As the Chicagoland Vampires series comes closer to its big finale, the excitement is reaching an almost unbearable level. Midnight Marked, the penult
As the Chicagoland Vampires series comes closer to its big finale, the excitement is reaching an almost unbearable level. Midnight Marked, the penultimate book in this excellent, beloved series, brings just a tiny bit more of everything: more romance, more action, more friendships, more enemies, and more danger than ever before.
Ethan and Merit are still right in the middle of a supernatural war, and as they fight prejudice, misunderstandings, and outright malice coming from all sides, they somehow always come out on top and learn alongside each other. At this point, they are a well established couple, comfortable around each other though not always harmonious, and it’s good to see them growing stronger and finally working together.
I always mention the timeline of this series because it makes me somewhat uncomfortable. I would have preferred a much longer period between the events of the first book and now. Only a year has passed since Merit has become a vampire, and considering everything that’s happened to her, I have a hard time believing everything from her character development to her romance with Ethan. It’s just too much for such a short time – the intensity of their emotions would have been far more credible had they been given enough time to develop. As it is, they jump from one supernatural battle to the next, twelve total at this point, and they still have time for friendships, prophecies, resurrections and forgiveness.
Merit is finally learning to accept her family, flaws and all, and perhaps even making peace with the fact that they are who they are and that they’re highly unlikely to change. I love that this aspect of her life isn’t at all black and white, that her father has horrible flaws as well as redeeming qualities. It adds an extra layer to her character and brings complexity to her actions that otherwise wouldn’t exist.
Ethan, for his part, remains the stubborn, high handed, secretive idiot, but I find that oddly comforting. Having him change his ways in asingle year after 400 years of existence would have been almost ridiculous. As it is, he infuriates me, but I understand, and the tiny improvements I notice make me absurdly happy.
I’m already dreading the goodbye that’s ahead of me. I’ve spent so much time with these guys, learned to love them and even despise them at times (Ethan, ahem), and I already know I’ll miss them like crazy. But let’s not borrow trouble or grief. There’s the big finale ahead of us and I just know it’s going to be spectacular.
A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review....more
It’s not Christmas just yet, I know, but doesn’t it feel like it every time Ilona and Gordon publish something new? Yes, yes it does. Magic Stars cam
It’s not Christmas just yet, I know, but doesn’t it feel like it every time Ilona and Gordon publish something new? Yes, yes it does. Magic Stars came somewhat unexpectedly, having been kept secret until about a month ago, and the second we learned the protagonist, we were collectively consumed by an overwhelming feeling of pure joy. After all, Derek Gaunt deserves no less, and neither does our Julie.
Finally, we get a glimpse of Boy Wonder from up close. We’ve been waiting a long time for it, and it’s easy to understand why. Derek’s head is a dark place and his voice must have been very difficult to achieve. Even now, we only get 3rd person narrative, albeit a very insightful, intimate one. Looking back on his life and how he came to be a member of the Pack, it’s a wonder than he stayed not only relatively sane, but loyal and kind-hearted above all.
Magic Stars is relatively short, but it packs a strong punch. What starts as a vicious murder and a hunt for revenge ends up being a much more dangerous plot against Atlanta. Derek and Julie are the only ones standing between the city and total destruction and as usual, they do so fiercely and with heaps of sarcastic remarks.
Aside from being filled with action, Magic Stars brings new on the romance front, just a tiny hint of something I’ve been hoping for for a very long time. With these two, a mere hint is enough, a subtle promise of more to follow somewhere down the line. I’m sure it won’t be simple or easy, but that’s half the fun. Whichever way the tide turns, Ilona and Gordon will make it endlessly entertaining.
There are just two words one can say after a novella like Magic Stars. You all know them, you all say them often enough. MORE, PLEASE.
A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review.
4.5 stars Here are the three things that can lift my mood any day of the week: 1. bacon; 2. Nutella; 3. anti-heroes written by Tim Marquitz… and not n
4.5 stars Here are the three things that can lift my mood any day of the week: 1. bacon; 2. Nutella; 3. anti-heroes written by Tim Marquitz… and not necessarily in that order of importance. The very simple truth is that no one writes foul-mouthed underdogs better than Tim. First came Frank, the charming bastard, and now there’s Theo, a doppelganger and a hot mess with a moral compass that points every which way but north and a dry, self-deprecating, wicked sense of humor.
But as interesting as he sounds, the thing you need to know about Theodor Crane is that he’s been dead for months, and he really wasn’t that great before his unfortunate demise. In his place is actually Z, a doppelganger from Aellisar and a spy for the Aellisarian Intelligence. Z has only one mission – to prevent the war between his people and the few humans aware of their existence. For that purpose, he will deceive, steal and kill. Thanks to Marquitz’s excellent writing and even better imagination, this character, like those before him, comes alive on the very first pages and makes you cheer for him even while you berate yourself for feeling that way.
We aren’t new to Z’s charms – we’ve met him before in Eyes Deep, the prequel novella released last year. I knew to expect a very dark, extremely conflicted character, but the depth of his development still took me by surprise. Z is a special creature, feared even by his own people. He can shapeshift into anyone at all (by killing them first and eating small pieces of their eyeballs), which makes him a formidable enemy and an excellent infiltrator. But most unfortunately, Z has a conscience, no matter how weak it may be, and it keeps him awake at night. The longer he lives the life of Theodor Crane, the more difficult it is for him to bury his emotions. Getting attached is the stupidest thing he can do, and yet it’s almost impossible to avoid it.
The short interludes between chapters offer us glimpses into Z’s past that gradually turn him into a somewhat more sympathetic character. He may be a killer and the worst kind of thief, but his redeeming qualities definitely count for something. While the plot can seem a bit episodic at times, the moral dilemmas and self-justifications more than make up for it. What’s more, the action scenes are graphic and very detailed, each one done with a movie-like quality. For someone who gets confused during action scenes more often than not, these were a true delight.
At this point, after several years of being his very enthusiastic fan, I can only say that Marquitz is consistently excellent. He has one of the strongest, clearest voices in genre fiction and his excellent sense of pacing serves to strengthen his narrative. Fans of urban fantasy, this is one you absolutely do not want to miss. I’d highly recommend starting with Eyes Deep, but even if you jump right into this one, you’ll soon find yourself completely immersed into Z’s story. ...more
Dear world, please stop spinning for a while. You see, the new THIRDS book is out and people have far more interesting things to do than par
Dear world, please stop spinning for a while. You see, the new THIRDS book is out and people have far more interesting things to do than participate in normal, everyday activities. We’ll rejoin you shortly. Thank you. Sincerely, THIRDS Nerds.
It’s been just over a year since the first THIRD book was released, but I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t crazy about Sloane, Dex, Cael, Ash and the rest of Destructive Delta. The world Cochet created for us is one of the rare few that envelops completely in just a few pages, making us feel like we’ve just returned home from a very long trip.
Things are a tiny bit different in Against the Grain, but the overall feeling of comfort and happiness remains the same. For the very first time, Dex and Sloane are not in the center of the story – it’s time for Ash and Cael to get their happily ever after. The transition was a lot smoother than I thought it woud be. It must have been hard for Cochet to step away from Dex and Sloane after four books, but she was extremely successful. The fact that we’re seeing these events through Cael’s and Ash’s eyes doesn’t mean that we aren’t just as close to the rest of the THIRDS. Dex and Sloane are very much present, and so is the rest of Destructive Delta. In fact, we get to see Rosa and Letty more clearly, which I certainly appreciated.
We’ve seen some definite progress for Ash and Cael in Rise & Fall, and yet we find them very much apart. It has been clear for ages that the two love each other, and they both admit it freely, but Ash still has so many things to work through and their relationship simply has to wait. Going into this book, we’re already very familiar with both characters, but painful new things are still revealed on almost every page and their distance becomes far more understanable with each new revelation. I never expected Cael to have so much pain in his past, not with his father and brother, but Cochet subtly reminds that we’re all vulnerable and that even the best of us can end up in vicious cycles until we hit rock bottom.
The book doesn’t just focus on the relationship. There is a huge development for the overall story arc in the last part, a lot of danger and more action than we’ve seen in a while. I was genuinely scared for our team, which was a new and not entirely welcome feeling, but after a few jaw-dropping moments, I can see the direction the series is taking and I applaud Charlie for it.
Those of you who are new to the series, or even completely unfamiliar with it, please don’t judge it based on the genre, covers, relationships or anything else. I did that for months when it was first released, thinking I wouldn’t like the paranormal elements, but I missed out on so much because of my assumption. This series is at the very top of my favorites list, right up there with Kate Daniels and Mercy Thompson, and I hope you’ll all at least give it a chance.
I vote that every one of Charlie Cochet’s release days be considered a worldwide holiday. Sorry, employers, we can’t come to work today. We have much better things to do.
A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review. ...more
4.5 stars A quick note: This was supposed to be an LGBT Monday review, but the first thing you need to know about THIRDS agent Dexter J. Daley is that
4.5 stars A quick note: This was supposed to be an LGBT Monday review, but the first thing you need to know about THIRDS agent Dexter J. Daley is that he lives to bend the rules. He never does what he’s told, so I knew better than to schedule this post on a day that would actually make sense. That’s Dex for you: loving, unruly, and hilarious.
In Dex’s world, being gay is perfectly normal and accepted, but the two co-existing species, humans and therians, are constantly at war. Humans fear the shapeshifting Therians, and Therians resent being forced to register and get tattoos on their necks. The conflict is always brewing and acts of terrorism from both sides are far too common. Enter Therian-Human Intelligence, Recon, Defense Squadron, also known as the THIRDS, whose only mission is to keep the peace between the two races.
Agents Dexter Daley and Sloane ‘Broody Bear’ Brodie are THIRDS agents. One is human and the other is therian. They are both excellent agents, but personally they’re as different as they can be. They are also partners, on and off work. Dex is a half-glass-full type of person, loveable, extroverted and funny. He is very close to his father and brother and he makes friends with seeming ease. Sloane Brodie is none of the above. Having lost his previous partner and lover, he is very careful with his feelings. It’s always one step forward, two steps back between him and Dex. But he is strong, honest and fair, even when someone doesn’t deserve it.
Rise & Fall is the fourth book in Charlie Cochet’s THIRDS series, and like the three before, it left me completely in awe. This is how everyone should write paranormal fiction, M/M fiction, action, romance… everything. This is how everyone should write. Enough said.
I remember starting this series with a very healthy dose of skepticism. I didn’t need another Cut & Run series, with two amazing, all-powerful agents perfect in everything they do. I wanted strong, but fallible men with a great sense of humor and a romance I could actually enjoy. But Charlie Cochet must have known exactly what her readers crave because she gave us a series that is both amazing and insanely popular.
I can’t say too much about the plot in Rise & Fall for fear of spoiling some important detail from the previous two books, but I can say that this book is the biggest emotional rollercoaster so far. By now, the Destructive Delta agents are all very familiar to us: Ash, Cael, Letty, Hobbs and others have become our close friends. There’s so much going on in this series, plenty of action and danger from all sides, but the characters are what makes it truly stand out, and their weird dynamic a constant source of amusement.
Mark Westfield narrates the story beautifully. He is the perfect person to bring us Dex’s light-hearted perspective. Every emotion comes through loud and clear in his voice, and although I read this one the second it came out, I couldn’t resist getting the audio when it finally showed up.
I highly recommend this series to anyone looking for excitement, excellent characters and a whole lot of action. Oh, and laughter. Lots and lots of it. ...more
Night Shift is an anthology comprised of four stories by two urban fantasy and two paranormal romance authors. I’ve only read the urban fantasy partsNight Shift is an anthology comprised of four stories by two urban fantasy and two paranormal romance authors. I’ve only read the urban fantasy parts since paranormal romance still gives me severe allergies, but the two stories I have read, Magic Steals by Ilona Andrews and Lucky Charms by Lisa Shearin are completely worth the price of this book.
Magic Steals by Ilona Andrews: I expect nothing short of perfection from Ilona and Gordon, and rightfully so. Magic Steals focuses on Jim and Dali, during the time Kate and Curran had spent chasing the panacea in Europe. This is not the first Jim and Dali novella so the two are already a couple, but they are weighed down by Dali’s insecurities and Jim’s position with the pack.
There were times when I intensely disliked Jim and some of the choices he’s made along the way, but Magic Steals shows us a whole new side of him. I didn’t think the man had a romantic bone in his body, but he is a completely different person with Dali, someone who actually knows how to relax and have fun. He is also a very smart guy, which is no news to us, and he has to be to attract someone like Dali. For her part, Dali is portrayed like a real badass in this novella, not so much physically, but certainly magically. Her exact role was previously unclear, but as we learn more, our respect for her grows significantly.
In short, this novella is not to be missed by Kate Daniels fans. Kate and Curran are completely absent, but Jim and Dali are worthy replacement. The action and mythological background are extraordinary, as one would expect from this writing pair. The anthology is worth buying for this story alone.
Lucky Charms by Lisa Shearin is a prequel of sorts to her SPI Files series. I read The Grendel Affair earlier this year and loved it, which made this story even more entertaining to read. We see Makenna Frazier on her first day working for the SPI as a seer. She and her reluctant partner/bodyguard Ian, along with a team of SPI agents, have to locate a leprechaun prince who doesn’t want to be found and prevent a conflict with the goblins while doing it. Mac is given no time to adjust to her new job. The mission is extremely important and since she’s the only one who can recognize the leprechauns even under glamour, her participation is essential.
Shearin’s worldbuilding relies on very familiar creatures and myths. These days, I like to be exposed to something new and unexplored. In this, all urban fantasy authors should take lessons from Ilona Andrews. But even with dragons and leprechauns, goblins and werewolves, Shearin built a full picture that is wildly entertaining. This series is extremely promising and this story makes it even more so, but I’ll reserve my final judgment for January 2015, when the second book comes out.
Overall, Kate Daniels fans, Nalini Singh fans, you know you won’t be able to resist. I’ll probably read Nalini Singh’s story at some point, even with my allergies to paranormal romance.
I'm enjoying the series itself: the plots are great, writing is even better, and the audio narrator does an excellent job. My issue is that I dislikeI'm enjoying the series itself: the plots are great, writing is even better, and the audio narrator does an excellent job. My issue is that I dislike Rachel so much. Hopefully that will change. ...more
The Weird Girls series has been a constant favorite ever since the prequel novella was released, but The Cursed Bloodline, its fourth (and hopefully nThe Weird Girls series has been a constant favorite ever since the prequel novella was released, but The Cursed Bloodline, its fourth (and hopefully not final) installment left something to be desired. Apparently there’s such a thing as too much violence, even in urban fantasy, because there came a point in the second half of this book where I just felt that enough was enough.
That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy my time with Celia – I honestly did. Being so familiar with a set of characters has its advantages, the most important being the easiness with which we rejoin them every time. Spending time with them is extremely comfortable, and I’m always eager to learn more about their lives. Emme’s heartbreaking story was particularly important in this installment and her quiet strength and elegance provoked a deep sense of admiration in me. Being someone’s second choice, even when that someone holds no blame whatsoever, would break even the strongest of hearts, but Emme held her head high and her dignity intact.
The thing this book sorely lacks, however, that the others had in spades, is structure. There is simply too much of everything – too much violence, too much drama, too many tragedies and far too many miscommunications – to the point where it all became a heavy burden for the narrative that ended up resembling a too vivid patchwork quilt, but without a solid binding to hold it all together. It was quite overwhelming at times, and unnecessarily difficult throughout.
Another very odd move on Robson’s part was that she didn’t give us a chance to witness the big villain’s demise. Since Celia wasn’t completely present for it, we missed it as well, and it was horribly anticlimactic and disappointing. I felt that this huge, important villain, the strongest of them all so far, tortured, killed and maimed, did irreparable damage to both Celia and Aric, only to disappear from one sentence to the next. Disappointing? Why yes, it certainly was.
However, please don’t make the mistake of giving up on this series before you even started. One weak(er) installment aside, this is really good urban fantasy, and definitely worth your time. Make sure to give it a try or you’ll really be missing out.
A Curse Awakened is another prequel novella in Cecy Robson's Weird Girls series (one was released before the first novel). It takes place right beforeA Curse Awakened is another prequel novella in Cecy Robson's Weird Girls series (one was released before the first novel). It takes place right before the girls gained their full powers, which I thought was very interesting. The curse that was placed on them by a distant relative remained more on less a mystery until now, and it was great to learn more about it. The curse, it seems, actually backfired, but while the girls didn’t die like they should have, they didn’t reach their full potential either. So when Celia’s first boyfriend Danny (fans of the series undoubtedly know and love the shy geek) comes to her for help because the vampires kidnapped his father, the girls have to find a way to deal with the curse and become stronger before they run to his rescue.
I never thought I’d say this, but it was nice to see the girls when it was just the four of them, before all the romantic drama that follows. Cecy writes her action scenes very well and in this novella the focus is firmly on that. On the other hand, I was reminded of Taran’s excessive rudeness which made me glad that she mellowed out later in the story. Celia's role as the protector of her family was even more important before their entanglement with weres and vampires. I loved being reminded of her strength.
A Curse Awakened is great for those already familiar with the series, but it can be a great introduction for someone still on the fence about reading it. It will give you a great feel of these characters and Cecy’s writing, and I have a feeling it will push you in the right direction, i.e. towards these books. After all, what’s not to like?
Just recently Chloe Neill announced that she’ll be ending her Chicagoland Vampires series with book 13. While I’ll be very sad to say goodbye to theseJust recently Chloe Neill announced that she’ll be ending her Chicagoland Vampires series with book 13. While I’ll be very sad to say goodbye to these characters, I feel that she’s made the right decision. The series has been noticeably losing steam and the last few books have become just a tiny bit repetitive and predictable. However, predictable can be as comfortable as a warm blanket, and when you add to that a bunch of characters you’re very familiar with, you get a recipe for a very pleasant afternoon.
I’ve been with this series from the start, through excitement, disappointment and everything in between. I’ve loved Merit and Ethan and I’ve suffered with them. I feel like I know them inside and out, which is the absolute best, especially in my favorite genre.
This time around, the vampire that created (and tormented) Ethan, a vampire supposedly dead for centuries, is suddenly in Chicago threatening everything Ethan and Merit have created. To make matters worse, Merit’s ex-boyfriend and leader of the Navarre house, Morgan, is neck-deep in trouble and asking Cadogan for help.
This installment was very emotional for the usually unflappable Merit. She’s always so confident, so sure of her place in the world, but everything was thoroughly shaken this time around and her struggles were extremely hard. I loved seeing the supportive side of Ethan, who remained by her side the entire time. These two have become such a wonderful, mature couple. They’ve finally started communicating openly and completely honestly, and now that there’s nothing between them, I’m enjoying every moment we see them together.
The main thing that bothers me, that has always bothered me in this series is its very short time span. We’ve spent years with these characters, but for them, a lot less time has passed, which makes everything that’s happened to them all the more stressful and far too unlikely. The short time affects the romance as well – it’s much harder for me to believe in its strength when it’s only been a year and a half or so, and Ethan and Merit have had maybe two peaceful days during that time.
Aside from that, though, this is undoubtedly one of my UF favorites, a series I keep going back to whenever I need something familiar and comfortable, and yet exciting at the same time. Neill certainly knows what she’s doing, and I hope that her new series will be just as good.