Review: Audrey’s Guide to Witchcraft by Jody Gehrman

I have an urban fantasy confession to make: witches have never really done it for me. I love the idea of magic in general, but for some reason, whenever I’ve been presented with an array of supernaturals to choose from, the witches always take last place. That being said, I rather enjoyed my brief excursion into Audrey’s world, although my reaction might be due in part to my witch-biased low expectations going in.

Audrey’s Guide to Witchcraftdoesn’t stray too far from the typical young adult paranormal mould, introducing us to a likable yet unremarkable heroine with self-esteem issues, a rushed introduction to the supernatural world, and a case of the dreaded insta-love. Still, while the book does commit the foregoing offenses, it does so in a manner that is almost charming in its lack of pretension. This book never takes itself too seriously, and while that tends to drive me crazy much of the time, here it was an asset that helped to offset the book’s more generic qualities. Audrey might not be particularly compelling as a narrator (not to mention her unfortunate

Audrey’s Guide to Witchcraft by Jody Gehrman

ascent to Mary Sue status), but she is sincere and thus eminently more likable than so many of the young adult heroines that predominate in the genre at the opposite end of the spectrum. Audrey is tossed unceremoniously into a world she never knew existed, yet the vehicle for her education is a delightful secondary character who I hope resists becoming overshadowed as Audrey’s mom inevitably gets a larger page-presence in future books. Even the romance angle was cute, albeit inadequately explored. Still, Julian is a nice guy without a hint of being a broodingly secretive alpha-asshole, and rejoice! There isn’t a whiff of a triangle so far.

While reading, I couldn’t help but compare the book to other stories that I’ve encountered before, and honestly, Gehrman does little to dissuade the tendency. Pop culture references proliferate throughout, with more than a couple of nods to Harry Potter, yet I didn’t get any Rowling vibes. No, my brain ran to more obscure gems in the film arena such as Halloweentown and Simply Irresistible. If you can’t recall those cinematic wonders, don’t worry- your ignorance is forgivable. I can’t say the plot was enthralling, but it kept my attention, which is commendable judging by my reading record of late. The jury’s still out on whether I’ll be picking up the second book in the series, but if you’re looking for something rather frothy to while away a fall day, Audrey’s Guide to Witchcraft is a good bet.

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Review: Grave Dance by Kalayna Price

Few urban fantasy series have frustrated me as much as Price’s Alex Craft novels. While I enjoyed the first book, Grave Witch, and had high hopes for its successor, Grave Dance continued the first book’s trend of offering just enough to sustain your interest without ever living up to the potential of the world that Price has created.

Alex continues to be an adequate heroine without providing readers with anything

Grave Dance by Kalayna Price

particularly special to set her apart from her peers. Her power is unique, but not compelling enough to let the series ride on the worldbuilding alone. Unfortunately, while Alex was relatively competent in the first book, she comes dangerously close to TSTL territory this time around. It’s safe to say that any characters faced with encountering the fairy realms are in for some unpleasant surprises, so I suppose I should at least credit Alex on neglecting to make the one mistake that seems to pop up most often in this context. Yet while she stayed away from the fairy food and drink, she certainly didn’t exhibit the intelligence that I would expect of a woman of her experience.

Sadly, though, her conduct while on the job doesn’t come close to rivaling the stupidity of her decisions concerning her love life this time around. Falin and Death continue to round out the sides of this triangle, both circling Alex with the expected male competitiveness while being generally close-lipped and obstinate about revealing the secrets of their own lives. Yet while Alex continually admits that she knows next to nothing about either man, she allows them time and again to treat her as a prize to be won and wooed. Death is still my choice, but until Price begins to reveal a bit of info about either of these characters, I’ll have a hard time becoming invested in either relationship.

I’ll likely stick around for the third novel, but I have a feeling that it will be a deal-maker or breaker for me.

Book Beginnings on Fridays

Book Beginnings on Fridays is a meme hosted at A Few More Pages designed to feature the book you are reading right now by sharing the first few lines of the story.

Right now I’m slowly making my way through Grave Dance by Kalayna Price.

Grave Dance by Kalayna Price

“When I first straddled the chasm between the land of the dead and the world of the living, I accidentally raised the shade of our recently deceased Pekinese.”

I’ve started and stopped this one more times than I can count now, which is really unusual for me. Once I start a book, I usually force my way through that same day, no matter how little it grabs my attention, yet for some reason this one is thwarting me. I enjoyed the first book, too, so I’m not quite sure why this one isn’t grabbing my interest, but I’m going to power through this weekend.

Here’s the summary, taken from Goodreads:

After a month spent recovering from a vicious fight with a sorcerer, grave witch Alex Craft is ready to get back to solving murders by raising the dead. With her love life in turmoil thanks to the disappearance of Fae Investigation Bureau agent Falin Andrews and a shocking “L” word confession from Death himself, Alex is eager for the distractions of work. But her new case turns out to be a deadly challenge.

The police hire Alex to consult on a particularly strange investigation in the nature preserve south of Nekros City. The strange part: There are no corpses, only fragments of them. A serial killer is potentially on the loose, and Alex has no way to raise a shade without a body, so she’ll have to rely on the magic of others to find leads. But as she begins investigating, a creature born of the darkest magic comes after her. Someone very powerful wants to make sure the only thing she finds is a dead end—her own.

“Waiting On” Wednesday

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a meme created at Breaking the Spine to spotlight upcoming releases that we can’t wait to read.

This week I can’t wait for Thirteen by Kelley Armstrong.

Here’s the summary, taken from Amazon:

It’s been more than ten years, a dozen installments, and hundreds of

Thirteen by Kelley Armstrong

thousands of copies since Kelley Armstrong introduced readers to the all-too-real denizens of the Otherworld: witches, werewolves, necromancers, vampires, and half-demons, among others. And it’s all been leading toThirteen, the final installment, the novel that brings all of these stories to a stunning conclusion.

A war is brewing—the first battle has been waged and Savannah Levine is left standing, albeit battered and bruised. She has rescued her half brother from supernatural medical testing, but he’s fighting to stay alive. The Supernatural Liberation Movement took him hostage, and they have a maniacal plan to expose the supernatural world to the unknowing.

Savannah has called upon her inner energy to summon spells with frightening strength, a strength she never knew she had, as she fights to keep her world from shattering. But it’s more than a matter of supernaturals against one another—both heaven and hell have entered the war; hellhounds, genetically modified werewolves, and all forces of good and evil have joined the fray.

Uniting Savannah with Adam, Paige, Lucas, Jaime, Hope, and other lost-but-notforgotten characters in one epic battle, Thirteen is a grand, crowd-pleasing closer for Armstrong’s legions of fans.

Since my “Waiting On” post last week featured the penultimate book in this series, it seemed only fitting to showcase the upcoming final book in Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series this week. I’ll be sad to say goodbye to so many characters I’ve come to love, but I’m sure Armstrong will leave readers with a satisfying conclusion.

“Waiting On” Wednesday

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a meme created at Breaking the Spine to spotlight upcoming releases that we can’t wait to read.

This week I’m anticipating the paperback release of Spell Bound by Kelley Armstrong.

Here’s the summary, taken from Goodreads:

Savannah Levine is in terrible danger, and for once she’s powerless to help

Spell Bound by Kelley Armstrong

herself. At the conclusion of Waking the Witch, Savannah swore that she would give up her powers if it would help a young girl. Little did she know that someone would take her up on that promise.And now, witch hunting assassins, necromancers, half-demons, and rogue witches all seem to be after her. The threat is not just for Savannah; every member of the Otherworld might be at risk. While most her fellow supernaturals are circling the wagons at a gathering of the council in Miami, Savannah is caught on the road, isolated from those who can protect her and unable to use her vast spell casting talent, the thing she counts on most. In a story that will change the shape of the Otherworld forever, Spell Bound gathers Elena, Clay, Paige, Lucas, Jamie, Hope, and others, who soon learn that the greatest threat to supernaturals just may come from within.

I’ve never been the biggest fan of Savannah, so I’ve yet to read either Waking the Witch or Spellbound, both of which are told from her point of view. Given the fact that these last books in the Women of the Otherworld series seem to comprise one overarching story (complete with cliffhangers) as opposed to the self-contained novels that have previously characterized the series, I was even less inclined to seek out Savannah’s books. However, since the series is drawing to a close (and presumably will feature appearances from my favorite characters in the next book), it’s probably time that I caught up.

The paperback will be released on June 26, 2012.

Review: Grave Witch by Kalayna Price

It’s been a while since I started a new urban fantasy series, and while it didn’t exactly break any new ground, I have a feeling that I’m going to be sticking around Alex Craft’s world for a while.

Grave Witch by Kalayna Price

I’ve never been particularly enamored of witches when compared to the plethora of UF figures available to choose from. Unfortunately, Price’s contribution to the subgenre doesn’t do much to increase my interest in the literary possibilities of witchcraft.  Alex is a decent heroine, yet I am hard-pressed to pinpoint any traits that make her stand out among her peers.  Rather, she is more striking in her absence of certain qualities: she’s not insufferably arrogant or mistrusting, but nor does she seem all that capable.  For a woman who earns her living as a grave witch, Alex seems to escape a lot of wrong-place-wrong-time problems by relying on her peers’ talents rather than her own.  I am intrigued by the physical toll that Alex’s use of magic takes on her, with her eyesight becoming seriously impaired for a while each time she uses her skills, but unfortunately Price doesn’t develop her magical world much beyond that.  Though various other mythical creatures populate her world, Price seems to stick to pretty standard folklore without much variation.  In particular, I was disappointed by the predictable turn that ended Alex’s visit to a faerie establishment, with Price falling back on a story that is standard in fae mythology without much personal embellishment.

Likewise, I felt as if none of Alex’s friends were fully fleshed out.  While they could be appealing enough with the proper characterization, I couldn’t make myself care about them as I know Price was hoping for. Still, I see ample room for Price to beef up her story through both worldbuilding and character-building in subsequent books. And though she introduces yet another love triangle to the genre, I’m actually not all that opposed to it this time around. Both men in Alex’s life have their appealing qualities, and of course, both are swathed in mystery for the time being, despite Alex having known one of them for most of her life. I’ve definitely chosen sides, and hope Price decides to take the series in the less obvious direction, but for now, I’m content to pick up the second in the series, Grave Dance, and see where Price chooses to lead.

Book Beginnings on Fridays

Book Beginnings on Fridays is a meme hosted at A Few More Pages designed to feature the book you are reading right now by sharing the first few lines of the story.

So I know I said in my It’s Monday! What are you reading? post that I was going to read Mr. Impossible and The Realm of Possibilities this week. I’m not going to say I lied exactly, but it’s not going to happen. It’s Halloween weekend, and I need a suitably spooky atmosphere to suit. So tomorrow (amidst many other activities) I’m going to read Grave Witch by

Grave Witch by Kalayna Price

Kalayna Price.

“The first time I encountered Death, I hurled my mother’s medical chart at him.”

I don’t even feel the need to include anything beyond that one-sentence excerpt, because it’s undoubtedly the best opening line I’ve come across in months.

Here’s the summary, taken from Goodreads:

As a grave witch, Alex Craft can speak to the dead-she’s even on good terms with Death himself. As a consultant for the police, she’s seen a lot of dark magic, but nothing has prepared her for her latest case. When she’s raising a “shade” involved in a high profile murder, it attacks her, and then someone makes an attempt on her life. Someone really doesn’t want her to know what the dead have to say, and she’ll have to work with mysterious homicide detective Falin Andrews to figure out why…