So I guess Carolyn, my lovely boss here at BCC, picked up on my not-so-subtle plea to revie...moreReviewed by Kearstie for www.bookchickcity.com - 4.5 Stars.
So I guess Carolyn, my lovely boss here at BCC, picked up on my not-so-subtle plea to review book two in the Elements series, Shifting Selves, last month, because I found it right at the top of my to-review list come August. As you can imagine, if you read my review of August’s BCC Book of the Month, Broken Elements, I just about did a jig. Okay, maybe not a jig, but pretty damn close.
In Broken Elements, we were introduced to estranged best friends and element-wielders, Aidan and Sera, and their whole Scooby Squad-esque gang. This rag-tag team of friends included a drool-worthy bear with a temper, a sly but loyal kitty with a tendency to tease and an odd amount of comfort with nudity, and a quietly brilliant and quirky earth-mover with a penchant for technology. Plus some untrusting FBI agents, who, in book two, have actually seemed to lighten up a bit.
**Careful Here – Book One Spoilers Ahead**
At the end of Broken Elements, Aidan had learned something very dangerous about herself: she had power over two elements, not just one. Her mother, a pure water elemental, had lied to Aidan about her past for her entire life, not informing her that her father was not a human, but a pure fire elemental (Sera’s father, not-so-coincidentally). Because of this, Aidan’s two sides were warring with each other, and would likely eventually drive her mad. That is, if the other elementals didn’t find out about her dual magic and kill her, first.
Despite this shocking realization, by the end of Broken Elements, Aidan was the happiest she’d ever been. Sera, her best friend, was really her half-sister, and they had mended their bond, becoming as close as ever. She and their other friends had given Aidan the first real family and home she’d ever known. And her budding romance with bear-shifter, Mac, didn’t hurt, either.
At the beginning of Shifting Selves, we find Aidan facing the dissolution of her self-made family, as catastrophe leads to Vivian looking for greener (and safer) pastures with her ex, and Simon planning to go home, what with the mystery of the previous book having been solved. Mac had distanced himself from Aidan in the month since the last book’s events ended, allowing their slow burn to die out, much to her dismay. And Sera spent a lot of her time just trying to keep Aidan calm, and keeping her fire side at bay.
Enter our old FBI buddies with an offer that leaves Aidan and Sera gainfully employed, and the mystery in Shifting Selves begins to unfold. As Aidan and Sera wade through a slew of shifters who are unwilling to share their secrets, the group continues to work together, whilst simultaneously falling apart.
Aidan and Mac are forced to come to terms with what’s causing Mac’s distance. Sera is just trying to keep Aidan sane, but has to fight her own inherent nature to do so. Simon is on the borderline of leaving, when a bigger, badder kitty offers to teach him about what being a cat-shifter really means. And Vivian is scared that she won’t make it through another mystery with her friends.
Marshall truly showed her brilliance again in this book. She picked up all of the pieces she left at the end of her first novel, and drove the second novel forward by using everything I loved about Broken Elements, plus new dilemmas, and a wonderful, fresh new mystery.
I truly didn’t know how Marshall was going to top the realization of Aidan’s parenting and powers, but let me tell you… she managed just fine. I couldn’t put the book down! The story, once again led by Marshall’s brilliant cast of characters, drove itself from beginning to end, and left me wanting more. The end of the book ends as all series books should: it answered some questions, while opening up new and surprising avenues for the friends to explore in the next book.
Speaking of the ending, I’m eagerly anticipating how she’s going to handle one specific twist that she threw at Aidan and Mac. It was not something I would have guessed was possible, and I doubt Aidan and company would have, either. Want to know what I’m referring to? Read the book, silly!
So, as you can see, Shifting Selves gets a glowing review from me. And yet I docked it half a star from the first book. Honestly, what kept it from a five-star ranking for me was the lack of a steamy scene between Aidan and Mac. There’s been a whole lot of buildup, but no climax, if you know what I mean. I mean, I get taking it slow, but come on. If we don’t see Aidan and Mac put all that sexual tension to good use in book three, I think Marshall will have a revolt on her hands.
Sexual tension aside, I truly enjoyed this book immensely. Shifting Selves is a fast-paced, whirlwind, beauty of a book, driven by a girl who is discovering who she is, and what she can do, with each turn of the page. Mia Marshall has definitely found a fan in me, and I look forward to book three in the Elements series. Sooner rather than later, mmkay, Mia?(less)
I am going to try extremely hard not to gush about this book, but it will be difficult. Truth is, I’m ho...moreReviewed by Kearstie for www.BookChickCity.com
I am going to try extremely hard not to gush about this book, but it will be difficult. Truth is, I’m hooked. I’ve drunk the kool-aid. The world of Broken Elements seeped into my mind, sucked me into its world, and left me with a serious book hangover. If you can’t tell, I was kind of impressed.... Read More...
Callie had been through a lot recently; her best friend was possessed by a demon and began killing peopl...moreReviewed by Kearstie for www.bookchickcity.com
Callie had been through a lot recently; her best friend was possessed by a demon and began killing people, including her brother; she then had to kill her best friend, and was subsequently blamed for all of the murders, and placed in an institution for the criminally insane. Oh, and before dying, the demon riding her friend’s body bit her, giving her some super crazy powers, and some very demonic urges. Like, you know, the urges kill people, and to feed off of pain and sex.
Bitten took me off guard within the first few pages. I think, based upon recent urban fantasies I’ve read, I expected it to be one thing, and it turned out to be completely different. That’s not to say it was bad… just that it took some getting used to.
We start off with violence: Callie is waking up after killing Owen, the man who brought the demon who was riding Callie’s friend into the world. The trouble is, Callie had not killed him like she planned. Instead of just shooting him, she had raped him, and then tortured and slaughtered him. And she had enjoyed it. To jump into the book this way, while living in Callie’s day-after-horror, was startling but effective. I was mentally preparing myself for a violent, sex-filled, shocker of a book.
To my surprise, that was not what I found in the pages that followed. After a six month time jump, we find Callie almost starved to death from resisting her demonic urges, and only alive because she had failed to destroy Owen’s book with instructions on how to summon a demon. Her plan had been to kill Owen, destroy the book, and then kill herself. Instead, she’d been starving on the streets, while trying to find a way to destroy a book that refused to be destroyed.
That’s when Callie is found by Silas, Edie, and Mark, others who have been bitten by the demonridden. The author chose to write the book as an omniscient narrator, and we got to read chapters in all four character’s heads. We get to see each character from their own perspective as well as their companions’, making the character work in Bitten pretty well fleshed out. As we learn about the mythos of this world along with Callie, we warm up to Silas, Edie, and Mark, and get to ride along for all the action.
And there is action, friends. This book was non-stop, with very little down-time for our characters. I enjoyed the pace, as it was a short book with a lot to accomplish. The world was set up nicely, and the initial storyline was played through, while building up the larger plot to be carried on in book two. There’s no doubt that Wolfe has a talent for weaving together a plot, and for writing unique characters.
That being said, I did have some issues with Bitten. First, I don’t think that bloody, shocking beginning really fit the rest of the story. Not that it wouldn’t fit into the plot (it did), but more that it read like dark urban fantasy, while the rest of the book read distinctly like young adult. And that was NOT something I was prepared for.
My other issue was Callie herself. There is a scene where she’s dealing with a demonridden, and everything about her character changed. I found myself asking if she actually belonged in that mental institution, only to have that idea shot down soon after. Then I thought maybe she was demonridden, but nixed that idea, too. I won’t go into more detail, but the abrupt change in personality, stance, and language was jarring, and made very little sense.
Callie didn’t exactly win me over beyond that weirdness, either. I mean, I liked her, but I wasn’t exactly enthralled with her chapters. I found myself far more interested in Silas, Mark, and Edie, than in her viewpoint, but maybe just because she was so damn mopey. Hopefully she’ll cheer the heck up in the next book.
By the way, if you’re looking for a romance read, this will not be your thing. While there were a few hints at future possibilities, I would call the heat level in this book chilly at best.
Overall, Bitten was a quick, fast-paced little adventure, with likeable characters and an interesting mythos. Was I completely won over? No. But I think it was a start in that direction, and I do have hope for book two. This book would be good for those who like their urban fantasy to read a little younger, and without the lovey dovey stuff. Oh, and did I mention that it’s free on Amazon? Because you really can’ t beat free, guys.(less)
Warning: may contain spoilers for Blood of the Pride #1
Claws Bared is the second in the Blood of the Pride series. It picks up a few weeks after the first novel. Rebecca Desjardin is still dating Brandon and trying to get her head around the pride starting to interfere in her life after she was cast out. Cases have been slow and just as she is starting to get desperate a call comes in from her estranged pride directing her to another pride. They want her to investigate the murder of a male club dancer by one of their members.
Becca continues to be a great character. She is still damaged and still finds it difficult to trust. She has Bran now but being in a relationship is not something she is used to and part of the interesting elements to this story is Becca working out how relationships should work.
Whilst investigating the murder she meets Trace Bryson a local cat shifter who makes it clear that he would like to get to know her better, he comes across as an Alpha character with some of the want-take-have mentality and arrogance that seems to permeate these characters. Having said that I liked his character and I liked the way he made Rebecca evaluate her own position and gives her ego a boost.
Bran shows up to help her investigate and again there are tensions between the Pennscotta pride and Bran as a human with knowledge. There are a number of moments where I was cheering him on for using his brain and for having the guts to stand up against people far more powerful than him and look them in the eye. But there were also times where he was close to being a bit of an Alpha pain in the butt and somewhat controlling.
The mystery is supposed to be the central strand of the story but it pales in comparison to Rebecca’s emotional journey. She still feels raw for being exiled and I like that one investigation does not make her forgive and forget. She still can’t shift but the more I think about that the more it seems that it’s a psychological issue and she still has a lot more healing to do.
Jess, Becca’s Pride leader, is still hard as nails, and the relationship between her and Rebecca is fraught. As a character she is powerful, strong and appears to like parachuting Rebecca into cases at will. Becca’s resentment is completely understandable; I can’t wait to see how things develop between them. Jess will have to make amends at some point.
Like Blood of the Pride, Claws Bared is an absorbing look into the Rebecca’s world. I love how strong she is and how she doesn’t make ridiculous decisions for the sake of the plot. There is a good balance between the main story and subplots, and I am really rooting for Rebecca as a character. This series is really shaping up to be compelling, and one of my favourites. Definitely worth checking out.(less)
Anna Wolfe is a 29 year old woman who feels a bit different from those around her. Ever since childhood she’...moreReviewed by Cass for www.bookchickcity.com
Anna Wolfe is a 29 year old woman who feels a bit different from those around her. Ever since childhood she’s suffered vivid, horrible nightmares and they’re not getting any better. Recently she’s also started to get awful body cramps which fill her with pain and fear, but when she was checked out at the hospital they couldn’t find anything wrong with her. She’s scared of telling her family and friends about the pains and nightmares because she’s worried they’ll think she’s crazy. Anna lives in Savannah and owns her own successful coffee shop, she has good friends and a house out in the Countryside.
I’ll Be Damned is Casey Keen’s first novel (which she self-published) and she has some great ideas, an original story, good characters and seems to have done her research. It’s just that she needed to know when to stop because there are so many ideas, some of which are just scattered on the pages and then left there to cause unnecessary blips in the story. I suspect they might be there to link to future books, but they are still clunky and out of place. But, this series has promise and so I’ve weeded out the unnecessary and concentrated on the good bits.
A few weeks before her 30th birthday, the cramps she’s been having for years start to increase, an odd stranger pesters her for a date, she’s followed, and whilst driving with her sister they are chased and attacked and then, her sister goes missing. These things freak her out, but then a very handsome stranger starts appearing in her coffee shop. What’s the connection? Well, quite a lot it seems. Anna is about to find out that she’s a Witch, and not just any witch, she’s a Grand Witch and her powers will manifest on her 30th birthday, which is partly the reason for the cramps. The odd stranger and her attacker are servants of a very dark warlock called Micah who wants Anna and her impending power for himself so that she can help him find a hidden book, and will do anything to get it, including kidnapping Anna’s sister. The very handsome stranger? Well, that’s Valen and he’s a centuries old werewolf who has assigned himself as Anna’s protector.
So how does Anna get her sister back and deal with her Witch status? Well, she starts by training, that’s how. And this is one of the things I enjoyed about the book. On Anna’s 30th Birthday, when her powers come into full force, she will only be as strong as her training so Valen wants to make sure she’s really, really strong and brings in a Warlock acquaintance of his, Roman, to help. Anna is excellent at training, she picks it up superhumanly fast and this section of the book is really interesting and clever.
Anna’s 30th birthday is also the night of a supernatural ball where Valen and Roman think Micah will be hoping to grab Anna using her sister as bait, so they decide to go as a group and aim to get Anna’s sister back whilst keeping Anna safe.
The start of I’ll be damned (which is a silly title and I have no idea why it’s called that) is long. There are about four chapters of getting to know Anna, her home, her coffee shop, Savannah and her friends. At the beginning of the book there’s a scene in a restaurant when Anna goes out to dinner with all her family. In hindsight, I realise how important this chapter was, but while reading it I was bored and confused. The scene seemed to appear out of nowhere and I was expected to follow a very disjointed set of people and storylines; I honestly wondered if I’d missed a chapter somewhere as it just didn’t really make sense and it didn’t run smoothly.
Anna is a nice character, but I hope she’s fleshed out a bit in the next book as for now she’s a bit naive. There is a little romance, and a possible love triangle. I didn’t actually think either were that necessary to the story, and I really wasn’t too sold on the the love triangle, so I’ve not concentrated on that as much – but if you like a bit of romance in your story, then it’s here.
I should also warn you that the book ends on a huge cliffhanger!
This series has promise and I’d be interested to read the next one. At times the writing was clunky, confusing and full of threads that didn’t really go anywhere. However, I’m giving the author a break because I think her idea is a good one and it deserves a chance to grow. All in all, I’d recommend it, but possibly have book two handy (because of the cliffhanger!). A good start to what should be an interesting series.(less)