’t really explained either, what they are or where they come from. They just appear and the bartenders kill them.

So, in the end, this is a lot of fun, but look at it too closely and it might all fall apart. There is enough good stuff to make up for it though, and it’s well written.

If there’s a sequel I’ll be all over it.

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge
Paul Krueger
Urban Fantasy
June 7th 2016
288