Ilona Andrews

Dynamite Review Best of 2018

Each year I try to make a list of all my favorites for the year. Most years I don’t see or read or play much that came out in the actual year, but for once I was able to make lists of stuff that exclusively came out in 2018.

Black Panther

Movies
I feel like I should place a warning here before anyone can read my list. It is going to be heavy on the Superhero films. I watched Hidden Figures and Girls Trip for the first time in 2018 and loved them, but because they didn’t come out in 2018 I decided not to include them. So I apologize for the following boring list of movies.
1. Black Panther
Holy shit I still love this movie. I watched it recently, wondering if it would hold up from my original viewing and it did. If anything I like it more than I did the first time around.
2. Deadpool 2
I really need to re-watch this. I was finally able to get ahold of the unrated cut and I haven’t yet watched it. Still, the first viewing was incredibly memorable and I’m looking forward to seeing what was added. Also, they fucking made a PG-13 version with a tie in to my favorite movie, The Princess Bride!
3. BlacKkKlansman
This movie stands out like a sore thumb on my list, but I can’t help it. It was a great movie and hit me right in the soul.
4. Ant-Man and the Wasp
I loved the Wasp, she was such a badass.
5. Avengers: Infinity War
I’m still not sure about this movie. It was great, hit all the right notes, and got me super excited for the 2019 Marvel movies, but my final opinion of it is not going to be settled until those come out.

Honorable Mentions
Incredible 2
Oceans 8
The Hurricane Heist

Magic Triumphs

Books
The wonderful Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is not on the list since it didn’t come out in 20118, but it is definitely one I loved reading. Sadly, this will also be the first time I’m not including a Patricia Briggs book on my list, Burn Bright just did not cut it for me. I debated whether or not I should add Diamond Fire by Ilona Andrews to my list since it’s a novella, but ultimately decided I liked having a nice round number for my total.
Like my movie list, my book list is kind of heavy on one side, namely Ilona Andrews’s book. Often in the past I’ve just listed them as one entry, but I did not read much this year, and my list would be bare without them.
So without further ado, my best of 2018 books!
1. Magic Triumphs (Kate Daniels #10) By: Ilona Andrews
This was THE climactic conclusion of possibly my favorite series. It was well worth the wait.
2. A Princess in Theory (Reluctant Royals #1) By: Alyssa Cole
This was my favorite find of the year. I freaking LOVED this book and I’m so excited for the books to come.
3. Ocean Light (Psy-Changling Trinity #2) By: Nalini Singh
Nalini Singh is such a great author and I was so happy to finally have a human love interest in this series. It was all so sweet.
4. Diamond Fire (Hidden Legacies #3.5) By: Ilona Andrews
This may have been a novella but it packed a lot into the limited pages. I’m beyond exited for the books coming up and looking forward to seeing more of Catalina.
5. Iron and Magic (The Iron Covenant #1) By: Ilona Andrews
Before I read this I was not excited that Hugh was getting his own series, but I have now been converted. I never should have doubted Ilona Andrews.

murphy-brown-season-11-cast-photo

TV Shows
I watch a LOT of TV. I also, rarely write reviews for what I watch. I try to do season recaps after I binge, and I succeed at that about fifty percent of the time. I do better reviewing pilot episodes.
Like everything else, I’m going to limit myself to seasons that aired in 2018, which means that one of my favorites, Dramaworld, won’t be on the list. I’ll also try and include shows that I wrote reviews for, but sadly I haven’t gotten around to writing a review for The Good Place and I have to include it on my list.
So here we go!
1. Murphy Brown
You have no idea how much I love this series. I honestly had no idea how much I loved it until it came back and I actually set my little rabbit ears up and watched it live. I know the likelihood that I’ll actually get another season is slim to none, but I can’t stop myself from hoping for more.
2. The Good Place
Holy shit this show does not fail to deliver. Every episode I have no idea what the fuck is going to happen and it does not disappoint. It’s one of the best TV shows I’ve ever watched.
3. Westworld
Just when I think I’ve got a handle on what’s going on I’m thrown for a loop. Then they have an episode that shows an entirely new side of the hosts and I learn even more. It’s an interesting and beautiful show.
4. Jane the Virgin
Apparently, I love twists. That’s what my list is teaching me this year. Jane the Virgin gave me the biggest twist of the year with the season finale and I’m still on the edge of my seat to find out what happens next.
5. 12 Monkeys
The final season wrapped up a complicated story very well. It gave me closure and had me guessing right up until the very end. It was a fitting conclusion to a great time travel sci-fi TV show.

Honorable Mentions

Timeless

Doctor Who
Anne with an E
Sense 8

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Games
I love playing games, but it is one of my hobbies that ends up getting pushed aside for other things, so I don’t play as much as I would like. I also, don’t review many games, but here’s a list of my 2018 favorites.
1. No Man’s Sky: Next (PC)
I’ve enjoyed No Man’s Sky since the beginning, but the Next expansion brought me back to the game. The added content was amazing, and was quickly followed by more expansive updates. I spent well over 100 hours playing it this year and had so much fun doing it.
2. Smash Bros Ultimate (Switch)
Smash Bros Ultimate just came out and I haven’t had much time to play it. I’ve definitely not beaten the “story mode” yet, but I’m having a blast. I haven’t liked a Smash game since the original on N64 and I’m so excited to finally be enjoying the franchise again. There is so much content that it’s going to take some time before I’m able to finish it, if I’m able too.
3. Splatoon 2: Octoling Expansion (Switch)
It honestly feels like this came out forever ago. I downloaded it day one and somehow ended up beating it. The Octoling Expansion felt like the story we should have gotten with Splatoon 2 originally. It was fun and creative, several times infuriating, and just an all-around pleasure to play.
4. Civilization VI (Switch)
I love the Civilization franchise. I’ve been asking for it to come back to consoles ever since I moved away from playing on the XBOX 360 and I finally got my wish this year. I’ve only had it for about a month, but I’ve already spent over 60 hours playing. It’s so easy to say just one more turn and since I can play in bed, instead of at the PC, I’m playing it more than ever. It doesn’t have as much as the PC version, but so far I’ve been incredible happy with all that’s been included and with how it runs. I tend toward the Standard map, so I’m not sure how well it goes on larger maps, though.
5. Overcooked 2 (Switch)
My husband and I beat the original Overcooked together and for Christmas we started the sequel. Overcooked 2 is everything that I love about the first, but with polish. It looks nicer, the mechanics are better, and it still has all the fun and frustration of the first. It’s been a great game to coop with my husband and we’ve both been enjoying it.

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Magic Triumphs

Magic Triumphs

Magic Triumphs (Kate Daniels #10) By: Ilona Andrews

Plot:

Kate has come a long way from her origins as a loner taking care of paranormal problems in post-Shift Atlanta. She’s made friends and enemies. She’s found love and started a family with Curran Lennart, the former Beast Lord. But her magic is too strong for the power players of the world to let her be.

Kate and her father, Roland, currently have an uneasy truce, but when he starts testing her defenses again, she knows that sooner or later, a confrontation is inevitable. The Witch Oracle has begun seeing visions of blood, fire, and human bones. And when a mysterious box is delivered to Kate’s doorstep, a threat of war from the ancient enemy who nearly destroyed her family, she knows their time is up.

Kate Daniels sees no other choice but to combine forces with the unlikeliest of allies. She knows betrayal is inevitable. She knows she may not survive the coming battle. But she has to try.

For her child.

For Atlanta.

For the world.

Review:

The climactic conclusion to the Kate Daniels series! I have not been this excited for a book since the final Harry Potter. Somehow I was able to resist staying up into the wee hours of the morning to finish this, but it was close. The only reason I resisted reading it so long was because I was afraid of doing that and I need my sleep lately.

There were a couple heart wrenching moments, aided by the fact that my baby is just a couple months older than Kate’s baby. I cried. A couple times. I ignored my children as they destroyed the house around me.

SPOILERS

Kate has become a helicopter parent. She is definitely experiencing some post pregnancy hormones and has come such a long way from the original character. She loves so much and so afraid to lose it all and will do anything to protect those she loves. It hurts when you allow people in your heart, but she doesn’t regret it at all.

Not as many people died as I expected. In fact no one I really thought of as important died, which kind of lessened the impact of everything, but I don’t care. I love these characters and it would have hurt so much if they’d died.

Kate and Curran got their happy ending. We got to see Hugh and his woman and pretty much everyone in the universe we’ve met so far. They all had their part to play, but it never felt too chaotic. There was also a set up for another series, though, it doesn’t necessarily have to happen because things were wrapped up really well. It was nice that the world won’t necessarily be ignored and we can look forward to more stories in it.

I didn’t want to do anything after reading this, I just wanted to absorb, and then re-read the entire series. I might just do that, we’ll see, it’s been a while. If you’ve been waiting until the series is over to start it, here you go, never a better time to start.

5/5

Diamond Fire

Diamond Fire

Diamond Fire (Hidden Legacies 3.5) By: Ilona Andrews

Plot:

Catalina Baylor is looking forward to wearing her maid of honor dress and watching her older sister walk down the aisle. Then the wedding planner gets escorted off the premises, the bride’s priceless tiara disappears, and Rogan’s extensive family overruns his mother’s home. Someone is cheating, someone is lying, and someone is plotting murder.

To make this wedding happen, Catalina will have to do the thing she fears most: use her magic. But she’s a Baylor and there’s nothing she wouldn’t do for her sister’s happiness. Nevada will have her fairy tale wedding, even if Catalina has to tear the mansion apart brick by brick to get it done.

Review:

I devoured this novella. The world that has been created in the Hidden Legacy series is so interesting and complicated. The Baylor’s are such capable strong women and I love reading about them

This story was basically just an introduction to Catalina. We’ve, of course, seen her before, but we’ve never had her point of view on things. She is protective of her family, but also shy and more reserved than Nevada. She is scared of her power, for understandable reasons, and she doubts what her future holds.

The story was fun. There were moments of righteous outrage that I loved. A whole plethora of characters that may or may not show up later. Tons of family secrets revealed. It was a highly entertaining short read and I cannot wait for the next book in the series.

5/5

Iron and Magic


Iron and Magic (The Iron Covenant #1) By: Ilona Andrews

Plot:

No day is ordinary in a world where Technology and Magic compete for supremacy…But no matter which force is winning, in the apocalypse, a sword will always work.

Hugh d’Ambray, Preceptor of the Iron Dogs, Warlord of the Builder of Towers, served only one man. Now his immortal, nearly omnipotent master has cast him aside. Hugh is a shadow of the warrior he was, but when he learns that the Iron Dogs, soldiers who would follow him anywhere, are being hunted down and murdered, he must make a choice: to fade away or to be the leader he was born to be. Hugh knows he must carve a new place for himself and his people, but they have no money, no shelter, and no food, and the necromancers are coming. Fast.

Elara Harper is a creature who should not exist. Her enemies call her Abomination; her people call her White Lady. Tasked with their protection, she’s trapped between the magical heavyweights about to collide and plunge the state of Kentucky into a war that humans have no power to stop. Desperate to shield her people and their simple way of life, she would accept help from the devil himself—and Hugh d’Ambray might qualify.

Hugh needs a base, Elara needs soldiers. Both are infamous for betraying their allies, so how can they create a believable alliance to meet the challenge of their enemies?

As the prophet says: “It is better to marry than to burn.”

Hugh and Elara may do both.

Review:

“Iron and Magic” takes place in the Kate Daniels universe, but Kate and most of the people in her books are hardly in this. There is a small bit with the Bouda clan alphas, and Kate is mentioned several times as well as Roland, but this story is about Hugh and Elara.

Before this story, just based on what we already knew about him, I wasn’t a fan of Hugh. Honestly, I was looking forward to this book because it’s Ilona Andrews, but I wasn’t in a hurry to read it because I didn’t care about him. He’s blood thirsty and seemed evil from what we’d seen in Kate’s series, I’m also tired of the whole taking a villain and making him not bad anymore. However, by the time I was finished with this book I’d had a complete change of heart. I can’t help but love a broken badass.

Elara is still a mystery, her powers and history are only hinted at in this story never given too much detail. She seems to be possessed by some kind of god? Or maybe she is a god? She’s super powerful but can be wounded and killed, her people can pray to her, and apparently she’s terrifying in her powerful form. She loves her people and wants to take care of them and so she marries Hugh because he can provide protection she can’t.

The couple fight constantly and Elara is forever withholding information that Hugh needs to do his job. She second guesses him, puts roadblocks in his way, and is very much like his nickname for her, harpy. I was not a fan, there’s being strong because you have to be and then there’s just being stupid. I understand that she’s having issues trusting him, but come on, she married him, she signed a contract, she had to trust him to do all of that, but she was one of the biggest obstacles in the story.

Hugh does his own withholding, but it didn’t feel like the same level. He was a pretty massive baby about some things, though. Honestly, they’re both super flawed and deserve each other, but Elara’s flaws bothered me more.

There’s definitely a spark of romance between the two and there’s a pretty hot sex scene that happens right after an intense fight with an army of tough bad guys. I guess being a healer means that Hugh doesn’t need as much sleep as a normal person.

Lots of unanswered questions about Hugh and Elara have me interested in what happens next but I’m glad that it’s only going to be three books. Hopefully, it’s not a trilogy like the Hidden Legacy series was a trilogy where we don’t get a proper ending with the third book.

4.5/5

Dynamite Review Best of 2017

Movies

1.      Thor: Ragnarok – I don’t get to watch new movies much as they come out, but I was so lucky to get to see this in theaters. It was AWESOME! I’ve already pre-ordered the steelbook from Best Buy, I got the theatrical poster off of Disney Movie Rewards and it’s framed and in my kids bathroom, and I can’t wait to watch it again and again.

2.     John Wick 2 – Great action movie and addition to the series. Awesome world, I’m interested in the Stars series that’s potentially coming out.

3.     Kingsman: The Golden Circle – In your face, over the top action.

4.     Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – While not as good as the previous one I loved so many things about this movie. The colors, the characters, the relationships. I’m so glad that this is part of the Marvel Universe.

5.     Spider-Man: Homecoming – I really enjoyed this movie but what’s potentially more important, my daughter loves this movie.

6.     Moana – This is more an honorable mention since it came out in 2016 not 2017. Love the music and the story, reminds me of the Disney I grew up with.

Books

1.      White Hot by Ilona Andrews – The long awaited sequel to Burn for Me, so good.

2.     Wildfire by Ilona Andrews – Love this series so much, want more. Wasn’t too happy with the ending, but still love.

3.     Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan – Beautiful art, interesting story, need some answers though. The only comic I pre-order.

4.     The Rosetta Man by Claire McCague – Picked this up randomly and I ended up loving it. So happy when that happens.

5.     Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs – Not my favorite Patricia Briggs book, too many Doctor Who references, lots of other little things, but still a Patricia Briggs book so it’s going on the list!

6.     Heartstrikers Series by Rachel Aaron – This series didn’t come out last year, though they did have a book release that I haven’t read yet, but I had to put it on the list because I enjoyed it so much.

7.     The Guardians Trilogy by Nora Roberts – This is the kind of Nora Roberts series that I love. It didn’t come out in 2017, but after being wary of starting it because of her more recent books I got to it late.

TV Shows

1.      The Crown – I resisted watching this because I heard so much praise, but I’m glad I finally did. I destroyed the second season that recently aired and I honestly think it might be better than the first. Amazing show.

2.     Sense 8 – I love this idea so much and the second season wasn’t as slow as the first. The ending killed me and then when they canceled it, ugh, I never do TV show petitions but I signed them all. I canceled Netflix for the first time in years. I was furious. I’m hoping that the movie will be able to wrap things up but I seriously don’t see how that’s possible. I’ll probably never keep Netflix running continuously because of how they did this show.

3.     The Good Place – I had no desire to watch this last year, it just didn’t seem that funny to me. I ended up having the end of season one spoiled for me and that changed everything. I was able to binge the first season on Netflix and I’ve watched every episode of the second as it’s aired. So freaking funny.

4.     The Orville – Wow, I had no expectations for this show. I had hopes, but because of Seth MacFarlane I didn’t have many. I was certainly surprised and this has ended up being one of my favorite shows of the year. It’s like getting new episodes of Star Trek, only instead of the Enterprise team we’ve got the D tier crew. The jokes don’t always land and they’re reusing a lot of Star Trek plots, but I don’t care. I’m so glad that this has been picked up for a second season and I’m hoping that they continue to find their footing.

5.     Future Man – Loved this, it was so crude and hilarious and just came out of nowhere. Time travel, video games, the 80s, James Cameron’s AI, a terrible future, so many things that add up to funny. So glad we’re getting a second season.

6.     Legion – This is not my usual type of show. It’s wild and out there and very trippy. The only reason I watched it was because I needed something to keep me up during late night feedings and I ended up staying up just to finish episodes. Half the time I’m not sure what’s going on, but I honestly didn’t care. They gave just enough answers not to drive me crazy, but still left me needing to know more.

7.     Black-ish – I just discovered Black-ish this year and thank goodness Hulu has all of the episodes. Most episodes are nice, funny episodes, but the episodes that aren’t, the episodes where they “teach” you something are so good. This year there was one about postpartum depression that really resonated with me.

8.     Life in Pieces – I laugh in every single episode of this show. Love it.

9.     The Librarians – The third season was probably the weakest so far and I’m not overly thrilled with all that’s going on in the fourth season but I seriously can’t think of anything that would have me stop watching this.

 

Games

1.      Splatoon 2 (Switch) This was hands down my favorite game of the year. In an alternate universe I went pro, built a brand, and lived the life of the rich and famous.

2.     Stardew Valley (Switch) After putting in 160 hours on the PC version you’d think I’d be done with this game, but nope. As soon as it came out on the Switch I bought it and started all over again. Aided by the amazing guide my husband bought me for Christmas 2016 I’ve been chipping away at all the in game achievements.

3.     Lego City Undercover (Switch) I beat this once, then got halfway through beating it again before Splatoon 2 came out. I still plan on going back and working on unlocking everything, though, it’s not a priority because I certainly got my money out of this.

4.     Delicious Emily Home Sweet Home (PC) Really liked the story in this one, young married couple with a little kid get their dream house and fix it up. If I was crazy and didn’t mind construction around toddlers I could totally do this too.

5.     Horizon Zero Dawn (PS4) I’m stretching things a bit including this to my list. I got it for Christmas after trying it out at Red Box and finding it interesting enough to try more. I didn’t start playing it until December 31st and at this point I’m only a couple hours in, however, I love the idea a lot. I love that she’s a real looking woman and she’s kicking ass. So far they haven’t put her in super revealing clothes which is nice too. The world is interesting, however, I wish I didn’t have to use a bow and arrow. If I ever beat it, or put a significant amount of time in I’ll write a review.