So over 4th of July weekend I found myself completely in the thrall of Moning’s Fever series. It’s not every day I run into a series earns a solid plaSo over 4th of July weekend I found myself completely in the thrall of Moning’s Fever series. It’s not every day I run into a series earns a solid place on my “Favorites” list, but this series earned itself an unequivocal place of honor. It may even make my top 10 favorite series of all time list. It’s a series I can see re-reading many, many times.
This is actually a review of the whole series (no spoilers, I promise). Since I held off on reading this series for so long because of the first few chapters of the first book, I thought I'd put in a good word in hopes of giving anyone still on the fence about reading it the courge to dive in. You won't regret it - I promise. :D This series is FANTASTIC!
Basic storyline involves the Fae must like so many other urban fantasy book these days. But it’s a darker version of the Fae we find in this series. It's them on our turf, invading our world.
What sets this series apart from many of its urban fantasy counterparts it the complexity, epic scope, and unpredictability of the story. It’s a many layered story – the first book starts with a mystery that turns into an epic world altering adventure as the story moves on. It’s party post-apocalyptic adventure, part mystery, part romance, part suspense. It defies genre stereo types. The story is rich, dark, and unpredictable. There are plots within plots throughout the whole story. Just when I thought I had part of the story figured out, I found out my theories were wrong. But I never felt like the author was over complicating things and her truths when she revealed them never disappointed. She just kept me guessing up to the very end – and that in and of itself is a noteworthy accomplishment as it can be pretty hard to surprise me.
The characters are very likeable. I’d actually looked at this series earlier, but decided not to read it because the sample chapters from the first part of the first book made it seem like main character MacKeyla, is a glorified fashion hungry, pink obsessed Barbie doll. I pegged her as a silly girly girl from those chapters (which is not my cup of tea at all). You might be inclined to do the same thing, but I encourage you – read on. You’ll fall in love with Mac, I promise. She’s strong, kind, determined, but reasonable (I dislike the common urban fantasy theme of bull headed spunky heroines that constantly make silly mistakes because they are too stubborn to see reason – Mac lacks that folly). She also is powerful in her own right but not invincible. One of the biggest themes present in this series is a strong admonishment to not judge a based on a person’s words or appearance – but judge them based on their actions. Mac becomes an amazing character – actually she always was one, I just had a hard time getting passed her pretty pink nails, and cute shoes. The side characters are fantastic too – Barrons being a personal favorite, Dani, V’Lane, Christian – I liked them all.
Sadly romance is not a major theme in this story – it’s present (and yummie), but takes back seat in the face of the world altering events occurring in the rest of the story. Even though it doesn’t take center stage, the I found I really enjoyed the romance elements of the story. This author tends to create sort of strong, exceedingly mysterious, possessive, alpha male types. Normally too much alpha throws me off, but it really worked in this story and I found myself suitably swoony. I found it interesting that I sort of fell in love with the males of this story slowly, right along with Mac, and for the same reasons. I wasn’t so sure about some of them in the beginning, but their actions won me over (there’s that theme again).
I’d read a some Amazon reviews that warned that the first book started off a bit slow and was a bit weaker prose wise than the rest of the series, but I actually really enjoyed the first book, the series just kept getting better the farther I read. I had such a hard time putting any of the books down – I’d read until I fell asleep, and then pick up again the next day. The story from start to finish was amazing, and the end was completely satisfying. All loose ends were tied up beautifully.
Another thing I appreciated about the series is the wisdom present in it, and the moral quandaries the story raises. There’s the aforementioned lesson about judging based on actions not words that’s a constant theme. But there’s also an ever present question of right and wrong, good and evil, black and white. The lines aren’t so clearly drawn here, and you as the reader have to sort of puzzle through and make your own judgments right along with Mac.
Okay, so I think I’ve gushed enough. I highly recommended series! I’d say even a must read for the urban fantasy genre....more
Anyone that has known me for more than a day knows I have a rather insatiable hunger for all things daA unque and refresnhing take on a Vampire story.
Anyone that has known me for more than a day knows I have a rather insatiable hunger for all things darkly magical. Vampires, ghosts, fair folk, astrology – pretty much anything that goes bump in the night fascinates me.
This story is written by one of my favorite childhood authors. As a teenager Robin McKinley’s “Blue Sword” was my all time favorite book. Years later, I find I’m delighted by Ms. McKinley’s unorthodox approach to dealing with my all time favorite dark anti-heroes – the Vampires.
Like many of the popular vampire fiction of today, Sunshine is set in a world where vampires have stepped out of the shadows and been recognized by general society, but there the similarities end. Unlike so many other charismatic, journal writing, piano playing, women romancing vampires of other stories (who I also love for different reasons), the vampires in this story haven’t lost their fangs. They are inhuman, disconnected from general society, violent, blood thirsty, and utterly alien in mindset. Exactly what you’d expect from a creature that lived centuries with only spotty contact with the human world.
The main vampire protagonist of this story isn’t beautiful, or well spoken. He’s not even good. He is stoic, alien, honorable, and just doing his best to not to be a complete monster (which is very different than being good).
The story brings this vampire together with a unlikely heroine - a very human, simple girl from a bakery with a fascinating family history. Together they are forcibly drawn into a strange sort of alliance (vampires and humans do NOT work together in this world), and into the midst of a sweeping struggle between immortals. Both parties have to learn a lot from each other, and a difficult road to walk if they are going to succeed against the almost impossible odds set against them.
The story itself can be a bit slow paced at times – full of many observations and mental tangents by the aforementioned heroine. It also leaves much up to the imagination. Some things just aren’t explained in detail. You are left to fill in some blanks which may make some readers uncomfortable. However, in my opinion the story is fantastic. I loved the unique and realistic way it portrayed vampires. The characters are all genuine and likeable. The plot builds nicely and keeps you turning those pages. I appreciated the indepth world building, the darkness, and the magic of the story. It’s a book I expect to pick up and re-read numerous times throughout the years. ...more
I was initially drawn to Blood Rights because of the breathtaking cover art – I preordered it immediately, unsure what to expect, but hoping to get aI was initially drawn to Blood Rights because of the breathtaking cover art – I preordered it immediately, unsure what to expect, but hoping to get a bit of enjoyment out of the story at least. This book far exceeded my expectations. What I found within its pages was a pulse pounding adventure story, with a good helping of mystery, with great world building, likeable characters, and a smoking hot romance.
~ Premise ~
Chrysabelle is one of the Comarre – a woman trained from childhood to be a companion, and blood source for vampires. Much like the geisha’s the Comarre are taught to be graceful, gracious, learned, and well spoken, and are then auctioned off to the highest bidder – a patron from one of the great vampire noble houses.
When Chrysabelle finds her long time vampire patron dead, she is accused of his murder and the theft of a valuable artifact, and forced to flee into the human world. She is hunted for murder and theft, and for being what she is – a Comarre – a status symbol and source of pure, empowering blood. Beset upon at every turn, Chrysabelle enlists the aid of the oh so very sexy Malkolm – a outcast vampire noble, with a dark past. Together they work to untangle the complex weave of lies and politics surround her patron’s death, and the importance of the artifact that the other nobles seem to covet so desperately.
~ World ~
While the world building in this book isn’t breaking any new ground, it was very tight, creative, and well thought out. This story focuses primarily on the vampire world, and that of their blood slave servants, The Cromarre.
The author put a lot of work into creating the politics, magic, and structure of both her vampire houses, and the Comarre. Her fae are also very unique – I’ve never seen their like in fiction before.
~ Characters ~
Chrysabelle: Our protagonist – who sadly suffers from a bit of first-book awkwardness. Like so many urban fantasy heroines, Chrysabelle hasn’t really settled in as a character. She’s over 100 years old, trained to be a graceful, well spoken companion to the upper echelon of vampire society. I would expect her age and training to make her someone self-contained, wise, and socially savvy. What we get is a more standard sort of bad ass urban fantasy vixen with a bit of a temper, a tendency to flare up at people, and a “slice first ask questions later” mentality. Sound familiar? Yup she’s like many other urban fantasy chic out there – which works and it’s certainly an enjoyable archetype, it just doesn’t make sense to me based on her age. I also didn’t get a strong sense of her phycology – why she is the way she is. Her internal monolog didn’t reveal enough. Because of this, I didn’t feel as attached to her as a character. Things I did appreciate about her – she’s open minded, loyal, protective of those she cares about. She doesn’t turn her back on friends. I did actually come to like her, I just didn’t feel close to her as a character. I expect this will change in later books – And the male lead, makes up for any lack I find in Crysabelle.
Malkolm: Now here is a truly swoon worthy vampire. He’s an exiled noble, twice cursed, bearing the names of every victim he’s ever killed tattooed on his body. He’s haunted (literally) by the victims he’s drained the life from. They follow him incorporeally haunting his days. He hears their voices in his head, an incessant madness urging him to kill. And yet, despite all this darkness, he is one of the most honorable and kind characters in this story. His internal monolog helps us know him, and love him. His past is very well fleshed out, and incredibly moving. I really loved his character.
There are a host of side characters that lighten or add depth to the story – Fi and Doc are loveable side kicks, but I never felt very close to them. Chrysabelle’s aunt Maris was beautifully written and I ended up caring for her a great deal.
~ Plot ~
This story doesn’t waste any time – there are few if any dead spots in the pace of the action. It is chalk full of adventure, and mystery, and even surprises. While reading this book I felt it was mostly an adventure story – I didn’t look deep into the mysteries of the story or expect any surprises. But the end of the book packed not one but several big reveals that left me reeling. Well done, Ms Painter!
~ Romance ~
Ah the romance – thanks to Malkolm’s hotness the romance in this story practically sizzles. He years for Chrysabelle but can’t let himself have her – ensue angst, yearning, and violent passion. Yum!
~ Summary ~
This is a first book, and as such it’s not flawless or 100% polished, but it’s an amazing start to a series that promises to be fantastic. This book will draw you in, surprise you, and keep you reading late into the night. Highly recommended! ...more
How to describe this book? Cathartic? Brilliant? I'm just so full of emotion right now it's hard to put words to just how amazing thiWhow! WHOW! WHOW!
How to describe this book? Cathartic? Brilliant? I'm just so full of emotion right now it's hard to put words to just how amazing this book is.
I know the first question you all have in your minds. It's what was in mine before I read this book, and I poured through pre-release reviews trying to find an answer, a hint to the most important question of Drink Deep. Will we get some kind of hope in the whole Ethan situation? I won't spoil with specifics, but I will tell you that yes, Drink Deep will give you the answers you yearn for and the peace you crave. It will start heal the wounds Hard Bitten inflicted on your heart. And it won't insult your intelligence with half baked solutions, or promises for the future. Nope you'll get all the peace you need from this one glorious book.
The journey in Drink Deep is not an easy one. Merit and everyone she cares for are surrounded by judgmental idiots and fools with the power to make their lives miserable. You'll want to scream, and rail, and smack the Receivership, the new mayor, and of course McKetrick. The city is going to hell in a hand basket with some kind of elemental apocalypse (think rivers darkened, skies turned red, mountains erupting in the middle of the city), and the vampires are the only ones trying to fix it. The rest of the aforementioned fools just throw roadblocks and petty judgments that will make you twitchy.
But Merit is lovely, heroic, honorable, and loyal throughout the story. She's every bit the heroine we've come to love, and in Drink Deep we see her loyalties tested even more keenly then we have in the past. Which also means she has a chance to shine even more. Our girl is a rock, and she and Cadogan house are the only things standing between Chicago and destruction.
I have to give a shout out to Cadogan here. I've always loved Merit, but this book made me fall in love with Cadogan house. There are some truly rousing moments of house solidarity that will make you want to cheer. Consider me a t-shirt wearing, flag waving fan! Go Cadogan!
So my advice? Pick up this book as soon a possible. Bear through the hard parts, resist the urge to smack the evil baddies, and just keep reading. The plot is great, and this book's ending will blow your mind. It was everything I hoped for after reading Hard Bitten, and so much more. I literally cried just as much at the end of this book, but this time the tears weren't tears of sadness, but of joy, accompanied by a lot of laughter and rousing "YEAHS!" and "TAKE THAT YOU WEASELLY BASTARDS !" I loved it and I know you will to. ...more
It’s been a long time since a story has delighted me as much as On the Edge. At its heart this is a fairy tale worthy love story. It reminded me of aIt’s been a long time since a story has delighted me as much as On the Edge. At its heart this is a fairy tale worthy love story. It reminded me of a very well written anime, in that it was epic in scope, heavy in romance, and chalked full of noble, worthy characters.
Rose is a young woman that’s had to grow up fast. With her mother passed, and her irresponsible father out exploring the world, she’s had to take responsibility for her two younger brothers. She works herself to the bone ensuring they are protected and safe. To complicate her life further, she possesses a unusually strong power - a type of offensive magic called “flashing” – this has made her object of desire for many enterprising families looking to bolster up bloodlines with her powerful magic. She’s had to fend off numerous suitors, some of which sought to woo her and some who sought to take her forcibly. Through it all, and against all odds, she’s maintained her goodness, and hope.
Rose’s world starts getting turned upside down when strange, evil creatures start showing up around her home, seeming to be specifically targeting herself and her brothers. Living alone in relative isolation, Rose is beset by dark magic and fighting desperately for the lives of her brothers.
Enter mysterious, and oh so very swoon worthy Declan, who is seemingly yet another suitor for her attention. Showing up around the same time things start to go to hell in a hand basket, he’s an unusual paramour in that he seems to come from a very old and powerful noble bloodline. While Rose attracted her share of noble attention in the past it was always from lesser houses. The old houses, assumingly have no need for her common, if powerful blood to bolster the lines.
The story unfolds beautifully – the plot is intense and fast moving, the characters are extremely likeable and realistic (there’s not one of them I didn’t enjoy thoroughly), and the romance was just downright delicious. It made me swoon, and giggle, and gush like a teenage girl plenty. ; )
The husband and wife team that is Ilona Andrews have always been famous for their world building skills. They create very unique, complex, and original worlds with their own systems of magic, and own rules, all of which are well thought out and make sense. The world of the Edge, while not as complex as their offering in the Magic series, is no exception. The world itself is fascinating and well depicted, but it doesn’t overwhelm the story. The magic system is also very well thought out and interesting.
This book ranks five stars on every scale for me: World building, story, plot, likeable characters, and romance. It will definitely be a story I’ll re-read, and I strongly encourage anyone considering reading it to jump on board and buy the book ASAP – you won’t regret it. ...more
I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to read this series. Patricia Briggs work is sort of essential reading for most Urban Fantasy lovers, as is evidI can’t believe it’s taken me so long to read this series. Patricia Briggs work is sort of essential reading for most Urban Fantasy lovers, as is evidenced by the 5 star ratings her books get on almost every blog/review site. I’d just put off reading her because werewolves in general are not my favorite urban fantasy creatures, and ware-coyotes (or walkers if you want to get technical) sounded even less interesting to me. After reading two chapters of Moon Called, I found myself soundly smacking myself on the head for putting off reading the book for so long. It is SO good. Like really really engaging work. Every book in the series is action packed, full of amazing characters, and beautiful story telling.
|| Premise || Mercedes (Mercy) was raised by a pack of werewolves, and while she’s moved away in an attempt to distance herself from their politics, she still maintains close ties with them. When her local pack alpha (the oh so sexy Adam Hauptmann) comes under attack, she does the right thing and steps in to lend aid.
|| World || The story really does read as unique to me because it focuses on werewolves. Although Fae and Vampires exist in the world, they are distant side characters. Her wolves are smart, well organized, and very likeable.
The author has created organizational structures for each of her supernatural species that make sense.
The world building is simple – but superb. There aren’t any complex magical or scientific principles to explain, but everything is very well laid out and makes sense. There’s nothing that feels far fetched or implausible to me.
|| Characters ||
Characterization is definitely this author’s strong suite. Mercy may very well be one of the best strong female protagonists in this genre. The only gal I’d put against her would be Merit from the Chicagoland Vampires series. Mercy is strong without being foolhardy or full of insane bravado. She’s the kind of girl that’s too smart to foolishly throw herself in the way of danger, she’ll handle whatever comes her way on her own. No knights in shining armor needed here. She’s honorable and loyal, and would gladly sacrifice her life to do the right thing for people she cares about . You can’t help but love this gal.
Adam Hauptmann is the alpha werewolf of Mercy’s local pack, and he’s just fantastic. On one hand he’s the semi classic alpha type you find in many romance novels – he’s anal retentive, controlling, and over protected. On the other hand there’s this soft side to him. He works to really hard to know the people around him. I had the sense through most of the story that Adam understood Mercy, and half the other characters in the story better than they understood themselves. It makes him an amazing leader, as well as a down right loveable character.
Sam is the son of the Alpha of all Alpha werewolves. He’s ancient (like hundreds of years old), but has a very human personality. He’s really the heartbreaker of the series – his backstory is very tragic, and you won’t be able to help but care for him when you’ve seen all he’s been through. His soft, light happy personality seems odd when you consider his past, but it just makes him all the more loveable.
Side characters include a fantastic Scooby do loving vampire named Stefan who is probably one of the more multi-dimensional characters in the story, and an ancient iron fey named Zee who used to run Mercy’s mechanic shop and is old, grumpy, very powerful and downright cool.
|| Romance ||
These books aren’t romance focus – it sort of takes place in the background, and it very yummie, but not very “in your face.”
There’s a love triangle present in this book between Mercy, Sam, and Adam. I’m not normally a big love triangle fan, but this one didn’t bother me, mostly because the romance wasn’t a huge part of the story, and Mercy didn’t bounce back and forth too much between the guys.
I also liked each of the characters in the triangle for various reasons (although Adam was definitely my favorite).
|| Plot ||
Fantastic, page turning, and impossible to put down. I felt this way about every book in the series up to River Marked, which seemed slow paced to me. Moon Called will suck you in within the first few chapters, and you’ll probably avoid sleep, eating, going out or anything else that would distract you from its pages until you’re done.
HIGHLY recommended book/series. If are a urban fantasy fan, these books should be considered a “must read.” ...more
There’s something special about the Shadow Reader that sets it apart from other books in the urban fantasy genre. At first I couldn’t put my finger onThere’s something special about the Shadow Reader that sets it apart from other books in the urban fantasy genre. At first I couldn’t put my finger on what this ephemeral bit of awesomeness was, but upon consideration it occurs to me that this book is an epic. Where most urban fantasy novels go for the supernatural mystery angle, this novel is high, epic fantasy set on a stage of the modern world, overlaid with the more fantastic world of the fey.
The story pulls you in from the start. Within a few pages of chapter one, you are racing across campus with McKenzie, fleeing fae rebels intent on kidnapping her for her unique ability. She’s a shadow reader of unusual strength, someone that sees through fae glamor, and can track them by studying the portals they use to transport between locations and worlds. As we follow the story we discover that the fae are at war. A rebel force of fey has risen up and seek to supplant the current king with one of their own. McKenzie is human, but she has served in the fae king’s war for years, tracking rebel leaders. Her unique skills have made her a valuable prize, and a dangerous enemy. She is kidnapped by the rebels during the first part of the story. Their intent? To either convert her to their cause or kill her.
The story sweeps us into the war. We travel between the camps of the rebels and the king, learn their truths, and begin to unravel their lies. We experience betrayals, victories, and losses, and through it all we doubt and wonder which side is the right one and who it is McKenzie should trust. This is a story about war, and ends with an epic series of cathartic events that promise to leave readers satisfied (it left me yelling “I LOVE THIS BOOK!” while my poor husband was trying to watch football). While I’m sure this book will be part of a series, everything wraps up so tidily it almost feels like a standalone novel. No cliffhangers here, I promise.
As others have said, McKenzie herself is very human protagonist. She has no amazing martial skills. Don’t let the sword wielding heroine on the cover fool you, McKenzie is lucky if she hits something running straight at her with a dagger. She’s not weak though, her strength just lies in other areas. She’s loyal to a fault, determined, stubborn, and incredibly kind hearted. She grieves for every dead enemy left behind in the war. Sometimes she came across as a tiny bit weak, but it was refreshing to see such a normal girl, completely lacking in bad ass fighting skills staring as a urban fantasy heroine.
The romance elements of the book include two very yummie fae. Kyol, the fae kings swordmaster, and McKenzie’s long time love. He is honorable, duty bound, and protective of McKenzie. They have a very tragic star crossed lovers thing going on. I loved Kyol and felt his story was one of the most moving in the book. Then there’s the rebel leader, Aren. He’s flippant, roguish, and dark. More your bad boy type. His intentions are (intentionally and sometimes frustratingly) difficult to ferret out. There’s definitely a love triangle here, but it’s not handled in the usual way, where the character vacillates back and forth, playing both men to the point where you want to smack her. Each man has their time in the story, and the McKenzie makes her decision by the end of the story. Whether or not this decision is truly final, remains to be seen in future books. I like both men enough I’m hoping for some more romantic tension.
Shadow Reader really has it all – an amazing world, a plot that is both suspenseful and epic, great characters, and a romance that will make you swoon no matter which man you choose to root for. If you are someone that loved the epic fantasy feel of Moning’s Fever series, you’ll probably enjoy this one. It’s a completely different kind of book (different fae, different plot, VERY different characters), but the high fantasy theme will feel familiar. Either way, I highly recommend this novel....more
I was initially drawn to this series based on reviews on Supernatural Snark and the near perfect 5 star ratingDon't let the first book scare you away!
I was initially drawn to this series based on reviews on Supernatural Snark and the near perfect 5 star rating each of the books in the series earned from Amazon reviewers.
The series is set in a sort of post magic-apocalypse world where magic and technology both take turns ruling the planet. You’ll get a few hours/days where technology works then the magic “wave” comes in and all technology fails but magic starts working. This new world contains a host of interesting supernatural entities: vamps (although they are sort of more like mindless beasts), necromancers, gods, fairies. But the main supernaturals are magic users and shifters of all shapes and sizes. It’s a complicated, if interesting world. The main character, Kate Daniels is a strong, balsy female magic user with a dark past (full of all kinds of mystery), and an unusually strong ability to work several different kinds of magic.
I actually got very addicted to this series, but it was only through persistence and stubbornness that I made it through the first book. You can consider the first book of the series sort of a crucible. Good things await on the other side, but making it through can be a pain. The first book sort of dumps you into the complicated world described above with very little explanation. You are initially confused by the magic/technology waves, and I was annoyed by the protagonist, Kate. She falls into the classic, over used to-balsy-for-her-own-good Urban Fantasy female stereo type. She mouths off, picks fights, and generally acts like a fool most of the first book. The book also moves VERY slowly. Like I didn’t feel really engaged until 75%.
The good news is? Things get better. Book 2 was much better, and I was completely addicted and enjoying the series by book 3. While this novel earned only three stars from me, the rest are all 4-5 stars. So what changed? The pace of the books really picked up. I had a hard time putting them down. Each book is sort of its own stand alone thing – Kate is working to solve some mystery or puzzle that effects the world or her allies. There’s a few big themes throughout the story mostly involving Kate’s background which are very engaging.
The romance also really hooked me. Curran is just plain yummie. And thank goodness – there’s no triangle here! He’s the leader of the shifters in the Atlanta area, and a very strong, alpha type of character, but realistic. The romance progression is also realistic. It's not love at first sight (a plot tactic far too many romance type books use imo) - they actually grow to love eachother throughout the story. It's very believable, and heart-warming.
After book 1 I actually found all of the characters pretty darned realistic and well written. I came to love Kate, Curran, and just about all of the side characters. They felt like friends and I legitimately cared about what happened to them. I also started to really like the world – each book takes you through on a fun filled romp full of all sorts of fantastic and mythological characters. A special fav of mine was Babba Yagga. Nothing like getting to meet the scary Russian witch that steals children.
If you find yourself at odds for a good series, this series has tons of adventure, and a smoking hot romance to recommend it. ...more
Whow, just whow. This is one dark, twisted, tragic series, but oh so very good. Books published thus far in the Downside series:
Unholy Ghosts Unholy MaWhow, just whow. This is one dark, twisted, tragic series, but oh so very good. Books published thus far in the Downside series:
Unholy Ghosts Unholy Magic City of Ghosts
I’m not going to lie and say this was an easy read. It wasn’t – it was heart wrenching, often depressing, and there were times when I struggled to find even the smallest glimmer of hope for the main character, yet I loved it. Because it was also seriously exciting, creative, full of likeable characters, and nonstop well written action.
I think the thing that makes this story so hard to read is the characters have such a hard time of it on a personal level. The plot of the books moves along and is full of hope, adventure, and amazing action, but we as readers are taken on a more personal journey through the struggles of the characters – all of which are fundamentally damaged and broken. This private story will break your heart, more than once. It often it feels like these character just can’t catch a break – if something goes right in their lives, then something else goes colossally wrong.
|| Premise ||
This urban fantasy focuses completely around ghosts. There are no vampires, fae, or warewolves in this world. The basic premise is at some point the ghost overran the earth, boiling out of the shadows, hungry to devour everything living. In the midst of the disaster that followed an organization that would later be known as the Church stepped in. They drove back the ghost, and in doing so assumed control of the government, and religion. They tore down all the old gods, and governments, and reshaped the world. They style themselves as the protectors of humanity – carefully policing the ghosts of the recently and distantly departed, confining them, and protecting humanity from their hunger.
Enter Chess – a Church Debunker or in the slang vernacular a “Churchwitch” – someone on the payroll of the church to investigate hauntings, to either debunk them or banish the ghosts. She’s pulled into an non-church ghost investigation but some seedy unworld contacts and finds herself embroiled in a plot that goes far beyond the scope of her investiation, involving an organization that seeks to tear down everything the Church has worked so hard to build.
|| World ||
The world is dark and gritty. As we travel through it, we do not walk in the heights of society, but instead we crawl through the gutters. All of the “heroes” of the story are junkies, crime bosses, and thugs. It feels a bit like “Sin City” in truth.
Don’t let all the “Church” references in the blurbs on this book throw you off. I’m not a huge fan of religion in fiction and the premise sounded a bit too focused on the Church. The Church however was not at all what I expected – think of it more as the over powerful government of a dystopian society.
The author did an amazing job creating a sort of post-apocalyptic world without the nuclear fallout. Think ghost apocalypse, and overly controlling post-disaster government managing everything. It has that the same feel as many dystopian fantasies lately but is much more unique in its vision.
Everything is very well thought out and creative – from the magic systems used to control ghosts, to the government.
The author even goes so far as to create unique slang dialects for her characters –there are several street dialects we see in the story – each unique and well executed.
Excellent world building!
|| Characters ||
The characters in this story aren’t heroes, heck, they don’t even appear to be good people, but if there’s anything this story teaches us it’s to look beneath the surface of things. So often in these books, what seems beautiful is actually rotten, and what seems broken is truly radiant.
Our protagonists, Chess, is a broken, lost soul, with a terrible past. She grew up in foster homes and was abused consistently as a child. She’s spent her adult life burying her pain under a mountain of drugs. That’s right folks, our protagonist is a junkie. Not even the noble kind of junkie that’s trying to quit – nope she’s a full-on, unapologetic junkie, and that does not change throughout the story. So if drug use really bothers you, this probably isn’t the story for you. However, if you can look past this life choice you’ll find Chess to be a very likeable character. She is sad, broken and doesn’t know how to connect with other people, or trust them, but she consistently throws herself into the jaws of danger for her allies and her job. She’s noble, and strong, and kind, and loyal. There were definitely times in the story where I wanted to smack Chess. Her drug use does have consequences, and she does make some pretty terrible decisions, but her heart is pure throughout the story and she beats herself up for her own mistakes far more than I ever could. I think it’s these mistakes and her reactions to them that make her even more likeable as a character.
Terrible is the male lead of the story. An enforcer for a local drug dealer/pimp, he’s enlisted to aid Chess on her investigation. He’s an unexpected gem in this story. He’s described as a big, ugly bruiser of a man, with a scared face, a broken nose. You might be inclined to assume he’s some dumb, violent thug, but you’d be so wrong. As we get to know Terrible, we find him surprisingly intelligent and observant, able to make connections and solve puzzles quicker than almost anyone in the story. We also find him to be shockingly gentle, kind, loyal, and protective.
Lex another male lead in the story is a crime boss in his own right. We don’t know a lot about his past but he’s flippant, beautiful, arrogant, and completely sexy. The definite bad boy with a heart of gold type, although his motivations are so opaque you often wonder about the heart of gold part. His light hearted, easy going personality makes him easy to love as a character.
|| Plot ||
There are two things that make these books so addictive: the plot and the romance. The first chapter or so of Unholy Ghosts may move a bit slow, but think of that as the uphill climb of that first big hill on a roller coaster. After that, every other page of the three published books will grab hold of you and refuse to let you go. I read this whole series in a weekend, quite literally not putting it down for more than a few minutes. The author keeps the action coming. From start to finish, one thing after another after another happens to the characters in the story. It’s very exciting and keeps you hooked.
|| Romance ||
The romance of this story definitely takes back stage to the plot, however what romance there is kept me turning the pages just as much as the exciting action of the story. There is a triangle, but the way the timeline plays out in the story, it isn’t really about two guys fighting for a girl which was a relief to me. The love story of these books unfolds slowly. At first it shows up, somewhat unexpectedly, and what follows is a long journey, full of both heart break and triumph. I was seriously rooting for the success of my favorite male lead throughout the story, and yearning to see Chess and him succeed kept me hooked.
|| Summary ||
The greatest strengths of this story are the fast paced plot, likeable characters, and creative world building. The downsides are it is dark – dark world, dark, broken characters, and dark plot. The drug use of the main character will deter many readers, but if you can get past that and don’t mind a little darkness in your fantasy then I think you’ll love this story.
Gin, alias “The Spider,” is one of the best assassins in the world. When she’s double crossed on a job, and her mentor is murdered, she set~ Premise ~
Gin, alias “The Spider,” is one of the best assassins in the world. When she’s double crossed on a job, and her mentor is murdered, she sets out to find the responsible parties, and extract revenge.
~ World ~
No epic or unique world building here. What we have is a sort of standard, stock urban fantasy world set in modern times where vampires, dwarfs, and other supernatural types exist alongside humans. The city Gin lives in is definitely corrupt, but not dark in the sense you get from some dystopian fiction.
The most unique part of the world building here comes from the introduction of a new type of witch – Ms. Estep has created a branch of witches known as Elementals who use water, fire, air, or stone powers in unique ways. Gin is the rarest type – a Stone Elemental. I was fairly impressed with the creative ways the various Elementals used their powers in this story. Neat stuff.
~ Characters ~
Gin – I liked her. She’s everything an assassin named “The Spider” should be – smart, cold, calculating. . Oh and let’s not forget her grey eyes – we definitely hear a lot about them. In fact, if there’s anything I know for certain about Gin it’s that she has grey eyes and knows how to use them. I kid, I kid. But please, Ms. Estep, less mention of the steely grey gaze in future books, please? Once was enough for me to establish a mental picture. Jesting aside, Gin was also funny – her razor sharp wit and numerous one liners had me chuckling, and thoroughly amused. In some ways she’s almost TOO much the perfect assassin – sort of too ideal to be real, like a comic book character, but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of her at all. She’s bad ass and amazing, and I loved reading her narrative
Detective Donovan – I didn’t like him at all. He is touted as a lone upright, honorable cop in a city full of corruption. This is an archetype that could appeal to me – I do love my lawful-good, honorable types. However, his other personality traits quickly dispelled any regard I might have formed for him. He is self righteous, judgmental, preachy, negative and unmoving. Within a few minutes of meeting Gin he felt he’d “figured her out” – he judged her, tried her, and determined she wasn’t worth the air she was breathing, and basically treated her accordingly for the rest of the story. You could argue he had his reasons, but his stubborn, judgmental, close minded stance really annoyed me. He was so unlikeable actually ruined what could have been a great story for me, as sad as that is to say.
Finn – I loved him – he’s a rakish computer genius banker with an assassin father. He’s also flippant, brilliant, funny and a complete player. Some of my favorite interactions of the book occurred between him and Gin, and I found myself wishing on more than one occasion that he and Gin would look at each other in less platonic way. He’d be leagues better for her than Donovan.
~ Romance ~
The “romance” in this book could better be described as lust. Gin and Detective Donovan have about as much real chemistry two stones, and absolutely no genuine, heartfelt feelings for one another, but they do absolutely want to jump each other’s bones, and f* like jackrabbits. Why Gin would even be attracted to the ever sanctimonious Donovan on that level is beyond me though. He doesn’t deserve her by a long shot – he doesn’t even deserve the 5 minutes of “bliss” he managed to extract from her (the prick doesn’t even have enough stamina to make it past 5 minutes – need I say more?). I’d say the romance in this book is its weakest spot – it’s all cheap sex with a very unworthy person (Donovan).
~ Plot ~
The plot definitely moved along, the action kept coming in rapid succession, but I wouldn’t describe this book as a page turner. There’s something about the narrative that was a bit too passive. The author spends a good deal of time in Gin’s head telling us about her past, about what’s she’s thinking and feeling in the moment. She also goes into what others are thinking and feeling – which seems odd in the narrative – Gin somehow just knows what’s going on in people’s head. I saw another reviewer that said suggested Ms. Estep “Show not tell” and I find myself agreeing. She sort of lays everything about Gin out on the counter– detracting from the mystery of figuring out things ourselves through the action, and making the pace of the plot move slower.
I think another thing that may have contributed to my odd feeling of discontent with the pace of the book is how utterly annoying I found the major character, Donovan. Every scene he was in rankled me – especially the more romantic scenes.
No big surprises with the plot either – the villains are pretty obvious from the beginning.
~ Summary ~
I’m certainly not unhappy I read this book – but it definitely feels like a first book from a new author to me, and suffers from some of same rough patches all first books have. This author’s strong suite is her high-action plot. I loved the authors “voice” – her dialog is very light hearted and witty. I appreciated her sense of humor. Weak spots are her portrayal of her main male character, and her somewhat lackluster world building. I do plan on reading further in the series and can’t wait to see where Gin goes from here (hopefully far, far away from Donvan). ...more
Eerie, suspenseful, and brilliant. All these words describe The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer.
This story begins with Mara waking up from a coma in a hospitEerie, suspenseful, and brilliant. All these words describe The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer.
This story begins with Mara waking up from a coma in a hospital room. She was found in a pocket of air buried under the collapse of an abandoned asylum. The bodies of three of her friends are found in the rubble. But Mara has no recollection of anything beyond her going to bed that night. It’s assumed he and her friends went to explore the old mental institution that night, and did something to trigger the collapse.
Mara is traumatized by the loss of her friends, and is diagnosed with PTSD. She is plagued by nightmares, and sees flashes of her dead friend’s faces in mirrors, and in crowds. Her family moves her to another city, in hopes a change of scenery will help. It doesn’t.
The hallucinations start getting worse, and then weird things start happening around Mara. Animals fear her. She starts loosing chunks of time. Voices call to her when there is no one there. She has visions of people she dislikes dying, only to find out her visions are coming true.
What follows is a journey where we’re never really sure what is real. As readers, we are locked in Mara’s head, constantly questioning her reality, unsure if she is a victim or instigator in the darkness that seems to follow her.
Set against this backdrop of darkness, there is a glimmering light of hope in the form of a brilliant romance. At her new school, Mara meets Noah, the school’s resident bad boy. He’s everything you could hope for with this type of character: beautiful, English Accent, confident, cocky, sexy, and witty. He’s known to be a womanizer, and has reportedly broken the heart of most of the attractive girls at school. This should make him the last person in the world you’d want to fragile Mara to end up with, but there is more to Noah than meets the eye. He is a fascinating and multi-dimensional character. He is what people say, but knowing his reasons for being as he is makes him a more sympathetic character – one you can’t help but fall in love with. What he does for this story is remarkable. In the midst of the darkness and the confusion there is this amazing, smoking hot romance unfolding that heats up the pages and gives us a much needed relief from the shadows in Mara’s mind.
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer will not leave you feeling warm and fuzzy. You will swoon many times throughout the story, thanks to Noah, but ultimately this is a dark story, focusing on death and the mysteries locked in Mara’s mind. Is creepy and brilliant, and I loved every page of this book. It’s so complex, and multilayered, you will not be able to unravel the mysteries in the book. The end will leave you with even more questions then the beginning, but you’ll still feel fulfilled.
I have Mind Games to thank for a Monday spent nodding off at my desk, failing to form coherent sentences, and generally suffering symptoms of sleep deI have Mind Games to thank for a Monday spent nodding off at my desk, failing to form coherent sentences, and generally suffering symptoms of sleep depravity. I started this book Sunday afternoon, and could not put it down, until I finished at about 6 AM Monday morning. Sign of a good book? Yes, I think so.
~ Premise ~
Crippling physiological issues = ultimate power!
Justine suffers from severe hypochondria. She has an irrational fear of a killing vascular condition called Vein Star. She is consistently plagued by severe panic attacks, just barely maintaining her sanity well enough to stay out of an institution.
Enter Packard – a (evil?) mastermind that offers a way to offload that excess of fear and paranoia into others, thereby temporarily freeing Justine of its effects. Not just any other person, but criminals, those that have sliped through the cracks of the law. Packard has put together a team of people to disillusion these bad guys, by psychologically breaking them down. He uses people like Justine –with severe issues, teaches them to psychically push their derangements into others. With enough fear, paranoia, hopelessness and anger the mind of the victims become destabilized, and ultimately break, leading to rehabilitation. And Justine’s hypochondria makes her the final perfect addition to his crack team.
Packard himself is the international man of mystery. He was imprisoned in a Mongolian restaurant years ago by a force field user known only as the nemesis. He hasn’t been able to set foot outdoors for more than eight years. He refuses to answer any questions about his mysterious enemy and will not let his team take action against the man.
The story focuses on the team’s disillusionment efforts as well as the mystery involving Packard’s past.
But Packard’s motivations are less then clear. Is he really trying to help others or using his team for his own agenda? Who is his mysterious nemesis? Is he … *raises pinky* EVIL?! This and more answers you will find in Mind Games.
~ My thoughts ~
So, what made Mind Games so special? It’s uniqueness! This is a story about a group of people weaponizing their physiological issues. That’s certainly never been done before, and it gives a fresh feel, that equally fascinates and engages.
Justine is flawed in ways that make her stand out from the standard fair found in the urban fantasy genre. The only protagonist that compares is Chess from Stacia Kane’s Downside Ghosts series. Despite the cover art, depicting Justine in a trench coat with a knife, she actually is not your standard bad ass, lean-mean-fighting-machine heroine. She’s not a werewolf, a vampire, or a magic user of any sort – she does associate with anyone who is. She’s not even powerful. Nope, she’s just an extreme hypochondriac with a learned ability to push her derangements temporarily into other people. I love it!
Now if you are like me, the idea of reading a whole book about a hypochondriac probably doesn’t sound that appealing. After all, we want our heroes to be, well… heroic! But don’t let this concern hold you back from reading the series – you don’t spend the series wandering around in Justine’s mind, watching her try to deal with her issues. Her mental issues are not belabored. Instead she weaponizes them, and therefore controls them. Justine is smart, witty, and courageous enough to fill the role of heroine for this story. And she has a supporting cast of other equally mental and likeable characters to help her out.
My only nitpick with the story involves Justine’s phycology - oddly enough, not the hypochondria, but rather her enforced nativity. Justine is a truly good person, who tries to see the best in everyone around her. She clings to those she considers normal with the desperation of a drowning woman. Which, in a way she is. With her condition, nothing in her mind is normal, so she clings to normal people. This means, in my opinion, she trusts too quickly, and she makes poor decisions about who to love. This frustrated me.
Speaking of love. The romance is definitely smexy. Unfortunately the story suffers from the dreaded love triangle. Or is it a love square? Behind door number one we have Justine’s boyfriend – Cubby (wtf is up with this name). He’s nice enough, fun, into Justine, but kind of self-involved. Then we have the morally grey, possibly evil Sterling Packard – leader of the Disillusionists. Lastly we have the seemingly heroic, morally rigid Otto Sanchez – Chief of Police. Count me in the Packard fan club, but both he and Otto have their sexy moments. This book has one of the hotter sex scenes I’ve seen in fiction. I won’t tell you with who, but those that enjoy the steamer side of romance will find plenty to swoon over in this book. I must say the romance of this story was fantastic – and it kept me turning the pages just as much as the action.
And the action is definitely something that really shines in this book. Mind Games immerses you in it from the first page. The story is suspense filled, with a good helping of mystery, and a lot of action. It twists and turns continually leaving you unsure of what’s going on and what’s going to happen next. You’ll have a hard time figuring out who is an enemy and a friend in this story. You’ll also probably struggle with deciding who Justine should love. It’s these suspense filled quandaries that make this a book you’ll have a hard time putting down. Definitely worth the read!
** WARNING: Word to the wise - having finished book #2 of the series, Double Cross, I suggest you wait until book #3 comes out before starting on this series. Double Cross closes with such a cliff hanger, you'll be twitchy as hell waiting for the #3. Save yourself that pain and wait until Dec 2011 before reading. ** ...more
The reason I converted from a full time of sci-fi/fantasy chic, to an urban fantasy reader was the need for romance. I’m a girl - I t3.5 Stars really.
The reason I converted from a full time of sci-fi/fantasy chic, to an urban fantasy reader was the need for romance. I’m a girl - I think it’s hard wired into my DNA to enjoy romance in my fiction. I don’t apologize for it. And urban fantasy has it aplenty. But it doesn’t always work for me – sometimes (often) I dislike the characters involved the romance. Or I’m unhappy with the love triangle.
The Pledge absolutely delivers in the romantic department. It offers likeable characters, which include two very sexy, ridiculously appealing men (only one of which is a love interest so no triangle here, thank goodness). Both men in the story are fall into the alpha character archetype. They are big, muscular, powerful, enigmatic, and yet honorable – basically, everything I love about alpha males. I was surprised to find characters like these in a YA novel, where the male leads tend to either be sensitive artsy types, or rebel bad boys. But I enjoyed the men a LOT. Were it not for them this would have been a three star book for me.
The premise of this series is fascinating and certainly what attracted me to it initially. In a monarchy run dystopian world, tightly controlled by a ridged cast system, your whole life is determined by the family you were born into. The castes are controlled through language, each caste has its own tongue and the people are not allowed to know any language but the common tongue and the tongue of their caste. Disobeying this rule brings a death sentence. This premise works for me – I know it would be hard to enforce, but ensuring people cannot properly communicate seems like a brilliant mechanism for control and segregation to me.
I thought Charlie was a very likeable, if forgettable protagonist. I never really connected with her, but found her admirable. She’s kind, and extremely loyal to her family and friends. She tries to do right by everyone, despite their caste, even when doing the right thing means she puts herself in danger. This instinct drives her to do some annoyingly hair brained things in the novel, but fortunately her “oops” moments were few and far between. (view spoiler)[I wanted to smack her and everyone involved at the end – when they hatched the ill advised plan of confronting the queen directly. I have no idea what they thought was going to happen, but could see the queen’s actions coming from a mile away. (hide spoiler)]
Pace wise, the story starts slow, but picks up quickly. I had to slog through the first few chapters, but the things really accelerated once they introduce the city bombings and the rebels. The story is predictable but interesting. It read like a fairy tale with a darker dystopian edge. You know how fairy tales are going to end, but you still enjoy the journey.
If you are looking for a cute, engaging novel, with an interesting premise, and a magnificent romance (involving massively hot alpha male types - YUM), then look no further. The Pledge is probably not a book I’ll read again, but I’d recommend it to any fans of the YA Dystopian novels.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more