A Cast-Off Coven—Demons, Ghosts, and Art School

A Cast Off Coven by Juliet Blackwell book cover
A Cast Off Coven by Juliet Blackwell

A Cast-Off Coven, by Juliet Blackwell, is the second in the Witchcraft Mystery series (I’ve read but not reviewed the first in the series, Secondhand Spirits—I liked it). It’s a cozy mystery set in San Francisco starring Lilly Ivory, witch and vintage-clothing store owner.

1—Murder in the Bell Tower

Lilly is called in to kick the ghost out of the school’s haunted bell tower—at least that’s her job until finding rich scumbag and patron of the art school Jerry Becker dead at the base of said bell tower. Now in addition to the ghost, Lilly has to deal with a murder. And then she finds out there’s a demon in the third-floor closet. Continue reading “A Cast-Off Coven—Demons, Ghosts, and Art School”

Burn Notice—Part Two—Things Get Dark

Burn Notice
Burn Notice

So I finally got around to watching the rest of this action-filled spy thriller series and despite a turn for the darker, I’m glad I did. This review is of seasons five through seven.

1—Frigging Anson

Anson is a walking spoiler so if you’d rather avoid, I skip to the next section. I entirely blame Anson for it taking me so long to finish the series. I just don’t enjoy watching him. Which isn’t to say the actor playing Anson isn’t superb or that the scenes/episodes with him in them aren’t good. I just really hate Anson. He’s the most manipulative son of a bitch in the series and Karma Houdini right up until his death, which you could still argue is too good for him. The stuff that bastard puts Mike through… Continue reading “Burn Notice—Part Two—Things Get Dark”

The UnBook Reporter’s Favorite Mystery/Crime Shows to Relax To

You may have noticed I’ve been on a bit of a murder mystery novel kick lately, so I thought I’d share some of my favorite tv shows too.

1—Midsommer Murders

A British series, Midsommer Murders follows Chief Inspector Barnaby and his Sergeant as they solve murders in the idyllic little villages of Midsommer.

2—Agatha Christie’s Poirot

Based on the character created by Agatha Christie, the titular Hercule Poirot is a Belgian private detective in 1930s England, and sometimes abroad. The show has a distinctly Art Deco look, with beautiful sets and costume. The mysteries are fun too.

3—Columbo

A classic from the ‘70s. Each episode follows the murderer from before the murder through being caught. The through line is Lieutenant Columbo from LA Homicide, who catches them. Known for its tight plotting and intriguing filming techniques, Columbo is still a unique shows decades later.

4—Blue Bloods

Blue Bloods follows a family of cops, from Police Commissioner down to Rookie, and with an ADA on the side. The show neither sugar coats nor delves into the truly gruesome, and it’s one of the few modern police dramas I’ve found to be in this middle ground. Bad things happen but I never leave an episode feeling depressed, and I like that.

5—Murder She Wrote

Running from the m’id-80s through the mid-‘90s, Murder She Wrote stars Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher, a novelist from Maine who just keeps running into corpses. Light and fun, this series sometimes catches flack for not always showing all the clues needed for the audience to solve the case, but if you’re like me and don’t care then it’s still a good romp.

A Royal Pain—More Cozy Mystery Fun

A Royal Pain by Rhys Bowen book cover
A Royal Pain by Rhys Bowen

A Royal Pain is the second in the Royal Spyness Mystery series (the first of which I reviewed previously) by Rhys Bowen. We’re back with Georgie—Lady Georgiana Rannoch—in 1930s London as she hosts a troublesome visiting princess.

1—Faster Setup

There’s less setup this time, as less is needed—how Georgie ended up alone in Rannoch house and working secretly as a maid just needs to be mentioned, not fully written out as in the first book. So the first body shows up at the one-third mark instead of halfway through. The plot seems to meander a bit mostly because it takes Georgie so long to start connecting events, and even then she’s reluctant to suspect the princess or others of her “set”. Which brings me to my next point. Continue reading “A Royal Pain—More Cozy Mystery Fun”

Harsh Gods—More Shadowside Fun

Harsh Gods: A Novel of the Shadowside by Michelle Belanger
Harsh Gods by Michelle Belanger

Harsh Gods by Michelle Belanger is the sequel to Conspiracy of Angels. An Urban Fantasy told in first person by Anakim angel Zaquiel—mortal name Zachary Westland—as he tries to save an autistic girl from possession by something she calls the Whisper Man.

1—Angel Still Unaware

Zack’s lost memories continue to be a problem but Father Frank, the priest who called Zack in for the exorcism, knows Zack’s real name, as well as having a more intimate link to Zack and his past life. Beyond that, Zack is still tormented by the flashes of memory that surround the missing events—scents and sounds, vague impressions that flee as soon as he tries to grab them. It’s understandable Zack is depressed. But it’s fun watching Zack interact with strangers who know him.

Beyond that though, Zach is realizing he may not like the person he used to be. He has instincts and thoughts that sicken and terrify him, most of them violent. But some of them have been acquired through his still-active connection to the Eye of Nefer-Ka, the magical artifact that gutted his memory. Continue reading “Harsh Gods—More Shadowside Fun”

Rat Queens Volumes 1 & 2—Damsels who Cause Distress

Rat Queens volume one Sass and Sorcery

Rat Queens The Far Reaching Tentacles of N'Rygoth
The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’Rygoth

Rat Queens is a comic by Kurtis J Wiebe with art by Roc Upchurch and later Stjepan Sejic, and published by Image Comics. It follows the adventures of the titular group in and around the town of Palisade. Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery, and volume 2: the Far Reaching Tentacles of N’Rygoth comprise a full story arc which is why I’m reviewing them together. Plenty of fights, some nudity and sex, and lots of cursing—in both senses of the word—Rat Queens is great fun but not for kids.

1—The Characters

The world of Rat Queens has a D&D RPG flavor to it, medieval-ish look with lots of magic, and lots of humor. The back of Sass and Sorcery describes the Rat Queens as “Hannah, the Rockabilly Elven Mage, Violet the Hipster Dwarven Fighter, Dee the Atheist Human Cleric and Betty the Hippy Smidgen Thief.” Hannah, the leader of the group, is the most violent of the bunch, with Violet a close second. But whereas Violet is more professional about it, Hannah is definitely having too much fun. The most tactful, prudent, and introverted of the Rat Queens is Dee, who actually saves some of her earnings instead of spending it all on booze and drugs, and stays sober during parties. And Betty, who brings drugs and candy for dinner, and also plucks out eyeballs—not as a hobby, just the once…that we’re shown, anyway. Continue reading “Rat Queens Volumes 1 & 2—Damsels who Cause Distress”

Miss Peregrin’s Home for Peculiar Children—Enchanting and Visceral

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a unique YA (young adult) novel as part of the tale is the vintage photographs scattered throughout the book.

1—A Peculiar Tale

I wasn’t certain what to expect when I opened Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children but what I got was subtle magic threaded through with both wonder and unease, punctuated by brutal violence. The story opens with Jacob finding his grandfather brutally killed and from there the story is a journey of discovery—equally a mystery and an adventure—about who his grandfather really was.

Continue reading “Miss Peregrin’s Home for Peculiar Children—Enchanting and Visceral”

Meow if it’s Murder—Fluffy Fun

Meow if it's Murder novel by T. C. LoTempio
Meow if it’s Murder by T. C. LoTempio

The first in the Nick & Nora Mystery series, Meow if it’s Murder is a cozy murder mystery by T. C. LoTempio told in first person (excepting the prologue). Nora Charles—whose parents were big fans of The Thin Man, a classic mystery series—gets adopted by an unusually intelligent tuxedo cat who belonged to a now-missing PI. Nora’s best friend Chantal names the cat Nick and the name sticks. And together, Nora and Nick start investigating the missing PI’s last case.

1—The Cat is Magic

Or a disguised alien, for those of a more sci-fi bent of mind. But between Chantal’s claims to be psychic and her Tarot card readings, the setting feels to me like it supports a more magical explanation. This isn’t a fantasy series though—at most, Nick’s abilities fall into the maybe-magic-maybe-mundane trope. But I don’t buy the mundane aspect. That cat is far too human-like intelligent, so I’m calling it magic. That’s ok for me though, I’m willing to buy into the book’s central conceit, however unlikely in “real” life it would be. Continue reading “Meow if it’s Murder—Fluffy Fun”

Some of the Un-Book Reporter’s Favorite Heroines

I find myself drawn to stories of girls and women who are clever and brave, and who make their own path. Likely because I seek and struggle to embody those qualities myself. This will be a short post, as I could go on forever if I don’t limit myself. So here are a handful of my favorite book heroines, in no particular order.

Aly—Daughter of the Lioness

All of the heroines in Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books fit the bill but Alinanne of Pirate’s Swoop most embodies cleverness. Aly is a quintessential guile hero, trained from the cradle in spycraft and chosen by a Trickster god. Said Trickster sweeps Aly off to the Kyprian Isles to be the last piece in a centuries-old game which is about to culminate in bloody rebellion. It isn’t easy to manipulate allies and enemies alike, much less from the position of slave girl, but Aly has her own tricks and games to play. Continue reading “Some of the Un-Book Reporter’s Favorite Heroines”

No Hero—A Cosmic Horror-Comedy

book cover for No Hero by Jonathan Wood
No Hero, by Jonathan Wood

I liked the premise of No Hero—a British cop thinks he’s hunting a serial killer and gets drafted into the top secret MI37 in order to fight eldritch abominations. The newly minted Agent Wallace copes with this new frightening reality by asking himself “What would Kurt Russell do?” Jonathan Wood, the author of No Hero, has a lot of fun playing with both action movie tropes and cosmic horror tropes, and I enjoyed going along for the ride.

1—Sparkly Magic

In the world of No Hero magic is powered by electricity, “the universal lubricant” and mages cast spells with the aid of batteries and metallic tattoos—or copper wire implanted beneath the skin, in one case. It’s also a world of psychics and oracles, and Dreamers—reality warping gods in formal attire. And then there’s the Progeny—parasitic mini-versions of the above-mentioned eldritch abominations. They exist for one purpose, to bring their “parents”, the Feeders, through to our reality so that they can devour it. But first they’ve got to get through the Dreamers and, unfortunately for the world, they’ve recently found a weakness. Continue reading “No Hero—A Cosmic Horror-Comedy”