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Devils and Details by Devon Monk

On our second visit to Ordinary, Oregon, things heat up as the god powers are lost, people turn up dead, new players come to town, and more secrets are revealed.

Title: Devils and Details
Author: Devon Monk
Series: Ordinary Magic, Book 02
Publish Date: August 31st, 2016, by Odd House Press
Genre: Urban fantasy
Cover: Lou Harper, Cover Affairs
Narrator: Khristine Hvam
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionCaught between the devil and the deep blue sea…

Police Chief Delaney Reed is good at keeping secrets for the beach town of Ordinary Oregon–just ask the vacationing gods or supernatural creatures who live there.

But with the first annual Cake and Skate fundraiser coming up, the only secret Delaney really wants to know is how to stop the unseasonable rain storms. When all the god powers are stolen, a vampire is murdered, and her childhood crush turns out to be keeping deadly secrets of his own, rainy days are the least of her worries.

Hunting a murderer, outsmarting a know-it-all god, and uncovering an ancient vampire’s terrifying past isn’t how she planned to spend her summer. But then again, neither is falling back in love with the one man she should never trust.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Invested Ivana says…

As with the first book in this series, there were a couple of story points I didn’t care much for, but overall, I really enjoyed this visit to Ordinary, Oregon.

I mention in my review for Death and Relaxation that something happens at the end that I feel was too little reward for the sacrifice. Unfortunately, part of the plot of Devils and Details is built on this event, so I was constantly thinking about that while I was listening. There is also the fact that neither Delaney nor her sisters, who are supposed to be the experts at Ordinary guardianship,  recognize that a blatant violation of the agreement made between the gods and Ordinary would cause a problem. That bothered me, especially since the rule was made very clear to the reader. That aspect felt too forced in order to make the rest of the story work.

The last bit I didn’t care for was the introduction of a shadowy para-government agency. There is so much going on in Ordinary already that it didn’t feel necessary or fully developed. But perhaps more will come of that in future books.

Despite those story elements, the characters and quirks of Ordinary are fun and compelling, as is the mystery. Bertie and her manipulations, Crow and his cockiness, Odin and his stubbornness, Death and his wacky outfits, Old Rosi, and the werewolves are all wonderful characters that I love visiting. I care about these characters and the town, and that, for me, is what makes for a good story.

Other reviews in this series…

Other recommendations…

…you might try the Scarlet Bernard series by Melissa F. Olson, the Madison Fox series by Rebecca Chastain, or the Nicki Styx series by Terri Garey.

Death and Relaxation by Devon Monk

NEW: Audiobook review added.

Small town politics, family legacies, lost loves, vacationing gods, mysterious deaths, and lots and lots of rhubarb. Be sure to check out this fun series by Devon Monk!

FTC Notice: This book was provided free in exchange for an honest review. This is no way impacts my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

27828473Title:  Death and Relaxation
Author:  Devon Monk
Series: Ordinary Magic Book 01
Publish Date:  June 20, 2016, by Odd House Press
Narrator: Khristine Hvam
Cover: Lou Harper, Cover Affairs
Genre:  Urban fantasy
Source: ebook provided by the author, audiobook purchased

Publisher’s Description: Police Chief Delaney Reed can handle the Valkyries, werewolves, gill-men and other paranormal creatures who call the small beach town of Ordinary, Oregon their home. It’s the vacationing gods who keep her up at night.

With the famous Rhubarb Festival right around the corner, small-town tensions, tempers, and godly tantrums are at an all-time high. The last thing Delaney needs is her ex-boyfriend reappearing just when she’s finally caught the attention of Ryder Bailey, the one man she should never love.

No, scratch that. The actual last thing she needs is a dead body washing ashore, especially since the dead body is a god.

Catching a murderer, wrestling a god power, and re-scheduling the apocalypse? Just another day on the job in Ordinary. Falling in love with her childhood friend while trying to keep the secrets of her town secret? That’s gonna take some work.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Invested_Ivana_100Invested Ivana says…

Audiobook review, Jan 2019

I read this book back in June of 2016 but didn’t end up finishing the series at that time because … life, ya know? So I picked up the first three books in the series in audio so I could catch up.

The series is read by Khristine Hvam, who also narrates the Jane Yellowrock book. It took my brain a bit to adjust to that voice representing a different world, but not too long. Hvam is awesome and did a fantastic job.

I always find it interesting how the mood I’m in at the time really affects how a book sits with me. I remember when I read this book the first time, I was pretty tickled with it, but later couldn’t recall many details. This time around I listened to it (which I think involves processing the story very differently) and enjoyed it a lot, but was feeling more critical—not in the negative sense, but in the sense that I was paying more attention and evaluating with a deeper eye.

For example, there is something that happens near the end of the book that bugged me this time around because it felt like the sacrifice wasn’t worth the reward; there was a bit of foreshadowing that felt MacGuffin-ish or never fully explained; and the romance aspect was a bit too melodramatic for my taste at times.

However, I really enjoyed the mystery, the mythology, the characters, their relationships, and the world overall, so I still enjoyed it quite a lot. Plus there’s humor, which is a treasure at times. I had read some darker fantasy just prior to reading this series, and the lighter, more optimistic feel of this series was a wonderful change.

So I have to say that I’m still pretty tickled with this series, particularly in audio. It’s engaging and optimistic, and I’m invested in the characters. Ordinary, Oregon seems like a great place for a vacation. 4 stars.

Text review, June 2016

What drew me to this book: I’m a big fan of Devon Monk; I love her Allie Beckstrom and House Immortal series. So when I saw she had a new series coming out, I was pretty excited. Plus, the cover, designed by Lou Harper, is lovely.

Why I kept reading: Death and Relaxation is a lighter series than I’m used to from Monk, but I really liked it. It’s a murder mystery, a light urban fantasy, and a bit of paranormal romance all in one book.

The small town of Ordinary is home to many things—the Reed family, the Rhubarb festival, and every type of supernatural creature and divine immortal imaginable. The Police Chief, Delany Reed, gets to deal with it all, including vacationing gods, old boyfriends, the death of a god, and the rehousing of the god’s power. Oh, and judging the Rhubarb festival—and she doesn’t even like rhubarb.

At one point, I thought I had the romance part of this book figured out; but I was totally wrong. At least, so far. I never did have the murder figured out. I like that! The end of the book hints that there are much bigger things in store for Ordinary. With so much going on in this small town, I have no doubt there will be more good things to come.

Why I recommend it: Monk’s new book is great entertainment. It gives you a little taste of several genres and the mystery is unpredictable. The town and characters are interesting and quirky, as you might expect from a small town. The ending is satisfying and yet hints that things are about to get serious. I’m really looking forward to the next book.

If you like this book…

…you might try the Scarlet Bernard series by Melissa F. Olson, the Madison Fox series by Rebecca Chastain, or the Nicki Styx series by Terri Garey.

FTC Notice: This book was provided free in exchange for an honest review. This is no way impacts my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Howling For You by Chloe Neill

How do you choose family duty or a life that would make you happy? Why do those things never coincide? Maybe Fallon can make it all work.

Title:  Howling For You
Author: Chloe Neill
Series: Chicagoland Vampires #8.5
Publish Date: July 7, 2014
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Source: reviewer purchased

Publisher’s Description:  Jeff Christopher is a shapeshifter and ally of Chicago’s Cadogan House of vampires—he’s also a tech whiz and mostly-legal hacker. And the only protective shields he’s never been able to find a way around are those of the powerful Keene Family.

For a long time, Jeff has only had eyes for the beautiful Fallon Keene. Unfortunately, she is the only sister of the lethal North American Central Pack Apex Gabriel Keene. The intricate balances of power and politics make it all but impossible for Fallon to trust her feelings.

But fate takes a hand when the Pack’s totem is stolen—threatening the Keene family’s rule—and Fallon enlists Jeff’s help to retrieve it before the Pack is thrown into chaos. Can she and Jeff find the totem, and restore order, before it’s too late? And will Jeff finally be able to prove himself to the only person he truly loves?

Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel. In other words… SPOILERS. *BEWARE*


Nervous Nellie says…

I was in the middle of Wild Hunger by Chloe Neill.  It’s the story where Merit and Ethan’s daughter is the focal point, and she’s taking her own steps into her mom and dad’s world. I took a break from that book and went back to the world of Chicagoland Vampires to catch up with the characters.

This story is about the North American Central Pack leader’s sister, Fallon. She’s in love with Jeff but is expected to make an alliance with another pack by marriage. The story takes us through the journey that Fallon has to follow in order to find happiness. It’s a quick novella with a conspiracy, love, and discovery. 

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Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow

Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer will dig this sassy, smart heroine who faces all the creatures that go bump in the night.

Title: Strange Angels
Author: Lili St. Crow
Series: Strange Angels, Book 01
Publish Date: May 14, 2009 by Razorbill
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionDad? Zombie.
Mom? Long gone.
Me? Well, that’s the scary part.

The Real World is a frightening place. Just ask sixteen-year-old orphan Dru Anderson, a tough girl who has taken down her fair share of bad guys. She’s armed, dangerous, and ready to kill first and ask questions later. So it’s gonna take her a while to figure out who she can trust . . .

Dru Anderson has been ‘strange’ for as long as she can remember, traveling from town to town with her father to hunt the things that go bump in the night. It’s a weird life, but a good one – until it all explodes in an icy, broken-down Dakota town when a hungry zombie busts through her kitchen door. Alone, terrified, and trapped, Dru’s going to need every inch of her wit and training to stay alive. The monsters have decided to hunt back – and this time, Dru’s on their menu. Chances of survival? Slim to none.

If she can’t last until sunup, it’s game over . . .

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Kat Mandu says…

Dru and her creature-hunting dad are staying in a small town, trying to live a somewhat normal life despite their knowledge of the Real World. When her dad goes to investigate a lead and returns a zombie, Dru is left with no choice but to defend herself as her world flips upside down.

Now, she’s being hunted by some supernatural baddies, and her only allies are the enigmatic Christophe and the chatty, awkward Graves, who’s recently been turned into a half-werewolf. If she can escape the city before an old enemy gets to her, she’ll have to find out who’s really targeting her and if she can survive the encounter.

I really enjoy the characters in this one. Dru is tough and very reminiscent of Buffy Summers for me. She’s very protective, sarcastic, and not afraid to stand up for herself. Sometimes she does things that scare her and poor Graves, her new best friend, who gets bitten by a wulfen. The story mostly focuses on the two of them and their situation, and it’s a nice setup for a best-friend-forever or possibly more.

I only rated this a four because there were certain scenes I struggled with, mostly action scenes that threw me off. I didn’t really get the water fountain scene in the mall or how Dru managed to kill off the hellhound. And the chase scene in the van also confused me with its sporadic, unclear details. Besides those two parts, everything else was kosher.

It’s filled with sincere, tender moments that clash wonderfully with the intense action and supernatural tension.I really enjoyed it and I imagine many others would too.

Other recommendations…

Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead; Morganville Vampires series by Rachel Caine; Madison Avery trilogy by Kim Harrison.

The Grendel Affair by Lisa Shearin

Grendel AffairTitleThe Grendel Affair
AuthorLisa Shearin
SeriesSPI Files Book 1
Publish Date: Dec 31, 2015
PublisherACE Penguin
Narrator: Johanna Parker
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionWhen I moved to New York to become a world famous journalist, I never imagined that snagging a job at a seedy tabloid would change my career path from trashy reporter to undercover agent. I’m Makenna Fraser, a Seer for SPI. I can see through any disguise, shield, or spell that a paranormal pest can come up with. I track down creatures and my partner, Ian Byrne, takes them out—usually saving my skin in the process. Our cases are generally pretty routine, but a sickle-wielding serial killer has been prowling the city’s subway tunnels. And the murderer’s not human. The fiend in question, a descendant of Grendel—yes, that Grendel—shares his ancestor’s hatred of parties, revelry, and drunkards. And with New Year’s Eve in Times Square only two days away, we need to bag him quickly. Because if we don’t find him—and the organization behind him—by midnight, our secret’s out and everyone’s time is up.

Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel (or, in other words, SPOILERS).


Hey Nell! Guess who narrates the audiobook of The Grendel Affair.

Oh, Wait! I know this… her voice is familiar! Where do I know her from?

Johanna Parker narrates The Grendel Affair AND the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris! I just finished listening to the book and it was pretty good. I received this book from Goodread’s First Reads program early last year. Now that the sequel is out, I wanted to read it again to remind myself what happened in the story. I liked the book in audio. You’ve read this book, haven’t you?

Yes, I have. I have read it twice and listened to it audio once. It’s a great world with fun characters. I started the Dragon Conspiracy-I’m about 15% into the book as we speak.

Oh, good. Me, too. I wanna see what nasty monster Makenna and Ian get to fight next.

So, do you think there will be a romance between Makenna & Ian? I’m betting not… he seems too stuffy. What do you think?

I’m looking for monsters and you’re looking for romance. Doesn’t that just describe us both?

I can’t help it. Monsters will always be there, but romance is a fleeting thing.


Nervous Nellie says …

Main characters: ♥♥♥♥♥ At first, I thought Makenna Frasier was kind of wimpy. It didn’t take long – not very long at all- to discover that she was anything but wimpy. She was smart, able to think on her feet and she was a very believable character. She was not Wonder Woman like some protagonists portray themselves. She was just an ordinary woman hell-bent on making this new job work. Ian Frasier, Makenna’s new partner, was very patronizing at first. He was a seasoned veteran of monster hunting and knew that if he didn’t protect Mac, she’d never make it. He had lost a partner and he was not going to let it happen again. He beat himself up over that loss and immersed himself in responsibility, responsibility, responsibility. Mac didn’t want to be anyone’s responsibility. She figured out that she needed to protect herself so she wouldn’t be a liability to her team. She may have a special skill that is hard to find and worthy of protection, but she used her common sense and helped the other monster fighters as best as she could.

Other characters: ♥♥♥♥♥ Kenji Hayashi was my favorite. Technogeek extraordinaire. Vivienne Sagadraco was next. Rolf Haagan was Rambo on steroids – but he kept his sense of humor. Roy Benoit – he I would like to actually meet. I’m a sucker for a southern accent. Whoo-wee. Actually, all the characters were really entertaining. I liked them all – except for the grendels. They were scary.

World: ♥♥♥♥♥ The world is full of creatures that humans do not know exist. It’s SPI’s responsibility to keep those creatures under wraps. Makenna is a seer and she can ‘see’ the creatures for what they are instead of any glamour they might use.

Story: ♥♥♥♥♥ The story was excellent. I loved every bit of it. It was so good that I read it twice and listened to the audio too. The mystery was well incorporated and it was fun seeing New York though Makenna. There is a literary reference to Beowulf incorporated in the story, along with dragons, elves, vampires, and other creatures. I thought there may be a romance with Mac and Ian, but it only briefly hinted. The author really did well with this story. It had humor and seriousness (as serious as monsters invading Times Square could be).

Overall: ♥♥♥♥♥ I enjoyed this book very much. The pages flew by, and it was just as good the third time as it was the first. The characters were very likable and genuine. There is a good-spirited rapport between agents and their ‘trophies’ that they each had on their desks. Makenna was bound and determined she would have a weapon, and her putting Tequila in a squirt gun was just one of the many things she tried to succeed. In the end, she has proven herself as an asset and a darn good one. There was no cliffhanger, and I am looking forward to reading the next in the series.

Invested Ivana says…

Main Characters: ♥♥♥♥♥ Makenna (Mac) Fraser is a likable character. She’s not perfect, she’s not superior, she’s just your average gal adjusting to a new job. She has funny quirks, only one special skill — the ability to see through glamours and veils — and is both afraid and brave. I love the fact that a smear of powdered sugar from eating too many cookies is what helps establish her credibility and that her contribution to the monster-fighting team is to shoot paintballs. The story is told first-person through Makenna, so the reader gets to know her very well throughout the book and is easily able to identify with her and invest in her success.

Other Characters: ♥♥♥♥♥ Ian Byrne, Makenna’s partner/bodyguard, is a professional agent, in contrast to Makenna, and does what he can to keep her safe. At first, I thought Ian was going to be an overly-protective male for the whole book, but that wasn’t the case. Ian is protective, having lost a partner in the past, but he recognizes that he can protect Makenna only so much and that she needs to be able to protect herself. Luckily, Ian has a sense of humor and is able to accept Makenna for who she is, quirks and all. I think the two make a good pair. I really enjoy the rest of the supporting cast as well: Ollie, the self-centered merchant of all things spooky; Yasha, the Russian werewolf driver; Kenji, the Japanese half-elf techie; Vivienne Sagadraco, British dragon and founder of SPI; and Rolf Haagen, the crazy Scandinavian with the prosthetic arm. Ms. Shearin certainly has embraced diversity in her characters as far as nationality AND species.

World: ♥♥♥♥♥ It seems all the monsters exist in Makenna’s world — dragons, elves, goblins, werewolves, vampires, ghouls, leprechauns, grendels, magicians, witches, dopplegangers, and more.  One ancient dragon, Vivienne Sagadraco, has created SPI — Supernatural Protection and Investigations — to protect the humans and good supernaturals from the bad supernaturals and keep the magical world under wraps.  SPI operates like a private FBI and police force, employing both humans and supernaturals toward the cause.

Story: ♥♥♥♥♥ In this first adventure, a pair of grendels are loose in NYC, ready to rampage through Times Square on New Year’s Eve in order to bring the supernaturals out of the closet and into the power some creatures believe they deserve. Makenna, Ian, Yasha, Rolf, and the others are tasked to bring down the grendels without revealing them to the world. Mayhem ensues. For the most part, I like the story. The time the group spends hunting the grendels in the tunnels under the city seems to drag on a bit. but I really love the scenes in the cemetery and in the crypt under the cemetery.

During the story, Ms. Shearin references Makenna’s first day on the job guarding a bachelor party of leprechauns. This sounds like a hilarous story that can now be found in an anthology called Night Shift. Makenna spends a fair amount of time introducing herself to us in the beginning of the book, where she references her hometown of Weird Sisters, North Carolina — a town that attracts the weird and wonderful.  With as much time as was spent on it, I was expecting to either find a short story about Weird Sisters or to have it become important in The Grendel Affair; but neither is true, as far as I can tell. I’d love to see a story or two about Weird Sisters; it sounds like there are generations worth of stories there to tell. The other story I would like to see is how Ian lost his first partner. We know it had something to do with “the ghoul” character that Makenna encounters both at the beginning and the end of the book, and we know it had a big impact on Ian. But we know only what Ian has told Makenna about the incident and we don’t know much about this “ghoul” character at all. I think there is plenty of fodder there for more interesting stories.

Narrator: ♥♥♥♥♥ Johanna Parker, who also narrates the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris, is the voice of Makenna Fraser and company. Being a fan of Sookie in audio, this did a couple of things for me. First, it gave me an instant affinity for the story since I liked Sookie and Johanna as her voice. Second, it made me picture Makenna as Sookie for a while. I can separate them in my head now, but I don’t think associating the two characters was actually a bad thing.  They are fairly similar; both gals are blonde, Southern, and fairly normal except for one small talent — the ability to sense something others can’t. Neither have any special abilities that make them physically or mentally superior, and they both have faults, make mistakes, and have adorable quirks. It was a smart choice to have Ms. Parker read the SPI novels as it will lead some listeners to associate Ms. Shearin’s world with Ms. Harris’, and who wouldn’t want to be associated with such a success?

Overall: ♥♥♥♥♥ The Grendel Affair is a fun adventure with likable characters and just the right amount of humor. I think I enjoyed listening to it more than I did reading it, particularly because I already have a “relationship” with Johanna Parker. The story is more than fluff, but not a super serious or gritty adventure — it’s a “popcorn flick” of a book that makes for an entertaining few hours.

Our reviews in this series…

If You Like This Book…

One Book Two will be reviewing the sequel, The Dragon Conspiracy, in a couple of weeks, so stay tuned for that. If you haven’t read them yet, the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris would be good for fans of Makenna in either book or audio form. You might also like the Paranormal Scene Investigation series by Laura Anne Gilman or the InCryptid series by Seanan McGuire. Of course, there is also the Raine Benares series by Lisa Shearin, but we haven’t read that one to recommend it.

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