Sometimes I read a book, watch an anime, or play a video game and simply don’t have enough thoughts or passionate feelings to fuel a full fledged blog post. Still, I want to share some thoughts concerning the media I am consuming. “Recent Reads” and “Recently Watched” posts seem like exactly the type conducive to the above, and they’re a ton of fun for me to pull together. So today, we’re doing my first “Recent Reads”!
Every year I set a Goodreads goal for myself. Last year I only read 13 books – my lowest number yet – and ultimately failed to meet my goal of 15 books. To say I’m still salty about that is an understatement. I used to read 50+ books a year? What happened? Well whatever it was, I did not want it happening again. So this year my goal was set to 12 books because I wanted to keep the threshold for achievement low – not that 15 books wasn’t already low but I digress…
I’m happy to report that I’ve already read 25 books this year and am well on my way to thirty. I’ve been toying with the idea of raising my Goodreads goal… but for now. I’ll just be pleased with how far I’ve come and gush about my five recent reads below. Enjoy!
#21 | Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Alpha and Omega #5
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ / 5
“You cannot look at a person, and say, ‘If I could change this or that, if I could pick what I want and discard other things, I could love this one.’ Such a love is pale and weak—and doomed to failure.” – Burn Bright
As far as Patricia Briggs series go, I prefer the characters in the Alpha and Omega series but the overall story in the Mercy Thompson series. Both are excellent, even though I sometimes have qualms about the way romance is handled. The previous book in the Alpha & Omega series, Dead Heat, was not particularly good. The mystery felt tame. The horse racing stuff didn’t appeal to me whatsoever. Anna and Charles felt weirdly out of character at times, especially when Anna went on and on about wanting a kid. Since when, Anna? Since when?!
Burn Bright, however, was a great comeback! Anna and Charles do more investigative work that Mercy does, with their both being part of the Marrock’s pack and Charles the Marrock’s “problem enforcer.” Because of such, there is more emphasis on the tenuous bonds between the supernatural and humans and how to keep them from breaking and starting an all-out war between both sides.
With this book, the investigation was closer to home. We explored the darker reaches of the Marrock’s pack – the Wildlings. I loved it! The new characters we encountered were fascinating, and my heart sings at the chance to see more of Asil. This was also a Leah heavy book, which I surprisingly loved? She’s not a character I particularly like, but I came to understand her as a person more. She’s tough as nails, selfish, infuriating, but also loyal and surprisingly relatable.
The only reason this isn’t getting a higher rating is because I felt the mystery was fairly easy to solve and was solved too suddenly. The interactions with the older werewolf Wildlings, however, was so worth it.
#22 | Kindling the Moon by Jenn Bennett
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Arcadia Bell #1
Rating: ⭐ . 5 / 5
“My arms frantically brushed away the clinging web as irrational fear made me batshit-crazy for a moment. Scared of a damn spider when a bloodthirsty demon was chasing me down. Ridiculous.” – Kindling the Moon
Even though Urban Fantasy is my favorite genre, I’m quite picky about the series I follow and choose to one day finish. Some of my favorite authors are Ilona Andrews, Anne Bishop, and Patricia Briggs. At this point, I’ll basically read whatever they write. There are a few authors and series I’ve tried that I want to get back to one day: Seanan McGuire with the October Daye series and Faith Hunter with the Jane Yellowrock series. Others I’ve tried haven’t really been for me like Jeaniene Frost’s Night Hunter series. The Arcadia Bell series now, unfortunately, falls into that latter camp.
Here’s a checklist of things that made me dislike this book: an older love interest with a terribly smarmy attitude, not enough investigation for the main mystery, a main character who didn’t seem to have a realistic sense of priorities and danger and anything really, overall boring-ness, predictable mystery, and the problem of Arcadia having little to no agency and the love interest basically doing all the work.
Sometimes, good storytelling and world-building can make some aspects of a story like an insufferable smarmy love interest bearable – think Hidden Legacy series by Ilona Andrews. For this one… it’s difficult to even think that way since, as the protagonist, Arcadia doesn’t do any real “protagonist-ing.” If your protagonist is super passive, it makes for a really underwhelming story. Protagonists must Protag! As far as world-building goes, the first chapter was pretty cool with her demon bar. But as everything else was an unfortunate downhill slide, I can’t recommend this one.
#23 | Storm Cursed by Patricia Briggs
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Mercy Thompson #11
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ / 5
“Scaring people is fun,” said the witch, stepping out of the shadows about ten feet from the porch.” – Storm Cursed
This one really confused me. Some things about it I absolutely loved. Other things were really infuriating? Why was there a meaningless character death that added nothing at all to the story? How did Elizaveta suddenly turn from how we perceived her to what she actually is? Why did this nonsense about fae and human relations have to happen with Mercy holding their hands the whole way? Why is Adam most likely a Republican? That last one mystified me the most. The plot is a jumbled mess. So what gives it an average rating and not lower?
Getting to know more about witches, Elizaveta, and Wulfe! Vampires and witches have been two of the more mysterious supernatural entities in this series, forever cloaked in death and pain and darkness and evil. The world building is mostly classic in its execution, but that is what I like about it. With great power comes sacrifice, and that is true of all creatures. Additionally, Briggs never let’s us forget that they’re all monsters, and it’s always fun to learn more about monsters.
Overall, the Mercy Thompson series is fantastic, but at 11 books I wonder if it is starting to lose some of its magic. What it needs is a good overarching thread that hints at a future conclusion or build up or conflict. I thought we would be getting more of that now that Adam’s pack is more independent so to speak, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
#24 | Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Hidden Legacy #4
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ . 5 / 5
“I’m curious, have you ever attempted to prevent her from doing what she wanted to do? I’d be delighted to hear how it went.” – Sapphire Flames
The first three books in the Hidden Legacy series follow Nevada and Rogan’s whirlwind romance and Nevada’s family’s ultimate rise to power. In this world, there are people with magical powers. Depending on how great your powers are, you are considered a Prime, Significant, etc. If you have enough magically capable people in your family, you can essentially form a magical house. These houses/families are governed by their own and can often act outside the scope of mundane law enforcement. Being in a house can provide you with a certain amount of protection, but it can also open you up to being vulnerable to all of the other magical houses out there.
At the end of the first three books, House Baylor was formed with Nevada as head of household. Something happens, however, that forces Nevada to step down as house head which instead goes to her younger sister Catalina. The fourth book in the series is Catalina’s story, and I imagine we’ll get at least two more books to follow it up.
This book reminds me of another series I like, but perhaps do not like as much as its predecessor, the “Custard Protocol” series by Gail Carriger. Carriger’s first series set in her supernatural, steampunk world was the “Parasol Protectorate” series with the protagonist being Alexia Tarabotti. “Custard Protocol” follows her daughter Prudence, and wow do Catalina and Nevada echo the same feelings I have about the change to Prudence from Alexia.
Catalina is like a watered down version of Nevada. They go through similar thought processes, but something about Catalina makes her less compelling. I just don’t care about her as much as Nevada. Same goes for Catalina’s love interest which reminded me so much of Prudence’s love interest. Overall, the story was fun and as always I truly enjoy Ilona Andrews’s world building and writing, but it felt like a watered down version of the first three books in the series.
#25 | Grave Witch by Kalayna Price
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Alex Craft #1
Rating: ⭐⭐ . 5 / 5
“Ms. Craft, while I’m sure your charming personality endears you to many people, is there anyone you know who would want to kill you?” – Grave Witch
I’d call this one underwhelming and underdeveloped with a hint of promise. We follow Alex Craft who is a private investigator and consultant for the police. She is particularly good at her job because she is a grave witch who can raise shades of the dead for information. There are a slew of other things she can do with Grave Magic, but you’ll have to read the book to find out.
Grave magic is super cool. I haven’t read much Urban Fantasy with death magic apart from the Mercy Thompson series. However, I’m unsure how any of the magic really works in this book. People go to school for magic in this world so you’d think the magic would be closer to logic than wonder, but I often found myself confused on how it all fit together. I also don’t get how fae and witch magic differ and interact. I’m sure that world building will be expanded in future books though, and for now I’m hesitantly intrigued.
What gave this book such a bad rating is honestly the romance and character interactions. There is the beginning of a love triangle hinted at, and the romance is totally underdeveloped on both fronts. I’ve heard the love triangle extends through multiple books, and I’m just not about that. The most developed love interest, Falin, is also a total vain jerk whose character makes no sense. He’s a higher up in the investigative system but seems to do little to no actual investigation? Also, he does some not so legal things sometimes? Like what? He gave me bad vibes, and I hate the thought of reading a series where I have to put up with him.
At such a low rating, I don’t know if I’ll keep going with this series. Grave magic is super cool, but is it cool enough to keep me reading?