Category Archives: Adult

Monster Hunter International (Monster Hunter International #1)

Title: Monster Hunter International

Author: Larry Correia

Series: Monster Hunter International #1

Owen Pitt’s attempt at a normal life blew up in his face when his boss turned into a werewolf and tried to eat him. Now the former accountant is looking into a new career: hunting the creatures everyone has been told doesn’t exist. But strange visions and an ancient evil plague Owen, and his life is about to get a lot more interesting . . .

This was pretty good, although I’m not in the group that finds the opening scene the best thing ever (guess I just never had bosses that terrible?). The monsters range from werewolves and vampires to much more obscure creatures, which makes me happy (even if the main point is to kill pretty much all of them). The wendigo was a particularly nice surprise.

The action layers with the mystery. I liked how even though Owen is in training to become a big bad monster hunter, he’s also stuck in the middle of mystical visions he can’t control or explain. All the gun talk does go over my head, though I didn’t find it excessive. It’s also a pretty funny story.

I was a bit thrown off by the prose avoiding contractions, which was more noticeable towards the beginning. It made the text sound necessarily stilted.

Overall I enjoyed this, and will probably continue with the series. I rate this book Recommended.

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Convergence (Eve of Redemption #7)

Title: Convergence

Author: Joe Jackson

Series: Eve of Redemption #7

Erik has been kidnapped, but his family is determined to get him back. But Erik isn’t the only problem facing Kari. The city is still smouldering from the aftermath of the attacks, and her body is warning her she can’t keep going with these kinds of adventures . . .

I received a free review copy from the author. However, I liked it enough I also bought the book.

As expected from the ominous news last book, Erik’s situation is grim. Captured by the demon lord he and the Silver Blades once bested, held deep within demon-controlled territory, there’s little chance he’ll be rescued. Yet knowing his siblings, he knows they’ll try.

I liked the unexpected way this worked out. The split viewpoint really helps here, as we can see Erik’s inside view of the situation, as well as Kris’s approach to infiltrating deep enough to have a chance at getting him back. But the complications—some good, some bad—keep forcing both sides to change their approach.

Also, I’m never going to get tired of these werewolves. Sharyn is just enough like the beshathans to cause some really fun interactions.

Kris is a very different leader from Kari or Erik. He takes account of the people with him, the situation around him, and is constantly planning. I like how he’s aware of the potential problems with having fighters who have never actually killed before, and how he deals with the psychological aspects of his team and the enemy. He’s also suitably epic in fights, although I get the feeling he’s got much more in reserve. His divine heritage works somewhat differently than Kari’s gift from Sakkrass.

I like that Kris is a Christian, and acknowledges that this poses a few theological difficulties in a world with multiple gods, but since the plot isn’t here to argue about such niceties, the story just notes it and moves on. In some ways his is a harder faith than Kari, who can interact more directly with her gods, but he’s rock solid in it. And it doesn’t stop him from encouraging Liria to connect with her own creator, Sakkrass.

I also liked getting more of Corbanis. He’s fighting for the family he’s just gotten back, and he’s also quite amusing when he’s really mad.

“Hang on, Aeligos gave me his lock picks,” Corbanis said. He pulled the shield off his back and slammed his girth behind it into the door, smashing the flimsy portal off its hinges with ease. “That was easier than he makes it out to be…”

Erik gets quite a nice arc too. I liked that some of his rough edges are knocked off almost unintentionally as he finds himself in uncharted territory. I can’t wait to see the ways this will change things going forward. I like how an earlier kindness cycled back around again and gave him so much.

We also get a bit of an update on Typhonix, which was nice. Some intriguing hints point to future stories, but for now it’s mostly an interlude to keep everyone up to date.

In an interesting twist, Kari herself isn’t a member of the rescue squad. She’s done so much the last several books, with not much of a chance to take a break, and I think it’s great we see some of that catching up with her enough to force her to tend to her own needs. Of course, that doesn’t mean she’s on vacation. With her house burned down, the Order a mess from the recent incursion, and various other things that crop up, a long journey might have felt like a break.

And by the end she’s MORE than made up for any lower-key things she was involved in before. Kari on the warpath is capable of some delightfully enormous mayhem . . .

I also found it hysterical that Kari finally learns the meaning of the insult she’s been so casually slinging around, and her reaction to the whole episode is priceless.

Overall this is yet another solid entry in a fantastic series. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

The Cult of Unicorns (Penny White #2)

Title: The Cult of Unicorns

Author: Chrys Cymri

Series: Penny White #2

Penny is balancing a life equal parts fantastic and mundane. She has a gryphon and a snail shark in her house, and is a liaison to a parallel world of dragons and other mythical creatures, but she’s also a small-town vicar. And that means sermons, baptisms, weddings, and putting up with an enormous list of petty annoyances. But people have been turning up dead, and the wounds look like they could be from unicorns . . .

This is as crazy and as funny as the first book. Penny mostly deals with stubborn or completely clueless people in her role as vicar, which demands a lot of patience. I like how several characters challenge her on her habit of stretching the truth. In some cases she might be justified, but most of the time it’s just trying to avoid trouble, and even though she doesn’t agree with them I like seeing her called out on it. Penny tends to go for the solution that doesn’t ruffle feathers, when everyone would probably be better off if she instead offered a bit of truth.

And Morey has cemented himself as my favorite character. He’s blisteringly intelligent, but he’s also a gryphon. Which means his perspective on things like hunting is that of a predator. He and Penny have a much better relationship now, but they still snip at each other.

The wedding was also hysterical. I get a definite vibe of “details have been altered but story is true” from so many of these encounters.

I am not fond of the heavy use of alcohol, and how basically everyone (at least in Penny’s circle) tries to drink their problems away. Penny almost reads like a functional alcoholic.

Overall, though, this is a fun story that tackles urban fantasy from the direction of someone of faith. It stands out for the authenticity of the highs and lows of trying to live out that faith, and for the unusual approach. I rate this book Recommended.

The Temptation of Dragons (Penny White #1)

Title: The Temptation of Dragons

Author: Chrys Cymri

Series: Penny White #1

Penny White is a vicar at a tiny little church in England. When she stumbles across a dragon that’s been hit by a car, she learns about a parallel world full of mythological creatures that touches our own. Penny is eager to learn all she can, but she still has a church to pastor, a possibly-murder mystery to investigate, and one man and one dragon competing for her attention . . .

This was sheer fun. Obviously written by someone intimately familiar with the various hazards and hardships of life in the ministry, Penny’s struggles as vicar were some of the funniest parts of the book. I really like that she has an active relationship with God. She’s not just someone who prays, but someone who sees answers to prayer.

As the notes rose and fell, I wondered whether God were giving me a message, or just having a good laugh at my expense. In my experience, it’s often difficult to distinguish between the two.

And of course, there’s plenty of fantasy, from dragons and unicorns to were-beasts and vampires. Also hysterical is that many of these intelligent beings have converted to various religions, and Penny mostly deals with members of the Christian church in the same location as hers but on the other side, which is a sister church. So when she’s not being awed by REAL LIVE DRAGONS she’s having theological debates with the cat-sized gryphon who took up residence in her home. Who is a stickler for a literal reading of the Bible, in contrast to her more liberal positions.

As I looked around the assorted faces – human, dragon, unicorn, vampire, and some for which I didn’t have names – I realised that the interview process had started. I was now going to have to mingle, answer the same questions time and again, and above all be friendly and approachable. It was time for Trial by Buffet.

I am entirely on Morey’s side about James, Penny’s brother, though. His behavior is appalling and Penny, in the name of charity, continues to enable him. Setting some rules or withholding some privileges when he misbehaves shouldn’t be such a problem. Frankly I think she’s not doing him any favors by allowing him to get away with everything.

Overall, this was just a ton of fun. I had a few theological quibbles, but the fact that this is an excellent fantasy starring Christians who are serious about their faith makes those a really minor point (and the arguments between Penny and Morey demonstrate that believers can be on the same team without agreeing on every little thing). And come on, there’s even a reference to Zoroastrians. I’m less fond of the love triangle angle, especially given that one of the love interests is a dragon (REALLY do not want to know how all these mixed-species “marriages” are going to work when some of them have vastly different physiology). But I’m really looking forward to the sequel. I rate this book Recommended.

Discern (Mosaic Chronicles #1)

Title: Discern

Author: Andrea Pearson

Series: Mosaic Chronicles #1

Nicole is settling in her freshman year of college at Katon University. Despite an exemplary high school life, she’s nervous: this is a university for Aretes, those with magic, and although she’s supposedly capable, she hasn’t yet been able to call any magic. But college life throws even more surprises than she expected. Her dorm room is haunted by spiders. A magical book is determined to follow her around. And an expedition is coming up which offers both opportunity and danger . . .

This wasn’t terrible, but it has a lot of really bizarre logic near the end to make the plot work that backfired for me.

The characters were generally good. Nicole comes from a very wealthy background, but her attempts to remain independent of her controlling parents means she’s trying to get through things without them. I actually wish this had gotten a little more focus, particularly when she has to deal with her mom directly. I didn’t see the emotional upheaval I expected (having seen this play out in real life) from having to confront someone who’s trying her hardest to undercut Nicole’s independence. Because despite how much she might hate her family, that’s still a lot of baggage to overcome, and could have provided a bit more depth to the plot.

On the other hand, her struggles with finding out how to release her own power were well-drawn. Only fourth children have magic in this universe (I guess seven was stretching credibility), and although the world appears to be exactly like ours the magic is well known and generally accepted. I do wish the small hints about its origin had gotten a bit more explanation. Magic on the whole appears to be a hard career, as users are limited both by ability and by how much they train and study. Nichole has the studying side down, because that’s the only variable she feels she can control.

I don’t care for romances in general, so I skimmed the parts where Nicole is noticing the hot prodigy who refuses to talk to her. That plays out pretty much how you might expect, from the initial frustration to the growing attraction to admitting that they actually are interested. I would have preferred more of getting to know him instead of mostly being shown he’s hot and super powerful, but at least there were a few scenes that dug in, and since this is a series I expect he’ll have time to develop. I did find it odd when he revealed the big secret that it was so brutal, and he was so calm talking about it. It doesn’t really seem like he’s over it, and either way he should’ve had a bigger reaction to some of what they found at the excavation because of it.

Now for the bizarre logic. Everything up through the start of the expedition made at least plausible sense. Then we get to the “remote” expedition that’s still close enough to a town for one member to spend the night in a hotel and the days on site. So the problem is, when people start finding bodies brutally murdered, WHY IS EVERYONE DETERMINED TO STAY IN TENTS ON SITE? Tents. TENTS. And then things escalate and they’re STILL staying in tents and wringing their hands about the tragedy.

This is the point, by the way, that I’ve long since stopped being nervous about anyone and am instead laughing as each new gruesome discovery is unearthed. The police are notified about the dead body, but it isn’t being treated as a crime scene at all (no one is telling the group to evacuate until way too late). There’s a scene at the end where Nicole is expecting the authorities to arrive with backup, but she and very few others decide it’s a better idea to go after the murderers by themselves, down tunnels that the enemy knows far better than they do . . .

I actually might keep reading this series purely for the comedy value. Which is sad because the story was going for a horror vibe and ended up feeling like a campy horror B movie instead. The small details worked a lot better when it was just ordinary college life stuff, and not an archeology expedition that by the way has terrible, terrible practices (just pick up any ancient magical artifacts and bring them to us for evaluation! No need to worry about possibly live curses or keeping the site documented for actual archeologists!).

Overall this was a decent effort, but would have been better served if the expedition had either never taken place or had been completely overhauled. I rate this book Neutral.

Child of the Daystar (Wings of War #1)

Title: Child of the Daystar

Author: Bryce O’Connor

Series: Wings of War #1

The atherian and the humans don’t mingle. But when an atherian slave is left for dead and rescued by a group of desert traders, he fits into human society in a way the rest of his kind never have. Named Raz i’Syul, his actions will shape the course of kingdoms . . .

This is another great series with a draconic main character. Raz is unusual even for an atherian, as he is both male and winged. Unfortunately, he can’t fly, but it’s hard to tell if that’s because he was raised by humans, or because the wings aren’t capable of it. (And by the end there are hints this will change, which I hope is true.)

The characters have a lot of depth. Raz, being non-human, struggles at times with the things that mark him as different—not the looks, so much, but the bestiality that lurks underneath his conscious thoughts. He tries to stick to his ideals, but the world around him is falling apart. Can one person do anything meaningful against all of that? But the quotes heading each chapter are told from a historical perspective, indicating that he will, indeed, be instrumental in some fashion.

I wasn’t quite as fond of Syrah’s portions. Most of the story is about Raz, and he gets a full arc—not one that solves all of his problems, but one that resolves some things for his character and launches him on to greater things ahead. Syrah feels like she’s still setting up for some future development. With one exception, her portion of the story doesn’t touch on his, and it’s harder to see why her sections are important.

Overall, though, this was a compelling story, and I will be interested to see where it goes from here. I rate this book Recommended.

Barid’s Story (Dragon Pearl #2)

Title: Barid’s Story

Author: J.F. Mehentee

Series: Dragon Pearl #2

Barid has set up as a blacksmith in a remote village, far from his former home. Waiting. Hoping. He left behind a friend, Noor, who was supposed to join him, but he has no way of knowing if Noor is even alive. And it isn’t safe to go back himself to check. But his life changes drastically when a monk arrives with an offer to come work as a blacksmith for the Dragons . . .

Once again, this story had very solid writing. I dislike the homosexual overtones to the relationship Barid develops with Noor over the years they train together, but I do appreciate Barid himself doesn’t know what to make of things, and tries to keep a lid on it so as not to cause big problems for the both of them. The other aspects of their relationship interest me more—Barid’s initial attempt to idolize Noor turning sour, the way both of them cooperate to push through their training, and how the attempt to help Noor’s father save face backfired.

I was happy at the way that worked out, though. Noor’s father had very specific ideas on who Noor was going to be, and didn’t take Noor himself into consideration. That Noor could succeed in a way that didn’t keep feeding his father’s control over his life was nice.

The warrior culture and training sequences were also fascinating. Kids are pushed very hard to become elite soldiers, but there are rewards as well as punishments, and the focus is about building them to be a team who would die for each other as well as well as their victory.

I do wish the story would’ve delved into Barid’s time at Sudaypur more. I wanted to see more of his life with his daughter, but the introductory scene is just a bracket to the meat of the story, which is the backstory of how he got to Sudaypur at all. Hotsuka has changed some from the previous book, but not all that much, and it’s funny to see the impression he makes from the other side. Especially someone like Barid, who is less than impressed by all the “miracles” and determined to stick to his position.

This stands well enough alone, so even if you didn’t read the first book it would be okay to start here. I rate this book Recommended.