Smoke Bitten by Patricia Briggs: Mercy Deals with Unexpected Threats from Every Direction

Smoke Bitten

Smoke Bitten

by Patricia Briggs
Series: Mercy Thompson, #12

Hardcover, 342 pg.
ACE, 2020

Read: March 24-28, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!


There’s just so much going on in this novel, it’s hard to know where to start—this may be the busiest Mercy Thompson novel yet. Well, okay, we’ll start with the titular bit. Something/Someone has escaped from Underhill. This seems fairly impossible, but I guess even nigh-omnipotent sentient spaces make mistakes every now and then. Doubtlessly the Columbia Basin pack would’ve gotten involved at some point, but since Mercy recognized the threat before the Fae—or anyone else—did, they were on the front line for this. Whoever it bites, it controls. It can shape-shift to look like anyone, too. It’s deadly and doesn’t seem to have much of a plan beyond creating as much chaos and gathering as much power as it can.

While dealing with that, another threat to the pack presents itself. There are some new werewolves in the area, and their goal is simple: become the new pack in town. As Adam’s pack is now independent of The Marrok, these wolves have decided they’re ripe for a takeover. None of these are wolves to be taken lightly—some have recently left a pack run by very dominant Alpha, which took some strength. All of them have strong reputations amongst the wolves (generally positive), although one is known as the wolf who’d do things that Charles Cornick wouldn’t do for his father. These are not going to be easy to face off against.

The thing that’s the most distressing (and given what I’ve just talked about, that’s saying something) for Mercy is that there’s a problem between her and Adam. The roots of the issue go back to before we met Adam, but something happened in Storm Cursed to tip Adam over the brink. The latest meddling by Adam’s ex, Chrissy, made it all boil over and threatened the peace and stability of the pack—as well as their marriage. We see Mercy at her most vulnerable since…well, probably since the attack at the garage (or what The Monster tried to do in Bone Crossed), which stresses for the reader how bad the situation is. The two take some positive steps, but things aren’t resolved wholly here—and I hope Briggs doesn’t patch things up quickly between the two between novels. I think we need to see the pair continuing to work through things.

There’s a few more things going on, too, including some fun with Sherwood (who is quickly becoming a favorite character), some interesting developments with Jesse’s life, and some interesting character development in general with pretty much each of the pack members we usually get time with. Oh, and lest I forget, an old friend comes back.

One final thing to mention: last year, while talking about Storm Cursed, I said:

There’s something that happens in the climactic battle scene that I want to talk about more than I want to talk about anything else in this book—because in the long run it’s going to be bigger and more important than anything else that happens or I’ll eat my hat. It’s so small, so quick that it’d be easy to miss—2 sentences on one page, then twelve pages later 2 more sentences. And Briggs has at least one novel’s worth of plot seeded right there. I love when I see an author do something like that and make it look effortless. And I think I’m underselling it. But I’ll have to leave it there—maybe in book 12 (or 15) when it happens, I’ll remember to say, “Remember that thing I didn’t talk about in Storm Cursed? This is it.”

Well, Briggs gave that seed plenty of water and a little fertilizer in these pages. I still don’t feel comfortable talking about it in detail for reasons I can’t explain. But whoo-boy, I can’t wait to see what Briggs has in mind.

So, yeah, like I said—a lot of balls in the air. Or plates spinning. Pick a metaphor you like best. And I think Briggs did alright by them all—yeah, I’d have liked a bit more time with the new wolves, but we didn’t need it—and I’m not sure we’re done with them (maybe in the next Alpha and Omega book if not in an upcoming Mercy novel?). To deal well with all these elements and keep the novel moving quickly and resolving in a satisfactory manner (with a few more strings than usual left for the next installment) speaks highly of Briggs’ skill. Fans of Mercy Thompson shouldn’t wait to grab this, people who are curious about the series should be able to come on board now, too (although, you really ought to read them all). Briggs is at the top of her game now, and it’s just fun to watch.


4 Stars

This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase from it, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, opinions are my own.

The Immortal Conquistador by Carrie Vaughn: Just who is the Vampire Rick, Anyway?

I’ve been trying to get this out for over a week now (it was published last week), but I couldn’t seem to be able to—I’m a little surprised I’ve had the energy to post anything since I started telecommuting (odd that not going anywhere tires me out more than going to work does). Finally, with apologies to the publisher for getting this post up late.

The Immortal Conquistador

The Immortal Conquistador

by Carrie Vaughn
Series: Kitty Norville, #1

eARC, 192 pg.
Tachyon Publications, 2020

Read: March 20-23, 2020


I’ve been a fan of the Kitty Norville series since the debut in 2005, and one of the supporting characters that fans seem most enamored of—and are given the least information about—is Kitty’s vampire ally, Rick (the Master of Denver).

For those (like me) who need a little brushing up on some of what went on toward the end of the series, Rick leaves Denver for a while in order to explore a different way to take on Dux Bellorum (the series’ Big Bad).

This book gives the reader some insight into what Rick was up to during this time. The book stitches together four short stories about Rick’s origin (some previously published, some not) while Rick introduces himself to the Order of Saint Lazarus.

I’d already read the first story, “Conquistador de la Noche,” in the collection Kitty’s Greatest Hits—but it worked really well in this setting, too—this sets the stage for the rest of Rick’s history and tells about him becoming a vampire. The next two stories show what happens when he first encounters the Vampire sub-culture and is first exposed to the rules (most) Vampires live by and how Rick skirts the edges of those rules and starts to make both a name for himself and build his different kind of power base.

The fourth story is my favorite detailing what happens when Rick meets a legendary Old West character. It was just a great story with an element of fun. It’s also something the reader is told that Rick’s never told anyone about before. It’s precisely the kind of thing that Kitty would kill to hear, she’s constantly asking vampires and other supernatural types for stories like this. That Rick would go out of his way to deprive her of this story (but we get to read it) was a little extra dash of fun.

I don’t know that this gave me a much better picture of Rick—the novels had pretty much done that. We know his character, we may not understand his past and what he was—but we know who he is. But this book rounds out our understanding of the man and gives the reader a little hope for his future.

Once I cottoned on to what Vaughn was doing—stitching together short stories—I was a little skeptical of the format. But I came around pretty quickly and decided it worked really well. It’s better than a simple short story collection, essentially giving us a bonus story. The stories (including the framing device) feel different from the Kitty series, but not so much that it doesn’t feel like the same world.

A cool bonus of this—you can read it totally independent of the Kitty Norville series. It’s not dependent at all on the events or people of the series (there are references to certain antagonists, but not in any way that makes familiarity with the series necessary for understanding).

I do have to wonder about the timing of this—the series ended almost five years ago, so I’m not sure I get why we’re getting this material in this format now. But that’s just me being curious, not complaining. Did I (or the series) need The Immortal Conquistador? No. But I’m very glad I got it.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Tachyon Publications via NetGalley in exchange for this post —thanks to both for the opportunity.


3.5 Stars

Dryad Teas Inspired by the Dresden Files

And Now for Something Completely Different

This is not what I typically post about, but it sort of fits.

I’m not a big tea drinker—but I dabble from time to time, and we’re in the middle of another attempt to drink more (health benefits, no sugar, etc., etc.—oh, and it tastes good, too). While I’m playing around with this blend and that, someone posts on one of the Dresden Files Fan Facebook pages a link to Dryad Teas’ Dresden Files inspired teas (and then someone posts about another company’s varieties, too!). I have to be honest, my mind is boggled, how do you come up with tea blends based on fictional characters? Sure, I can see a Picard-branded Earl Gray variety or something that Lady Mary or Count Grantham might drink; but thinking about a character and coming up with a tea blend based on them? I wouldn’t know where to start—and I’m freakishly impressed (and incredibly curious about it).

Anyway, I ordered some samples from Dryad’s Dresden teas, and thought I’d share a thought or two about them.

KarrinKarrin

Inspired by the amazing ‘Dresden Files’ book series by Jim Butcher, this blend is a thought provoking mix of peach and apricot with deep undertones of black tea.

I’m not sure that this says, Karrin Murphy to me. It does make me think of her house—left to her by her grandmother, and I don’t think she re-decorated it much (I’m ready to be corrected on that front). In the end, it was too fruity for me. It smells great, though, and tastes very pleasant.

Bob the SkullBob the Skull

…this blend is a delicious mix of genmaicha and citrus. Notes of raspberry and lime pair with the depth of the genmaicha to create a light blend with promise, fitting for Bob the Skull.

Another one that I’m not sure about—it’s too floral, and too mild for me to drink regularly. I’m also not a big green tea guy. But there’s something about this blend of flavor that is very, very pleasant. I would absolutely drink it again (I’m not sure I’d buy it though). I think they drew too much from Bob’s love of Romance novels when they came up with the blend. (just a wild guess)

DresdenDresden

…this blend is inspired by Dresden. Smoky and spicy, the text of “The building was on fire, and it wasn’t my fault.” explains the character perfectly. This tea is no different.

Now this? This was my cup of tea.* Going from that quoted line, it’s smokey, dark, deliciousness. I tried to explain the flavor to my wife by saying it’s like “a tea made from pipe tobacco, but it tastes good.” She told me I shouldn’t ever tell anyone that. I tried explaining it to a friend, who is also a Dresden fan, by saying “Imagine the ashes of the building that was on fire (but wasn’t his fault), made into a tea, that somehow tastes good.” She didn’t tell me that I shouldn’t repeat that description, but her expression pretty much did.

Basically, I don’t know how to describe how things taste–this was strong, smokey, bold, full of flavor. I’d drink this by the gallon.

* Had to be done.

Anyway, check out Dryad Teas. Even if these don’t appeal, they have a lot of geeky teas/accessories.

False Value by Ben Aaronovitch: Peter Grant Gets a New Job and a Great Series Gets Better

False Value

False Value

by Ben Aaronovitch
Series: The Rivers of London, #8

Hardcover, 294 pg.
DAW Books, 2020

Read: February 28-March 3, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!

“Somebody else came during the night and magicked them,” I said.

“Is that a real term—’magicked?'” asked Guleed.

“And it’s spelt with a ‘k,’ too,” I said. “But the technical term is actually ‘enchanted.’ Only the trouble with that word is that everyone starts thinking glass slippers and spinning wheels.”

There’s very little that I don’t like in The Rivers of London series, you may have noticed, but the friendship and banter between Peter and DS Sahra Guleed is possibly my favorite part of the books. The way they slip between discussions of magic (or magick) theory, police procedure, family stuff, the cases they’re working without missing a beat—or doing so professionally or like a couple of teenagers having too much fun under the nose of authority figures. It feels real, it feels natural, and it’s fun.

It’s also much more beneficial for each character—and the Queen’s peace—than his friendship with Leslie May.

After the series-altering events of Lies Sleeping, the question most readers had was, “Will the series be any good post-Martin Chorley?” Most were likely like me, with a firm “Very probably. Hope so.” False Value demonstrates that things are just fine without Chorley—better than fine, really (although everyone is dealing with the aftermath of everything he did).

Also, as nice as The October Man was, it’s great to be back with Peter and the rest of the Folly.

Most of the books in this series are about a Wizard-in-Training who happens to be a police officer. This book was a Crime Fiction novel about a guy who happens to be a wizard in training.

With the suspension he received at the end of the last book, and his future with the Police uncertain, Peter Grant goes off in search of a new job. He ends up finding work investigating some internal shenanigans for a tech giant headquartered in London. Peter’s computer-geek gets the chance to shine a bit as well as flexing his investigative muscles.

It’s not long before he discovers the source of the shenanigans, and that’s where things get interesting. The source is associated with The New York Libraries Association, “the militant magical wing of the New York Public Library Services.” Which is one of the American analogues to The Folly (just without the official police sanction). He and his superior are also investigating the company—because they’re convinced that SCC is utilizing magic in a potentially hazardous way, paving the way for something huge. I am beyond curious about the Libraries Association and hope we get to see them in action again soon. The whole thing is ripe with possibilities and it’s going to be great to see it all play out.

If you were to draw a Venn diagram with circles for Charles Babbage/Ada Lovelace, Artificial General Intelligence, and Wizardry—the overlap is where you’d False Value. Who wants more? The mix of contemporary cutting-edge technologies and Newtonian magic is just fantastic.

This all leads up to a wonderfully exciting climactic showdown between Nightingale, Peter and the rest on one side, The Librarians on another, and SCC on the other.

If we act now we might be able to roll them up before they know what’s hit them.”

Nightingale frowned into his teacup.

“Perhaps,” he said.

“What have we got to lose?” I said.

Nightingale looked up and gave me a strange, sad smile.

“Oh, everything, Peter, “he said. “But then such is life.”

Yeah, sure, there’s plenty of things going on with Abigail, Molly, Foxglove, and (of course) a very pregnant Beverly. But I just don’t have the time to talk about it all. I think it’s safe to say that this is the busiest novel in the series with something for every fan (more than one something, too).

We also got to check in with our favorite FBI Agent. She was able to give Peter all sorts of background about SCC and its founder (an American), which proved vital and interesting (she got some information about the Librarians in return). Better yet, some of what she uncovered changed Peter’s understanding of some of what went on in Lies Sleeping (the reader’s understanding, too). I’m betting this will prove to be at the core of the next arc for the series.

So now we have an idea about two groups in the States, German practitioners, ,and then a smattering of some in the UK. I love how they’re all very diverse, while sharing a lot in common.

I stopped short in the first sentence of the book:

My final interview at the Serious Cybernetics Corporation…

Serious Cybernetics Corporation? As in,

The Encyclopedia Galactica defines a robot as a mechanical apparatus designed to do the work of a man. The marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation defines a robot as “Your Plastic Pal Who’s Fun to Be With.” The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy defines the marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetic Corporation as “a bunch of mindless jerks who’ll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes,”

from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. So I thought that Aaronovitch was having a little fun with an in-joke and moved on. But no, it was a theme throughout the entire tech company. HR is referred to as “the Magrathean Ape-Descended Life Form Utilization Service,” and Security (where Peter was applying) is “the Vogon Enforcement Arm.” The book is full of these things, and after page 14, I stopped counting them. There’s so many of these that around page 150, Peter says something about SCC “pushing copyright” after a particularly egregious example. I had a great time with this book anyway, but all this was a thick layer of icing on the cake.

A carefully and intricately plotted main story, some fantastic action scenes, and character growth—coupled with Aaronovitch’s signature style and wit. I just can’t think of anything wrong with this book—this is exactly the kind of book that I want to read.


5 Stars

This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase from it, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, opinions are my own.

Catch-Up Quick Takes: The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues by Ellen Raskin; Bloody Acquisitions (Audiobook) by Drew Hayes, Kirby Heyborne; Dark Harvest Magic (Audiobook) by Jayne Faith, Amy Landon

The point of these quick takes posts is to catch up on my “To Write About” stack—emphasizing pithiness, not thoroughness.

The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues

The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues

by Ellen Raskin
Paperback, 170 pg.
Puffin Books, 1975
Read: January 7-8, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!

I’ve never claimed to have an exhaustive knowledge of Ellen Raskin novels, yet I was surprised to find a passing reference to this one last fall. So I grabbed it up and jumped into it with relish. It’s been since I was in MG that I’ve read other works by her that aren’t The Westing Game, so I can’t say for certain if this is her usual kind of thing or not (I think this is closer to her norm than Westing, though). There’s an over-reliance on funny names (frequently some sort of wordplay involving food) and outlandish eccentricities as a source of humor, but that’s a minor thing.

This is really 3-4 short stories linked together with an overarching narrative to make a novel—which actually works pretty well. The pair have a few smaller mysteries to solve while a bigger one builds. This reads like a collaboration of Donald J. Sobol and Daniel M. Pinkwater—which absolutely would’ve been up my alley when I was the right age, and is still amusing enough right now for me to enjoy the quick read.

Is it my favorite thing ever? No. But it’s a clever read that’s entertaining enough.

This is a little more mature than usual for MG books (especially given its publish date, I’d think), but it’s not mature enough for YA. Not that it matters, that’s just me trying to categorize it. I think it’s probably appropriate for MG readers, though (there’s one scene that might push it over the edge, but…I’d risk it).

(the official blurb)
3-4 paragraphs
3.5 Stars

Bloody Acquisitions

Bloody Acquisitions

by Drew Hayes, Kirby Heyborne (Narrator)
Series: Fred, The Vampire Accountant, #3
Unabridged Audiobook, 9 hrs., 52 mins.
Tantor Audio, 2016
Read: January 31-February 4, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!

(the official blurb)
I continue to enjoy these lighter UF books about the world’s dullest Vampire and his supernatural friends. Of course, the joke is that he’s not really that boring at all, Fred just thinks of himself that way.

The core of this novel is Fred dealing with a group of vampires coming to town to set up shop. The big question is: can they share the city with him? Typically, the answer is no, and he’ll either have to join with them or leave. The last thing that Fred wants to do is to leave his home and business==he’ll just have to figure out a way.

I think this works better as a novel than the previous two installments and is overall just a touch more entertaining. I’m not sure that I have much else to say—these are fun reads/listens.

3 Stars

Dark Harvest Magic

Dark Harvest Magic

by Jayne Faith, Amy Landon (Narrator)
Series: Ella Grey, #2
Unabridged Audiobook, 8 hrs., 32 mins.
Tantor Audio, 2017
Read: February 22-25, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!

(the official blurb)
I have even less to say about this one. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did the previous one, maybe because just about all of it felt like Faith was setting things up for the next book or two in the series more than telling a story now. This does mean that the next book or two should be really good, because I liked most of what she was setting up.

Aside from that, Dark Harvest Magic really feels a lot like it could be the next several chapters in Stone Cold Magic. Which means that pretty much everything I said about it applies here. An entertaining read/listen, I still like the characters and really want to see where Faith is taking this all, even if I wasn’t gaga over this sequel.

3 Stars
This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase from any of them, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, opinions are my own.

COVER REVEAL: The Identity Thief by Alex Bryant

Welcome to The Irresponsible Reader’s part in the Cover Reveal for Alex Bryant’s The Identity Thief! Thanks to Time Zones and whatnot, this isn’t so much a Cover Reveal as much as it is a Cover Confirmation at this point, but that’s being a little pedantic. There’s a spiffy looking cover down below, but before that, I’ve got a few words to share about the book. Probably my favorite bit of marketing material I’ve received to date here at this blog. Hope you enjoy it half as much as I did as you scroll your way to the cover…

Book Blurb

A shapeshifting sorcerer called Cuttlefish unleashes a terrifying wave of magical carnage across London. A strange family known as the River People move into Cassandra Drake’s neighbourhood. Are the two events connected?

Spoiler alert: no.

Reasons to buy this book:
✔ Good cover.
✔ Cheap. Seriously, the Kindle version only costs as much as about 3 mangoes. What would you rather have – 10 hours of gripping urban fantasy, or 30 minutes of biting into sweet, succulent mango flesh?
✔ OK, I shouldn’t have used mango, objectively the best fruit, as a comparison. But buying this book doesn’t stop you from buying mangoes, if that’s what you insist on doing.

Public praise for the advance readers’ edition:
“I was barely even a few sentences in and I was already hooked! This is such an interesting book, I really hope it gets published so I can read more of it!” ★★★★★ – Lottie Carmichael

“This book is perfectly suitable for younger readers, but still enjoyable for older. The premise is new and intriguing, while the writing style is entertaining and fresh. I loved the heroine. She was relatable, strong, and yet imperfect. You untangle the very complicated plot-line alongside her. I also enjoyed the deeper ideas, the writer was expressing that tie-in with current events. Very thought-provoking.” ★★★★★ – Carolyn Sachs

“This was a lot of fun to read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to the published version.” ★★★★★ – Declan Tarstie

“Better value for money than three mangoes.” ★★★ – Alex Bryant

Buy Link

https://amzn.to/3aclT7I


Without further ado…

The Cover


I should know the name of that style of cover art (I assume there is one), because I really dig it. Anyway, it’s the kind of cover that would make me do a double-take at the bookstore.

You can get your hands on this cover (and the novel it goes with!) at https://amzn.to/3aclT7I. I know I will.

If you’ll excuse me, I have to stop on the way to work and buy some mangoes. I have a sudden hankering…


My thanks to Love Books Group for the invitation to participate in this reveal and the materials they provided.

Love Books Group

Top 5 Saturday: Books Inspired by Mythology


The Top 5 Saturday weekly meme was created by Amanda at Devouring Books.

Rules!

  • Share your top 5 books of the current topic—these can be books that you want to read, have read and loved, have read and hated, you can do it any way you want.
  • Tag the original post (This one!)
  • Tag 5 people (I probably won’t do this bit, play along if you want)

This week’s topic is: Books inspired by Mythology. Which you’d think would be super-easy—and it was fairly easy—but coming up with a fifth took a little more work than I expected.


Bad Blood
by
Lucienne Diver

An Urban Fantasy featuring a strong, snarky, female PI who doesn’t believe the family legend that she’s descended from Pan and Medusa. But when Apollo himself shows up to hire her, she starts to come around . . . I admit I don’t remember a lot of this (I read it 7 years ago), but it was one of the first I thought of when I decided to do this list and I do keep asking myself why I never got around to reading the rest of the series.


American Gods
by
Neil Gaiman

Honestly, not my favorite Gaiman (maybe on a second read that’d change). But man, there are passages in this book that are pure magic. Epic in scope, but filled with fantastic characters, and Gaiman’s prose, you can absolutely understand why it’s beloved and so widely-read.


The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul
by
Douglas Adams

Unless I read something I cannot recall, this was the first book I read that made use of mythological characters in a contemporary setting. I absolutely loved the idea and wondered why more people didn’t do that. Clearly, they do (just see the rest of this post and the others posting on this theme today), but at the ripe old age of 15, it was revolutionary to me. Odin, Thor, Loki and a few other Norse dignitaries are flitting about London and the area, inflicting damage, killing innocents, and driving nursing home staff crazy. Throw in Dirk Gently and Adams at his best and you have a killer read.


Hunted
by
Kevin Hearne

Members of five (I think) pantheons show up in this book—in what’s probably Hearne’s finest use of them all. A good story for Atticus, Oberon, and Granuaile (Oberon has his best dramatic moment, as I recall) aside from that, but a great way of blending the various pantheons into the Iron Druid’s world. One of my Top 2 in the series.


The Lightning Thief
by
Rick Riordan

How can you have a list like this and not include this book (or one of the legion it spawned)? The book that started a craze and gave Riordan the ability to quit teaching. This set the template for all of Riordan’s myth-inspired books (be it Greek, Roman, Egyptian or Norse mythology) and is just fun (unlike some of the latter books which got a bit preachy and tedious). It’s not quite Potter-level of fame/influence, but it’s the closest we have in the States, a nice collection of kids, a creative way of brining myths to the 21st Century, and a rollicking good time.