Lizzie and Dimitri are back from their honeymoon and are all moved in to their new California oceanfront home. Lizzie is loving married life, even if she has to deal with keeping her talking dog Pirate’s pet dragon out of trouble. But one night someone dumps a purgatory creature on their beach, and their search for who did it and why leads Lizzie right back to two of her worst nemeses: a big bad demon and her birth father.
I was really excited to be able to get an advanced reading copy of this book, since I’ve been a fan of the series from book one. I also was happy to see that Fox wasn’t going to stop the series just because Lizzie got married. I think more urban fantasy needs to acknowledge that you don’t have to be single or have a dramatic love life in order to be bad-ass. This book demonstrates quite well that just because Lizzie got married doesn’t mean that the series will stagnate.
The book’s strength is its opening sequences demonstrating Lizzie’s married life, as well as the first time we see the biker witches’ new permanent digs. Both show that while everyone is still the characters we first met and fell for, they are also progressing and changing as their life situations change. The scenes of Lizzie and Dimitri’s new married life are a pleasure to read, seeing them settled into being a partnership and Pirate accepting of the fact that he is now banned from the bedroom. It’s also pretty hilarious to see them trying to hide the supernatural from their homeowner’s association. Similarly, the biker witches are still quirky and funny but now they have made a real home out of a motel, including a surprisingly beautiful magical courtyard out back. These are the characters we love in new situations, and it’s quite well done.
The plot is a bit meh this time around. We’ve seen this big bad demon multiple times before, as well as the problems with Lizzie’s birth family. It feels a bit like a recycled plot, in spite of some of the finer details being different. I think it’s high time Lizzie gets a new big bad to fight. Additionally, I think a lot of readers will have a problem with the direction the plot goes at the end of the book. Fox pulls up this thing that is earth-shattering to readers, and should be to the characters, but they kind of just brush it off and don’t really deal with the consequences. I’m hoping that they will in the next book, but even if they do, it’s still a rough plot for this book. It starts out ho-hum as something we’ve seen before then in the final third goes suddenly off the rails in a direction a lot of readers won’t like. Kind of a difficult plot to deal with when it’s wrapped in such cute characters, scenes, and overarching series developments.
For those who’ve read it, I seriously question the plot having Lizzie kill Pirate with such vehemence when she’s possessed, only to have him brought right back to life. Now, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the idea of having Lizzie possessed after all of her loved ones were possessed by the same demon in the prior book. That’s an interesting direction to go. But having Lizzie actually kill Pirate? Gut-wrenching to read. And then she faces no consequences because he is just brought back to life, and everyone instantly forgives her? It felt like Fox ripped my heart out for no reason, and then I didn’t forgive Lizzie as fast as her family and friends seemed to. It was a tough ending to the book.
The sex scenes are the perfect level of sexy and romantic. They feel just right for newlyweds but also don’t overwhelm the plot. One character from a prior book is explored more in-depth, and a new character is added. I wasn’t a fan of the latter, but I enjoyed the former.
Overall, this book handles its urban fantasy heroine’s new married life quite well, balancing the romance with the fighting, dangers, and sexiness readers expect. Some readers may be bothered by the fact that the plot starts out feeling like a do-over of previous plots, and some may be bothered by the ending of the book. However, fans of the series should definitely pick this one up to see where Lizzie and the gang are heading, and they will be left wanting to pick up the next one as quickly as possible.
4 out of 5 stars
Previous Books in Series:
The Accidental Demon Slayer, review
The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers, review
A Tale of Two Demon Slayers, review
The Last of the Demon Slayers, review
My Big Fat Demon Slayer Wedding, review
Rachel is a doctor in the slums outside of London. It’s not a great place to live, but it’s safer than a lot of the other options available. She’s also a Reacher with telepathic powers. Since she was a young girl, she learned to hide her abilities and always know her exits so she could run at any time. But when two brothers show up, one a wounded Reacher, and tell her a mobster sent them looking for her, she has to decide whether to run again or trust the brothers.
Near-future dystopias will never cease in their appeal to me, and so I was fairly quick to accept this one when I was choosing ARCs to read for 2014. The book offers a grim dystopia but far less running than one would imagine from the title.
The book establishes the overall dreary setting of a dystopia fairly quickly. Rachel’s work at the hospital and commuting home from it is dirty and grimy. Society is clearly barely functioning, a fact that is smoothly and clearly established. It takes a bit more time to learn more about the over-arching world, and the fact that Rachel is a “Reacher,” a person with some form of telepathic powers. For some reason, the government is seeking to eradicate all Reachers, whereas the church, which is illegal, views them as angels sent from above, metaphorically speaking. It’s an interesting world but our view into it is quite narrow, so there’s a lot of questions left unanswered.
Rachel is a good, strong character who is well-rounded in spite of knowing little of her backstory. The brothers, on the other hand, are kind of annoying and two-dimensional. They and the general crime lords/corrupt cops feel much more cookie cutter than Rachel does. In a way, they drag her down. It’s hard to root for her when she chooses to cast in lots with this bunch.
Similarly, the plot focuses in on what feels more like a standard crime thriller plot, rather than a dystopian one. It’s a good crime plot, but it’s not a dystopian one. The title implies a much more dystopian style book, such as Rachel using her powers to outwit the government and start a new colony or something like that. Instead it feels a bit more like an urban fantasy style crime plot that just so happens to be surrounded by society breaking down, somewhere out there. I think marketing it as a running game, rather than as the crime mystery plot it really is hinders the book a bit. Readers who would like an urban fantasy style futuristic crime novel might miss it, because it sounds so dystopian. The title and summary give the vibe of a Logan’s Run or Maze Runner style book, when that’s not what it is. What it is is a perfectly good futuristic crime novel, but that’s not what it sounds like.
Overall, this is a quick-moving tale of futuristic crime with a dash of telepathic powers and an easily imagined setting. Fans of near future, fantasy, and crime will enjoy seeing the three intertwine. Those looking for more of a scifi or dystopian focus should look elsewhere.
3 out of 5 stars
Source: kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review
Miriam Black is on her own once again after sending her truck driver boyfriend to the curb. She’s taken to periodically messing with fate by killing the killers she sees in her visions of the deaths of the people she touches. When she gets an offer on Craigslist to read someone’s future death in Florida, it comes at a time when she can’t pass it up, as a recently homeless person. She heads to Florida figuring she might also tackle the demon of her relationship with her mother. Two birds, one stone. But Florida ends up being much more than a quick job and a quick visit.
I snatch up a new Miriam Black book the first chance I get because I so love the prose style of the books (I’m uncertain if Wendig’s other books read similarly, as I haven’t read any), and I also love Miriam as a character very much (I would definitely run the other way if I spotted her on the street at night). This third entry in the series didn’t disappoint, although I periodically wondered if Miriam’s bad-assness would be sacrificed for character growth.
The urban fantasy world of Miriam Black continues to be slowly fleshed out in this book. We meet a couple more characters with supernatural abilities, not exactly Miriam’s but similar in that they function in the mind. We also start to understand what might cause such a thing to happen. And how Wendig presents this information is beautifully crafted. It is a part of the story, a wonderful example of showing not telling.
Miriam doesn’t just cause chaos and get away with it, and this book fairly clearly exists to show us that Miriam is not invincible, even if she may sometimes seem it in earlier books. She’s a tough broad with a mental gift brutally acquired, and she’s trying to figure out how to function and do the right thing in this incredibly fucked up situation where she is battling unknown forces, particularly fate.
The plot forces Miriam to confront two bad specters from her past: an ex lover and her mother. I was fine with confronting the ex lover, and how it went down made sense. I was incredibly wary of her confrontations with her mother. Her mother was established as a fundamentalist abusive ball of shit in the previous books, and I was deeply concerned that Wendig was going to try to either make it seem like it was all in Miriam’s head or offer redemption for her. And the plot does sometimes dance on the edge of doing one or the other of these. But the way Miriam reacts to her mother in their confrontations help keep it grounded and realistic that not all mothers are great people. In one confrontation she tells her mother,
Don’t act surprised that I have this cyanide cocktail in my heart. Like they say on that old dumb-ass drug commercial: I learned it by watching you. (loc 1824)
On the other hand, an awful lot of the plot revolves around Miriam saving her mother from her untimely death at the hands of a kidnapper. I just have a hard time believing, especially given the vitriol Miriam has felt for her mother this entire time, that she would actually care that much if her mother dies. I get it that Miriam might very much not want the kidnapper to get away with it, because she hates him and he’s fucking with her, but I don’t think Miriam would actually get misty-eyed at the thought of her mother’s untimely demise. It felt forced instead of being Miriam. That said, the plot does manage to stick to its guns enough that Miriam comes out of the situation still seeming like her cyanide-filled self, so I can’t fault it too much for veering that close to the edge.
I would be amiss not to mention the fact that his book establishes the fact that Miriam is bisexual. Of course, she refuses to use the term herself, and I’m fairly certain no one actually ever calls her bi. Normally a bi character refusing to call herself bi would drive me batty, but Miriam refusing labels fits 100% into her character. She doesn’t see the need to label who she fucks and other characters’ attempts to figure her out are met with disgust on her part but that’s how she feels about everything about herself. Yes, I wish more functional non-cyanide cocktail hearted characters were bi, but I also am pretty darn happy that a character I enjoy so much is bi. Plus, scenes of Miriam banging a woman were an unexpected utter delight.
The plot does a great job of being both a single book conflict and something that ultimately propels the overarching plot forward, which is exactly what one hopes for from a series book.
The writing style maintains its gritty sharpness that the series has enjoyed from the beginning. Both the narration and the conversations are a pleasure to read. Passages like those listed below are peppered throughout the book, accosting the reader with the knowledge that we are in Miriam’s world now.
Meetings are like black holes: they eat up the hours, they suck in the light, they gorge on his productivity. (loc 92)
I’m a certified bad-ass indestructible bitch. The sun tries to burn me, I’ll kick him in his fiery balls. I don’t need no stinking suntan lotion. (loc 2787)
Overall, this book brings most things readers have come to expect from a Miriam Black book. A gritty female main character with hard-hitting prose and a plot with a touch of the fantastic and grotesque. Some fans might be a bit disappointed by the direction Miriam’s relationship with her mother goes, but all readers will be pumped by the ending and eagerly anticipating the next entry. Recommended that fans of the first two books pick this one asap.
4 out of 5 stars
Lizzie Brown, once preschool teacher turned demon slayer, is extremely excited to be marrying her true love, Dimitri Kallinikos, who just so happens to also be a magical shape-changing griffin. And she’s also fine with letting her adoptive mother run the whole show, even though her mother wants to make the wedding into a week-long event. She’s not so ok with having to tell her mother about being a demon slayer, though. Or about integrating her mother’s posh southern lady lifestyle with her recently discovered blood-related grandmother’s biker witch gang. She’s pleasantly surprised that her mother found a goth-style mansion to rent for the wedding. Maybe the magical and the non-magical can integrate fairly well, after all. But then it becomes evident that someone in the wedding is trying to kill her. Plus, they find demonic images around the property…..
This remains one of my most enjoyed urban fantasy series. The world Fox has created is bright, witty, imaginative, and a real pleasure to visit, even though sometimes the main character can rub me the wrong way (she’s a bit too straight-laced for me sometimes). Urban fantasy books can either keep the main character perpetually single or have her get married. If they choose to get married, the wedding book winds up with a lot on its plate. It’s hard to integrate the world of urban fantasy with the wedding scene a lot of readers enjoy reading about. Fox achieves this integration eloquently, presenting an intriguing urban fantasy mystery, the clash of urban fantasy magical folks and real world expectations, and manages to show the wedding is about the marriage, not the party.
My main gripe with the previous book was Dimitri and Lizzie’s relationship. Primarily that they don’t appreciate what they have, and how annoying that is. I think the events of the previous book really snapped them out of it, because here, Lizzie and Dimitri have taken their relationship to another level. They have a trust in and intimacy with one another that manages to withstand some pretty tough tests, and is a pleasure to read about. It’s easy to see that this is a couple that is ready for a marriage. It’s a healthy relationship that’s rare to see in urban fantasy. At this point in the series, I can appreciate that Dimitri and Lizzie aren’t perfect in the earlier books. Relationships change and grow with time, and Fox demonstrates that beautifully. Of course, it’s still more fun to read about a happy couple than one bickering with each other over minor things. But those hiccups in the relationship in earlier books helps make it (and the marriage) seem more real.
Similarly, Lizzie has grown with the series. Where at first she’s annoyingly straight-laced, now she is not just starting to break out of that but is enjoying breaking out of it. Seeing her adoptive mother pushes this issue to the forefront. Lizzie is finally coming into her own, and she, and her loving mother, have to confront that.
[Lizzie's mother] paused, straightened her already squared shoulders. “Is this type of style…” she waved a hand over me, “appealing to you? You look like a hooligan.” I let out a sigh. “Try biker.” (page 16)
Whereas this confrontation between Lizzie and her mother could have led to the mother looking like a bad guy, Fox leaves room for Lizzie’s mom to be different from her but still a good person and a loving parent. They butt heads over different opinions, just as real-life parents and adult children do, but they both strive to work through them and love each other for who they are. It’s nice to see how eloquently Fox handles that relationship, particularly with so many other plot issues going on at the same time.
The plot is a combination of wedding events and demon problems. Both ultimately intertwine in a scene that I’m sure is part of many bride’s nightmares. Only it really happens because this is urban fantasy. How Fox wrote the plots to get to that point is enjoyable, makes sense, and works splendidly. The climax perfectly demonstrates how to integrate urban fantasy and real life situations. Plus, I did not come even close to guessing the ending, which is a big deal to me as a reader.
The wit and sex scenes both stay at the highly enjoyable level that has been present throughout the series. Dimitri and Lizzie are hot because they are so hot for and comfortable with each other. The humor is a combination of slapstick and tongue-in-cheek dry humor that fits the world perfectly. I actually laughed aloud quite a few times while reading the book.
Overall, this is an excellent entry in this urban fantasy series. It tackles the wedding of the main character with a joyful gusto that leaves the reader full of wedding happiness and perhaps breathing a sigh of relief that no matter what may go wrong at their wedding, it couldn’t possibly be as bad as what can go wrong at an urban fantasy wedding. Highly recommended to fans of the series. You won’t be disappointed in Lizzie’s wedding, and you’ll be left eager to see her marriage.
5 out of 5 stars
Jack Strayhorn is a private eye and a member of Alcoholic’s Anonymous. Only, he’s not an alcoholic, he’s one of the vampires who meet in a secret vampire group that exists under the umbrella of AA to learn how to control their urges and feed on humans without killing them. He’s just returned to LA, his death site that he hasn’t been back to since he had to run in 1948 after becoming a vampire. When his current missing person case shows up dead next to a Fae politician, Jack gets dragged into a mixed-up underworld of Faes, werewolves, drugs, and a group of vampires determined to rule the world.
This is one of the twelve indie books I accepted to be reviewed on my blog in 2014 (complete list). I was immediately intrigued by the summary, due to its delightful urban fantasy/paranormal take on AA. The book delivers exactly what it promises, spiced with a noir writing style.
Jack Strayhorn is the perfect paranormal version of the noir-style hardboiled detective. He’s got a biting, snarky wit, a handsome presence, a sharp mind, and is a bit distant and mysterious. It’s just in this case he’s distant and mysterious because he’s a vampire. Making the private eye a vampire makes his character unique in noir, and, similarly, making the vampire a private eye with his focus primarily on crime solving and not paranormal politics gives the urban fantasy vampire a unique twist. Jack is presented as a complex character, one who we could not possibly get to know fully in just the first entry in the series. It’s easy to see how he will manage to carry the proposed 12 entries in the series.
Supporting Jack is a wide range of characters who accurately portray the diversity in a large town like LA, as well as the diversity one expects in a paranormal world. The characters are multiple races and classes. Whereas some urban fantasy books slowly reveal the presence of more and more paranormal races throughout the series, this book starts out with quite a few, and that is a nice change of pace. Most urban fantasy readers expect there to be more than just vampires, and the book meets the urban fantasy reader where they’re at. Even though the book has a large cast, the secondary characters never blend together. They are easily remembered, and the diversity probably helps with that.
I like the idea of vampires having an AA-like group, but I’m still not sure how I feel about this group existing as some secret under the umbrella of AA itself. The book even goes so far as to say the the founder of AA was a vampire himself, and used the human illness of alcoholism as a cover for the vampire group. I like and appreciate vampirism as a disease that some people just mysteriously have at birth as an analogy for alcoholism, but I feel that having it present in the same group as the real life AA groups dampens the realness of actual AA, weakening the analogy instead of strengthening it. I’ve seen books before have paranormal people get together in AA-style groups (zombies anonymous springs to mind), and in real life AA has spinoffs such as Narcotics Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous. Prior to reading the book I thought maybe something might be added by having the vampires be a secret organization under AA, but after reading the book, I don’t think it did. I think the analogy would have been stronger if vampires spotted the similarities of their genetic vampirism with alcoholism and formed a “vampires anonymous” group, inspired by AA. Something about vampires creating AA themselves as a cover hits a bit of a sour note and weakens the analogy.
The plot is complex, with just enough twists and surprises. There were parts of the ending that I was unable to predict. The plot contained within the book was wrapped up sufficiently, and the overarching plot intending to cover the whole series was well-established and filled me with the desire to keep reading. Unfortunately, the second book isn’t out yet, so I will just have to wait!
Overall, this is a delightful mix of urban fantasy and noir and is a strong first entry for a new series. Some readers might dislike the paranormal take on Alcoholic’s Anonymous found within the book, but it is secondary to the mystery/noir plot and easy to gloss over if necessary. Recommended to urban fantasy readers looking to venture into noir or vice versa, as well as anyone who enjoys both urban fantasy and noir.
4 out of 5 stars
Source: kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review
I post series reviews after completing reading an entire series of books. It gives me a chance to reflect on and analyze the series as a whole. These series reviews are designed to also be useful for people who: A) have read the series too and would like to read other thoughts on it or discuss it with others OR B) have not read the series yet but would like a full idea of what the series is like, including possible spoilers, prior to reading it themselves or buying it for another. Please be aware that series reviews necessarily contain some spoilers.
Sookie Stackhouse is a waitress in the rural town of Bon Temps, Louisiana, and she has a secret. She’s a telepath, and it’s ostracized her from most of the people in her town. But when vampires come out of the coffin, Sookie discovers that she can’t read their minds. Mind reading made her dating life non-existent, for obvious reasons, but with vampires, Sookie can feel somewhat normal. She soon starts to get pulled into their supernatural world, which contains more than they’re letting on to the mainstream public.
I first want to make it very clear that this series review is talking exclusively about the books and not the tv show inspired by them, True Blood. There will be no spoilers for the show and no comparisons between the books and the show. The show diverged very quickly from the books, so I think it’s fair to keep discussion of the two separate. Moving right along!
This series takes the mystery series whodunit in the vein of Agatha Christie and drenches it in the supernatural and the American south, utilizing it to tell the overarching story of one woman choosing who she wants to be. Perhaps because of the presence of some handsome leading men and the occasional sex scene, some mistake the series for a romance one. But this series is truly not a romance. Sookie’s romantic life (and sex life) is really secondary to the mysteries she solves and her slow discovery of who she is and who she wants to be.
The whodunit plots are generally murder mysteries. The violence is moderate. If you can handle a vampire biting someone or knowing someone is being beheaded without actually getting the gore described to you, you can handle the violence in this series. The whodunit plots start out engaging but gradually become more repetitive and ho-hum, almost as if the author was running out of ideas for situations to place Sookie in. Similarly, Sookie gets kidnapped and has to get saved by her supernatural friends kind of a lot.
The setting of a supernatural American south is well imagined and evoked. Both small town, rural lives and larger southern cities like Dallas and New Orleans are touched upon. The American north is visited once, however, Sookie has a strong aversion to northern women that sours the representation of the north in the book.
The characters can sometimes feel like overwrought caricatures. While some characters are given depth, most are not. This is odd, since Sookie can read minds. one would assume that she, as the first person narrator, would have a very three-dimensional view of those around her. And yet she doesn’t. Sookie likes to say that she’s for equality and seeing the good in everyone but she actually judges people very harshly. For instance, she thinks it’s a shame that women who are not virgins wear white wedding dresses.
Sookie’s character does develop, albeit minimally, over the course of the books. Characters should grow and change, particularly over the course of 13 books, but unfortunately Sookie’s character changes to become less and less likable. This is extra frustrating when the book is told from her perspective. Instead of becoming more powerful and strong (emotionally, mentally) over the course of the series, Sookie becomes less and less able to handle the things going on around her. She also continues to act shocked and appalled at the wars and violence she doesn’t just see, but participates in, in spite of it now being a normal part of her life. Perhaps if she was just repeatedly a victim this mentality would make sense, but Sookie enacts violence on those around her and then acts disgusted at what the vampires/werewolves/etc… do, which comes off as hypocritical. Either own your own actions and validate their necessity or stop doing them. Don’t do certain violent actions then deny your involvement while simultaneously judging others for doing precisely what you just did. The fact that Sookie slowly becomes this hypocritical person makes her less and less likable. Similarly, she starts out the books with a firm belief in social justice and equality for supes but over the course of the series clearly comes to believe that humans are better than supes. I don’t blame her for wanting a quiet life or for wanting to stay human or wanting to have babies but she could have done all of those things without coming to view supes as inferior. It is frustrating for the reader to have a main character in an almost cozy style mystery series gradually change into someone it is difficult to empathize with.
There is a consistent presence of GLBTQ characters, albeit mostly in secondary roles, throughout the series. Homophobia is depicted in an extremely negative light since only the bad guys ever exhibit it. Unfortunately, there is an instance of bi erasure in the book. One of the characters is identified as gay but everyone also acknowledges that he periodically sleeps with women. Even the character himself calls himself gay, so this isn’t just a case of the author writing a realistic amount of the realities of bi erasure into the book.
The sex in the book is not well-written. It is just awkward, cringe-inducing, and laughable most of the time. But the sex scenes aren’t very often, and they do fit in with the rest of the book. Just don’t go to this series looking to get really turned on.
This sounds like a lot of criticism for the series but some of these things, such as the campy, two-dimensional characters, are part of what makes the series enjoyable. It’s kitschy, not to be taken too seriously. It’s a series to come to and read precisely to laugh and roll your eyes. To be utterly bemused at the sheer number of supernatural creatures and the ridiculousness of how they organize themselves. To sigh in frustration at Sookie as she gets kidnapped yet again or is oblivious yet again to who the murderer is. It’s a series that’s candy for those who enjoy camp and not too much violence with a touch of the supernatural in their mysteries.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Books in Series:
Dead Until Dark, review
Living Dead in Dallas, review
Club Dead, review
Dead To The World, review
Dead as a Doornail, review
Definitely Dead, review
All Together Dead, review
From Dead to Worse, review
Dead And Gone, review
Dead in the Family, review
Dead Reckoning, review
Dead Ever After, review