Review: Hounded by Kevin Hearne

Book: Hounded
Author: Kevin Hearne
Publisher: Del Ray
Release date: May 3, 2011
Source: Local library
Series: Iron Druid Chronicles #1

Summary from Goodreads: The first novel in an original, back-to-back three-book series The Iron Druid Chronicles–introducing a cool, new, funny urban fantasy hero Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old–when in actuality, he’s twenty-one “centuries” old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.

Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power–plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a sexy bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish–to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.

First impressions: Knowing absolutely nothing about Celtic mythology, this book threw me into a madcap new world full of hilariously entertaining gods and mortals.

Lasting impressions: This one lives up to the hype. Atticus is a charming protagonist with plenty of opportunities to dazzle us, both in this book and the rest of the series.

Conflicting impressions: I didn’t get a good sense of the danger involved with this plot. Atticus seemed to have an easy fix for everything, and although the final battle was realistically short, things resolved themselves a bit too quickly for my taste. I wanted him to have to work a bit harder to keep Fragarach from the bad guys.

Overall impressions: Don’t even ask me to use names other than Atticus, Oberon, and the Morrigan. There are so many Irish names and places that the book has to start out with a pronunciation guide, and even then I mostly made it up as I went (good thing Mr. Hearne suggests that as an excellent solution). I think Missie had the right idea with the audiobook.

Atticus is thousands of years old, but currently living as a 21 year old occult bookstore owner near the Arizona State University campus. He’s accompanied almost everywhere by his Irish wolfhound, Oberon, whom he has magically charmed into the ability to communicate through a kind of telepathy. Atticus can bind himself to Oberon’s mind, and the two trade a fair amount of dialogue throughout the book.

And let me tell you – Oberon is fecking hilarious. He knows how to push Atticus’s buttons, he has snarky comments about everyone and everything going on around him, and yet he remains sweetly dog-like so as to remain believable. If my dog could talk, I would hope she’d sound like Oberon.

The plot moves quickly and is pretty straightforward. Atticus has a magical sword that one of the unpronounceably-named gods wants for himself, and the rest of the gods are picking sides and forming unwieldy alliances among themselves, a coven of local witches, and even the demons of Hell. Lots of betrayal and mystery, thrown in a blender with copious amounts of action and battles. Add in the colorful side characters (like the possessed bartender and the vampire/werewolf lawyer team) and you can’t help but fall in love.

Despite the too easily achieved resolution and what I found to be an inadequate backstory for us Celtic mythology-challenged readers, any urban fantasy reader will gobble up this series. I’m excited to continue on to the next book, and thank you, my fellow bloggers, for convincing me this was a must-read.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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Review: Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Book: Paranormalcy
Author: Kiersten White
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: August 31, 2010
Source: Borrowed ebook from library
Series: Paranormalcy #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) Weird as it is working for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, Evieâ??s always thought of herself as normal. Sure, her best friend is a mermaid, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours, but still. Normal.

Only now paranormals are dying, and Evie’s dreams are filled with haunting voices and mysterious prophecies. She soon realizes that there may be a link between her abilities and the sudden rash of deaths. Not only that, but she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal.

First impressions: I have to admit that with the number of people hoisting accolades upon Evie, I didn’t want to like her. Or this book. Evie is like the super-popular girl at your new school that everyone says is so nice, but you don’t believe them because anyone that popular, and pretty, and cool, cannot possibly also be nice.

But I can admit when I’m wrong. Evie is amazing.

Lasting impressions: The plot may be forgettable, but Evie and Reth and Lend are not. Or Lish. Or Raquel. Or David. Let’s be real – the characters are what make this one.

Conflicting impressions: What happened in this book? I read it a week ago. This shouldn’t be hard.

*thinks*

Hm. Evie wears pink boots? She meets a boy? A girl is on fire?

That’s all I got.

Overall impressions: Despite the fact that my brain has turned to mush and I can’t recall how this one ended (or, maybe, much of what happened in the middle), I do know that I liked it.

Evie is a force to be reckoned with, but not in the butt-kicking way you would normally associate with strong heroines. No, in Evie’s case, it is entirely based around her strong personality. I dare you to read 5 sentences of this book and NOT be able to tell me everything about her. Trust me when I say that you know who she is immediately, and that is always a great thing.

Kiersten White’s gift is writing strong characters. Each one of them, though colored by Evie’s perceptions, is full and vibrant. In fact, even the ones that Evie likes (Reth) can still be so forceful that I can make independent judgments about them. (RETH.) This may be Evie’s world, but we can still tell who is bad news. (Reth. RETH. RETH!!)

Ahem. So let’s talk about Reth, shall we? It’s not like I have strong feelings about him. Or feel the need to beat him to death with his own shoes.

Okay, I lied. I do have both of those things. I hate Reth, AND I want to beat him with his shoes. He is cocky, obnoxious, creepy, inconsiderate, rude, and a severe violator of Evie’s freedoms and personal space. He carts her off to his house and traps her there, touches and kisses her when she doesn’t want him to do so, and somehow the simple fact that he is an ex-boyfriend is supposed to make this okay? He’s a fairy, which earns him negative bonus points, and I wish he was not in this book.

I hope I’m being clear as to how I feel.

Even with Grossy McStabintheeye, the book is still enjoyable. I’d rather have strong feelings about a book than no feelings at all. Evie is delightful, even with her tacky style (hot pink boots and zebra print, I’m looking at you), and I adored her main love interest, Lend. Their relationship moved at a snail’s pace, which I thought made it that much more authentic. Throw in charming side characters and a unique setting, and this is one cute book.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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Skinwalker by Faith Hunter

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Book: Skinwalker
Author: Faith Hunter
Publisher: Roc
Release date: May 22, 2009
Source: Bought for Kindle
Series: Jane Yellowrock #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) As a freelance skinwalker, Jane Yellowrock spends most of her time hunting down snarling vampires. In her latest gig, however, this Cherokee stalker receives a call from an unexpected client: New Orleans vampire madam Katherine Fontaneau wants Jane’s help in “neutralizing” a rogue of her species who has been slaughtering other vampires.

First impressions: I was really looking forward to reading this book. My mom recommended it to me after I said how much I liked the Mercy Thompson books, and in this series Jane Yellowrock shapeshifts into a cougar. A cougar! For realsies. I was super psyched, and the opening sucked me in right away.

Lasting impressions: Disappointing. Maybe I hyped it up too much. Maybe it just wasn’t my kind of story. Either way, I ended up not enjoying this one as much as I had hoped.

Conflicting impressions: The major thing that didn’t work for me was the transition into Beast’s head. Jane shifts into a cougar she calls Beast, and when she does her mind becomes the actual cougar’s, which means lots of stilted phrasing and a limited vocabulary. I found this too distracting and I really struggled to get through those sections.

Overall impressions: There were plenty of things I liked about this book, too. New Orleans becomes almost a character itself. The supporting characters are well developed and Jane is an interesting and independent person who is pretty badass. She’s not sure how she and Beast came to be, well, melded (for lack of a better word), and she struggles to control her at times. She can feel Beast raging around and clawing her insides. It’s a pretty unique characterization that I enjoyed.

It was the plot that gave me troubles, along with Beast’s voice. I found the story overly complex and the mystery confusing. I still couldn’t tell you what happened or who the bad guy was, other than that Jane and Beast ran around a lot, talked to a lot of people, and were hired by vampires to hunt down a rogue. Then stuff happens and her hunt is thwarted and eventually (I think) she figures out whodunit.

It’s been a while since I finished reading it, so in the interest of full disclosure, it could just be my aging memory that’s tripping me up. Overall, though, I didn’t find the story clear or compelling enough to keep my interest for long, particularly when Beast was roaming. I encourage you to give it a try if you like urban fantasy, just beware the cougar.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs

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Book: Silver Borne
Author: Patricia Briggs
Publisher: Ace
Release date: March 30, 2010
Source: Bought for Kindle
Series: Mercy Thompson #5

Summary: (from Goodreads) When mechanic and shapeshifter Mercy Thompson attempts to return a powerful Fae book she’d previously borrowed in an act of desperation, she finds the bookstore locked up and closed down. It seems the book contains secret knowledge-and the Fae will do just about anything to keep it out of the wrong hands. And if that doesn’t take enough of Mercy’s attention, her friend Samuel is struggling with his wolf side-leaving Mercy to cover for him, lest his own father declare Sam’s life forfeit. All in all, Mercy has had better days. And if she isn’t careful, she might not have many more to live.

First impressions: I love when we start these books in Mercy’s garage. I still think having a heroine who is a car mechanic is the coolest thing ever. I wish I knew how to work on cars!

Lasting impressions: Though a bit slower and less exciting than past installments, it was still an enjoyable read.

Conflicting impressions: The Adam-Mercy tension feels a bit contrived at this point. Really? They still can’t figure out how to just love each other? After all this time? With everything Mercy’s been through I’m ready for her happy phase any time now.

Overall impressions: I love this series, and I’ll stick with it until the bitter end, although I hope the end is anything but bitter. It’s been a really long time since I read book 4, so it took me a minute sometimes to process what had happened and where these characters should be. Still, I relaxed into the world easily and comfortably.

The action felt a bit distant somehow. Even though things happened, particularly things I should have been concerned about, Mercy’s reactions to the events around her seemed muted which made me not as worrisome. This is always kind of an issue in the series, since Mercedes doesn’t always think through her actions before realizing she’s in peril. Still, in this book I actively noticed how much Mercy didn’t seem to worry that Sam was stuck as a wolf or that the bookseller was missing.

I cannot stress enough, though, how much I love this world. I love Mercy as a coyote shifter in a world of werewolves. I love that the fae are complex and surprising. I did miss the vampires, notably absent in this book. Patricia Briggs really fleshes out the setting (in the Tri-Cities area of Washington state) to seem bold, yet real. I believe that these creatures could exist in tandem with humans. I accept the magic involved.

If you love urban fantasy, you should be reading this series.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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