Friday, October 31, 2014

The Book Lover's Den #10: Much Ado About Urban Fantasy

Welcome to my Friday feature!
This is my special 
Halloween edition!!

In each weekly post, I explore 
my thoughts on several 
book-related topics.

I've always loved fantasy, which is also known as epic fantasy, or high fantasy. As for urban fantasy, which is a sub-genre of fantasy, I have come to love it as well. Of course, the main characteristic of this type of fantasy is that it takes place in a  city, usually, but not always,  at the present time.

According to Library Journal, this sub-genre first came on the scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Authors usually mentioned as belonging to it are Laurel K. Hamilton, Kim Harrison, Jeaniene Frost, Patricia Briggs, and Kelley Armstrong, writing for adults. As for authors writing for teens, there are P.C. and Kristin Cast (mother and daughter), Lauren Kate, Carrie Jones, Courtney Allison Moulton, and Stephenie Meyer.

One author of this type of fiction deserves special mention; after all, he did much to popularize urban fantasy in the 1980s, along with Terri Windling, Emma Bull, and John Crowley. He's of Canadian origin, and his name is Charles de Lint. This man is a highly imaginative writer, and a very prolific one, too. Although I have so far read only one of his books, Dreams Underfoot, I definitely intend to read more! This book is a collection of short stories, all set in the fictional North American town of Newford. All the stories are interrelated, as well; characters from one story will show up in other stories. These are magical, mythical, and mystical tales of wonder! De Lint takes you to his fantastical settings, and keeps you there. His characters are truly remarkable; you soon start feeling that they're part of your own family. The events in these stories are like vividly remembered dreams, too, and make me long for the beautiful, magical, and, at times, dangerous world this writer has created. I really need to re-read this book, so I can write a review for this blog. And I need to start reading his other books!

For most of my life, I have usually gravitated toward fantasy, science fiction, the paranormal -- anything that would take me out of this mundane reality, with its boring, everyday routines. I have always longed for a magical world that exists mostly in the imagination, although New Age magical practitioners will insist that this world is indeed real; it's the spiritual world, sometimes known as the astral plane. Saints and mystics have also claimed that this world does indeed exist. So I think I suffer from a rather strange condition -- a sort of "homesickness" for the supernatural. I try to satisfy this yearning through books. Urban fantasy is particularly attractive to me because of the blending of everyday reality with fantasy. It's as if I could run right into this magical world at the turn of the next corner.

Another reason I like urban fantasy is that it seems to be filled with heroic women. Kelley Armstrong -- another Canadian author -- has garnered rave reviews for her Women of the Otherworld series, for instance, while Patricia Briggs, an American author, is renowned for her Mercy Thompson series. Alas, I have yet to read any of these books.....but I fully intend to! 

Armstrong's first novel in the Women of the Otherworld series is Bitten, which tells the story of Elena Michaels, a female werewolf who hunts rogue werewolves. This character is, as many book bloggers would say, "a kick-butt heroine", and she happens to be the only female werewolf in the world. (Note to self: get a hold of these books, and soon!)

Patricia Briggs has created another kick-butt heroine in Mercy Thompson, who is the daughter of a Blackfoot Indian father and a white mother. Mercy is a Volkswagen mechanic as well as a Walker -- a Native American shapeshifter who turns into a coyote. In the series, she encounters werewolves, vampires, and other magical creatures, and excels at solving missing-person cases and murders.

Like paranormal romance, urban fantasy is not as gory and scary as the horror genre. Interestingly, all three are 'spinoffs', or offshoots, of Gothic fiction. Each has a slightly different spin on the dark elements that are inherent to Gothic fiction. Urban fantasy is frequently part of paranormal romance novels, but not necessarily. Urban fantasy is not as focused on romance as the PNR genre, so there are UF novels without much, or any, romance in them.

I do prefer PNR and UF mixed up in the same novel, but after all, there are also beautiful PNR novels that take place in traditional fantasy worlds. Urban fantasy, is, of course, grittier. It also tends to have a darker atmosphere, although that doesn't mean that the bad guys will necessarily win in the end.

I find there's something 'edgy' about urban fantasy, too, which is not present in traditional fantasy. I think that's because, in traditional epic fantasy, there are very clear lines between heroes and villains. In urban fantasy, there are frequently no clear-cut differences between the two. Thus it was that, when I was reading the YA omnibus collection,  The Forbidden Game, by L.J. Smith, I wanted Julian, who was supposed to be a villain, yet had a soft heart, to win the love of Jenny, the female protagonist. In turn, I wanted her to save him from his darkness. This was, of course, also a paranormal romance novel; Julian was not a normal human boy, but a paranormal being.

The interesting thing about The Forbidden Game was that there were some truly terrifying moments in it; yet, I couldn't put it down! Smith really did mix some horror into the three books in the collection, but she's such a master storyteller, I actually swallowed bravely, and moved on through the three books.

Now that I've mentioned The Forbidden Game, I have just remembered that Dreams Underfoot had a dark, edgy feel to it, as well....

I really need to get more of these novels under my belt. After all, they do feed my fantasy addiction, and furthermore, give me the nice illusion that I could very well come across a fascinating paranormal being at any point in time!

Here's a list of novels, most of them in series, that I've had on my TBR list for some time. I've also added some new ones.

Young Adult Fiction

The Darkest Powers trilogy, by Kelley Armstrong
His Dark Materials, by Philip Pullman
The Iron Fey, by Julie Kagawa
The Mortal Instruments, by Cassandra Clare
Need, by Carrie Jones
The Vampire Academy series, by Richelle Mead

Adult Fiction

The Mercy Thompson series, by Patricia Briggs
The Black London series, by Caitlin Kitteredge
The Charley Davidson series, by Darynda Jones
The Dresden Files, by Jim Butcher
Women of the Otherworld, by Kelley Armstrong
The Fever series, by Karen Marie Moning
The Greywalker series, by Kat Richardson
The Kate Daniels series, by Ilona Andrews

Well, let me be honest  and say that these are books I would like to read. Will I be able to read all of them? We shall see....but my heart's in the right place, that's for sure!

Meanwhile, I'd like to wish all of you a very Happy Halloween!!

 For Further Information

I'd sure love to know what 
you, the readers,
think of urban fantasy!
Do you enjoy reading it?
Have you ever read 
any of the books above?
My inquiring mind would be so interested in finding out.......

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tour Spotlight: The Empress Chronicles, by Suzy Vitello

This tour is brought to you by 
Mark My Words Book Publicity!!

Published by Diversion Books

Purchase on:

The Empress Chronicles
(The Empress Chronicles #1)
Suzy Vitello
Diversion Books
Sept. 2, 2014
Fantasy, Historical Fiction,
Romance, Young Adult Fiction

In this dazzling first book in THE EMPRESS CHRONICLES series from the author of The Moment Before, one courageous girl seeks keys to the past to unlock the future...

When city girl Liz is banished to a rural goat farm on the outskirts of Portland, the 15-year-old feels her life spiraling out of control. She can't connect to her father or his young girlfriend, and past trauma adds to her sense of upheaval. The only person who seems to keep her sane is a troubled boy who is fighting his own demons. But all of this changes in one historical instant.

One-hundred fifty years earlier, Elisabeth of Bavaria has troubles of her own. Her childhood is coming to a crashing end, and her destiny is written in the form of a soothsaying locket that has the ability to predict true love. But evil is afoot in the form of a wicked enchantress who connives to wield the power of the locket for her own destructive ends.
When Liz finds a timeworn diary, and within it a locket, she discovers the secrets and desires of the young Bavarian princess who will one day grow up to be the legendary Empress of Austria. It is in the pages of the diary that these two heroines will meet, and it is through their interwoven story that Liz will discover she has the power to rewrite history-including her own...

Readers of books like Rachel Harris's
My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century
will love The Empress Chronicles!!

 Suzy Vitello is a proud founding member of a critique group recently dubbed  "The Hottest Writing Group in Portland", and her short stories have won fellowships and prizes (including the Atlantic Monthly Student Writing Award, and an Oregon Literary Arts Fellowship).

Suzy's Young Adult novels, The Moment Before and The Empress Chronicles are available wherever books and ebooks are sold.

An e-chapbook of some of her stories, Unkiss Me, can be found here.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Book Review: Amazing Grace, by Elizabeth Davies

Amazing Grace
(The Resurrection Trilogy #2)
Elizabeth Davies
Trade Paperback, 248 pages
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
July 16, 2014
Historical Fiction, Paranormal Romance, Science Fantasy
Source: Purchased from Amazon

Book Synopsis: This is the second novel in the Resurrection Trilogy.  As Grace's health deteriorates in her own world and she moves ever closer to her own death, she returns to the past where Roman is waiting for her, and she falls deeper in love with a man  whose sole purpose in life is his quest for blood.

In this second novel of what is a creative combination of genres, Grace and Roman, the two lovers, continue to deal with their unusual relationship. It's unusual not only because Roman is a vampire, and Grace, a human, but also because she flashes in and out of his life, which spans centuries, through an uncontrollable, mysterious process that takes her from the 21st century to his time period, whatever it might happen to be when she returns to him. 

The narrative focuses closely on  their relationship, although, when  Grace flashes back to her own time, it then shows the reader the interactions of Grace  and her family -- her parents and beloved brother Ianto. Speaking of him, I really enjoyed the way he acted toward Grace. It was very touching to see his concern for her, as well as her realization that he was no longer the little brother she had known in the past, but an adult in his own  right. 

Interesting characters are introduced in this second book. One of them is a female vampire, whom Roman calls "Lettuce". This turned out to be a humorous nickname for her; she was really named "Leticia". She and Grace immediately disliked each other, as Grace suspected that Roman had been having  a fling with this woman. He had already told her  that he couldn't be expected to remain alone during the years that Grace was lost to him. Whatever Roman says, I agree with Grace's dislike of Leticia; she's not a nice person at all.

Another interesting new character is Jeremiah, who is also a vampire; it later becomes apparent that he's Roman's nemesis. I took an instant dislike to him, too, especially when he showed no interest in saving Grace's life, at one point in the novel.

This book is as fascinating as the first, and Davies again creates suspense with her unique take on time travel. The contrasts between  the various time periods in the past, and the present, 21st-century reality, are amazing and shocking, too, as the reader is confronted with the fact that aspects of the modern world we take for granted simply did not exist in centuries past.

As in the first book, the relationship between Grace and Roman is fiercely romantic and passionate, although the sex scenes are a bit less graphic in this installment. I love the way Roman increasingly comes to accept this woman who is such an enigma to him. He cares deeply for her, in his own rough way, finally confessing his love for her toward the end of the novel. She, meanwhile, had already fallen head over heels in love with him, having long ago accepted him just as he is. 

Roman's character  is very realistically drawn; he is not quite a tortured hero, nor is he a monster. He seems to straddle the two types of vampire characterizations, and I liked that. This certainly keeps the novel from becoming  maudlin or melodramatic.

As in the first book, Grace is a very courageous young woman, as she deals with her impending demise, and then  with this strange time traveling she can't even control. She, too, is depicted in a very realistic manner. She finds Roman very attractive, not only  sexually, but as a personality, too; yet, her feelings for him are never described in such a way that would make the reader engage in eye-rolling.

With all the shifting back and forth in time, there is never a dull moment; Davies keeps the reader turning pages. As the narrative moves along, the author also manages to include some world-building, without inserting huge information dumps in the process.

Interestingly, Grace doesn't time-travel when she's away from her family's farm, which is located near the Welsh town of Brecon. Also, Roman is unable to connect with her at any other location, so, no matter where he travels, he keeps returning to Brecon, in hopes that Grace will appear.

Speaking of Brecon, it's wonderfully obvious, in this book as much as in the first, that the author loves the Welsh countryside, which is another aspect of these books that I find enchanting. The descriptions of the woods, the mountains, the various points of interest, are all lovely and vivid, thus making me yearn to visit this beautiful land!

In short, this novel is not only as entertaining as the first, but also just as fascinating! It is a beautiful paranormal love story that will draw readers in, keeping them enthralled  throughout. Davies writes in a simple, direct style that is also quite descriptive, and takes it for granted that her readers are sophisticated lovers of paranormal romance. Her characters, plot, setting and style, all make me so glad to own this very special vampire romance trilogy!

Needless to say, I am anxious to move on to the third and last book! I heartily recommend this series to any paranormal romance lover; you will definitely not be disappointed!


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Blog Tour: Mini-Review/Excerpt/Giveaway!! Chasing The Sun, by Sasha Abernathy

This is a Mini-Review of 
Sasha Abernathy's exciting new release, Chasing The Sun!!
Be sure to enter the
awesome giveaway, too!!

Chasing The Sun
Sasha Abernathy
Crimson Frost Books
October 21, 2014
Paranormal Romance,Urban Fantasy

For Terran, life was predictable, home, job, dog, friends – until she met the new art gallery owner Aiden. Through him she will find a world she never new existed, a world terrifying for someone who never believed in more than what she could see.
As their fiery relationship evolves, Terran finds herself surrounded by a world of nightmares and gods, when Aiden proves to be more than a simple man. Soon, Terran finds that she is not so simple either.
As an ancient evil threatens to escape and unleash all Hell, Terran must dive into a world she never knew existed to save them all...even if that means giving up her life to do it.

The excerpts of this book that I've read have really interested me in this story. I just hope that this book will be available in print sometime in the future, because I do prefer printed books, and it certainly tells a fascinating story!

Terran and Aiden sound like very compelling characters; they both have paranormal powers, and must work together to combat evil.

The excerpt below seems to be a typical romantic encounter, until you get to the very end, and notice that the young girl is feeling something very unusual: "a pulse of energy" forms around her and her dance partner.

In short, I'm definitely intrigued by this novel, and am looking forward to reading it at some point in the near future! 

"Looking for someone in particular, or just attempting to learn some new dance moves?" I turned to the side to find Seth, drink in hand, smiling at me. This man had all the confidence in the world and there was no doubt as to why.
"No one in particular, no." I smiled biting the edge of my lip in an attempt to appear flirty before going back to my empty drink. Damn. Do I really need another glass? My heart raced and stomach dropped. I was tipsy, and tipsy was dangerous.
Seth chuckled like he knew I was lying, but was too polite to say so. "I see," he replied, with a mock frown. "You see," he continued as he leaned in close enough to only have to whisper. "I secretly hoped you were looking for me."
I turned my face towards his, and now we were only inches apart. He smelled of fresh cloves and the sky right after a long rainfall. I didn't know how to respond, so I went with a breathy, nearly inaudible sound mimicking the word, "oh."
"May I have this dance?” he asked, a seriousness still on his face as he extended his hand. I didn't answer, but instead put my drink down and let him escort me to the floor. Seth walked me out towards the center and then held me close. The tempo of the music didn't matter. His intent was to hold me and he didn't seem like a man that heard no often.
A heat radiated from within me. From deep down, an energy pulsed. How could he have such an effect on me? He held me close and firm. It comforted and excited me at the same time.  I finally relaxed and nestled in closer. It was only a dance, I might as well enjoy it. Our lives were worlds apart. If I were honest, this would most likely be the last time I saw him unless I was tending to his yard.
"You look ravishing tonight, Terran." Seth’s slight British accent made his words even more enticing.
"Thank you,” I said, shyness crept over me as I bowed my head so I didn’t have to look him in the eyes.
"Your makeup and jewelry are remarkable. However this stone doesn't do your other necklace justice. Your father had impeccable taste."
I was sort of confused by the change in topic, but I didn't care. A gorgeous man held me and told me I was the beautiful one.
"You are special. Do you know that, Terran?" He stopped our dancing and moved his hand from the small of my back to the side of my face, cupping my cheek and placing the barest touch of his thumb on my lips. My mouth parted as the energy inside me grew and blossomed. His eyes bore into mine as we stared at one another.
Then, without warning, he withdrew his hand and placed it on my back again, motioning me to dance.
"Do you have plans for next Saturday?"
"I don't think so, no." A date?
"I have a dinner party to attend at Mr. and Mrs. Parker's home Saturday afternoon. Would you please be my guest? I promise to take you out somewhere pleasant afterward." He laughed. I guess he wasn't too fond of them either. "You would make it so much better. I'd love to spend more time with you."
My eyes widened and I didn't know what to say. This would be my first date since I lost the boys.
"Please?" he asked and placed his hand on my face again, only this time he leaned in closer. I was frozen and couldn’t move. Shock crept over me along with the glow of my skin. And as he reached in and placed the barest of kisses on my cheek whispering, "please" once again, I could feel a pulse of energy form around us. I looked to the other dancers and no one seemed to notice, so it must have been in my head. It was a small rush of power, but tasted as sweet as the power had tasted in the woods.

Born in Germany to a Puerto Rican mother and All-American Military father, who saw fit to give her a Russian name, Sasha Abernathy has always loved storytelling, traveling, and doing all things silly. Raised in Oklahoma, but eventually moving everywhere from Alaska to Spain, Sasha has finally settled in the beautiful state of Colorado. With her loving husband, two wild sons, and neurotic labradoodle, Sasha is surrounded by way too much testosterone and escapes through her mysteriously whimsical and romantic novels.


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