Archive for the ‘Urban Fantasy’ Category

Book v. TV: Bitten

February 5th, 2014    Posted in Book adaptation, Fantasy, Fiction, Kelly, TV v. Book, Urban Fantasy

SyFy has a new werewolf show on, so I checked out the first four episodes and read the novel the show is based on: Bitten by Kelley Armstrong. Adapting novels to TV shows is fascinating to me, and as someone who likes light urban fantasy and paranormal TV shows, both seemed like a good fit for me.

Note: minimal spoilers ahead but read at your own risk.

The Book

In the novel, Elena has created a life for herself in Toronto as a journalist. She’s been on her own for a year and has a live-in boyfriend. She struggles to balance her side as a werewolf with her desire to a normal woman. Her boyfriend, Phillip, has no idea about the ‘other’ side of Elena and instead sees the sweet facade of who Elena wants to be.

Everything changes when Elena is called back to Stonehaven, the gothic home of her Pack master. A “mutt” (unaffiliated werewolf) is in town, and killing humans. The pack master, Jeremy, calls the whole pack home to deal with the problem. Elena hesitates, and not just because she wants to deny her werewolf duality: she also wants to avoid Clayton, the brooding, intense enforcer of her pack. Clayton isn’t just Elena’s former lover. He’s also the person who turned Elena without her knowledge or permission, making her the only female werewolf in existence.

Elena and her pack quickly realize they have more than just a rogue mutt to deal with, but rather a conspiracy by unaffiliated werewolves, some of whom were terrible humans to start with (rapists and killers), and both dangerous and uncontrolled werewolves. Some of the mutts wants revenge on the pack . . . but one wants Elena.

The novels enjoyable and sets up a consistent, believable urban fantasy world with its own unique details and twists on werewolf lore. Note: I’ve only read the first in the series (“Women of the Otherworld”) so I can’t say how the rest of the series stacks up. Told in first person, we see everything from Elena’s perspective, even the emotions she’s oblivious too. It’s enjoyable in the way the early Sookie Stackhouse novels are, or the Would-Be Witch series. Fun, sexy, bits of danger. Elena is a strong woman able to hold her own with the men in her pack. She’s no damsel-in-distress in need of rescuing, but is a strong fighter in her own right. She sometimes makes questionable/stupid decisions and feels a little young, but it works.


The TV Show

The first four episodes of the TV show stick fairly close to the book in terms of the major details. Minor details are changed: Elena is photographer, her boyfriend is in marketing instead of working as a lawyer. Philip has a sister who’s Elena’s new best friend. We see events outside of Elena’s perspective–like the mutt finding his victim in a bar, or watching Jeremy interact with the local sheriff when the first body is found–which is refreshing since all of that happens off-screen in the novel.

Logan is a bigger character in the show, which I appreciate. In the novel, Elena says Logan is her best friend but we only ‘see’ him in a telephone call. Giving him a place in Elena’s Toronto life has helped show her struggle with balancing her werewolf side with her desire to be “normal”, especially since he’s balancing similar issues.

Some of the dialogue in the show feels overly expository, but I’ve given the writers a little slack since they’re developing a unique world. For example, Peter’s scenes with Elena do a more subtle job world building than the more heavy-handed dialogue with Jeremy.

Hopefully Elena will stop complaining about wanting to go back to Toronto in the next few episodes. If she wants to be human and embrace humanity, and innocent people are dying, she needs to step up without complaining about it since she’s one of the few people able to stop the mutts.

I can see the plot arc of the novel translating well to a 13-episode season. Fingers crossed the show hits its stride and becomes the fun TV show it has the potential to be. That being said, I enjoyed the first four episodes.


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Beach read gold: Would-Be Witch

December 14th, 2013    Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Kelly, Urban Fantasy

When Tammy Jo’s locket is stolen during  a robbery at a Halloween party, its more than just the loss of a necklace. The ghost of her aunt, Edie, is tied to the locket. If she can’t get the necklace back soon, her aunt’s ghost will be lost forever.

She also runs into the mysterious (and handsome) Bryn Lyons at the party, and she knows she shouldn’t talk to him. The Lyons on the list of magical families she’s absolutely never to associate with.

But Tammy Jo’s latent magic ability finally emerges, and she needs to use it to find the locket and save Edie. Plus there’s an accidental zombie raising for her to deal with, and lots of werewolves. So what’s a girl to do but turn to the powerful Bryn Lyons? Even if Zach, her ex-husband, current boyfriend, and local police officer,  would prefer she only turn to him with her problems. Even if he doesn’t believe in magic or Edie.

If you’re looking for something breezy and fun, consider picking up the Southern Witches series by Kimberly Frost. Start with Would-Be Witch. It’s great for fans of Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse / Southern Vampire series. The main character can be frustrating (especially her relationship with men), but she stands up for herself more and more as the series goes on. Plus she’s quirky. She feels real, like the friend you love even though she occasionally exasperates you. Plus, Tammy Jo has one of the best animal sidekicks ever.

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Black Dog Reviews’ First Annual Gift Guide

December 11th, 2011    Posted in Dystopian, Fantasy, Fiction, Kelly, Literary Fiction, Middle Grade, Mystery, Non-Fiction, Other Genre, Pop Culture, Popular Fiction, Science Fiction, Short Stories, Uncategorized, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult

Looking for gift ideas this Christmas? How about giving a book? Here’s some gift recommendations based on books or series we read during 2011.

Literary Fiction
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
About: Effortless novel from one of our favorites.
Best for: Fans of The Virgin Suicides or Middlesex; people who enjoy character studies; Fans of Jane Austen, and also of Victorian writers.
Also consider: Game of Secrets by Dawn Tripp or The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender.


Short Story Collection
20 Under 40: Stories from the New Yorker
About: Sampling of the hottest short-story authors under 40 years old. Great way to find your favorite new literary author.
Great for: fans of short stories, literary fiction.
Also consider: St Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell, Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman.


Adult Dystopian, Sci-Fi, or Fantasy
Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
About: Game of Thrones is a layered high-fantasy novel with high stakes.
Great for: fans of high fantasy, people who like epic sagas.
Also consider: Greywalker by Cat Richardson


Southern Gothic
Ghost on Black Mountain by Ann Hite.
Why: Five different female narrators tell the story of Nellie’s unfortunate marriage to Hobbs Pritchard.
Great for: fans of Southern gothic novels, literary ghost stories.
Also consider: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt


Beach Read
Soulless by Gail Carriger
About: Victorian steampunk with supernatural creatures. Mixes romance and humor with a mystery. Absolutely brillant fun read.
Best for: readers with a sense of humor.
Also consider: Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon


Young Adult Dystopian, Sci-Fi, or Fantasy
Feed by M. T. Anderson
About: Ecological and technology issues, sci-fi, and dystopian blend in this YA novel perfect for boys and girls. Also has one of the best first lines ever: “We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.”
Best for: fans of dystopian or sci-fi.
Also consider: Divergent by Veronica Roth, Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Daughter of Smoke and Bones by Laini Taylor, and Witchlanders by Lena Coakley.


Young Adult, Contemporary
Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
About: Vera’s journey as grieving high school student with broken family has heart, and her journey rings true.
Best for: YA contemporary fiction.
Also consider: Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan


Pop culture
Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein
About: excellent analysis and insight into the “girly-girl” culture invading US society. Go check out the pink toy aisle at your local Target if you don’t believe me.
Good for: parents of daughters, people who deal with children, anyone concerned with the way girls are taught to value themselves.
Also Consider: The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell


For Writers

On Writing by Stephen King
About: Great advice and insight into King’s journey.
Best for: writers.
Also consider: Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder


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Daughter of Smokes and Bones is pure magic

September 19th, 2011    Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Kelly, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult

In September, I was on quite possibly the most miserable flight of my life.  The one-week-shy of two years old child who sat on his mother’s lap next to me kicked me at least once every thirty seconds. (He also tried to steal my food and book.)  Their dog escaped from his kennel partway through his flight and I ended up holding it on my lap for a couple of hours. The flight attendant spilt apple juice on my three times.

(Seriously—who only buys one seat when she’s traveling with both a two year old and dog? And who doesn’t bring food for a child on a six+-hour flight? Okay, rant over.)

Luckily I had something to escape to while flying—Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. The book begins as we meet Karou, an art student in Prague with an interesting home life. Karou was raised by a chimera, Brimstone. She doesn’t know where she came from or who her parents are. She runs errands for Brimstone and his companions, going into the human world in exchange for receiving beads that allow her to make wishes.

While on a mission, Karou comes across an angel. This meeting turns her entire world upside down. I won’t say anymore since I don’t want to spoil the plot. The very wonderful, engaging plot with interesting characters.  The sort of novel that whisks you away into its own world and you’re sad to leave when you come to the final pages.

Definitely recommended.

Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Source: Gift from Friend
Read: August 2011

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Pacific Northwest Paranormal: Greywalker

September 18th, 2011    Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Kelly, Urban Fantasy

I’m a sucker for novels and TV shows set in the Pacific Northwest, and so when I heard about Kat Richardson’s Greywalker, I had to pick it up since it’s set in Seattle.

Private investigator Harper Blaine dies for two minutes, and after being resuscitated she becomes a greywalker. She can see into the grey, a sort of alternate plane for ghosts and other paranormal creatures that go bump in the night.  When she takes on a case to find missing college student, her investigation takes her into the world of vampires.

Greywalker is a good choice for adult fans of paranormal fiction. The private investigator set-up works quite well, as it gives Harper skills to adapt to her changing world, while also giving her reasons to dig into other people’s problems. Plus the concept of being PI for the weird? Brilliant. At times the explanations of the grey get a little wordy as both Harper and the reader learn about the grey.

Title: Greywalker
Author: Kat Richardson
Source: Public Library
Read: September 2011

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Pre-review of Wildwood

August 8th, 2011    Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Kim, Middle Grade, Urban Fantasy

For Portlanders, the word Wildwood will probably conjure up images of the popular restaurant in Northwest Portland. But for everyone else, it is the title of a three-book series written by Decemberists lead singer and songwriter, Colin Meloy and his wife (and illustrator) Carson Ellis.

The book has instant appeal, largely in part to the authors’ strong following in other media, so we thought we’d review the first four chapters (now available online) to see what this “middle-grade fantasy adventure novel” had in store.

Wildwood tells the story of Prue, a slightly unlucky big sister, who loses her little brother to a murder of crows when the birds pluck him off her Radio Flyer wagon and retreat into the Impassible Woods. Trying to avoid trouble, Prue is able to conceal the event from her parents just long enough to come up with a plan: to enter the Impassible Woods and do the impossible—come back out alive… and with her little brother.

The book has an element of instant likability and the sense of environment is very Portland. The first four chapters introduce the reader to Prue just enough so that we’re completely invested in her plight. I thought the cut off for the initial excerpt was well planned, ending with a cliff hanger that serves as the reader’s first glimpse into the fantastic (and possibly terrible) elements of the Impassible Woods. There were some areas that seemed predictable in terms of plot, but overwhelmingly enjoyable and fun to read.

To read the first four chapters yourself, click on the link below. The book is available August 30, 2011.

Wildwood Chapters 1-4 Excerpt <– Click here for the download!

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