spyIn The Spy Who Haunted Me (the third book in Green’s Secret Histories series) Edwin Drood enters a competition organized by the Alexander King, the legendary Independent Agent. The group of gathered spies must work together to solve some of the world’s greatest mysteries, but only one of them can claim the prize – the secret knowledge accumulated by King during his career. There’s also a literal deadline. Alexander King is terminally ill, so if the victor doesn’t return quickly enough then King’s secrets could go with him to the grave. Edwin believes that only the Drood family can be trusted with what the Independent Agent knows. But he’s not the only one determined to win at any cost, which becomes clear once the competitors start dying.

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Lately I’ve been reading a lot of YA. Here are a few of the books I’ve finished in the past month or so:

oncedeadOnce Dead, Twice Shy, by Kim Harrison

A girl who died after her junior prom is able to stay in the world of the living thanks to a mystical amulet stolen from the supernatural being who killed her. Thankfully a light reaper and guardian angel are trying to help keep her safe from its previous owner- or at least as safe as a dead girl can be.

Madison, the heroine of the story, is one of the best YA characters that I’ve come across lately. She’s fun to read about. But I’m not sure if I’m that interested in the premise yet. This is another one of those “first in a series” books that was actually introduced in an anthology (2007’s Prom Nights From Hell), so the amount of backstory and world-building info that had to be recapped didn’t exactly help the flow of the book. And since I don’t think I’ve said it yet this month, I still hate that trend of separately-published short stories that contain series-critical information.

I’d recommend this book to any YA readers, but do yourself a favor and track down the short story first.

awakeningThe Awakening, by Kelley Armstrong

This is the second of Armstrong’s Darkest Powers series, it uses the Otherworld setting but no major players from the adult series have made an appearance so far. At the start of the story, Chloe is locked in the headquarters of the Edison Group, an organization that approaches the supernatural from a scientific perspective. Her only shot at escape is to pretend to lead her captors to the hiding place of her friends who are still on the run.

I liked the characters and the concept, and this one was more action-heavy than the first. It felt like too many of the character interactions involved arguing with each other, though. Having characters in a novel compare their activities to fictional stories is a pet peeve of mine, and Chloe, with her interest in movies, does this a lot. Still, I’ll happily read the next in the series because I really enjoy Armstrong’s world.

It’s an enjoyable series so far, but if it sounds interesting then make sure you start with the first one (The Summoning).

huntedHunted, by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

This is the fifth House of Night book (the series starts with Marked), but it’s the last one I’ll be reading.

After the exciting events and character growth of book four, it feels like the series basically just reset to square one. Some storylines that felt nicely wrapped up started all over, Zoey falls back into the same old mistakes, and god forbid she not have three love interests at any one time. Despite her advanced boyfriend-juggling skills, Zoey sounds more and more like a much younger character, and the series has gone back to “Zoey can fix all problems with relative ease because she’s super fledgling” land.

Not recommended.

During all of Cassandra Palmer’s short reign as Pythia, the world’s most powerful clairvoyant and time traveler, factions in the supernatural community have been fighting to control or destroy her. Now Cassie is trying to stop the plans of her most powerful enemy yet – a supernatural being who was once worshiped as a god. She faces attacks, accidents, and even a magical disaster, all while having her usual arguments with the allies who want to keep her safely away from the action.

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Free Harper Teen Sampler

April 29, 2009

Check here for a free e-book containing sample chapters from 5 new and upcoming Harper Teen books. Unfortunately, it’s only available in PDF format. My first attempt to convert the PDF for use on my Kindle came out as an awkward, unreadable mess, but maybe I’ll try again with a different method.

Samples included are from:

(via janicu’s twitter feed)

“Hunter Kiss” is the short story that introduces Maxine Kiss, the heroine of Marjorie M. Liu’s  new-ish urban fantasy series. Maxine fights evil with the help of a group of small demons who fight beside her by night and shield her by day in the form of elaborate tattoos. It was published in an anthology called Wild Thing, which my library doesn’t have. And because of my strict “no buying anthologies for the sake of one story” rule, I hadn’t had a chance to read this one even though I really enjoyed The Iron Hunt (my review).

But I recently discovered that “Hunter Kiss” is available as a standalone e-book! Yay! Links to several different formats are available on Liu’s website.

The story is a good introduction to the characters, and now some aspects of The Iron Hunt make more sense to me. I will say that Maxine and Grant’s relationship seems rushed, but at least there are reasons that may make sense. The second book in the series, Darkness Calls, will be out at the end of June, so now would be a great time to try the story and still have time to make it through the first book before the sequel arrives.

Mean Streets is an anthology with four stories about supernatural investigations. It includes:

  • “The Warrior” by Jim Butcher
    When Harry Dresden steps in to protect a threatened friend, he could be playing into the hands of an unknown enemy. This book is set after Small Favor, and has some pretty major spoilers for that story. The story took some interesting turns and there was also a nice theme about how small actions can have unforeseeable results. It was my favorite story in the collection, and any fan of the Dresden Files should enjoy it.
  • “The Difference A Day Makes” by Simon R. Green
    A woman asks John Taylor to help recover her lost memories of the previous day, and the search leads to one of the seediest areas of the Nightside as well as a truth that she’d probably be better off not knowing. This story seems like it may be targeted at people who haven’t been introduced to the series yet. As someone who has read all of the books, I found it pretty repetitive. I think maybe I’ve read that “Not everything that looks like a car is a car” bit one too many times. The concept was interesting enough, but it was too stuffed with speeches about the nature of the Nightside and the ending was less than satisfying.
  • “The Third Death of the Little Clay Dog” by Kat Richardson
    Harper Blaine gets a bequest in a stranger’s will, but it comes with strange conditions that lead her to a Day of the Dead celebration full of secrets and revenge. This is my first exposure to Richardson, and I’ll definitely be trying one of her novels. Harper’s powers seem interesting, though I didn’t understand them all that well. Some of the Day of the Dead explanations felt too much like lectures, and the climax got a bit confusing. But there were some great twists and I liked it a lot.
  • “Noah’s Orphans” by Thomas E. Sniegoski
    Remy Chandler gets dragged into another angel-related investigation after the murder of Noah (yes, the one that built the ark). It’s set shortly after A Kiss Before the Apocalypse (my review), and there are a few spoilers for that novel. The story is okay and I like the main character, but I’m just not connecting with this setting the way I have with my favorite urban fantasy worlds.

buy it from Amazon
read reviews on Goodreads

In White Witch, Black Curse, Rachel and her partners team up with the FIB on a hunt for the dangerous Interlander that attacked her friend Glenn and left him for dead. It’s a difficult job, especially considering that Rachel is also trying to uphold her bargain with Al, deal with the fallout of her damaged reputation, defend her choices to her brother, evaluate the possibility of a new relationship, and face a ghost from her past, all on top of the standard level of roommate drama. Oh, and she’s also still trying to find the person responsible for the murder that’s been (rather cruelly in my opinion) left hanging since the end of For a Few Demons More.

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