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 suprised 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

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

Burn the Dark by S. A. Hunt: Like and Subscribe to Watch Her Gank Witches

Burn the Dark

Burn the Dark

by S. A. Hunt
Series: Malus Domestica, #1

Paperback, 368 pg.
Tor Books, 2020

Read: February 5-7, 2019

Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore! Or, on audio through Libro.fm!


I’m struggling to not over-share here, so I’m just going to cite the official book blurb to explain the set-up for this novel:

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina meets Stranger Things in award-winning author S. A. Hunt’s Burn the Dark, first in the Malus Domestica horror action-adventure series about a punk YouTuber on a mission to bring down witches, one vid at a time.

Robin is a YouTube celebrity gone-viral with her intensely-realistic witch hunter series. But even her millions of followers don’t know the truth: her series isn’t fiction.

Her ultimate goal is to seek revenge against the coven of witches who wronged her mother long ago. Returning home to the rural town of Blackfield, Robin meets friends new and old on her quest for justice. But then, a mysterious threat known as the Red Lord interferes with her plans….

I really love the concept for this book/series. No matter what I may end up saying below, I just want to say that Hunt deserves all sorts of kudos for coming up with it and executing the idea so well.

The Sabrina bit mentioned above comes from Robin, a childhood friend and someone new to town she meets when she returns. The Strange Things bit comes from a kid who has just moved to town (and into Robin’s old house—old bedroom) and the neighborhood kids he’s become friends with. Either group could probably be the focus of a book, the two of them together is what really works. I thought all the characters were well-drawn and interesting, and I would like to spend time with them all (except the witches, I think they could be developed a bit more—but that risks making them less threatening).

The magic system in this book is fantastic. Hunt gives us enough to understand it (and to see that it’s well-developed), but doesn’t drown us in the details that govern it. There’s something very raw, very rooted, almost tangible about it.

Hunt’s writing could be described the same way. It’s almost impossible not to see everything she’s describing; when she writes a tense scene, you feel it; and it’s engrossing.

Compelling writing, strong characters, a killer hook, and fast-moving plot with a great magic system—S. this is basically a recipe for a book that I’ll celebrate. But the entire time I read it, I kept thinking “I just don’t like this.” I kept reading because it’s precisely the kind of book I should rave about and I kept waiting for the switch to flip. But it’s just not my thing.

It’s not often I have this reaction, but it made me feel like Wendig’s Miriam Black books, Kadrey’s Sandman Slim, or Stross’s Laundry Files. In theory, each of those series is exactly my cup of tea. And I didn’t enjoy any of them (and I’ve read multiple volumes in two of those series). It’s an odd phenomenon, and I wish I understood it.

Still, it’s so well done that I can’t rate it lower than 3 Stars. I didn’t like it, but I respect it enough to recognize that it deserves at least that.

Eh, what do I know? Go read a post by someone who really dug this book instead.


3 Stars

2020 Library Love Challenge

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.

Stone Cold Magic by Jayne Faith, Amy Landon (Narrator): Meet The City of Trees’ Resident Demon Hunter

Stone Cold Magic

Stone Cold Magic

by Jayne Faith, Amy Landon (Narrator)
Series: Ella Grey, #1

Unabridged Audiobook, 8 hrs., 28 mins
Tantor Audio, 2017

Read: January 23-25, 2020

In 2001, a dimensional rift opens up in New York City, and all sorts of strange things come from out of it—demons, a virus that turns people into vampires, a zombie virus, and other assorted supernatural strangeness.

Thirty years later, Ella Gray is a Demon Patrol officer with modest magical ability. Her role is to keep her patrol area clean of minor demons that are little more than annoyances—there are more powerful officers in charge of taking down bigger threats. One day she and her partner try to take out some small demons only to find out there’s a much bigger and more powerful demon in the building, too. In the following fracas, Ella and her partner are mortally wounded. Her partner dies, and Ella does, too. But her death doesn’t stick and she wakes up in the morgue.

A few weeks later, she’s back to work—she’s having strange visions, has a new partner (with a mysterious past and more magical power than she’s ever seen), a supervisor that seems pretty antagonistic to her and, well…life has become stranger than she thought possible. She finds herself investigating what seems to be a gargoyle possessed by a demon and somehow the gargoyle has imprisoned a human inside it, too. (don’t worry if you can understand it, no one in the book can at first, either).

Ella enlists help from a very human PI with all sorts of nifty gadgets that can help on the supernatural front; a political activist always in search of a new cause to take up; her best friend, a pretty powerful mage; and a supernaturally-inclined mutt. No, really. The dog is a lot like Walt Longmire’s Dog, just with freaky eyes and an apparent talent for protecting Ella from magical attacks. (some anyway). Such things ought to be encouraged whenever they’re encountered, and I hope this will work in the dog’s favor.

The novel’s focus is setting up the world and looking at the tensions between various aspects of Ella’s life and the characters around her. Although Faith tells a pretty good story along the way, I just can’t help but think that it comes in second to setting up the overarching series stories.

I really enjoyed Faith’s take on vampirism and zombies. It’s a nice blend of vaguely-science-y with the supernatural. I have many questions (that I assume will be answered in the ensuing books) about the demons and magic—and just about everything that goes bump in the night, I guess—in this particular world, but initially I’m buying in

I’m not saying that Faith borrowed (intentionally, anyway) from other UF series, but I had an impulse throughout to say “Oh, she got X from Kim Harrison,” “And that bit is from Sarah Kuhn,” “Is that Butcher or Strout there?” and so on. If she did, more power to her—she picked some good influences—and she took those elements, shuffled them up and put her spin on them. If she didn’t, all the better—fans of the things I think were influences will find plenty to like here. My gut instinct is to say that Faith is a student of Urban Fantasy and has read widely within it so she can produce something that draws from the best. Ignore the voice of the cynic and enjoy this book.

To be honest, I wasn’t looking for a new UF series (I’m always open to one, however), but a friend at work emailed me, wondering if I was familiar with this Urban Fantasy series that appears to be set in Boise of all places. This piqued my interest, and as I’d just finished an audiobook, I figured I’d take this one out for a spin. Now, this may come as a surprise to you, but Boise (and the general area) isn’t exactly a popular setting for fiction. I can think of a tiny handful of books that have a character stepping foot in the town, but only two (this and Kolokowski’s Boise Longpig Hunting Club) that actually portray the city in a recognizable fashion. Faith clearly knows Boise—her use of local names and locations testifies to that, and for those familiar with the city, we can easily see the action and movement of characters in it. Which is an added bit of fun, if only for the novelty. This isn’t to say that people who don’t know Boise will be lost or won’t be able to enjoy it—it’s like any other novel set in a city that’s not commonly used. Who doesn’t like getting to see a novel set somewhere that’s not NYC, Washington DC, Chicago, LA, SF, etc? Briggs’ use of the Tri-Cities in Washington, Vaughn’s Denver, Carey’s Pemkowet, Michigan; Hearne’s (all-too-brief) use of Tempe, AZ, and, now, Faith’s use of Boise.

(If—and this is a big if—Jayne Faith happens to be reading this, I’d love the opportunity to ask you a few questions about your choice of—and use of—Boise. Feel free to drop me a line!)

Landon does a fine job with the narration. I can’t really think of much more to say—I didn’t hear anything remarkably good (nor, remarkably bad) Simply a strong, capable narration to help listeners to get invested into the characters and story.

I really enjoyed this introduction to the Ella and the rest, the magic and the world Faith has put them in. I have a pretty good idea where some of the stories she’s set up are going, and am looking forward to watching them develop. At the same time, I also look forward to Faith showing me that she has a better idea for them than I assume. It’s a solid Urban Fantasy story with an unconventional setting. You should give it a shot.


3.5 Stars
2020 Library Love Challenge

Clearing the Deck: Tweet-length thoughts about books I can’t find time to write about

Yeah, I have a daunting TBR stack, but I also have too many books on my “Too Write About” pile, and it’s bugging me. So, I’m cutting myself some slack, and am clearing the deck of everything from 2019 and before that I haven’t made time for. This was painful to do, I was looking forward to writing about most of these, but I’m just not going to get to them–and the 2020 books are starting to pile up, too. So, in 144 characters or less, here’s me cutting myself some slack.

(Click on the cover for an official site with more info)

Rivers of London: Detective Stories
3.5 Stars
Rivers of London, Volume 4: Detective Stories by Andrew Cartmel, Ben Aaronovitch, Lee Sullivan
Brief flashbacks showing what Peter et al. get up to between novels/comic series. A fun idea, well executed. Would enjoy another one like this.
Cry Fox
3.5 Stars
Rivers of London Volume 5: Cry Fox by Andrew Cartmel, Ben Aaronovitch, Lee Sullivan
This was a lot of fun, and showed a new side of a cool recurring character.
Rivers of London: Action At A Distance
3 Stars
Rivers of London: Action At A Distance by Andrew Cartmel, Ben Aaronovitch, Brian Williamson, Stefani Renne
A serial killer hunt and Nightingale backstory. Great combo.

(some nice Molly material, too)

Geerhardus Vos: Reformed Biblical Theologian, Confessional Presbyterian
4 Stars
Geerhardus Vos: Reformed Biblical Theologian, Confessional Presbyterian by Danny E. Olinger
A biography and a discussion of his Vos’ major works. This was an excellent way to gear up for my 2019 Vos reading. Inspirational stuff.
The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant
3 Stars
The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant by Drew Hayes, Kirby Heyborne (Narrator)
A light Urban Fantasy about misfit monsters. Enjoyable enough to come back for more.
Open Season
4 Stars
Open Season by C. J. Box, David Chandler (Narrator)
Series Debut about a WY Game Warden with a nose for mystery. Loved the dual POVs (Pickett, his daughter). Addicting.
Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain
3 Stars
Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Supervillain by Richard Roberts, Emily Woo Zeller (Narrator)
A cute story about kids of super-heroes/super-villains trying to get started in the biz without their parents’ involvement. Went on longer than it needed to, but fun enough to try volume 2.
Dragon Blood
3 Stars
Dragon Bones by Patricia Briggs, Joe Manganiello (Narrator)
Manganiello is a great choice for narrator. Nice little stand-alone fantasy story. Great dragons.
Savage Run
3.5 Stars
Savage Run by C. J. Box, David Chandler (Narrator)
Almost as good as the first Pickett novel. Mrs. Pickett gets to shine here, too. I’m so glad I finally got to this series.
Inkheart
3 Stars
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, Lynn Redgrave (Narrator)
Gets a bit redundant, but I loved the concept. Better than the movie (which I kind of liked), but still could’ve been better.
Undeath and Taxes
3 Stars
Undeath and Taxes by Drew Hayes, Kirby Heyborne (Narrator)
A little better than the first volume, an enjoyable way to spend a few hours.
Dragon Bones
3 Stars
Dragon Blood by Patricia Briggs, Joe Manganiello (Narrator)
OK, so Dragon Bones wasn’t a stand-alone. Could’ve been, but it was nice to get a little more with these characters/this world. Still, give me a Briggs Urban Fantasy above this.
The Imputation of the Active Obedience of Christ in the Westminster Standards
4 Stars
The Imputation of the Active Obedience of Christ in the Westminster Standards by Alan D. Strange
I love this series. Strange packs so much material into this tiny package. Excellent stuff.
Badlands
3 Stars
Badlands by C. J. Box, January LaVoy (Narrator)
Cassie takes over The Highway series and moves to a new Oil Town in North Dakota. Midwest Winter, Drugs, Murder, Corruption and Too Much Money wreak havoc on her first week on the job.
Zombie Spaceship Wasteland (Audiobook)
3.5 Stars
Zombie Spaceship Wasteland: A Book by Patton Oswalt (Audiobook)
The memoir chapters are nice, the comedic bits are odd (and funny). An interesting look at Oswalt.
No Sweat
3 Stars
No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness by Michelle Segar, Ph.D.
A great way to look at keeping (or getting) yourself motivated to exercise.

The Lights Go Out in Lychford by Paul Cornell: The Stakes and Tension are High in the Penultimate Lychford Novella

The Lights Go Out in Lychford

The Lights Go Out in Lychford

by Paul Cornell
Series: Witches of Lychford, #4

Kindle Edition, 144 pg.
Tor/Forge, 2019

Read: November 19, 2019


Oh, man…I was so glad to be back in this world. Lychford, a tiny little English town that acts as the border between this world and realities beyond our understanding, is a wonderfully conceived and executed setting—just getting to spend time here again was a blast.

I’ve tried three times now to describe this, and I just can’t without letting something slip. So, what’s the publisher say?

The borders of Lychford are crumbling. Other realities threaten to seep into the otherwise quiet village, and the resident wise woman is struggling to remain wise. The local magic shop owner and the local priest are having troubles of their own.
And a mysterious stranger is on hand to offer a solution to everyone’s problems. No cost, no strings (she says).
But as everyone knows, free wishes from strangers rarely come without a price . . .

Judith’s struggle with the effects of aging on her mind—and the way that her use of magic has accelerated them—is wonderfully depicted. Of course, it’s not just Judith dealing with her fading capabilities—her apprentice, her friend and her son also go through a lot trying to help her. This might be the best part of the book.

Autumn is working herself to exhaustion—not to mention loneliness and poverty—trying to rush her preparation for taking over for Judith. She’s also driven by the grave errors of the last book that have really put Lychford in danger.

Something about this one had me on tenterhooks throughout. There’ve been threats to Lynchford and/or the trio of protagonists before, but it all seemed much more likely this time.

The conclusion was simply fantastic and heart-wrenching—with a last line that will drive you to the online bookstore of your choice to try to order the conclusion immediately.

Can you read this without having read the previous entries in the series? Yeah, I guess you could. Cornell provides enough backstory to muddle through. Should you? Nope. I don’t think you’d appreciate everything the way it should be appreciated. Should you read the previous 3 novellas? Yes, and then read this and join me in waiting for the fifth and final one next year.


4 Stars