Review: Heirs of Grace by Tim Pratt

Heirs of GraceHeirs of Grace by Tim Pratt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Recent art school graduate Bekah thought she’d hit the jackpot: an unknown relative died, and she inherited a small fortune and a huge house in the mountains of North Carolina.

Trey Howard, the lawyer who handled the estate, is a handsome man in his twenties and they hit it off right away-and soon become more than friends. Bekah expected a pleasant year to get her head together and have a romantic fling. Problem is, the house is full of junk…and siblings she didn’t know she had are willing to kill her for it.

More important, the junk in her new house is magical, she’s surrounded by monsters, and her life seems to be in mortal peril every time she ventures into a new room. As Bekah discovers more about her mysterious benefactor and the magical world he inhabited, she’s realizes that as tough and resourceful as she is, she might just be in over her head…

Heirs of Grace is a tale of family and magic, action and wonder, blending the strong heroine, cheeky humor, and dark fantasy that have become the hallmarks of Tim Pratt’s writing.

Sound the alarms, I’ve found a new author to obsess over! Tim Pratt did such an amazing job with this book, I really can’t emphasize that enough.

Such a good book! It combines all of the elements of a book I’d love to read into a perfectly executed mélange of I-want-to-read-this: The South, big old magical inherited houses, cool objects of power, female protagonists that are kick ass, etc.

Tim Pratt writes like Ilona Andrews and Diana Wynne Jones had a beautiful, witty, male, also-writerly baby. Bekah, the protagonist, is so refreshing. It’s strange to say that I loved a female character written by a man so much more than any female characters I’ve read written by anyone else, recently, but I really did. Granted, men have been writing good female characters for the entirety of human history. It’s just rare, like most excellent things.

Also, the setting of the story being in and around Boone, North Carolina was just funny, because one of my best friends in Denver lived there and talks about it every now and again, so I feel like I know it.

Also, I had a fun exchange after the laugh I got on the second page:

The old woman gestured vaguely at me. She was wearing white gloves, which fit her general level of dress, but seemed better suited to high tea or church than general sitting around. She clarified: “Are you [so]me kind of Mexican?” That was a new one. Sometimes on forms I check “Other” and sometimes I check “Pacific Islander” and often other people mark me down as “Black” (which my adoptive parents are, and almost certainly some of my biological ancestors, too), but I’d never been self- or other-identified as “some kind of Mexican.” Welcome to the South, I guess. I hadn’t spent much time in this part of the country, and the first person I spoke to in my temporary new home wasn’t making me look forward to future human interactions. “Sure,” I said. “Some kind of Mexican.
Buenos días and vete a la chingada.”  

I laughed so hard I had to call my coworker Val over to laugh with me.
Me: “Wouldn’t it be ‘va te a la chingada?'”
Val: “I don’t know, I don’t really write in Spanish.”
Me: “Well how would you tell someone to go fuck themselves?”
Val (with a completely straight face): “Go fuck yourself. You gotta say it so they understand.”

Val is great. Anyway, you should read this book. It probably won’t change your life but you will probably like it and laugh at least once. I almost never laugh at books. I think Ilona Andrews, Jim Butcher and JK Rowling are the only other writers who have ever made me laugh. Pratt has a series about a woman named Marla Mason which I intend to start reading immediately. Well, immediately after the 37 other books I have waiting in the wings. We will see which priority wins out.

Review: Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout (Lux, #1)

Obsidian (Lux, #1)Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Published May 8th 2012 by Entangled Publishing, LLC (first published November 23rd 2011)
ISBN 162061006X

When seventeen-year-old Katy Swartz moved to West Virginia right before her senior year, she’d pretty much resigned herself to thick accents, dodgy internet access, and a whole lot of boring, but then she spotted her hot neighbor, with his looming height and eerie green eyes. Things were looking up…until he opened his mouth. Daemon Black is infuriating. Arrogant. Stab-worthy. It’s hate at first sight, but when a stranger attacks her and Daemon literally freezes time with a wave of his hand, well, something…unexpected happens. The hot guy next door? Well, he’s an alien. Turns out that Daemon and his sister have a galaxy of enemies wanting to steal their abilities and Katy is caught in the crosshairs. Daemon’s touch has lit her up like the Vegas Strip and the only way she’s getting out of this alive is by sticking close to him until her alien mojo fades. That is if she doesn’t kill him first.

You know how sometimes a book is just exactly what you needed and is so particularly good at what it is that you just…

You just read it until 3am.

That’s how good this book is. What it does, it does perfectly. I’m so blown away by how excellently the twisty, embarrassing, infuriating feelings of adolescence are crystallized in this book.

And there are also aliens. Come onnnnn this is too good.

Katy is so likeable, and very real. She has insecurities, but they aren’t crippling or overdone. She’s beautifully admirable in her courage. She’s so many things I was at her age but she manages to overcome them.

Let’s not even get me started on the chemistry. Hnng. Hnnnnnnnng.

Can I just say I’m glad I was a hopelessly abstinent loser in high school because if I had a boy like Daemon living next door, taunting me like that, I would have spent all of my spare time scratching at his bedroom window. Hooo lawdy.

Jennifer Armentrout does rocky, awkward, embarrassing, douchey relationships well. She does action and mysterious backgrounds well. Action, check. Banter, check. Mean teenagers, check check.

Just…read this book so we can fangirl over it together.

And yes, before anyone asks, I AM jealous that fictional, seventeen year old Katy’s book blog is more popular than mine.

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Review: Magic Bites (Kate Daniels #1) by Ilona Andrews

Magic Bites (Kate Daniels, #1)Magic Bites
by Ilona Andrews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Published April 1st 2007 by Penguin  
(first published March 27th 2007)

ISBN 0441014895 

When the magic is up, rogue mages cast their spells and monsters appear, while guns refuse to fire and cars fail to start. But then technology returns, and the magic recedes as unpredictably as it arose, leaving all kinds of paranormal problems in its wake.

Kate Daniels is a down-on-her-luck mercenary who makes her living cleaning up these magical problems. But when Kate’s guardian is murdered, her quest for justice draws her into a power struggle between two strong factions within Atlanta’s magic circles.

The Masters of the Dead, necromancers who can control vampires, and the Pack, a paramilitary clan of shapechangers, blame each other for a series of bizarre killings—and the death of Kate’s guardian may be part of the same mystery. Pressured by both sides to find the killer, Kate realizes she’s way out of her league—but she wouldn’t have it any other way…-from Goodreads

I waited too long to review this book, and now I don’t really remember enough of my first impression to give an objective review.

Kate Daniels is a mercenary-for-hire in a world where magic and technology vie for dominance in waves, kind of like large scale power outages (which do happen when the magic is on). Civilization, left reeling when buildings began collapsing and cars and airplanes became unreliable, has had to adapt to the resurgence of mystical, mythical forces in their world.

Interesting set-up, non? The world-building is pretty excellent. The concept takes a bit to warm up on you, but luckily this book has an excellent protagonist and otherwise solid characterization to keep you company while you adjust. Kate is a bit of a mysterious character at the outset, and there are details about her you don’t discover by the end of the book. Not so enigmatic that it drives you crazy, but just intriguing enough to make the details stick in your head.

There are few weaknesses about this book, and if I’d reviewed it right away I may not have mentioned them at all, the first being that nearly every male character in this book is described as somewhat attractive. The mind reels. It’s not a romance novel, and it’s not trying not to be either. Nearly every single one of these attractive men propositions Kate at some point. She turns them all down, naturally, because trope. It sounds unkind, but you want to think that this protagonist is different from all of the other self-sufficient women protagonists who are super hot and extra caustic. She is and she isn’t. Unfortunately you don’t find out until later books why she ISN’T quite as unreasonably chaste and trope-y as she comes off. So in this context, the romances are a bit silly.

Fortunately, this book has something very few others do, aside from well executed writing from multiple authors. It has legitimately funny moments. I’ve mentioned before how difficult it is for me to read really joke-y books, because either the humor doesn’t lift off the page or because it just doesn’t ring true with me specifically. I’m weird. But Magic Bites DID make me laugh. More than once, less than five times. The acerbic wit Kate spouts is spot on. The punch lines are punchy. I can’t even believe I am saying it. I NEVER say this. But it was.

Sickle claws shot from the tips of his stubby fingers. He spread his fingers in a catlike kneading motion, scraping the wooden surface of the table. “Oh boy,” I said. “How do you fluff your pillows at night?”

And later, a conversation between Kate and The Beast Lord, Curran:

“What happened to the alpha-wolf?”
“Legos?” It sounded Greek but I couldn’t recall anything mythological with that name. Wasn’t it an island?
“He was carrying a load of laundry into the basement and tripped on the old set of LEGOs his kids left on the stairs. Broke two ribs and an ankle. He’ll be out of commission for two weeks.” Curran shook his head. “He picked a hell of a time. If I didn’t need him I’d kill him.”

I dimly recall chortling for several seconds over that one. There are other, funnier moments in subsequent books, these are just the ones I remembered to highlight here.

The final thing I really liked about Kate Daniels as a protagonist and the reality of this fictional world, was how realistically and humanly Kate and other characters reacted to things. If she was in danger, Kate was afraid. REALLY afraid. Not paralysed, but decently fearful. Monsters were monstrous – the vampires, for example, are horrifying in this universe. No Edward Cullens here. If someone got hurt (and didn’t have super regeneration powers) they didn’t miraculously push through it (though I suppose this is debatable. I tend to pass out from shock if I so much as sprain an ankle).

All in all this was a GREAT book and it opens a GREAT series. I eagerly await the latest.

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