Envy of Angels by Matt Wallace

envy-of-angels-by-matt-wallce“Envy of Angels” by Matt Wallace
Series: Sin du Jour #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy novella
Setting: New York City
Published by Tor.com, 2015
E-book, purchased
225 pages
Grade: B-
Synopsis: In New York, eating out can be hell.

Everyone loves a well-catered event, and the supernatural community is no different, but where do demons go to satisfy their culinary cravings?

Welcome to Sin du Jour – where devils on horseback are the clients, not the dish.

“Most important rule of working here,” he tells her. “Just when you think you’ve got a handle on how fucking sick the universe’s sense of humor is, it goes and tells you an even dirtier joke.”

and

At some point the ground beneath their feet disappears and all four of them are slipping through.

The entire world has become a child’s playpen.

There’s no bottom.

Initial impressions

  • What a fun, strange book!

The story

  • Lena and Darren are unemployed cooks, because they’re blackballed in NYC.
  • They have to find something soon or they’re going to have to go outside of NYC.
  • They get an opportunity to work for at least a week with an iconic chef.
  • Sin du Jour is a private club that caters to demons. Lena and Darren don’t know demons exist or anything about Sin du Jour before they start working, but they find out!

Pluses

  • It’s ironic and satiric and even silly sometimes. Just a lot of fun!
  • This was a little like watching a reality TV cooking show–maybe Hell’s Kitchen–if there were demons!
  • Funny, but also some horror vibes to the story as I wasn’t sure exactly what was going to happen.
  • Written in present tense–gives an immediacy to the story as though it’s happening right now. Also the story is told with detachment toward the characters. I didn’t feel very close to them so I felt every character was in danger. That really works for this story.

Minuses

  • There’s not a lot of world building. I hope there’s more world building in the next book, because this world has lots of promise.

And concluding thoughts . . .

  • The second novella was published in January and the third one is coming out later this month.
  •  Since 2015 Tor.com has been publishing novellas from a number of authors. I really like that they are doing this. I can try new authors and read authors I already like in a shorter version which means I can read more new fiction!

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Reading Challenges

  • 2016 Goodreads Challenge
  • New Author Challenge–hosted by the Literary Escapism blog
  • Science Fiction/Fantasy Bingo Reading Challenge–hosted by the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog– Sci Fi Fantasy Humor

Review: A Matter of Propriety and Parasites by Claire Robyns

a-matter-of-propriety-and-parasitesA Matter of Propriety and Parasites
by Claire Robyns
Series: Dark Matters, book 2
Genre: Steampunk
Published by: Claire Robyns
E-book
294 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: Lady Lily has embraced her destiny and shredded her reputation. She’s done with straddling two worlds and losing in both. With so much at stake, her standing in society is the least of her problems. Or so she thought.

Demons walk among us…
 
Demons are infiltrating the London Court and cozying up to the Queen. Too late, Lily learns the price of throwing propriety to the wind when she must return to the influential circles of London and the stiff cuff of society.
 
But with the pious Queen Victoria on the throne, that won’t be possible until she salvages her reputation with a marriage of convenience. Or, as Lily prefers to think of it, a temporary rearrangement of her personal situation.

………………………………………..

I liked this book quite a bit more than the first book. I got to know the characters better and the series settled into what it is…a steampunk demon hunting setting. The books have some romantic elements, but at least at this point this isn’t a romance. And I’m fine with that. I like the focus of the book on hunting the demons and trying to figure out what they are doing in our world.

This book begins shortly after the first book ended. Lily and Kelen are still in Scotland. Grey left at the end of the first book, but he returns and the three of them work together to try to defeat the demons. McAllister’s family have worked for generations to defeat the demons and send them back to their own world once and for all. Lily has learned more about her abilities…her visions are actually an ability to see the demons. She has learned to focus her abilities somewhat. In one of her visions she sees a demon conversing with Queen Victoria and is immediately worried about her friends and her aunt who are in London where this demon apparently is.

Lily immediately wants to go to London to make sure her loved ones are safe. So far she has managed to keep her aunt from being too suspicions about her whereabouts, but speculation is now rampant in London. Grey and Kelen decide she needs to get married and the question is which of them will she marry. By the end of the book she is married to one of them…but in name only!

I like the characters in this book now that I know them and understand their motivations better. Lily’s mother died when Lily was just a teenager and this scarred Lily and made her afraid to take chances. Now that she knows why her mother died she has come to terms with it and has also discovered her own strength and bravery. She is determined to protect those she loves.

Grey was also scarred as a child. His mother died giving birth to him and his father hated him all his life. Grey loved his brother, but feels he was the reason his brother died, since his brother was traveling to see him when his boat capsized. He feels he puts the people he loves in danger.

Kelen was trained from an early age to fight demons. That’s what McAllisters do. He’s unswerving in his purpose and doesn’t really have time for other people. His goal is to save people from demons, but not necessarily each individual.

I would like to learn more about the demons…is their only motivation to kill humans? It seems to be more. There are hints they are working together. Why do they feel the need to leave their own world/dimension? Are they totally evil or is it more nuanced than that? They seem to have no problem killing humans and on a mass scale at times. But they also seem intelligent and able to scheme.

I have questions that I hope are answered in the next book. How will Lily, Grey and Kelen McAllister work together and deal with each other? Another character is introduced late in the book…Mrs. Georgina Bonnington. What is her role going to be? It seems likely the demons have some sort of scheme, but what is it? A Matter of Desire and Dirigibles is the third book in the Dark Matters series, but there is no publication date yet.

Review: A Matter of Circumstance and Celludrones by Claire Robyns

This is the first book I’ve read by Shelley Adina and it’s listed with the Literary Escapism blog for the 2013 New Author Challenge.

A Matter of Circumstance and Celludrones
by Claire Robyns
Series: Dark Matters, book 1
Genre: Victorian Steampunk Paranormal
Published by: Claire Robyns, 2012
E-book, purchased
274 pages
Grade: B-
Synopsis: Lady Lily d’Bulier is prim, proper, and prefers to think of herself as pragmatic rather than timid. And avoiding life-threatening situations at all costs is just plain practical. But everything changes when Lord Adair tracks her down in London; searching for answers he seems to think she has.

Greyston Adair is a blackguard and a smuggler, although British Customs will have to catch him red-handed to prove the latter. Fortunately, the dirigibles they float around in have never been able to get near his air dust.

Hell is rising, One Demon at a Time…

With Lady Ostrich hunting them, and the mystery of how their lives tie back to Cragloden Castle and the powerful McAllister clan, Lily has no option but to throw propriety to the wind and run off with Greyston to Scotland, away from the immediate danger and toward possible answers.

………………………………………..

This book starts out conventionally. Maybe it’s a historical romance since it starts with a ball and a viscount, two earls and a marquis are present. Lady Lily is present, but doesn’t count herself as one of the debutantes since she’s already 21. Lily and two of her friends discuss the men present. One of her friends–Evelyn–is married (and a duchess) and since Evelyn’s marriage seems successful Lily decides she’d like to be married, too. She’s looking the men over with that in mind. Her aunt has decided she and Lily will leave for Bath and Lily doesn’t want to go. She wants more freedom than she gets from her aunt:

“…in this day and age, one would think a lady who’d reached the respectable age of twenty-one should be permitted to reside in her own home, with or without the presence of a chaperone.”

“There are–”

“If nothing else, Aunt’s latest whimsical has made up my mind. I’ll never be allowed an ounce of freedom until I acquire a husband.”

“But surely–”

“And that’s another thing.” Lily glared her friend down for the interruptions. “What does Aunt Beatrice mean by removing me from London when the season has only just begun? I was holding out for love, not for spinsterhood.”

“I rather think your aunt is achieving exactly what she meant to.”

While Lily is looking around the room for a likely husband she notices someone across the ballroom floor. She has seen him earlier outside her house. He was watching her house, then met up with a woman wearing ostrich feathers for her bonnet (Lady Ostrich) and after he and the woman talked for a few minutes he fainted. Lily doesn’t want to meet him since he seemed so strange.

He is introduced to Lily and her friend Evelyn by Lily’s aunt as Lord Greyston (Grey) Adair. He seems quite taken with Evelyn, Lily’s married friend, and asks her to dance. Lily is left alone with her aunt and suddenly has some sort of vision…the woman with the ostrich plumes is in the vision. We learn this isn’t the first vision Lily has had. She and her aunt had hoped the visions were gone. Thus the book begins the supernatural aspects.

After this the supernatural events begin to occur frequently as Lily, Evelyn and Lord Adair team up, have dangerous encounters with Lady Ostrich, many adventures and travel to Scotland to find answers. Lily discovers pretty much everything about herself she was told by her mother is a lie, but her mother is dead and can’t answer any questions. However, I don’t understand where Lily’s Aunt Beatrice fits into the book. She’s only in the beginning of the book, but I would have thought she knew more about Lily’s past. I don’t think that was addressed in this book.

Her mother died in an explosion in Scotland and it turns out Grey was at the same house party her mother was at. He knows things about her background, but has many secrets of his own. Lily, Evelyn and Grey travel to this estate in Scotland looking for answers. Evelyn goes along as a chaperone for Lily, but also because she is on the outs with her husband (much to her distress). The trip to Scotland doesn’t make that any better. The three of them face personal challenges as well as a great many dangerous situations.

I liked the steampunk elements in the book. The celludrones (like androids or robots) are mostly stupid machines, but somehow Lily and Grey both have very smart celludrones who are their personal servants. They’re important characters and have both unique personalities and useful characteristics. We learn more about their origins later in the book. Evelyn engages in “risque sports” riding things like a Peddapol or air paddler. Her husband objects to this since it’s dangerous and though Lily supports her friend she has to agree this sport seems pretty dangerous.

“Evie, that thing is flying. In the sky.”

Evelyn laughed softly. “What did you think air paddling was?”

“You can paddle air just as well a few inches above the ground while the wheels stay firmly on the the ground,” she retorted through a clenched jaw.

“What would be the point of that?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Lily glared at her. “Not getting yourself killed?”

“It’s no more dangerous than hot air ballooning. You really mustn’t worry so, Lily, I promise you it’s safe. Ah, there’s William with the Pedallosopede.”

The above quote illustrates the differences between Lily (cautious) and Evelyn (bold). The reasons for Lily’s caution is discovered later in the book.

This is a self-published book and I think the author did a good job with the self-published aspects. I also thought it was a pretty good book plot-wise though I did feel a lot of the book was a set-up for the rest of the series. Not a lot is resolved in this book and there are lots of questions at the end of the book. I did buy the next book in the series and plan to read it, but haven’t started it yet.

Review: Under Wraps by Hannah Jayne

Hannah Jayne is another new author for me! The New Authors Challenge 2013 is hosted by the Literary Escapism blog.

Under Wraps
by Hannah Jayne
Underworld Detection Agency, book 1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Published by:  Kensington, 2011
E-book, purchased
352 pages
Grade: C

Synopsis: As a human immune to magic, Sophie Lawson can help everyone from banshee to zombie transition into normal, everyday San Francisco life. With a handsome werewolf as her UDA boss and a fashionista vampire for a roommate, Sophie knows everything there is to know about the undead, the unseen, and the uncanny. Until a rash of gruesome murders has demons and mortals running for cover, and Sophie finds herself playing sidekick to detective Parker Hayes. 

Dodging ranging bloodsuckers, bad-tempered fairies, and love-struck trolls is one thing. But when Sophie discovers Parker isn’t what he seems, she’s only got one chance to figure out whom to trust. Because an evil hiding in plain sight is closing in…and about to make one wisecracking human it means to ultimate power.

This wasn’t my favorite new author or urban fantasy. It didn’t quite work for me. I’ve read several books recently about the main character who is a null (Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning, for example). In Under Wraps Sophie is immune to magic and the supernatural creatures around her become normal creatures. Sophie works for a secret organization called the Underworld Detection Agency (UDA). It’s located 37 floors under the San Francisco Police Department. Sophie describes her agency:

We’re kind of like the DMV for the demon world—long lines, lots of windows, forms up the wazoo. It’s our job to get all the demons registered, documented, and legal and take care of any Underworld disputes. UDA is pretty forward thinking when it comes to demon life. We’ve got job counseling for the demon who has decided to leave the Underworld careers of terrorizing children and hiding under beds and move to something more permanent and substantial—like working the register at the Pottery Barn on Chestnut Street. We even offer a cutting-edge demon-human immersion program. It usually culminates with an exorcism on the part of the human, but still, it’s a start.

Sophie, the only human working for the UDA, is the administrative assistant for Pete Sampson the head of the UDA who is also a werewolf. When a policeman is sent down to the UDA by the police chief to speak with her boss Sophie finds herself in the middle of an investigation. I found this rather odd as she has no experience and given her internal thoughts she’s thinking about a lot more than the case:

I looked up into the cop’s beautiful blue eyes, and although I had no idea what swooning was, I was pretty sure I was doing it. I started to think of the two of us, hands joined, spinning in a meadow somewhere while the theme to Love Story played in the background.

The book is a light, fluffy read, but tries to also be a mystery. Sophie ends up helping Detective Hayes with the investigation of a murder of a lawyer who had all his blood drained. This is just the first of several murders. Her boss disappears and it looks like he might be guilty of the crimes. The world building is on the light side and I didn’t find most of the characters very likeable or memorable. I only read the book a month ago, but have a hard time remembering it.

I’m sure this series works for a lot of people, just not for me!