In My Mailbox (14): Mother’s Day and a Long Hiatus

Before anything else!

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms out there! :)

Especially to mine:

<3Thank you for getting me all those books when I was a kid even if you’re not too fond of reading, and I know sometimes you think I read too much. :D  Thank you for reading all the things I wrote despite that fact. :) I love you!

* * *

It’s been a long time since I last did an In My Mailbox post. Other than laziness and trying to resist buying books, I went on a book-buying fast during the Lenten season. I could not buy books for myself, but I can buy them as gifts, or receive them as gifts since my birthday falls within Lent. It’s all good, and I ended up using the usual book money for other equally important things, like clothes.

But as soon as Easter morning came, I went to Book Depository and ordered books. :) It felt nice, to celebrate victory in that way. The books aren’t here yet, though, so that will be for another posts.

The books I bought in recent bookstore trips are a different matter. And so after a long hiatus, here’s my 14th In My Mailbox. In My Mailbox is a weekly book meme hosted by Kristi from The Story Siren, where bloggers post about what books received that week, be it via  mailbox, library or store.

In My Mailbox (14)

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Magic Bleeds

Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews
Kate Daniels # 4

Publisher: Ace Books
Number of pages: 349
My copy: paperback, bought from PowerBooks

Atlanta would be a nice place to live, if it weren’t for the magic. 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 rose.

Kate Daniels works for the Order of the Knights of Merciful Aid, officially as a liaison with the mercenary guild. Unofficially, she cleans up the paranormal problems no one else wants to handle—especially if they involve Atlanta’s shapeshifting community.

When she’s called in to investigate a fight at the Steel Horse, a bar midway between the territories of the shapeshifters and the necromancers, Kate quickly discovers there’s a new player in town. One who’s been around for thousands of years—and rode to war at the side of Kate’s father.

This foe may be too much even for Kate and Curran, the Lord of the Beasts, to handle. Because this time, Kate will be taking on family…

* * *

Since I loved how Magic Strikes ended, I knew I couldn’t wait to read the fourth book in the Kate Daniels series, even if it meant finishing the book would make me itch for the fifth book already. But when the last book has left you smiling and the fourth book is just waiting to be read, well…you just have to grab it to keep the magic going. That, and I needed to know what happened to Kate and Curran. Yes, I needed to.

Magic Bleeds opens up a whole lot of doors into Kate and Curran’s lives, both individually and in their lives together. It picks up right where the previous book left off, of course we know that there will be a bump in the road where their relationship is going. The book starts off with that, and it left me wondering what will happen once their paths cross again. That doesn’t mean the story revolved only around their romance. Kate is faced yet again with a problem of epic proportions, and it truly is epic because of the connection to her past. Here we get to see and know just who Kate is preparing to fight. The result of all the fighting leaves me wondering if she is really capable of winning the fight of her life and still save the people she cares for. Of course we know she’ll win in the end, but how she will win is the big question. Kate is stronger here but also she’s grown softer now that she forming relationships with the people she works with. She’s still as snarky as ever though, and the book is littered with a ton of quotable quotes and funny anecdotes with the same deadpan humor that somehow lifted the feeling of impending doom.

We also learn more about Curran and how he became the Beast Lord, and why he acts the way he does. I like that he’s not the perfect guy, and I like that he’s just as flawed as Kate is. This just goes to show how good they are for each other. More Pack dynamics were discussed in this book, which showed that there was even a more complicated world inside the magical one that they live in. The diversity of the Pack and their politics were so well-thought out that we absolutely understand why Curran acts that way. It’s been said many times already, but I must say it again: Ilona Andrews knows how to build worlds, down to the smallest details.

Which brings me to the Kate and Curran scenes in this book: wow. Totally absolutely satisfying (and if you don’t mind this tiny spoiler — there is lingerie involved)! I have to admit that sometimes I like the sparring and the romantic tension more than the actual relationship itself. Sometimes I don’t want the characters to “level up” because when something finally happens I know things will change. I was afraid for that to happen with Kate and Curran, but the authors did a very good job in keeping the relationship exciting while making it grow. I’m content with the fact that Kate would still be the same snarky heroine that I loved from the first book, and Curran will still be the control freak Beast Lord, despite all the developments. :)

One more plus point about this book: Kate adopted a dog. IMHO, you can never go wrong when the protagonist adopts a dog. ;)

And like with the rest of the fans of the series, I absolutely cannot wait for the fifth book. When, oh when will it be out? :o

Rating:

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
Angieville
Artseblis
Janicu’s Book Blog
Book Harbinger
Emily and her Little Pink Notes
Attack of the Book

Magic Strikes

Magic Strikes by Kate Daniels
Kate Daniels # 3
Publisher: Ace Books
Number of pages: 310
My copy: paperback, bought from PowerBooks

Drafted into working for the Order of Merciful Aid, mercenary Kate Daniels has more paranormal problems than she knows what to do with these days. And in Atlanta, where magic comes and goes like the tide, that’s saying a lot.

But when Kate’s werewolf friend Derek is discovered nearly dead, she must confront her greatest challenge yet. As her investigation leads her to the Midnight Games—an invitation only, no holds barred, ultimate preternatural fighting tournament—she and Curran, the Lord of the Beasts, uncover a dark plot that may forever alter the face of Atlanta’s shapeshifting community…

* * *

Everyone I know online and offline who recommends this series has said this already so my saying this doesn’t really have that much bearing but I have to say this: Magic Strikes is the book in the Kate Daniels series. If at Magic Bites and Magic Burns, I only liked and really liked this series, Magic Strikes is the book that made me love it, love Kate and everything else in her fantastic universe.

In Magic Strikes, we finally learn more about Kate, her past and her mission. I love that there wasn’t a big dramatic reveal to it, really, but it was written like Kate has decided to trust the reader and tell (almost?) everything. We see Kate growing from the lone warrior to a part of a team, from someone who’d rather not have any attachments to someone who’d die just to make sure all the people she cares for is safe. There’s so much character growth for Kate in this book that it’s impossible not not to love her even more, and to want to be as awesome as she is especially when she starts kicking butt.

It was also really fun to get to know the secondary characters — from Jim, Kate’s old partner to Andrea, her new best friend and all the way to the Pack’s medmage Dr. Doolittle (whose animal counterpart is so cute and fitting :) ). Their relationships and dynamics with one another was also fun to read, particularly the shapeshifters, making them not just a simple pack, but almost like a family. Ilona Andrews knows how to make the supporting characters shine, putting spotlight on them in the right times and giving them little quirks that make them feel real despite their magical abilities.

It’s really hard to point out what I really loved about this book because there were so many awesome things about it, but if I were to choose, I’d go with the reason that made me end this book with a huge silly smile on my face: all the Kate and Curran moments. ♥ Ah, I can’t remember the last time I was this invested on a fictional (non) couple. Kate and Curran’s banter is not just funny but also sweet and yes, sexy. “Baby.” I never thought I’d like reading that pet name, ever, until Curran said it. :P

I know most of this review is just squee-ing, but there’s just so much to squee about in Magic Strikes. I love it, and I love this series, and I’m very, very happy that I splurged on these books because it was absolutely worth it. I’m so glad I don’t have to wait too long to read the fourth book, Magic Bleeds. In fact, I’m reading it now. :)

Rating:

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
Angieville
Artseblis
Janicu’s Book Blog
Book Harbinger
The Book Smugglers

Magic Burns

Magic Burns by Ilona AndrewsMagic Burns by Ilona Andrews
Kate Daniels # 2

Publisher: Ace Books
Number of pages: 260
My copy: paperback, bought from PowerBooks

As a mercenary who cleans up after magic goes wrong, Kate Daniels has seen her share of occupational hazards. Normally, waves of paranormal energy ebb and flow across Atlanta like a tide. But once every seven years, a flare comes, a time when magic runs rampant. Now Kate’s going to have to deal with problems on a much bigger scale; a divine one.

When Kate sets out to retrieve a set of stolen maps for the Pack, Atlanta’s paramilitary clan of shapeshifters, she quickly realizes much more is at stake. During a flare, gods and goddesses can manifest – and battle for power. The stolen maps are only the opening gambit in an epic tug-of-war between two gods hoping for rebirth. And if Kate can’t stop the cataclysmic showdown, the city may not survive…

* * *

I wasn’t planning to read Magic Burns immediately after I finished Magic Bites because I didn’t want to go through the entire series too fast, plus I always rest in between reading a series so I can read other books from my TBR pile. But after I finished the first book, I was reeling so much from Kate and the magical Atlanta that I had to read what happens next.

Some time has passed after the events of Magic Bites happened, and Kate wakes up to a phone call from her former partner and shapeshifter Jim who offers her a gig. Together, they disarm an arsonist successfully, but not before the culprit is killed by an unknown assassin. As Kate sets to investigate this, she finds a bigger concern not just for her but for everyone: a magical flare is coming up, and when magic runs rampant, things are destined to go wrong.

Magic Burns further immerses us into the world of Ilona Andrews’ characters, where magic and technology rises and falls every now and then. This is further expounded here with the occurence of a magical flare that comes once every seven years. More creatures are introduced, including the existence of gods and goddesses, that even Kate wasn’t really buying despite all the magic that she knows. I like how more things seemed to be explained here, including how magic can make people, more insight on the Pack dynamics and the interesting new addition, the witches. The world building here is as solid as the first, and despite the amount of extraordinary things in Kate’s world, it was easy to accept the fact that these things exist.

What makes Magic Burns (and Magic Bites) so readable is how it’s not just serious fantasy. I love the little funny quips and things that happens in the novel, and I find myself shaking my head as I chuckle at a seemingly ridiculous scene but still very fitting. I think “deadpan” is the right term to describe it. For example, there was a scene in the book where Kate was talking to Gasthek, a necromancer, through a vampire host he sent to her office:

“What’s in it for me?”

“Monetary compensation.”

The day I took the People’s money would be the day I give up on being a human. “Not interested. Any other offers?”

The vampire stared at me, his mouth slack as Gasthek assessed his options. I took a couple of forms from my desk, put them in the vamp’s mouth, and pulled them up by their edges.

“What are you doing?” Gasthek asked.

“My hole puncher broke.” (p. 117)

See what I mean? I can only imagine what that scene looked like. :P

As always, Kate was very awesome here. In Magic Bites we get to see a bit of Kate and how tough she was. In Magic Burns, we see a bit of Kate’s soft side as she forms a relationship with Julie, the kid she “adopts” early in the book. We see her fierceness in protecting the person entrusted to her and what lengths she would go to just to keep her safe. Despite Kate’s strong personality and her need to be private, she’s not one without friends. She knows and keeps the value of friendship, going as far as provoking even the Beast Lord just to protect her friend. I like this side of her because it makes her more human. Further into the novel, though, we see a bit of how powerful Kate can be, and we learn a bit of her past, which I believe will be expounded on the latter novels.

And speaking of the Beast Lord. Ah Curran. :) I think I am starting to understand why the girls I know who like the series sigh with a mention of Curran. :) And that final scene? I wouldn’t have gotten The Princess Bride reference if I didn’t read this Goodreads review. I immediately re-read the last part and gave a tiny squeal (just tiny because I was in the office when I finished this) — “As you wish!” Squeeee! ♥ They tell me it gets better in the next books, so I can’t wait to read them.

Magic Burns is a solid follow-up to Magic Bites, if not better. :) I am about to start Magic Strikes, and I can’t wait to read more Kate and of course, whatever there is between her and Curran. :)

Rating:

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
Angieville
Artseblis
Janicu’s Book Blog
Book Harbinger
The Book Smugglers

Magic Bites

Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
Kate Daniels # 1
Publisher: Ace Books

Number of pages: 260
My copy: paperback, bought from PowerBooks

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…

* * *

When I first started reading fantasy by choice, I know I wouldn’t be really interested in any hardcore fantasy novels, like Tolkien or anything similar. I remember saying that my brain can’t possibly process and visualize all the foreign worlds and creatures and such. When I came across Cassandra Clare‘s The Mortal Instruments series, I knew I liked that kind of fantasy — the one still set in the real world yet has fantastical elements. Hello urban fantasy.

I was all set to read more urban fantasy after that, but alas, I fell into YA paranormal and eventually dystopia. I never really thought of actively looking for urban fantasy because of the plethora of books in my TBR pile, plus I wasn’t really sure where to start.

And now I take this time to thank Chachic and Michelle for pushing me in the right direction with Ilona AndrewsKate Daniels series. I’ve told the story of how I got the books here, but if you’re too lazy to click over and come back, here’s the gist: we were book shopping, Chachic showed us the first book, told us all four books were available. I looked at them, listened to the two girls tell me how awesome the series was, and quickly folded, buying all four books in the series at once and starting Magic Bites that night.

And friends, I got hooked.

If you’re planning to read this book, I suggest you read and try to understand the description at the back as much as you can because there are no explanations offered at the start. I was immediately dropped into Kate’s world like that. There were no careful explanations or introductions; I found myself reading about Kate was sitting at her kitchen when magic “fell” and there was suddenly a vampire. All that happened before I could say “What?” and so I had to slow down with reading to really get what was happening. It was kind of disorienting at first, so if you’re not too used to fantasy this may present a little problem.

But don’t give up on it! You will get used to it, and like me, you’ll marvel at the world building that the authors* did in this book. Kate’s world is very believable despite all the magical tendencies, and after some time, I got used to how their world works. As always, there were the vampires and shapeshifters, but they’re not the sparkly vampires or the imprinting shapeshifters that is popular right now. I am very, very relieved to know that these creatures in Kate’s world are not like them, especially the vampires. The book may not have Dracula-like vampires, but they’re written as terrifying creatures. Finally something that made sense! I am overjoyed. :P

I can’t really decide what made this book awesome, but since I have three more books to review for this series, I can discuss the others in their reviews. :P For the first book, I am all praises for the protagonist, Kate. Kate is just…kick-ass. She’s snarky, sassy, tough yet underneath all that, still very feminine. It’s hard not to like her from the very start and love her as the story goes on. There’s an air of mystery around her, too, that made me want to continue reading just to know her past…but in the end, I still don’t know who (or what) she was. Even so, her personality wasn’t hidden so much that I didn’t get to know who she was and the lengths she would go to get what she wants as the story happens. Kate reminds me of one of my favorite heroines of all time, Thursday Next: they’re both very smart and strong female characters, ones that I would love to be if I were made into a book character. :)

Of course I know I haven’t really said much about this book after all that I’ve written in this review. This is a very solid debut from Ilona Andrews. It’s dark, with lots of mystery and action (oh yes, a bit of gore, too), but still with enough snark and sass that I chuckled every now and then. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great start for a series that I immediately grabbed the second book just to be immersed in Kate Daniels’ world.

Once again, thanks to Chachic and Michelle for pushing this one! I can’t wait to find out more about Kate (and Curran! :P) in the next books. :)

* Ilona Andrews is actually the pen name of the husband-wife writer tandem of Ilona and Andrew Gordon. Awesome, yes?

Rating:

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
Angieville
Artseblis
Janicu’s Book Blog
Book Harbinger