Paranormal Romance · Science Fiction · Urban Fantasy

Touched by an Alien – Gini Koch

3 stars

What did I just read, Reader? Touched by an Alien was absolutely absurd.

Here’s the synopsis from Goodreads.

Marketing manager Katherine “Kitty” Katt had just finished a day on jury duty. When she stepped out of the Pueblo Caliente courthouse, all she was thinking about was the work she had to get caught up on. Then her attention was caught by a fight between a couple that looked like it was about to turn ugly. But ugly didn’t even begin to cover it when the “man” suddenly transformed into a huge, winged monster right out of a grade Z science fiction movie and went on a deadly killing spree. In hindsight, Kitty realized she probably should have panicked and run screaming the way everyone around her was doing. Instead she sprinted into action to take down the alien.

In the middle of all the screeching and the ensuing chaos, a hunk in an Armani suit suddenly appeared beside her, introduced himself as Jeff Martini with “the agency,” and then insisted on leading her to a nearby limo to talk to his “boss.” And that was how Kitty’s new life among the aliens began…Touched by an Alien is the thrilling first installment of the Alien novels.

Touched by an Alien is “urban science fiction” in that it’s all of the elements of urban fantasy, but with aliens rather than magical creatures, which bleeds it over into science fiction.  I’d also probably slot it into “Paranormal Romance” And it was ABSURD and over the top.

This is one of those books where I just don’t know how I feel about it at the end. On the one hand, I enjoyed the plot and thought the writing was reasonably well done.

But there was an ever growing list of things that I just couldn’t help but roll my eyes over:

  • Kitty Katt (seriously, what a name)
  • Mary Sue, I mean Kitty Katt is just an average marketing manager but somehow manages to be a great shot, excellent military strategist, and like The Most Clever Ever, learns flying on the literal fly, code breaker and somehow manages to be better than people who have been doing this their whole lives – all in two days!
  • Hunky, overly-aggressive, possessive dude love triangle
    • Newsflash, it’s not hot when dudes are that insecure, no matter the backstory
    • It’s rape when a woman says no and a dude keeps going. That’s not hot, thanks.
    • Thanks for all the opportunities to roll my eyes at the male characters
  • Overdone sex scenes that go on for pages – which I skipped over
  • Conveniently the book really is all about her, despite what it appears at the beginning
  • Conveniently there’s a vague description of how the “science” works
  • Conveniently her parents ALSO have relevant skills
  • Too many instances of “conveniently”
  • Overuse of the word “baby in reference to Kitty or Martini
  • Overuse of the word “girlfriend” from a gay character in reference to Kitty

But, despite all that, I’m seriously thinking about requesting the second book from the library. When I finished, I texted my best friend “I just read the most ridiculous book. I need you to read it and laugh at it with me.” It was a fun and silly read. Sometimes a Mary Sue story is a nice refreshing break. Brain candy can be a treat sometimes. This book definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously. I have the feeling that Gini Koch wrote the whole thing half-seriously, half-satirically.

Anyway, Touched by an Alien is the first in the “Kitty Katt” series by Gini Koch and was published April 6, 2010.


Urban Fantasy

Of Things Unknown – Seanan McGuire

5 Stars

Of Things Unknown is a bonus novella at the end of The Brightest Fell and is written from the perspective of April O’Leary, Countess of Tamed Lightning, first mentioned in A Local Habitation.

Her voice is beautifully different from other narrators of the series, but doesn’t fall into the trap of being robotic, as one might expect from a computerized being.

In Of Things Unknown we see how April has been forced to grow up and take over both her mother’s company and her County after the events of ALH. We also see how much she hates it. On top of her unhappiness at the literal adulthood that has been forced upon her, we also see how she makes leaps of logic based on her limited knowledge of how the world outside her company and servers works. For example, April connects marriage with libraries.

One of her mothers, Li Qin approaches April with a plan. A plan that would change everything for April – and others at Tamed Lightning. An unlikely, dangerous plan that couldn’t, shouldn’t work. If this plan works, and I’m not going to spoil anything and tell you whether or not it does, the results would have effects both near and far. April’s whole world will change and the effect on Faerie would reach far and wide. This plan is a bomb – and it’s up to April to decide whether or not to set it off.

Urban Fantasy

The Brightest Fell – Seanan McGuire

5 Stars

I received an e-ARC of The Brightest Fell from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

The basics:

The Brightest Fell is book #11 in Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series, published by DAW and will be available in hardback (for the first time!) and Kindle formats on September 5, 2017. 

Audiobook TBD, but in production. available now through Audible!

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Cover Image courtesy of the publisher.

The publisher’s blurb:

The first Toby Daye hardcover is finally here, and Seanan’s wise-cracking, fast-talking, tough-as-nails heroine is at her best. Toby’s life has finally calmed down, and she’s got nothing on her mind except wedding planning and relaxing with family. So, of course, that doesn’t last long. Toby’s mother, Amandine, appears, making demands, taking hostages, and forcing Toby to hunt down a missing person—none other than Toby’s sister August, who’s been gone since 1906.

TL;DR Toby-Goes-A-Questing, once again! For once Toby actually has a straightforward task: find her sister to save loved ones. She’ll either accomplish it or not.

Spoiler Free Review: Even though she’s running across the realms of Faerie, Toby’s only really got one task. But The Brightest Fell isn’t really about that task. She’s got to find August (or her body) to move the overall plot of the series forward, but the real journeys Toby takes in TBF are emotional ones. She examines and is forced to make decisions in her relationships with Sylvester, Amandine, The Luidaeg, her own blood, and a whole host of other characters – friends, family AND foe. Ultimately these emotional journeys are the meat of The Brightest Fell, where the quest to find August is merely the skeleton on which to build the rest of the body.

The Brightest Fell is now in my top 3 Toby books (who could possibly choose just one?). Many elements from past novels in the series are reused, but they don’t feel used and stale. We return to the original Toby-Doesn’t-Get-A-Break-Unless-She’s-Knocked-Out drumbeat of a plot that was so quintessential “early Toby.” Because of this, the book speeds by and before you know it, you’ve run out of pages, but not questions. Never questions.

The ultimate goal of the series is laid out plainly. We’ve gotten hints and been able to guess from earlier novels, but it’s stated clear as day in The Brightest Fell. Of course, this means that while The Brightest Fell answers some lingering questions from previous novels, it leaves us with more than we started with.

My review of the included novella, Of Things Unknown, about April O’Leary is in a separate post, later this week!

Urban Fantasy

Silence Fallen – Patricia Briggs

3 Stars

It pains me to rate this book so low. I love Mercy and the Mercyverse and greatly anticipated the release of Silence Fallen, but this was just not the strongest or most compelling installment in the series. Overall, the Mercy Thompson series is a strong series, well written and engaging. Sadly, Silence Fallen didn’t quite stick the landing.

A photo of the cover of Silence Fallen.
My copy of Silence Fallen.

I found some of the nerdy references in the book to be heavy handed and not quite fully researched. The opening scenes with the pack playing a “LARP videogame” made me cringe. As a gamer and nerd myself, the details were just wrong enough to grate. 

Three solid stars because the plot was interesting and kept me reading, but two stars off because of what I wrote above.

Silence Fallen is the 10th book in the Mercy Thompson series.

A version of this review first appeared on Goodreads on March 10. 

Urban Fantasy

The Turn – Kim Harrison

3 Stars

I wanted to like this story much more than I actually did. I’m a big fan of The Hollows, and was excited to learn more about Trent Kalamack’s parents. We certainly learn about them, and they are disappointing.

Trisk is a brilliant geneticist outshone by her mediocre and conniving rival Kal. Everything to do with Kal is boring, except for his interactions with Orchid, the pixy who thankfully doesn’t feel like a knockoff Jenks. And then Harrison shoehorns them together. It’s not clear why Trisk and Quen can’t be together despite obvious chemistry, and it’s even more frustrating that Daniel is thrown into the mix to make it a love quadrangle, rather than just a love triangle. (JUST a love triangle isn’t a sentence I relished the thought of ever writing.) In the book and as a character, Trisk still manages to shine despite her counterparts in the story as she perseveres against an incredibly sexist society.

The end of the world scenario was interesting at least – it will be interesting to watch society rebuild itself. I can only hope the next book is more compelling than The Turn.

The Turn is the first book in a series by the same name, a prequel series to Harrisson’s hit Urban Fantasy series The Hollows.

A version of this review was first published on Goodreads on June 26, 2017.

Anthology · Urban Fantasy

Urban Enemies – Joseph Nasisse

4 Stars

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

Urban Enemies is an anthology containing 17 short stories from a slew of big-name authors in the Urban Fantasy genre.

The authors contributing to this collection had a fine line to walk. Each of their stories is set within their own larger universes, so they’re tasked with writing a story that will 1 – not alienate readers new to their universe (and maybe even convince them to pick it up?) and 2 – satisfy readers already familiar with their characters and storylines. I felt like most of the authors pulled this off. I will note, that I was somewhat disappointed that not all the stories were actually about villains – some were just anti-heroes.

I’m not going to do a story-by-story rating, as I might if these stories were standalone because it wouldn’t be fair. I’m already biased to prefer the stories from authors’ whose series I read – Jim Butcher, Seanan McGuire, Kevin Hearne – over the authors who write series I haven’t even heard of.

Of the authors I’m already familiar with, I really enjoyed Kevin Hearne and Seanan McGuire’s contributions. Both were satisfying and added dimension to their universes. I was disappointed with Jim Butcher’s contribution – not because it was a bad story but because it’s a reprint. Not a new story, it’s been printed in earlier anthologies.

About half of the authors I wasn’t familiar with I was intrigued enough by their villain or worldbuilding that I plan to check out at least the first novel in the series. In particular the stories by Craig Shaeffer, Caitlin Kitteridge and the editor Joseph Nassise. Other stories were either major turnoffs or just not my thing.

Overall though, I enjoyed the collection. I didn’t read anything particularly standout in either direction as good or bad (it’s hard to like stories about unlikable characters.) If you’re a fan of any of these series, check this collection out. If not, these stories may not be the easiest entry point into these universes, but you might find one you like (or like to hate.)

Urban Fantasy

The Furthest Station – Ben Aaronovitch


I received an e-ARC from Net Galley in exchange for my honest review. I also purchased the Deluxe Signed Edition from Subterranean Press, which was released June 30. A non-deluxe release is planned for September 8, 2017. 

5 Stars

A fun installment in the Rivers of London/Peter Grant series, The Furthest Station is a satisfying jaunt away from the main thread tying the series together. In this novella, we spend time with Peter’s cousin Abigail – who I was delighted to see more of – and learning about ghosts.

A photo of the cover of The Furthest Station.
My copy of The Furthest Station.

As with the rest of the series, Aaronovitch spends an unusual amount of wordcount describing locations and buildings for an Urban Fantasy series. However, since geography and locality play such important roles in the overall series, it doesn’t feel like wasted space. I always finish a Rivers of London story having learned something new about architecture (though if you take note of Peter’s opinions, you’d think England had nothing but terrible buildings throughout).

If you’re a fan of Rivers of London/Peter Grant, definitely pick up The Furthest Station – it’s a satisfying story to tide us over until the next installment of the series comes out, whenever that may be.

The Furthest Station is a novella set between books 5 and 6 of the PC Grant/Rivers of London series.

This review was originally published on Goodreads April 20, 2017.