Tag: Ilona Andrews

WWW Wednesday

Posted May 26, 2021 by Nicky in General / 2 Comments

Here we are again, it’s Wednesday already. I think it’s my fault: I have an exam coming, so time is doing weird things.

At least I’m close to being caught up on my backlog of reviews to write! 26/28 done… (I won’t be posting them all at once, don’t worry.) Anyway, for now let’s stick to the usual Wednesday update.

What are you currently reading?

Cover of Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha LeeFiction: Let’s see… quite a few things at once. I’m still reading Plain Bad Heroines (emily m. danforth), and I’m now onto the second Kate Daniels book, Magic Burns (Ilona Andrews). I’ve also picked up Phoenix Extravagant (Yoon Ha Lee), which I’ve been meaning to read forever — yes, okay, I even had the ARC, this is a peril of being a mood-reader — and am enjoying so far, though I’m not very far into it. I’m also reading The Cheltenham Square Murder (John Bude); I normally find Bude’s books solid but not remarkable, and so is proving to be the case with this — but a little Golden Age crime does hit the spot right now.

Non-fiction: I’ve started on Food: The History of Taste (ed. Paul Freedman), which… I have some mixed feelings about, given the first essay-writer got some stuff wrong (there is no area of your tongue dedicated to tasting sweet things), and just… made me worry about the quality of their other research and whether they leaned too much on received wisdom. I’m still reading Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs, too, which has finally got round to some dinosaurs.

What have you recently finished reading?

I finished a couple of the other books I’ve been talking about for a bit, like The Invention of Murder, but also went off-piste a bit and read the fourth Whyborne & Griffin book by Jordan L. Hawk. I’ve been meaning to for a while, and it was a very satisfying Saturday read — it was my day off, so I could start the book in the morning and polish it off by night.

Now to avoid waiting so long to read the fifth…

Cover of Behave by Robert M. SapolskyWhat will you be reading next?

I don’t know, as ever. However, I have been trying to line up some possibles and just keep them well in sight. So that list includes Tasha Alexander’s third Lady Emily book, A Fatal Waltz, and Robert Sapolsky’s Behave, which I’ve had for quite a while… though as always, I’ll let whimsy be my guide as well. Possibly even literally Wimsey, since I do need some beloved books to pamper my brain through this exam. Medical statistics, bleechhh.

What’re you currently reading?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted May 20, 2021 by Nicky in General / 0 Comments

Hey folks! I’ve been spending the unskippable cutscenes of a particular dungeon in Final Fantasy XIV to catch up on my reviews, and I should soon start scheduling those. Right now, all my energies are focused toward my exam… but maybe I’ll be around here more soon, at this rate! In the meantime, though my arm is sore from my first shot of the Pfizer vaccine, I can still wield a keyboard, so here’s the Wednesday update!

Cover of Magic Bites by Ilona AndrewsWhat are you currently reading?

Fiction: Magic Bites, by Ilona Andrews, for a start. It’s a reread, but I’ve had a lot of joy from this series, I’d really like to read the more recent books someday, and it felt like ideal light reading while my entire body stresses out about my upcoming biostatistics exam. I’m also still reading Plain Bad Heroines, and I’m finding it super awkward-feeling right now with the apparently deliberate baiting of Merritt. I’m intrigued about where it’s going, but also apprehensive that it’s going to be annoying.

Non-fiction: Still on both The Invention of Murder (Judith Flanders) and Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs (Lisa Randall). I’m enjoying the former, and probably planning on finishing that next; the latter is still doing Planet Formation 101, and there’s very little new to me, so I’m biding my time and finding it a bit slow.

What have you recently finished reading?

I just finished The Library of the Dead, by T.L. Huchu, and I wish I loved it more than I did. The narrative voice doesn’t work for me, and the cover puts me too much in mind of Ben Aaronovitch’s books not to (fairly or unfairly) compare it to those books. Not so much in terms of overall quality, where I don’t particularly feel Aaronovitch is one of the genre’s great craftspeople, but in terms of plots, themes and settings.

I also finished Murder’s a Swine, by Nap Lombard, which was pretty fun.

Cover of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky ChambersWhat will you be reading next?

I’m in the mood for lots of rereading, but as usual, I’m really not sure what I’ll actually pick up. Maybe The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (Becky Chambers) again(!) because playing Mass Effect is kinda giving me that urge. Or even Ancillary Justice (again again).

What are you currently reading? And how are you all?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted May 13, 2021 by Nicky in General / 0 Comments

Welp, haven’t written any of my backlog of reviews yet, but I’m still here, and I just handed in my assignment — meaning I’ve got an exam left, on 1st June, and then I’ll be free for a while. Maybe that means either now or once the exam’s done, I’ll have a bit of time to catch up on blogging.

Whatever happens, the reading never totally stops, though.

Cover of Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs by Lisa RandallWhat are you currently reading?

Non-fiction: Still reading Judith Flanders’ The Invention of Murder, and now also reading Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs, by Lisa Randall. I’ve heard good things about it, but I’m distracted by the title and wondering where the dinosaurs come in. Right now I’m in the middle of my umpteenieth explanation of the Big Bang, none of which ever make the details stick in my head.

Fiction: I’ve picked up Plain Bad Heroines, by emily m. danforth. I had not realised she was also the author of The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which I’ve always meant to try, but it sounds like this is very different in a lot of ways. I’m very curious to know to what extent there’s a supernatural element here… (don’t spoil me.)

Cover of Snowball in a Blizzard by Steven HatchWhat have you recently finished reading?

I feel like I have the memory of a goldfish, and could not honestly tell you right now what — ooh, that’s a nice bridge, I’ve never seen that before.

Okay, family jokes about goldfish/three-second memories aside, I finished up Snowball in a Blizzard by Steve Hatch, which had some very good insights into both how uncertain medicine actually is (there are few certainties, just probabilities and sometimes mere possibilities, even in established, commonly-used medicine) and how to handle that.

(Ooh, that’s a nice bridge, I’ve never seen that before!)

Cover of Magic Bites by Ilona AndrewsWhat will you be reading next?

I don’t really know. I’m kind of tempted toward a reread; I stopped reading the Kate Daniels series for a bit too long and lost my place again, so I think I might start that series again — why not? It’s fun. Then I’m also tempted to reread Made to Kill, by Adam Christopher, since I don’t think I ever did read the third book in that series.

So that’s me. What are you reading?

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Review – Magic Rises

Posted December 22, 2019 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Magic Rises by Ilona AndrewsMagic Rises, Ilona Andrews

In this instalment of the series, Curran and Kate head to Georgia to arbitrate an argument between the European shapeshifter packs. It’s a trap and they know it, but they badly need the payment they will receive if they pull it off: ten drums of panacea, the medicine that helps shapeshifters who are at risk of becoming monsters, a risk that most shapeshifters face during adolescence. It’s not clear where the trap is, and Kate’s going to be a lone human among hundreds of shapeshifters who don’t respect her and think they can easily crush her… but it’s got to be done.

As ever, the book barrels along at an enormous clip. I don’t enjoy the relationship aspect of this book very much at all; after what they’ve been through so far, both Kate and Curran should know better than to behave like idiots and ignore the trust they’ve built between them. I know it’s part of the drama of the series, but ugh, Kate, you know he’d face down an army for you, why are you letting yourself be played?

(Not that Kate’s emotional intelligence has ever been a highly vaunted point in this series, admittedly.)

The escalation of the plot as far as Kate’s origins goes, though, is pretty great. Now she finds herself in a confrontation with one of her father’s closest lieutenants, and though the Pack are at her side, there are a limited number of them with her. She has to walk the line, protect the person she’s there to protect and win the panacea, and try to prevent her father’s lackey learning too much about her capabilities. Every secret she can keep now is one more weapon later. And fittingly for stakes this high, there are serious casualties…

As always, the drama and action are balanced with exquisitely timed snarky humour, and quite honestly I reread this in about three sittings and just plain gulped it down. I might not love the relationship drama in this particular instalment, but I’m Team Kate and Curran all the way.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Magic Slays

Posted October 7, 2019 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Magic Slays by Ilona AndrewsMagic Slays, Ilona Andrews

This is, what, the fifth Kate Daniels book? So it begins true to type: everything explodes into chaos as Kate takes on a job that looks routine on the surface, and quickly devolves into apocalyptic-level stakes. Personal matters are also fraught, with Kate’s kid Julie refusing to stay in school where she’s safe and heading home, right into an Atlanta that’s boiling with trouble. Curran’s got his own worries, and Kate’s brand new business isn’t doing so well, though she’s gaining employees faster than she’s gaining contracts.

It’s fast-paced and I think rather more even than the earlier books. The pacing doesn’t feel sticky here: it just goes and goes and goes. I’m still in love with the world they create here: the magic waves, the way people get round them, the way society has evolved… and there are still things I don’t love, like the rigid roles in the Pack and the way some behaviour is excused because “that’s how shapeshifters are”. But there are also parts where that gets called out and Curran takes a deep breath and apologises, so… there’s that in the balance as well.

In this particular book, there’s a little more background on Kate’s history, a few hints as to how she might power up… and at the end a terrifying hint that she might have been noticed at last. There’s also a high-powered showdown, and Kate learns a little more about how to use her magic out of pure necessity. This is another thing I love: although Kate wants to be the badass lone-wolf mercenary right at the start, her strength comes again and again from her friends and allies. Alone, she’s a smartass with a sword; with people she loves, she finds a way to be more than that, to accept and use her power to help them. She wouldn’t get there without them, despite the way she was raised, despite her feeling that she’s safer not loving. That’s a pretty powerful thing to take away, and that it comes from the men in her life as much as the women is great too.

In any case, the stakes continue ramping up, but it doesn’t feel like a middle-of-the-series dead book either, by a long way. Everything is advancing the overall arc, yes, but also everything has meaning within the confines of this book. I enjoy this series a lot, and I think people unfairly dismiss it way too often.

(I mean, it’s okay for it not to be your thing! But I think people dismiss it because it’s dubbed paranormal romance, and okay, yes, Kate does eventually get together with Curran and their relationship is a key driver of the plot, but the focus is Kate, what drives her and what she’s running from or toward. Romance is just a part of that.)

Rating: 4/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted August 21, 2019 by Nicky in General / 7 Comments

The three ‘W’s are what are you reading now, what have you recently finished reading, and what are you going to read next, and you can find this week’s post at the host’s blog here if you want to check out other posts.

What are you currently reading?

Most actively, I’m neck-deep in Turning Darkness into Light by Marie Brennan, the sequel to the Memoirs of Lady Trent series! Audrey is a delight, and I do so adore the way these books showcase the scientific and academic processes — coming from a background of both literature (with a lot of focus on translation) and later science as well, it’s just. Yay!

Cover of Magic Bleeds by Ilona AndrewsWhat have you recently finished reading?

I read Magic Bleeds on our flight back from Worldcon! (Well, half of it; I read the first half before — the flight isn’t that long/I don’t read that fast!) It has some of my pet peeves in fiction (miscommunication) and yet Kate and Curran are so extreme and stupid it ends up just being funny to me.

What will you be reading next?

I don’t know! I still have a crowded TBR for August, and I haven’t read even half of those books yet. I have a bunch of them half-finished, though. I know that the library really wants the book on the Aztecs back (in fact, the lady was reluctant to re-issue it at all) because someone shouldn’t have let me have it (it’s a reference book), so maybe I’ll get on with reading that!

What are you currently reading?

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Review – Magic Strikes

Posted August 2, 2019 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Magic Strikes by Ilona AndrewsMagic Strikes, Ilona Andrews

In the third book in this series, Kate finds that Derek’s got himself into some kind of trouble, and it seemed to be tangled up with Saiman’s involvement with an underground arena that pits people against one another in gladiatorial bouts, with real blood, guts and death. It’s pretty obvious where that’s going to lead, and yes, there are some epic team-ups in the arena. There’s also progress on Kate’s non-courtship with Curran, and we get to see several characters old and new kicking butt in lovely ways.

(There’s also finger-gnawing anxiety for one particular character, and no shortage of high stakes, but that’s what you get with Ilona Andrews!)

As always, I find myself pondering the classification of these books as paranormal romance. I’m wary of saying a thing isn’t paranormal romance just because I like it… but I think that genre label is sometimes used to dismiss a book that (if written by a man) would be urban fantasy, and I’m also wary of that. The thing is, I really don’t see these books as being all that much about the romance, especially not the first two or three. The real driver of these books is Kate’s given purpose in life — to kill her biological father — and the way she struggles with it, sometimes willing to follow it, sometimes throwing caution to the wind. It’s a slow process of her letting people in, and that doesn’t mean Curran, primarily: it means having a best friend, it means having an adopted kid, it means trusting and protecting Derek…

I mean, there is romance there: there’s a lot of sexual tension between Kate and Curran, and their stupid banter is the reason these books crease me up with laughter. (A particular kind of laughter which my wife can pinpoint to meaning “ah, Nikki’s reading that series”, embarrassingly.) But I’d more readily categorise something as romance when the plot is all about driving the characters together and the end payoff is the relationship. The drive in romance is typically toward Happy Ever After — to the point where people get very upset if something is billed as romance and doesn’t have a Happy Ever After — but I think the real drive here is about Kate facing her demons, and the romance is just one part of that.

On the other hand, I am also totally ready for Kate and Curran to hurry up and get together already, so that’s probably a vote that it is romance — I don’t have opinions this strong about Peter Grant and Beverley Brook, after all. And there are things about the relationship that are pretty tropey: His Furry Majesty can be kind of creepy at times, in a way that can be very wish-fulfillment-y for some people. (Never mind that Kate usually flings that back in his face and things are rarely less than equal between them.)

The point is, there’s a lot going on in these books, and though romance and sex are a part of it, there’s also a very long game being played concerning Kate and her biological father, and that story is also pretty riveting. This book takes a step further in that direction… but just a step.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Magic Burns

Posted June 14, 2019 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Magic Burns by Ilona AndrewsMagic Burns, Ilona Andrews

The second Kate Daniels book plunges straight into action, with Kate teaming up with Jim to fight a guy using a salamander to set things on fire. Things escalate from there, as is usual for Kate, while the book also introduces more important secondary characters in the form of Julie and Andrea. Julie is a vulnerable girl Kate spends most of the book trying to protect; Andrea is a knight of the Order who can put a bullet through a pinhead at god knows what distance. (Together, they fight crime! Well, kind of, a little bit, actually.)

There’s more mythology mixed into the pot — including a healthy dollop of Irish mythology, with the appearance of the Morrigan and a warrior with a skillset like that of Cú Chulainn — and a lot more frenetic fighting, running and pure badassery. I love the hints towards Kate’s heritage — I’m not sure why I never twigged further in advance, given the evidence, but somehow the first time I was not going in the right direction at all.

And as before, another thing I love is that Kate is indeed a total badass, but a badass who knows that sometimes the fighting has got to stop. That some things you have to protect, and sometimes you want to just go home and find the person you love waiting there. The fact that she’s willing to be vulnerable — not only that she wants these things, but that she’s willing to say she wants them — makes her a surprisingly positive character for me, where you might expect a female mercenary to be, well, more mercenary.

There’s still no real romance here — some flirtations, of course, and hints at what’s to come. But for those who expect paranormal romance to be a total sex fest, well… either this book has been mislabelled, or you’re maligning the genre unfairly.

did find that the fast pacing here sometimes left me behind a little. I’m not sure if that was the speed I was reading or just the frenetic pacing, but a couple of times I did end up thinking “wait, what now?” and have to read back a little. It’s not a perfect book, in stylistic terms: I still find a lot to enjoy, all the same.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Magic Bites

Posted May 10, 2019 by Nicky in Reviews / 8 Comments

Cover of Magic Bites by Ilona AndrewsMagic Bites, Ilona Andrews

The first time I read this book, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. This time, I was surprised by the way the world was stripped back and all the stuff I remembered from later book was not here yet… though there is some delicious foreshadowing, and really, if you’re paying attention, you have some idea of what’s up by the end of this book.

I’d also forgotten how much these books make me laugh.

Magic Bites gets dismissed as paranormal romance, but there’s really not much romance in this book. There’s one potential romance that fizzles out because the main character is suspicious, emotionally unavailable and wedded to her job (her job is killing things), and there’s a hint at what’s to come in later books. But for the most part this book is Kate Daniels going it alone. She’s a mercenary who gets herself involved when her mentor gets killed. Wherever there’s trouble, she’s there, and half the time she’s the cause. Try saying ‘here, kitty, kitty, kitty’ to the Lord of the shapeshifters, a lion shifter… yes, that sounds like a good idea.

I love the setting of these books. It’s set in Atlanta, post-magic-apocalypse, where the world alternates between magic and tech — so you need a jeep and your horse if you want to be sure of getting around. It’s a wilderness of old tumble-down buildings that should have stood for years, and a world where shapeshifters and vampires (very creepy vampires) rule the shadows.

Really, those who dismiss this as paranormal romance and decide it’s not their thing because everyone knows paranormal romance is just ‘sex with a plot’… might just want to give it a go. Kate’s tough as nails and a lot funnier, in a deadpan scary sort of way, and the world-building is actually an interesting set-up. It’s not all about who Kate gets in bed with, and honestly in this book it’s barely even about that at all. I’m not saying it’s perfect: I think some people struggle with the worldbuilding, because you’re expected to take it for granted, and I think it’d have given me more pause the first time too. I think some characters you’re supposed to like come off fairly badly.

But it’s funny, and there’s so much potential. After Magic Bites, there’s so much more to come. Looking forward to revisiting the books I’ve read before, and finally reading the newer ones!

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Magic Shifts

Posted September 13, 2017 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Magic Shifts by Ilona AndrewsMagic Shifts, Ilona Andrews

It’s been a while since I read this, and I’m not sure why I didn’t write a review at the time. Since it’s been a while since I read it (eek, a year!) I can’t comment in much detail, but it’s a worthwhile addition to the series, starting a new chapter in Kate and Curran’s lives — and spending more time dealing with who exactly Kate is, what Roland can do, and what Kate and Curran are going to do without the Pack.

Not that they’re entirely without their old allies, of course…

It’s pretty much what you’d expect from this series, in other ways: pacy writing, Kate and Curran being badass but also idiots, and some really weird shit going on that they really should deal with. If you’ve enjoyed the series so far, you’ll enjoy this one too.

Rating: 4/5

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