Tag Archives: monsters

Humor with Bite: Housewitch, Mermaids in Paradise, and The Grendel Affair

8 Jul

The following stories all have varying elements of urban fantasy and wit including a satire of mean moms who are real witches, a honeymoon hijacked by tropical mermaids that slyly harpoons the American dream, and the slapstick humor of monster hunters who find out that an epic literary legend is real.

Mermaids in Paradise by Lydia Millet

Mermaids in Paradise by Pulitzer finalist Lydia Millet defies easy classification.  The mermaids of the title make a splash briefly, but the existence of the supernatural is more a trigger for the novel’s drama than a focus as in a typical Urban Fantasy genre work (for that you can check out Mary Janice Davidson’s Fred the Mermaid series).  Also added to the mix is mystery, romance, espionage, and action.  What holds all these elements together is the caustic wit of Deb whose honeymoon with her new husband, Chip, doesn’t go as planned when mermaids are spotted on a snorkeling trip.  The book satirizes everything from upper middle class privilege, environmentalism, political correctness, relationships, and more.  Along with Deb and Chip there are a cast of quirky characters that Deb describes in biting detail.  I wasn’t expecting the ending, but as with many twists the plot took, I felt that the surprising conclusion still felt organic to the work and added a poignancy to Deb’s sometimes superficiality.

Housewitch by Katie Schickel

Allison Darling is a witch, a secret she has kept and tried to ignore since she was abandoned by her mother as a child.  She feels like an outsider in the wealthy town where she lives and never quite fit in with the Glamour Girls, the cool moms in town, until one day her magic begins to manifest whether she wants it to or not.  When her mother passes away, Allison must confront not only her past, but that of her heritage to create a safe and better future for herself and her kids.  Housewitch at times felt like two novels in one; parts felt like a humorous take on the Mommy Wars with magic thrown in to add an air of absurdity to conflicts over things like children competing in a Science Fair and at other times it felt more of a straight urban fantasy with elements of a powerful evil witch and the use of classic nursery rhymes as spells.  For me the humorous parts were stronger elements and I would love to see Schickel focus on this more in her future books since I felt she had a keen eye for satire.

The Grendel Affair by Lisa Shearin

Of the three books on the list, The Grendel Affair is the most typical of the Urban Fantasy Genre.  Fans of Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid series or Men in Black, will want to check out Shearin’s humorous tale about the SPI (Supernatural Protection Investigations), who keep the monsters in check in Manhattan.  New agent Makeena Fraser can see through any spell or disguise so knows supernatural creatures from werewolves to vampires for their true nature.  She and her partner must prevent descendants of Beowulf’s Grendel from ruining New Year’s Eve in Time Square and revealing the existence of monsters to an unsuspecting world.  Fraser is spunky, but gets herself into a variety of quirky situations along the way to solving the case.  The series starts off with the Fraser already working for the agency and throws the reader right into the action.  The next in the SPI series, The Dragon Conspiracy is also available and is set at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

Halloween Reads: Urban Fantasy Werewolves, Wizards, Witches, Vampires, Zombies, and Monsters

28 Oct

October is my favorite time of the year with its crisp autumn air filled with the scent of mulled cider and smoky fires and the crunch of vibrant red and orange leaves beneath my feet.  As I put away summer pastels in favor of darker jeweled tones, summer reads also often get shelved for some more serious classic works to linger over during my daily commute.  But Halloween is also the perfect time to catch up with the spookier denizens of the Urban Fantasy realm.  Here is a list of series that will put you in the Halloween spirit!  You can borrow the books from BCCLS libraries and some are even available in ebook format from eBCCLS or eLibraryNJ.

Wonderful Wizards: Jim Butcher’s the Dresden Files

Jim Butcher’s the Dresden Files is a great read for fans of Urban Fantasy.  There are currently one short story collection and fourteen novels in the series.  Harry Dresden is a Wizard PI in Chicago assisted by “Bob”, a spirit trapped in a human skull, and a human police detective Karrin Murphy.  The novels also involve other creatures of myth including fairies, ghosts, and vampires.  The series has been adapted to many formats including a television series, graphic novels, and even a role playing game.  One of my favorite ways to enjoy the series is the audiobooks, which are masterfully read by James Marsters.  The books are best read in order so start with the Storm Front (the first book) and make your way to Cold Days (the latest).

Find your Inner Beast with Werewolves: Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Series

Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville Series centers around a werewolf ironically nicknamed Kitty.  Kitty works as a DJ and her show The Midnight Hour slowly transforms from a late night music show to a talk radio show where she discusses the supernatural.  Witches, gods, vampires, and other werecreatures populate Vaughn’s World.  There are twelve novels and one short story collection in the series.  Each book often feels to me as if Vaughn is asking a what-if question, such as what if there was a supernatural convention, what if the military used supernatural creatures for war, what if there was a reality show with vampires and werecreature participants, and weaves the concept in to her story.  The first few books in the series are mostly self-contained, but later books build on one another as Kitty explores the long game, a plan for world domination by a mysterious master vampire.  My favorite in the series is Kitty’s Big Trouble.

Spellbinding Witches: Juliet Blackwell’s Witchcraft Mystery Series

Juliet Blackwell’s Witchcraft Mysteries involve Lily Ivory, a witch who owns Aunt Cora’s Closet, a vintage clothing store in San Francisco.  She is able to pick up information about the past from the clothes and other items in her store.  Her sidekick in her adventures is her familiar Oscar who often takes the form of an adorable small pig.  This series is much lighter in tone than many on this list and will appeal to chick lit fans.  Secondhand Spirits is the first in this five book series.  For those who are fans of ghosts, Blackwell is also the author of the Haunted Home Renovations Series.

Bloody Good Reads with Vampires: Cherie Priest’s Cheshire Red Reports

Cherie Priest is perhaps best known for her Clockwork Century Steampunk series. I am a huge fan, however, of her vampire series Cheshire Red Reports which includes two books, Hellbent and Bloodshot.  Raylene is a vampire from the flapper days of the 1920s who makes her living acquiring unusual and hard to find items in a way that might be slightly aside from the law.  Her sidekicks include Adrian de Jesus, a former Navy Seal Drag Queen; Ian Stott, a blind vampire; and two feisty orphans Pepper and Domino.  While Priest has not ruled out additional books, the publisher has no current plans for more “reports”, which is a shame since it is a great action packed series with a strong heroine.  Priest has a link on her site for fans to submit a request to Random House to publish more “reports”.

Quick Reads with Zombies: Kevin J. Anderson’s Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.

Kevin J. Anderson has written 50 national bestsellers and has been nominated for the Nebula Award, the Bram Stoker Award, and the SFX Readers’ Choice Award.  At the 2012 San Diego Comic Con he was honored with the Faust Grand Master Award for Lifetime Achievement.  His Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. Series currently includes three books Death Warmed Over, Unnatural Acts, and Hair Raising.  P.I. Dan Chambeaux (aka Shamble) is joined by his ghost girlfriend Sheyenne in New Orleans where the “Big Uneasy” has unleashed all manners of creatures on the world.  This series will be enjoyable for those who like a little zany humor with their mystery and horror.  I would recommend that you read the books in order, unlike me, since otherwise you will encounter spoilers which will ruin some of the twists in the previous books.

Monsters of All Shapes and Sizes: Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid Series

A cryptid is a creature that is claimed to exist, but who has not officially been discovered, which includes sasquatches, chupacabras, and all manners of legendary monsters.  Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid series currently includes two books Discount Armageddon and Midnight Blue-Light Special, with the next Half-Off Ragnarok scheduled for publication on March 4.   The first two books focus on Verity Price who has descended from a family of cryptozoologists but also moonlights as a ballroom dancer.  Currently she is studying the creatures of New York, but when a member of the monster hunting Covenant of St. George, Dominic De Luca, shows up it complicates both her assignment and her love life.  I like that future books will focus on other members of the Price family so that Verity’s character development is not slowed in order to span a long book run.  You may also enjoy McGuire’s urban fantasy faerie series, October Daye, or her post-apocalyptic zombie thriller Newsflesh series written under the pen name Mira Grant.

For more Halloween Reads stop by the book display at the second floor vestibule or the Fall book display in the back of the first floor fiction area.  Wishing you all a Happy Halloween!

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

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