Fantasy · Urban Fantasy

An Artificial Night – Seanan McGuire

3.5 stars

Continuing on in my re-read of the October Daye series, An Artificial Night is the book where the October Daye series finally starts to find its’ stride.

Cover from Goodreads


October “Toby” Daye is a changeling-half human and half fae-and the only one who has earned knighthood. Now she must take on a nightmarish new challenge. Someone is stealing the children of the fae as well as mortal children, and all signs point to Blind Michael. Toby has no choice but to track the villain down-even when there are only three magical roads by which to reach Blind Michael’s realm, home of the Wild Hunt-and no road may be taken more than once. If Toby cannot escape with the children, she will fall prey to the Wild Hunt and Blind Michael’s inescapable power.

Comparing AAN to ALH and R&R only, An Artificial Night has the biggest, baddest villain and some serious ramifications for Faerie, Toby, and all she holds dear.

Taking on Blind Michael is the scariest and hardest thing Toby has ever done, and over the course of the book, Toby finally comes to term with the fact that whether she likes it or not, she’s a hero. She can’t hide anymore. She has to own it.

Some things remain from previous books that are still annoying. Toby still bleeds everywhere, faints or blacks out left, right, and sideways and she’s still denser than lead. (The Luidaeg even calls her out on being stupid.) Despite all of this, the plot and the villain and the setup for significant ramifications throughout Faerie really make the payoff worth it. As Toby begins to accept that she’s a hero, she seems also to get smarter and make slightly better choices.

Join me over in the Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant Fans group on Facebook, where we’re doing a Re/Read-Along as we prepare for book #12 in the series, Night and Silence, to be released in September. It’s newbie friendly, as we’re keeping our discussion limited to just the books we’ve read so far in the Re/Read along. We’ll be discussing book #4, Late Eclipses on April 1.


Urban Fantasy

A Local Habitation – Seanan McGuire

3 stars

Continuing with Seanan McGuire Week here at Alex Can Read, I’m finally getting around to reviewing A Local Habitation, book two in Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series.

Over in the Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant Fans group on Facebook, we’re doing a Re/Read Along as we prepare for book #12 in the series, Night and Silence, to be released in September. It’s newbie friendly, as we’re keeping our discussion limited to just the books we’ve read so far in the Re/Read along. We’ll be discussing book #3, An Artificial Night on March 11.


Cover from Goodre


October “Toby” Daye is a changeling, the daughter of Amandine of the fae and a mortal man. Like her mother, she is gifted in blood magic, able to read what has happened to a person through a mere taste of blood. Toby is the only changeling who has earned knighthood, and she re-earns that position every day, undertaking assignments for her liege, Sylvester, the Duke of the Shadowed Hills.

Now Sylvester has asked her to go to the County of Tamed Lightning—otherwise known as Fremont, CA—to make sure that all is well with his niece, Countess January O’Leary, whom he has not been able to contact. It seems like a simple enough assignment—but when dealing with the realm of Faerie nothing is ever as simple as it seems. Toby soon discovers that someone has begun murdering people close to January, whose domain is a buffer between Sylvester’s realm and a scheming rival duchy. If Toby can’t find the killer soon, she may well become the next victim.

A Local Habitation is probably the weakest book in the series, closely followed by Rosemary & Rue. From there, the series significantly picks up. If you make it through these first two books, it only gets better.

As she once again reluctantly performs her knightly duties, Toby continues to faint a lot and bleed a lot, but it took almost halfway through the book before she really started to bleed.

A Local Habitation is more claustrophobic than Rosemary & Rue because the majority of the plot is contained within the walls of January O’Leary’s tech company. The plot is a bit slow and takes a while to really heat up, but once it does we’re at a roaring boil. A Local Habitation also introduces us to some of the most interesting characters in the series. The Olsen twins and April O’Leary.

While the book is slow, the events are crucial to understanding some of the later books, so it’s definitely not skippable. On rereading, I saw so many little breadcrumbs that Seanan left for us to connect to things in later books.

Check back next week for my review of An Artificial Night, book #3 in the series. (Or if you can’t wait, join our discussion this Sunday!)

Urban Fantasy

Rosemary & Rue – Seanan McGuire

3 Stars

It seems that’s it’s Seanan McGuire week here on Alex Can Read! I’m finally getting around to posting my reviews for the first two novels in Seanan McGuire’s beloved October Daye series.

Over in the Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant Fans group on Facebook, we’re doing a Re/Read Along as we prepare for book #12 in the series, Night and Silence, to be released in September. It’s newbie friendly, as we’re keeping our discussion limited to just the books we’ve read so far in the Re/Read along. We’ll be discussing book #3, An Artificial Night on March 11.


Cover from Goodreads


October “Toby” Daye, a changeling who is half human and half fae, has been an outsider from birth. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the Faerie world, retreating to a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, the Faerie world has other ideas…

The murder of Countess Evening Winterrose pulls Toby back into the fae world. Unable to resist Evening’s dying curse, which binds her to investigate, Toby must resume her former position as knight errant and renew old alliances. As she steps back into fae society, dealing with a cast of characters not entirely good or evil, she realizes that more than her own life will be forfeited if she cannot find Evening’s killer.

Rosemary & Rue was the first book Seanan McGuire ever wrote, and it shows. Of everything she’s written, it’s the roughest and hardest to get through.  It’s not amazing and is fairly standard urban fantasy fare.

Our heroine, October “Toby” Daye is a weak blooded changeling trying to avoid faerie as much as she can. McGuire hints at a noble, honorable past full of feats of service enough to earn Toby her knighthood, but when we meet Toby she’s far from that high station.

Over the course of the book, as she reluctantly responds to the demands of duty, Toby frustratingly spends most of the book bleeding, unconscious, or working herself down to the ragged edge. Toby is slogging through the plot and the read itself is a bit of a slog.

But now, as I reread the book, having read everything else in the series, I see the breadcrumbs that Seanan has laid out, to be picked up later in the series. Little references that don’t mean anything until connected to later events in the series. From the very beginning, Seanan has been carefully laying the groundwork for the larger arcs that tie the next 11 books together.

While book 1 is a slog, it’s definitely a series that gets better as it goes along.

Come back later this week for my review of book #2, A Local Habitation. 

Fantasy · Urban Fantasy

Tricks for Free – Seanan McGuire

5 Stars

Tricks for Free is quite possibly the best installment in the InCryptid series so far, which I am sort of surprised I’m saying. I love Verity and loved the Hollywood aspects of her books, while Antimony, the main character in Tricks for Free, reminds me of my own little sister and I’m just not that into theme parks. But somehow, the combination of Antimony, theme parks and a special kind of Seanan magic, and I was HOOKED.

I couldn’t put the book down.


Cover image courtesy of the publisher


The publisher’s synopsis:

Penance, noun:
1. Punishment for past actions.
2. An attempt to pay for what can’t be bought.
3. See also “exile.”

Antimony Price is on the run. With the Covenant on her tail and her family still in danger, she needs to get far, far away from anyone who might recognize her—including her own mice. For the first time in a long time, a Price is flying without a safety net. Where do you go when you need to disappear into a crowd without worrying about attracting attention? An amusement park, of course.

Some people would call Lowryland the amusement park. It’s one of the largest in Florida, the keystone of the Lowry entertainment empire…but for Annie, it’s a place to hide. She’s just trying to keep her head down long enough to come up with a plan that will get her home without getting anyone killed. No small order when she’s rooming with gorgons and sylphs, trying to placate frustrated ghosts, and rushing to get to work on time.

Then the accidents begin. The discovery of a dead man brings Annie to the attention of the secret cabal of magic users running Lowryland from behind the scenes. They want the fire that sleeps in her fingers. They want her on their side. They want to help her—although their help, like everything else, comes with a price.

No plan. Minimal backup. No way out. Annie’s about to get a crash course in the reality behind the pretty facade. If she’s lucky, she’ll survive the experience.

All of the InCryptid novels are wild, wonderful rides of mystery, magical creatures and mice and Tricks for Free is *almost* an exception. There are almost no Aeslin Mice in this book. If it weren’t for the bonus novella at the end (first available to Seanan’s Patreon supporters and now available to the public for the first time here!) there would have been no mice. (Thankfully, we’re spared THAT horror.) That’s honestly my only complaint. Not enough mice.

Antimony is holding it together, mostly, and just trying to make it from one day to the next. But of course, the universe won’t let Annie fade away. She’s a Price, after all. And Prices are always up to their neck in one thing or another. Tricks for Free is a very strong entry in the InCryptid series and I’m already dyyyyyying for the next book in the series.

Somehow, despite my general ambivalence toward theme parks, McGuire’s description of the day-to-day and behind-the-scenes inner workings of Lowryland makes the setting interesting and engaging. There’s something about seeing below the facade and shine that draws me in. Add in Annie’s struggle to understand and control her magic, keep her identity a secret, and not crack under the loneliness of being completely disconnected from her family and from Sam and you’ve got a complex, layered, rollercoaster of a novel.

Tricks for Free is out in the wild on March 6, 2018. This is one ride you definitely want to be tall enough for.

I received an eARC from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. 

Fantasy · Urban Fantasy

Strange Practice – Vivian Shaw

4 stars

I love stories about human outsiders mingling in the world of the supernatural, and Strange Practice didn’t disappoint.


Cover from Goodreads


Synopsis from Goodreads:

Meet Greta Helsing, fast-talking doctor to the undead. Keeping the supernatural community not-alive and well in London has been her family’s specialty for generations.

Greta Helsing inherited the family’s highly specialized, and highly peculiar, medical practice. In her consulting rooms, Dr. Helsing treats the undead for a host of ills – vocal strain in banshees, arthritis in barrow-wights, and entropy in mummies. Although barely making ends meet, this is just the quiet, supernatural-adjacent life Greta’s been groomed for since childhood.

Until a sect of murderous monks emerges, killing human and undead Londoners alike. As terror takes hold of the city, Greta must use her unusual skills to stop the cult if she hopes to save her practice, and her life.

Strange Practice will appeal to fans of Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid series, as there are many similarities. Greta is human, but her clientele is not. She treats vampires, vampyres, (yes those are different kinds), mummies, ghouls, selkies and more. When Greta responds to a house call, she finds herself pulled into the schemes of a murderous sect of monks. Along the way she works with friends and makes some new ones as well.

It’s a fun, interesting story. Strange Practice is not as silly and lighthearted as McGuire’s InCryptid series but has the same kind of feel. Also, despite the feel of Strange Practice it is set in modern times, not the Victorian or Edwardian eras.

I enjoyed the book, but not at a 5-star level. I am looking forward to the sequel Dreadful Company, out later in 2018.

Urban Fantasy

Booke of the Hidden – Jeri Westerson

2 stars

I received an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. 

This book was just not for me. I couldn’t connect with the characters and wasn’t held by the plot. Jeri Westerson’s writing was solid, I just didn’t connect.

Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

To get a fresh start away from a bad relationship, Kylie Strange moves across the country to open a shop in a seemingly quiet town in rural Maine. During renovations on Strange Herbs & Teas, she discovers a peculiar and ancient codex, The Booke of the Hidden, bricked into the wall. Every small town has its legends and unusual histories, and this artifact sends Kylie right into the center of Moody Bog’s biggest secret.

While puzzling over the tome’s oddly blank pages, Kylie gets an unexpected visitor—Erasmus Dark, an inscrutable stranger who claims to be a demon, knows she has the book, and warns her that she has opened a portal to the netherworld. Kylie brushes off this nonsense, until a series of bizarre murders put her, the newcomer, at the center. With the help of the demon and a coven of witches she befriends while dodging the handsome but sharp-eyed sheriff, Kylie hunts for a killer—that might not be human.

I found both Kylie and Erasmus to be incredibly frustrating characters. I didn’t enjoy spending time with them and found the other characters to be somewhat thin.

Booke of the Hidden hits shelves today. If you pick it up, let me know what you think!

Urban Fantasy · YA

Wolves and Roses – Christina Bauer

3.5 Stars

I received an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. 

Surprise! I’m officially moving back to three posts a week, so this week you get two posts in two days!

I love fairy tales. I love fresh, fun retellings of fairy tales – especially when they’re all mashed together. Wolves and Roses is just that kind of story.

Bryar Rose is a Sleeping Beauty life template, her bestie Elle is a Cinderella life template, and wizards, witches, fairies, and shapeshifters are just part of her world.

Bryar wants nothing more than to turn 18 and not get married. If she can just manage that, she can live a normal life and not succumb to her Sleeping Beauty life template. But of course, the universe – and her aunties – have other plans for Bryar.

Wolves and Roses was a fun, quick read. Bryar and Elle have a great friendship, as do the guys that tag along with them on their adventures. Their friendship is the best part of the book.

The rest of the book is a little predictable and just a little convenient. It doesn’t take away from the fun of the story, but it does hold it back from being as strong a story as it could be.

If you’re looking for a fun, fluffy read that is a fun take on fairy tale mashups, Wolves and Roses is your book.

Wolves and Roses is the first in The Fairy Tales of the Magicorum series and will hit shelves on Halloween, 2017!