“Mr. Real” by Carolyn Crane

Okay, so I recently sort of discovered a new author, Carolyn Crane. I say “sort of” because of this book. It was… to say “bad” would be a misnomer. “Unreadable” comes closer. I literally could not read this book. It was too stupid. I originally thought, Hey, I like her other books, the Disillusionist Trilogy, I’ll probably like this one. Sure, the premise is retarded but it sounds retarded in a fun way. Wrong! It was just straight up retarded. Like, horrifyingly bad.

So, the premise is that the main character, Alix (my first hint that it was a bad book. Who spells that with an i?) inherits a house and a bunch of other stuff from her cooky, old aunt when she dies. I say “cooky” because it turns out the lady was a witch, like an actual magic using witch, and not one of the wiccan types who are mostly about being in balance with nature, but who used actual magic and, get this, managed to transfer that magic to a computer somehow. So that anything you click on,¬†using a computer that has that code in it, will magically appear a day later on your front porch. Like I said, the premise sounded really, really stupid, but whatever I was willing to roll with it. Where she really lost me was the heroine, Alix. With an i. Instead of treating this ludicrous macguffin with kid gloves and a healthy dose of suspicion, since it’s a magical freaking computer and last I checked, magic comes with a price, she decides to use it to go shopping. She “orders” a supposedly great outfit, though based on the description you couldn’t pay me to wear it, and an insanely expensive necklace before it comes to her- she should use it to order a man! And not just any man, no no. She should use it to order a tv commercial character who is played by a guy that she met years ago, for a few weeks that she is somehow still half in love with. No, it didn’t make sense to me either. Any of it. Nothing in that previous sentence made any sense to me, but whatever because she goes for it.

The explanation why she should do such a thing is really, really stupid too. It’s not that she’s smart and just did a dumb thing, or just got caught up in the whole, “Hey, I can have whatever I want!” after years of poverty or whatever. No, no. She’s just that kind of person. She’s crazy, she’s wacky, isn’t that just so much fun! She randomly used magical objects that she doesn’t understand for completely selfish reasons! Isn’t she just so wacky and fun? Honestly, in any other book, she would be the first casualty. She’d be the smoking puddle of ooze on the floor that everyone looks at and goes “So now we know not to do that. Thank you, Alix with an i, for that object lesson.” Instead, no no. She’s just so crazy and fun, and so deeply misunderstood. What part of any of what she does make sense, or is in any way a good idea? None of it! Does the book care? No!

I’ll be honest, I didn’t really read the rest of it after that. I flipped around a lot, trying to see if it redeemed itself at some point and it most assuredly did not. The guy shows up and since he’s supposed to be some sort of secret agent in the commercials, he thinks he’s a secret agent there and he seriously wonders whether he should kill her, and then the guy she is inexplicably still half in love with after all this time, after minimal contact, I cannot stress enough how minimal the contact was, they never even met socially, shows up and stuff happens and… I don’t know. I think the fake guy goes crazy or something. There seemed to be some sort of standoff or something. Anyway, yeah, amazingly stupid. I’m actually really put off Carolyn Crane right now. Which is a shame because her Disillusionist Trilogy was actually really good. It had this superhero vibe that I seriously dug. But now I don’t even know if I can read her stuff again. It was that bad. I feel dumber for having read it. I spent actual money on this book. Like actual, factual money. And I ordered it online, so it had to be shipped to me. So that’s even more money and some poor package deliverer’s time. Oh god.

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“Magic Bites” by Ilona Andrews

I’m going to do my best to write about this as a separate book from the others in the series, but I’ve read and reread it a few times so it all kind of runs in my head as a continuous thing. Okay, to start- the world that Ilona has created is completely awesome. Like, wow. I’m very impressed by the creativity of it. Basically, there is natural magic in the world and it used to be in balance with technology but then along came humans, and we are, by nature, meddlers. We push things. That started the pendulum swinging. The book takes place at some unspecified point in the near-ish future, after the pendulum has started to swing back from technology to magic. Unfortunately, it’s not a neat process. Magic floods the world in waves, sometimes there, sometimes not. Sometimes cars work, guns fire and telephones ring, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes magical wards keep you safe and witches and shifters can do their thing, and sometimes they can’t. It’s very chaotic, which is fertile ground for a story I’ve always found.

These stories are based around Kate Daniels, one of the most kick ass heroines I’ve ever read. Few can make a heroine who can kick as much butt and still have a heart. I say this with experience, since I’ve read a few where you are left wondering what the hell is wrong with that person (cough, Anita Blake, cough, cough). She has been raised in the post- Shift world and she has very, very powerful magic and a serious grudge against an even more powerful person. She also has a sword, with which she is incredibly proficient. All in all, she is very deadly and, even though she won’t admit it, very, very scared. She is in hiding from this powerful person until she is powerful enough to take them down. The reader is thrust into this very complicated situation as her guardian, the man who raised her after her father died, is murdered. Kate decides to hunt the murderer down and this leads her to getting involved with the shifters and their incredibly powerful, and scary, leader, Curran, as well as the Knights and the Master’s of the Dead. Oh, and Ilona’s take on vampires is completely awesome. There’s none of that romanticizing vampires crap around here, oh no. In these books, vampires are straight up dead, as mindless as a cockroach and as blood-lusty as you would expect a mindless vampire to be. But, in the hands of a necromancer, they can be navigated and used as a very useful and very deadly tool. This harkens back to the old folk tales of vampires, not the glamorized, sex symbol version of today. It’s very refreshing and very awesome.

Anyway, her guardian’s killer turns out to be more than just a common thug, obviously, and a very real threat to everyone and especially Kate, since he targets her next. It’s a shorter book compared to the rest of the series, but it’s a great introduction to a fantastic series and I absolutely cannot recommend this series and this author enough. She may well be my favorite author, after Terry Pratchett (since nothing can knock him from my number one spot). Seriously, go read it now.