It's Portland with Magic and other Summer Reads

Over the past few years urban fantasy has become a hot sub-genre. I've recently read a few novels by lesser known authors that were good fun. So on some fine summer day when you feel like lounging around with a trashy novel and not accomplishing much of anything, try one of these books … Lots of action, magic, a little romance on the side. What more could you ask for?

Spider's Bite: an Elemental Assassin book by Jennifer Estep
Sure, our "heroine" murders people for money and likes her work. That does sort of make her inherently evil. But she's such a nice, likable girl, even though she has a few "issues" with being orphaned at an early age by a murderous fire mage. In one short story she does a pro-bono hit on a dirty cop who abused an innocent kid because that was the only justice that child would get. So, she's really not all bad… It is a pity about the whole 'having the hots for an ethical cop when you're a multiple felony offender' problem. And then there's the fire mage who is even more sociopathic than she is and who is trying to kill both her and her love interest. You could almost feel for a serial killer.

Devon Monk is an Oregon author. Her Magic series starting with Magic to the Bone
is set here (and now-ish) in Portland. It's Portland with magic. The magic is fairly weak and comes with a price. If you're an honest person you pay the price yourself, with a migraine or a day or two of a low fever. In exchange you get something small like enhanced hearing for an hour to spy on someone across a  restaurant or a burst of extra strength in a dangerous situation. Higher magics cost a higher price and the price has to be spread out to keep from crippling or killing. If you're rich and ethical you can hire people to suffer for you. If you have no ethics, well, dump the price out on someone who might not be missed and try your luck at getting away with murder for power.

Don't Kill the Messenger by Eileen Rendahl  
Melina Markowitz is a Messenger, a go-between for supernaturals of various sorts. She is able to interact with them because of a near death episode as a child. Mere humans don't generally believe in magic in this world unless it's made very obvious to them. Melina's gifts are pretty minor and the price she pays for failure is an unpleasant, magically-inflicted misery. So when she gets tangled up with a misdirected package and Chinese vampires she's stuck in the middle and in over her head. Fortunately she has friends and the guts to see things through. At least she doesn't have as many issues with her hot cop as the main character in Spider's Bite does. Melina's got a nice lack of criminal tendencies.