Publisher: Self Publish Date: Out Now How I got this book: ARC from the author
All’s fair in love and murder…
Araneae Nation, Book 3.5
Betrayed by her lover and exiled from her clan home, Nicolette has carved herself a new identity from the heart of her old life. Hardened by grief and desperate to survive, she hones a new skill set…and the daggers that go along with it.
Armand is heir to the wealthiest clan in the Araneae Nation. His entire life is as mapped as his heritage. Tradition dictates his every decision, and the one choice he ever made for himself cost him the woman he loved. When Nicolette is offered a contract she can’t refuse, she returns to Erania with deadly intentions. Her secrets are safe behind the façade she created. Or they would be if Armand would stop chipping at the cracks in her veneer.
One kiss ignites an old flame, and suddenly their history is in danger of repeating. Armand falls for Nicolette’s charade, but she can’t let a second chance at happiness distract her from her mission. Someone in the Araneidae nest is marked for death, and Nicolette aims to deliver.
Warning: This story contains one heroine bent on revenge and one hero determined to atone for his sins. Also included are venom kisses, poison hangovers, pointy objects and questionable taste in condiments. Expect fireworks, near-death experiences and one surprise ten years in the making. This blurb came from the author’s website.
One day, a couple of years ago, I was browsing new releases as I tend to do when I spotted Edwards’ A Hint of Frost and decided to give it a try. Since then, I have read and enjoyed every installment. As a result, when I was contacted to see if I was interested in reviewing this self-published novella I didn’t think twice before accepting. I do recommend that you read the previous installments, at least the very first one because the set-up depends on some of the events that occurred in A Hint of Frost. This installment was full of revenge, angst, twisted plots, double or triple crossing, regret, and how people change over time. Nicolette and Armand shared a complicated history. Armand lost the girl he loved, but retained his family. Nicolette lost the boy she loved, her home, and her family, but she gained strength, skill, and found a new family.
I loved watching the past and the present collide. Nicolette returned to her childhood home with a contract to assassinate the woman responsible for the death of another clan’s heir. While there, she discovers extra motivation to accomplish the murder because her client knew the one person Nicolette valued and shared that information with other assassins who used that knowledge as incentive for Nicolette to complete her assignment. I can’t say wny that person is valued because that would be a spoiler. She also learned that her former lover, Armand, gained a reputation as “one for the ladies”, but never settled down. Armand knew he had to marry eventually, but he never stopped regretting the one he lost. He felt an instant attraction to Nicolette, but she refused to meekly fall in line with his wishes for mutual physical enjoyment..
I enjoyed the attraction between Armand and Nicolette. I also thought Nicolette’s mental struggle about what choices to make and how to handle the opportunity for a future were very well done. I do wish I had seen Armand’s arguments as he tried to find an opportunity for the happiness he saw between his sister and her mate. The scenes when Armand and his sister found out about Nicolette’s secrets were also incredible. The combination of understanding, regret, and pain about what happened, but not wallowing in the missteps of the past was very moving. I will admit at first I wanted to see more from Armand after the secret reveal, but thinking about the bargain he struck and the result if Nicolette changed her mind really said a lot.
A Kiss of Venom was an enjoyable novella. I thought Edwards was able to include a wide array of feelings and provide a different view of the Araneae nation. While some events occurred off-page that I wished I had seen, I still felt satisfied by everything Edwards included. The complexity of the assassination plot pointed towards a long-standing goal of beheading Armand’s clan and hinted they have more worries to add to the overarching issues in the series so far. I am looking forward to the next installment, and also have my fingers crossed hoping a certain individual gets what I think should be coming to her.
Where did you get the book: Bought/ARC offered by the publisher Publisher: Choc lit Books Release Date: Out now
Kael Vapensigsson is one of the elite Chosen—a Warlord whose strength comes from the gods themselves. But despite all his power and prestige, he is plagued by a prophecy that threatens to destroy everything he loves. When Kael summons Ishtaer to his room and discovers the marks of the Chosen on her body, including the revered mark of the Warrior, both Warlord and slave seem to have met their match.
But as their lives become increasingly entangled and endangered, Ishtaer is forced to test whether the Chosen ever have the ability to choose their own fate.
Lou: When Has first told me about this book, I wasn’t quite sure if I should read it. The last book, or should I say series, I read featuring a Warlord hero was Warprize by Elizabeth Vaughan. And nobody–and I mean nobody–has come close to that masterpiece featuring Keir and Lara. But Has kept pushing me and so I finally caved in. And I’m glad I caved in despite some of the issues I had with the book because it was an enjoyable read with a great cast of characters. Kael is a Warlord and whilst he’s done Warlord stuff like killing and sword-fighting, and Warlord stuff, he was quite humorous. He almost wore a facade of what a Warlord should be like. I liked him. I also liked the heroine, Ishtaer. Up until Kael came across her in an almost slave encampment, Ishtaer had a terrible and horrifying existence. She was beaten and starved by her captive, and she was also raped by the engineering of her captive.
While I liked Ishtaer, I didn’t like how the author made her into this almost mary sue character where she was the best of all of the gifts that the God granted her. I wished she had fewer gifts. It felt as if the author had to compensate Ishtaer for her what she had to go through but instead of it being believable, it came across as Mary Sueish, especially when Ishtaer had to go through another terrible experience towards the end of the book. But despite my issues, I really did enjoy the worldbuilding and the author’s voice. The romance wasn’t instant, and Kael had to do some grovelling for behaving like an idiot. I loved at times that Ishtaer was stubborn, and there’s an empowering scene where Kael experiences a horror of Ishtaer’s past. Ishtaer was a wonderful character, despite her perfections, and she was by no means perfect when it came to her personality. Ishtaer does a lot of growing up in this book, and she is separated from Kael whilst she learns her Gifts.
I’d love to see more books set in this world and more of Kael and Istaer. All in all, I give Impossible Things a B-
Has: When I got offered the book, my book spidey senses were tingling and I definitely agree so many books are hard to live up to the Warprize trilogy by Elizabeth Vaughan. However, there was something compelling and enjoyable about IMPOSSIBLE THINGS but I agree about the heroine being too powerful, although I think the book and romance wouldn’t be as good if she didn’t go through a tortuous and dark past. And while I liked how the world-building was set up with people from certain blood-lines who were marked with gifts that were energized by crystals, I did find Ishtaer being thrice-marked as a Seer, a healer and a warrior made her almost too perfect especially when she in fact blind and was still able to fight defensively well with a sword. But I agree–I think it would have actually strengthened the book more if she was just double-marked as well. And I there were a couple of scenes that I had to suspend my belief. I would have also loved to see more of Ishtear’s training in her skills which I felt was glossed over and that would have helped to illustrate her breaking out of shell and building up her confidence. But I have to say the world that Kate Johnson created was a fantastic amalgamation of different cultures and time-periods, and that produced a colourful and vivid backdrop to the romance.
Kael is definitely not like a typical alpha warrior, and I really loved that his beta qualities were kept hidden, but revealed to only those who knew him well. It helped to define and flesh out his character beautifully. And even though I found Ishtear’s character to be too powerful with her magical abilities, I did think Kate Johnson’s depiction of Ishtear’s healing emotionally and psychologically from her past and slowly regaining her agency helped to make Ishtear more sympathetic and real. Those scenes, especially when she has a trigger moment later in the book, was well written and fleshed out her character for me because it was realistic and emotive. I also loved the scene soon after with Kael and that becomes a turning point in their relationship which is a real highlight of this book. Because their romance develops as a slow burn, the tension builds up subtly which reflects Ishtear’s slowly defeating her own demons and fears, and due to this I fell in love with their romance.
I also loved and enjoyed the touches of humour which gave the book another fun dimension and there was some humorous scenes with the supporting characters which just sparkled with dialogue that was sharp and snappy. Although for a historical fantasy setting, the language was very modern but I didn’t mind this as much as it added to the humorous overtones and the mishmash of the world-building.
Overall, Impossible Things has a wonderful and emotional touching romance which I enjoyed immensely but the world-building was also well fleshed out and I would also love to see more of this world because it certainly has a scope for more stories. But even though there were several issues with the book, this was one of the best fantasy romances I’ve read in awhile and I am so glad I listened to my spidey sense!
I also give Impossible Things a B-
E: I bought this book because a certain Has pushed it on me. It had been a while since I read an epic fantasy/romance so I decided to give it a try. I thought the basic idea of “Chosen” ones with tattoos identifying who has certain abilities and as a result of those powers gained certain privileges and responsibilities. I was also curious about the implied lack of choice in what those Chosen were allowed to do with their lives. Johnson created a very fascinating world with multiple sub-plots. I was never bored with the complexity but I think the story suffered a bit as a result. Some of the subplot solutions were too coincidental towards the end of the story but overall I enjoyed this story and I hope that Johnson continues writing in this world.
As this story started, I was very unimpressed by Kael because of his behavior towards Ishtaer and the situation she was in. Kael had a lot of work to do to become heroic in my eyes. For a very long time he struck me as being rather self-centered and doing actions for personal gain. Yes, I did discover he had personal responsibilities as well as an obligation to the tradition of the Chosen but I struggled believing he saw Ishtaer as an individual and not just a tool to gain favor/prestige. However, Ishtaer taught him a lot and he was able to redeem himself although I thought he was going to break my heart for a while.
Ishtaer went from being the lowest of the low to extremely high with a combination of abilities no one else possessed. I agree with my fellow Pushers that the leap was perhaps a bit much. I did appreciate how only one of her powers seemed to be innate, the others she had limitations or self-imposed blocks but even those didn’t stop her from becoming acclaimed. Her unique childhood did provide Ishtaer a different perspective that served her well as she struggled to find a place that felt like home, not just for herself but for those she encountered who also didn’t quite fit. She also knew what the responsibilities of being Chosen really meant and how with the privilege came sacrifice.
Johnson provided me with several aspects that I enjoyed. One was the slow growing romance with its ups and down. Everytime Kael took Ishtaer for granted, I loved how she used her growing confidence to topple his assumptions. I also thought the way Ishtaer could take control during a crisis yet feel much more uncertain during non-crisis or personal situations was very telling. It clarified the difference between confidence that came with a knowledge of your stature from birth versus the confidence in what was innate as being a Chosen.
As I stated earlier, I found Impossible Things an enjoyable read with some niggles. I thought the world-building was extremely vivid and full of possibility for future stories. The characters and their messy lives were also captivating but what I think really solidified my enjoyment of this story was Kael’s path to redemption. As much as Ishtaer’s life changed over the course of the story, she seemed more to grow into who she could have been while Kael had to change who he had become. I am looking forward to seeing what Johnson does with this world next.
Publisher: Book View Cafe Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: Purchased
“…we are all Death’s pupils, we practitioners—students of the great healer.”
When magic broke free in my blood, I chose to follow our ancient family path and become a practitioner. I’m learning to heal, and to protect innocents. I dip into minds, stalk vampires, and set wards by the light of the moon. I can hear the children of the night calling.
But there are other families…and other paths. Families with twisted ambitions and frightening powers. On the frontier, folk whisper that one clan is the most dangerous of all.
Chief among those dark sorcerers is a man known as the Keeper of Souls.
And now he wants to keep mine. This blurb came from Goodreads.
Yesterday I reviewed the first book in this series, Night Calls, and I am very happy to report that Kimbriel made me almost miss my bus stop at work because I had to read just one more page. Alfreda was well on her way learning the arts of a practitioner when she discovered that not all who could see the world’s extras delighted in them for the same reasons. As a result, she learned some very interesting lessons and kept me extremely captivated.
I loved seeing Alfreda back visiting her family and friends for a little while. Just as she had changed, she learned her family had as well. Watching her take on the role of instructor to her younger brothers while ignoring one of the side effects of her growing power was extremely cute. I thought the way she patiently walked the boys through figuring out what they should do and why boded well for her future training others, provided she survived to that point.
Speaking of lessons, Alfreda’s formal training continued to increase in complexity. I had the sense that while there was a particular order to the lessons, life’s circumstances were the ultimate decider once the apprentice achieved a solid foundation. Kimbriel did a great job of showing how every piece of information and lesson was critical. Not just practitioner and woodcraft lessons, but also those about human nature in general. The importance of loyalty, sheer determination, common sense, and a willingness to seek allies all came in handy. I loved how Alfreda was forced to use everything she learned throughout her life if she wished to survive her encounter with the dark sorcerers.
Kimbriel avoided the sophomore slump with Kindred Rites, and if anything, managed to ensnare me deeper in this series. Alfreda’s growth and the slow reveal of things left hidden earlier kept my curiosity peeked. The inclusion of two entities as prominent characters added both a bit of levity, and a sense that nature does have an order and will accept assistance in maintaining that order. I thought the final decisions Alfreda made regarding the survivors of her encounter with black sorcerers both emphasized her basic character knowledge, and set up some very interesting potential situations for future installments.
I’ve battled the Reapers of Chaos before–and survived. But this time I have a Bad, Bad Feeling it’s going to be a fight to the death … most likely mine.
Yeah, I’ve got my psychometry magic, my talking sword, Vic–and even the most dangerous Spartan on campus at my side, in Logan freaking Quinn, but I’m no match for Loki, the evil Norse god of chaos. I may be Nike’s Champion, but at heart, I’m still just Gwen Frost, that weird Gypsy girl everyone at school loves to gossip about.
Then someone I love is put in more danger than ever before, and something inside me snaps. This time, Loki and his Reapers are going down for good … or I am. This blurb came from the author’s website.
There is nothing like being hooked with the first book of a series and staying as captivated through the very end. Over the intervening years since I picked up First Frost I have also been lucky enough to review most of them and show my enjoyment. So it was with a combination of eagerness and sadness that I cracked open the cover to the final installment in Estep’s Mythos Academy series. When I read the back cover blurb and tried to figure out exactly what was going to make Gwen snap I had a guess and it proved to be accurate. That was the only thing I guess correctly about Killer Frost which meant I enjoyed the twists and turns even more. If you haven’t read the previous installments you need to stop reading now, enjoy the series up to this point and then pick up reading this review again. In other words I will be unable to avoid spoilers from earlier in Gwen’s life but I will avoid any major spoilers from this installment.
The story opened in a way that made me both laugh and grimace a bit. Gwen’s roommate, Daphne, was trying to convince Gwen to relax and enjoy her double date. Gwen can’t shake the feeling that something bad is going to happen given her experiences during her last date with Logan. But as time goes on it appears as if all she has to worry about is Logan’s reluctance to touch her because of his PTSD caused by his actions while under Loki’s control. Then Logan’s father, Linus, showed up and once again his presence seemed to indicate everything was going to slide downhill rather quickly. The Protectorate had retrieved a large stash of artifacts at least one of which was vital to the Reapers attempts to completely restore Loki to power. Linus wanted Gwen to use her psychometry to determine which artifact and why it was so important. After the Reapers failed to secure the artifact during an attack on the convoy, they decided to switch tactics and go after someone Gwen loved. At that point Gwen decided she had nothing to lose and everything to gain so instead of just reacting she started planning to end it once and for all.
I loved seeing everything from the past stories pulled together. Gwen’s arguments with Linus and his continuing blindness to what really mattered were something to see. All of the allies Gwen gained, the lives she touched and improved, and friends she didn’t know existed all banded together when she least expected it. I also loved seeing her take some observations over the years and give a few individuals a push towards potential happiness. It was as if Gwen’s fears about surviving the next encounter with Loki made her more sensitive to enjoying what was available at the present because the chance might never come again. Her habit of displaying loyalty towards others regardless of the personal cost in previous installments continued as a theme in Killer Frost.
As much as I enjoyed seeing the threads pull together, I certainly did not feel like all of the action occurred in previous installments. On several occasions Estep provided moments when I felt like my heart was in my throat because things looked very doubtful but then she would add a resurgence of hope and I would start breathing again. Estep also continued to weave the threads of myths and legends as she provided closure marking a definite ending to the series yet leaving me wondering how the final events would leave a lingering mark on the survivors.
Estep did a wonderful job with Killer Frost as the final story. I felt fully satisfied because the events that occurred followed the same logic as the entire series. Not to mention all of Frost’s characters remained within their established personas regardless of the difficulty of the situation. I am very glad I picked this series up and I hope that Estep decided to continue writing in the YA/Fantasy genre.
Afflicted by a centuries-old curse, a warlord slowly surrenders his humanity and descends toward madness. Ballard of Ketach Tor holds no hope of escaping his fate until his son returns home one day, accompanied by a woman of incomparable beauty. His family believes her arrival may herald Ballard’s salvation.
…until they confront her elder sister.
Determined to rescue her sibling from ruin, Louvaen Duenda pursues her to a decrepit castle and discovers a household imprisoned in time. Dark magic, threatening sorcerers, and a malevolent climbing rose with a thirst for blood won’t deter her, but a proud man disfigured by an undying hatred might. Louvaen must decide if loving him will ultimately save him or destroy him.
E: I love Beauty and the Beast tales and usually find the Beast my favorite character. I enjoyed Draven’s interpretation of the Beast. Ballard, the original beast cursed by his dead wife with her dying breath for daring to hold her to her word and for killing her lover. His son and heir, Gavin, was a victim of the same curse. Over the centuries both men have suffered as the curse grew ever stronger and hope of ending it withered but Ballard’s torture was much greater. Ballard wasn’t a very loveable man in his younger days. Everything he did was for property and security. He married to gain both and an heir but the woman he chose preferred another. As a result of her actions, Ballard could have killed or allowed Gavin’s death without anyone blinking an eye but instead he accepted additional torture through the years to give Gavin a chance grow and enjoy life. By the time he encountered Louvaen, the curse had grown in such ferocity he was more beast than man at times. He wasn’t perfect, he had a temper, and could certainly sulk but he cared about the people around him. As a result I loved his interactions with Louvaen. They were never boring and spoke to the type of man he could have been in better circumstances.
Lou: I’m a fan of Beauty and Beast tales but I can also be awfuly picky. However, when Grace informed us of her upcoming release, I was so excited. Master of Crows remains one of my favourite reads and I was itching to see more work by the talented Grace Draven. The hero truly was a beast in looks but not by nature. A curse wrought upon his wife (she truly was hateful) before she died left Ballard and his son cursed with little hope. Ballard wasn’t made out to be this perfect hero. Before the King, he was mercenary in wanting his wife’s lands but he shows true heart when his son is born and does something for him that shows how deep this Beast can love.
Has: I am also a huge fan of Grace Draven’s Master of Crows which has become one of my all time favourite fantasy romances. So, when I heard she was going to be writing a Beauty and the Beast retelling, I was on tenterhooks, because like E and Lou, I adore this fairy-tale, and there is something compelling and magical with this story.
I found Ballard’s character intriguing, and I loved the little flashback chapters which slowly explained the curse that unfolded his son and surrounding his lands. I really enjoyed how this contrasted with his current cursed state, and I liked that he still retained his sense of honour despite the trials he had to endure. I also agree, that Grace Draven, really fleshed out the beast mythos and I really liked that he was vulnerable, as well as being fierce and grumpy. I think the humour which helps to balance the darkness in the story and this element is what was so appealing.
2. Thoughts on the Heroine
E: Louvaen was very strong willed and did not fit the traditional image of being a society beauty. She was also a widow who fiercely supported and defended her half-sister and father. She kept an eye on any suitors who came to call on Cinnia and was willing to use whatever weapon came to hand to guard her reputation. Unfortunately, their father, a very weak-willed man, kept entering into business investments with an unscrupulous wealthy man who had his eye on Cinnia. As a result, the once profitable lands and business Louvaen inherited on her husband’s death had been sold to satisfy her father’s debts and to protect Cinnia. When Cinnia ran off with Gavin, she followed determined to keep her sister safe. At Ketach Tor I loved watching Louvaen deal with the Gavin and Cinnia’s mutual attraction while she tried to figure out the household secrets and her own somewhat unwilling attraction to Ballard. The dichotomy between her love and her temper; her soft heart and willingness to inflict bodily harm in defense of others; her disdain for all things magic and the subtle manifestation of her own skill all held me captivated. Each time she got in an argument with Ambrose, the Ketach Tor wizard, I would find myself giggling in enjoyment.
Lou: I loved Louvaen with her sharp tongue and razor wit. At times her sister and father were wounded by her words but considering she was trying with all her might to keep them from the dastardly villain, I wanted her to throw some more sharp words at her family. Her father was very weak-willed and he made poor choices that affected now only the prosperity of their family but also their lives. Considering what was at stake, I thought Louvaen was pretty mild in speaking her mind because she always did it with love. Her sister’s safety came first to her, and she loved her family with all her loyalty and heart. I agree with E; the dichotomy between her temper and love was superb and once again Grace Draven shows in Entreat Me how a wonderful and talented author she is.
Has: I also adored Louvaen! She was the total opposite of what Beauty was traditionally described like in the fairy-tale, and I liked how Grace Draven added that twist with making her sister the one in the story. I also felt that Louvaen was a better fit as the heroine with this fairy-tale because her sharp tongue and wit created another dimension to the story which made it refreshing. Especially with her exchanges with Ambrose and the other characters which cracked me up. I definitely agree about the dichotomy between her sharp edges and the deep loyalty and love she had for the people she cared for. And that for me just made the romance between Louvaen and Ballard delicious. It was sweet and tender as well as full of sharp humour and passion.
3. Favorite Scene
E: I enjoyed several scenes in this story but I think my favorite is the one when Louvaen first displayed her softness towards Ballard. She noticed he had a habit of joining them for the evening meal but never appeared to eat. Late one night, she discovered he ate separately after everyone else and due to the structure of his hands was unable to use normal utensils. So the next night she interrupted him before he ate and spent a significant amount of time fixing the problem. I loved this particular scene because it was really the opening to something more than a casual truce over the winter. It demonstrated Louvaen was able to see beyond her first traumatic introduction and wanted to include Ballard in their everyday activities. It also demonstrated that Ballard trusted Louvaen and wanted her presence around.
Lou: So many scenes I loved in this book because of the beautiful writing and prose. Some of favourite scenes was early in the beginning when Louvaen shows no fear or hesitation in wanting to meet Ballard despite his appearance. She’s brave and so matter of fact about him that I fell in love with her character. I also enjoyed the sparring between her and Ambrose, a sorcerer. The barbs and wit they exchanged was funny, and their dislike for each other was hilarious. I also loved how Louvaen tried to keep Cinnia and Gavin from each other anytime they made googly eyes at one another. She truly was a cockblocker for poor Gavin and Cinnia *grins*
Has: I agree! I have a really hard time just thinking of a good scene and you both highlighted my favourite scenes. This book was full of fun moments which just sparkled with humour as well as darker scenes with emotions and pathos. I think Grace Draven has a wonderful grasp of characterization and humour, and her prose is beautiful and lush. I was immersed and engrossed into this story and even though I know this story inside and out, she made this tale feel fresh and new.
4. Dislike about book
E: The main thing I disliked about this story was Louvaen and Cinnia’s father. Mercer. Traditionally in Beauty and the Beast tales, the father is a rather weak character but I thought Mercer wasn’t just weak he was also lacking in common sense. He repeatedly joined in ventures with zero chance of success and depended on Louvaen to bail him out. Even the threat to Cinnia wasn’t enough to stop his habit. He did step up once at a crucial point but that seemed out of character given his behavior throughout the story to that particular point. I would have preferred to see some sort of progression to his transformation in order for me to believe he had really changed.
Lou: This is going to sound weird considering this is a romance book but I did find that there was a lot of time in the middle of the book that featured too much on sex. I wanted to see more action and I felt there was a lag in the middle until it picked up towards the end. Like E, I also disliked their father because he never truly said sorry for getting them into that mess to begin with. He deserved a lot more wrath aimed towards him.
Has: I have to agree with Lou, I did feel the pace in the middle did slow the flow of the story, although I did love the smexy action. Ballard and Louvaen both had hot chemistry between them and that really added to the romance. There was humour and healing in their scenes when they sneaked off together and I didn’t mind so much the quieter pace in the middle, because it reflected the tone of the love story and I think it needed that time to develop.
5. Any other misc. thoughts along with grade.
E: Overall I enjoyed Draven’s rendition of the Beauty and the Beast tale. I thought the twists regarding the origin of the curse, who the curse affected, the double romance, and hints at other fairytales very entertaining. With the exception of Mercer’s characterization, I loved the characters and their very vivid personalities. I think Draven has a gift for creating lush worlds and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. I give Entreat Me a B+
Lou: I really enjoyed Entreat Me and though I had a few issues with the middle and ending parts of the book, I inhaled this book in one setting. The writing, the scenes and the characters enthralled me. There’s something about Draven’s writing that brings you inside of the story so vividly. I loved one surprise of what Ballard did for his son and I loved that though Louveael fell in love with Ballard, she never forgot about her sister and keeping her safe. I give Entreat Me a B.
Has: For me, Grace Draven has cemented her position to be one of the best fantasy romance authors around. I love the way she combines well fleshed out characters, passionate romance and humour. Her characters truly come alive on the page, and her prose is poetic and descriptive that you almost feel that you’re in the world she has created. I think Entreat Me is one of the best re-tellings of the Beauty and the Beast story because the romance between Louvaen and Ballard for me became the epitome of those characters. I give Entreat Me a B+...more
Publisher: Orbit Publish Date: Out now How we got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
Devi Morris isn’t your average mercenary. She has plans. Big ones. And a ton of ambition. It’s a combination that’s going to get her killed one day – but not just yet.
That is, until she just gets a job on a tiny trade ship with a nasty reputation for surprises. The Glorious Fool isn’t misnamed: it likes to get into trouble, so much so that one year of security work under its captain is equal to five years everywhere else. With odds like that, Devi knows she’s found the perfect way to get the jump on the next part of her Plan. But the Fool doesn’t give up its secrets without a fight, and one year on this ship might be more than even Devi can handle. This blurb came from the author’s website.
E: It has been a while since I read a book that was much heavier on science fiction than romance so when I saw the cover and blurb of Fortune’s Pawn I had to request it and I am very glad that I did. The last time I felt this way about a book was when I read Ghost Planet which I absolutely loved. I didn’t love this one in exactly the same way, which is probably good since the authors are two different people with different writing styles, but I am eagerly waiting the next installment. Bach provided some of my early reading loves with space travel, aliens, fighting, new or at least different planets, intrigue, and some very fascinating characters. She also teased us with a forbidden romance that hasn’t reached its conclusion yet.
Has: I felt the same way about this book. I loved the Sci Fi setting and thought the premise with a mercenary heroine who has a body armour and likes to name her weapons was engaging and colourful. The world-building was interesting and imaginative and I loved Bach’s descriptions of the exotic aliens in the crew and those they encountered. I also found the Sci Fi tech to be interesting and it added a vivid dynamic to the plot. Although I did find Devi’s character didn’t differentiate from other characters in similar roles, I did enjoy her voice and how she handled the mission she embarked upon. And I also loved the cast of characters and thought the crew of The Glorious Fool were vibrant and diverse. Within the first chapters, I was totally drawn into the story.
E: I agree with you Has, she shared a lot of similarities with other mercenaries but she had some personal touches that set her apart. I liked that she spent money on her equipment and having the best she could without going for the flashy. I also liked that she had goals and knew how to read people but would also sometimes rush in when she knew that she shouldn’t. She was also dedicated to her profession and once paid she stayed loyal. She was also extremely smart and curious which was a benefit but also a drawback. I was just as curious to find out the story behind The Glorious Fool and its motley crew as Devi. While some questions were answered those answers have left me with more questions because things are not as they seem with the ship, the crew or the locations they visit.
Has: I really liked that because the mysteries and secrets kept me guessing throughout the book, and I was very intrigued about how it all tied in with the crew and the aliens they encountered. Bach also had a great flow in making the story action-packed and tense. I was really impressed in how she described the action sequences which were exciting and memorable and they added a fun flourish to Devi’s character.
I also loved the supporting casts of characters who were so unexepectedly different which I found refreshing. I especially loved the alien crew members like the lizard Hyrek who was their medical officer but was a member of a dangerous race who liked to munch on humans. Basil the avian bird-like navigator provided some humour with his exchanges with the other crew members. But I really loved the romance which subtly grows throughout the book and takes Devi by surprise. The chemistry between her and Rupert who had secrets of his own was just fabulous and I really enjoyed their scenes together even though it developed a forbidden element in the end which really heightened the romantic tension.
E: Oh the attraction and forbidden romance were certainly entertaining. I have to admit that a few times I really wanted to see Devi give it to Rupert to make up for his role in several things that were emotionally distressing. Hyrek was also something else. His role amongst his people and his obvious role on the ship seemed contradictory to accepted knowledge about his species. Really makes me wonder how he ended up on the crew along with the others. I also thought the new things Devi started noticing and what Hyrek noticed was different about her are going to have some significant effects later on. Something I think will come back to haunt the Captain given how things ended with this installment.
Fortune’s Pawn has proved to be a very interesting and entertaining start to a series that I plan to thoroughly enjoy. Bach threw in some twists at the end that are going to make things sticky and will hopefully result in much groveling and the revealing of several mysteries. I am glad I decided to give it a try. I give Fortune’s Pawn a B.
Has: I definitely agree about the mysteries and secrets that slowly evolve and link with the crew. I am also interested to see the repercussions that Devi may have with her encounter on the alien ghost ship, which I have to say was one of my favourite scenes of the book. But I really like how Bach sets up the ongoing plot mystery which is a fantastic layer to the overall story arc. I love a good book that keeps me guessing and wondering what will happen next and while I have some ideas and theories – I suspect I will be surprised by the outcomes.
I am so glad that I picked up this book on a whim because it was intriguing, exciting and had a wonderful cast of vibrant characters in a rich and imaginative world. I think this is a book which can appeal to a broad base of readers because it has a bit of everything from heart-pounding action scenes, a unique world and a good romance. Fortune’s Pawn is a great start to memorable series!
Publisher: Carina Press Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
A powerful magic user is stealing people’s faces in San Francisco, and empath Ella Walsh and shifter Vadim Morosov have been called in to investigate. Still adjusting to the closeness and permanence of their new relationship, the government-paired mates are soon hot on the trail of an Otherworld cultist from Vadim’s past.
But their target turns the tables, and after he gives Ella someone else’s face, the couple will have to follow him to Otherworld to get hers back. There, in an ancient world of family ties, old grudges and monsters, where living memory stretches centuries, Ella will have to confront the dangerous truth of Vadim’s bygone life.
Because there’s a reason the Fae call him Death Bringer, and if Ella can’t unravel it, she may never see her mate—or her face—again. This blurb came from the author’s website.
This spring I started seeing buzz on twitter about a new book by Kate Pearce. Years before I read the first two or three of her House of Pleasure books but I had not read anything by her since then. Out of curiosity I took a look at the book and realized that this was paranormal romance so a new genre for her. I devoured it and proceeded to hunt Pearce down on Twitter in hopes this was the first of a series. Happily, Pearce told me that she had another one coming out this same year. Death Bringer picks up immediately after the events of Soul Sucker and it involves the same main characters so there will be major spoilers for the first installment. If you haven’t read it yet I recommend you stop reading this review, go enjoy it, and then finish reading this review.
What do you do when you find out that instead of dying in a week at the age of 27, you are know going to live for a very long time married to someone who is practically immortal? Not to mention adjusting to marriage, something you knew was never going to happen, but you also have to deal with the results of spending the past few weeks as the most obnoxious co-worker ever. Add into the mix an extremely powerful being stealing people’s faces who has ties to her new husband’s past and Ella had some serious stress in her life.
I absolutely loved how Pearce didn’t cheat us out of watching Ella struggle as she dealt with the drastic changes in her life. As a result, Ella wasn’t shown in a positive light for a portion of the story but it made her emotional growth that much more impressive and believable. Of course it also helped that Vadim had lived long enough to build up an impressive amount of patience and he wasn’t reeling from the sudden changes in his life. Instead, he had to deal with his family and their associated political messiness as it spilled over into Earth and threatened all he held dear. Granted he made his share of mistakes but he was willing to give Ella what she wanted while reminding her that wanted their relationship.
I enjoyed the mystery and the associated mess as Ella and Vadim tried to stop the killer without losing their lives or freedom. The view into fae life and culture along with their willingness to use anyone they deemed weaker or who bargained poorly really explained a lot about Vadim. It also made his restraint Earthside around Ella and her co-workers very impressive. Pearce also did not make the solution to the magical murders an easy one. It required Ella and Vadim to trust each other, work together, and decide what they wanted most.
Death Bringer was an enjoyable sequal to Soul Sucker. Pearce expanded her world and really made Ella and Vadim work to continue to build their relationship together. In some ways it was as if they were going through the prescribed order of things backwards. Meet, get married, meet the parents, save the world, and start to really know each other. The character and world development along with new reveals continued to keep the pace moving. I am rather curious about how the events in this installment are going to affect what happens next. So again I am left hoping that Pearce continues this series.
Publisher: Samhain Publishing Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the author
There’s no easy cure for a love of epidemic proportions.
Zuri and her mercenary brothers had a simple mission. Transport a captured harbinger to Erania and collect the bounty. But this job turns out to be anything but easy.
Their welcome to the northland is nothing short of frigid. A scuffle with border guards and her prisoner’s attempted escape leave Zuri injured—and she and her brothers stuck in quarantine. Worse, the bounty comes with silken strings attached. Strings held by a scientist with a daring, dangerous plan.
Because Zuri and her prisoner barged in before his fail-safes were in place, Henri had no choice but to lock them all down until he’s sure there’s no risk of spreading plague. He’d planned to study the harbinger, but it’s the mercenary holding the leash who intrigues him the most.
When Henri’s experiment goes awry, they learn they’ve all been pawns in a plan with one goal: bring the Araneae Nation to its knees. Zuri is forced to make a choice that could sign her death warrant—or sacrifice everyone she loves.
Product Warning: This book contains a chair-bound heroine who won’t let anyone—least of all a man—push her around. Expect tea-drinking, net-tossing, and knife-wielding. Should you feel compelled to indulge in a bear ride, please keep your hands on the reins and your feet in the stirrups. Author not responsible for possible maulings. This blurb came from the author’s website.
If you have been following this blog over the past few years you might have noticed the name Hailey Edwards popping up on a fairly regular basis. I have been hooked on this series since I read the first one, A Hint of Frost. The characters, the world-building, and mysterious deadly illness sweeping over the land were all intriguing. Since this is a tightly connected series with each book building on the events of the previous ones, there will be spoilers for earlier installments. I strongly recommend that you start at the beginning of this series instead of jumping in part way. I thought events had pretty much come to a head in the last book, A Time of Dying, with the discovery that this disease was created, spread on purpose, and meant far more than just death to most of its victims. Boy was I wrong. Edwards has continued to raise the stakes even as she circled back around to provide a glimpse of life at the site of her opening story and how it has changed over the passage of time.
I was introduced to Zuri and her companions in the last book but didn’t see them as much more than skilled guards. It was fascinating seeing into what shaped them and their dynamics not just as a mercenary band but as a family unit. Some of the same traits that kept them together led to issues when they were confronted with an intelligent foe who would stop at nothing to win. I loved Zuri’s fierce loyalty to those she cared about even when they made her feel like an outsider. She was willing to give her all for her family and as a result made some interesting decisions.
Henri, was one of the minor supporting characters in A Hint of Frost, but like other skilled authors, Hailey included his scene there for a reason. He was very smart and somewhat overconfident. While he seemed to enjoy talking about his experiments, he tended to withhold crucial pieces of information, which caused some issues to those around him as the story developed. Even though I supported Zuri’s anger and hurt by his actions, I could understand his reasoning based on the threat they faced and how he was treated during his formative years. I loved his patience and care for Zuri and her brothers as he tried to make amends for events that occurred because of his secretiveness. I did get a bit frustrated when Henri remained oblivious of a certain reoccurring event but as the danger to his clan sharply increased, I understood why.
I thought the interaction between Zuri, Henri, and her brothers was a lot of fun. Zuri and Henri had a push-pull relationship with one acting on their mutual physical attraction while the other pulled back and then they switched places. The push-pull meant they moved from just physical attraction to emotional closeness before fully acting on their attraction. In the meantime, Henri developed a bond with her brothers which gave him some insights into their family dynamic but also made it harder to gain Zuri’s trust. I also thought the conversations and teasing between Zuri and her brothers demonstrated a very tight bond. As Zuri shared their history and the responsibility she carried I was drawn into their dynamic even more. The closeness between the main characters made certain events even more gut-wrenching as they unfolded.
In addition to the slow growing romance between Zuri and Henri, I enjoyed the overall story progression. Hailey introduced a couple of very fascinating new characters I hope get their own story. The twist they brought in addition to what happened with Zuri and Henri is really moving this series in a new direction I think. I also found the harbinger’s newly demonstrated abilities very unsettling and perhaps indicative of the growing complex problem facing the Araneae Nation. I am not quite sure how this is going to play out which is another thing I enjoy with this series as a whole.
A Breath of Winter was another strong installment in Hailey’s Araneae Nation. I am glad that she is able to keep me guessing and hooked on her characters and world. While the installments build on each other, I have a hard time predicting where Hailey is going next which helps keep my anticipation high for each succeeding story. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Publisher: Self-published Publish Date: Out now How we got this book: ARC from the author
Do you believe in dragons? Werewolf cop Rick Lupone would say no . . . until a dying faerie tells him the fate of his city depends on him. If he can’t protect a mysterious woman in peril, everything may be lost. The only discovery more shocking is that the woman he’s meant to save is his high school crush, Cass Maycee.
Half fae Cass didn’t earn her Snow White nickname by chance. All her life, her refusal to abuse fae glamour kept men like Rick at arm’s length. Now something new is waking up inside her, a secret heritage her pureblood father kept her in the dark about. Letting it out might kill her, but keeping it hidden is no longer an option. The dragons’ ancient enemies are moving. If they find the prize before Rick and Cass, the supe-friendly city of Resurrection just might cease to exist. This blurb came from the author’s website.
E: When I got a note from Holly letting me know about Hidden Dragons I had to say. I mean the combination of Holly, dragons, and her Hidden world and I couldn’t resist. As I have said previously I have enjoyed Holly’s writing for a very long time. I followed her from traditional to self-publishing and continue to have the same level of enjoyment. It is evident that she puts a lot of time and effort into ensuring that the published book is a very high quality and I appreciate that. It allows me to sink into the world, story, and characters without becoming distracted by administrative errors. Hidden Dragons goes back to Resurrection and the werewolf police team that started this series. I have enjoyed the different personalities within the pack and how they are slowly finding rather unusual partners. In this particular story a long hidden high school crush gets the opportunity to bloom under dangerous conditions.
Has: I love the Hidden world, the characters and world-building that Holly created is rich and imaginative. So I also felt the same way when I heard that dragons were going to be featured in the next installment in this series. And oh how they added a fantastic tone to the story as well as highlighted the more fantasy elements of the series which was more paranormal in feel.
The main couple, were also great! I loved that we got to see more of the Lupone brothers and Rick who is the main hero in this book really shines as the beta cop who finds himself protecting his high-school crush. While Cass who also reciprocated his feelings during school is a fun and intelligent heroine and I loved the moment when they both realised their feelings for each other which was very sexy and sweet. Emma Holly has a real gift with sensual scenes and the romantic tension between Cass and Rick was fantastic!
E: Watching the unfolding of their relationship especially the realization that each had admired the other was a lot of fun. I also found myself intrigued by the mixture of legend, children’s tv/fairy tales, and what was actually happening. Holly also put an interesting twist on the dangers or benefits of accepting a gift from the fae. I thought Rick did a great job as a Beta hero by demonstrating the caring and also tenacious aspects of his personality. He was strong enough to protect but felt no need to have the monopoly on good ideas. At the same time he wasn’t going to let Cass get away with ignorance and refusing to acknowledge that she knew the answers to their problems.
Cass was also an intriguing character. She had several other half-Fae friends that she was close to but she avoided any emotional or other entanglements with men. And yet despite that closeness she spent most of her adult life away from Resurrection, her home. She also never pushed her father for information or to involve himself more in her life. However, one of the things I didn’t like about her was that when she was stressed, she defaulted to using her fae glamour or power. The same power she used as an excuse to stay away from men. I am going to talk about that a little more later because I think it was an important plot thread.
Has: I really like the emphasis and the details that Emma Holly gave to the reader, especially with the mythology of the fae such as lying which Cass experienced a backlash everytime she lied to herself or to others. The little details like this really cemented the world-building for me. And I liked that we learn more about the fae because in previous books, the fae were a race which appeared to be mysterious and enigmatic and I loved that we got more insight into their race and their origins in Resurrection.
I really like Rick, because he was in the sense, a true protector without any of the alphaholish characteristics but I find that most of Holly’s characters especially her heroes, are more likable and well developed. I think for me, I wished there was more of a buildup to their realisation of their feelings and I would like to have seen more of their feelings before they commenced with their relationship because it was a bit sudden.
I think with the way Cass dealt with her glamour and fae abilities was true to herself because it was something she used unconsciously. It was not till she was living on the Outside in the human world, she realised the impact and repercussions of her power especially on how she changed her ex-fiance. I thought that was an interesting aspect of her character and how tricky the fae can be. If she was more manipulative and selfish, it would have been a totally different story. I think I found her father’s agenda to be more problematic especially with the way he regarded Cass’ mother and the fallout over that relationship which was a huge price to pay.
E: I agree I loved finding out about the origins of Resurrection and some of the people who lived there. I also understood Cass’ father’s agenda much more because his life, his family’s life was devoted to his particular rule. And he had to do everything he possibly could to fulfill his side of the bargain. Yes, I am deliberately on the vague side here so I don’t spoil a large portion of the book.
I had much more of an issue when after everything Cass and Rick had been through she didn’t have any qualms about threatening to use her fae power on him if he didn’t agree to do what she wanted. For someone who professed to hate use her power on people and knew what it felt like to have someone use their power on her this was a huge shock. I also felt like she completely betrayed the trust that Rick had in her and only when she saw Rick’s reaction and that he had been formulating a plan that would accomplish what she wanted did she seem to understand the gravity of her actions. This struck me as the action of someone who needed to grow up a bit more. I don’t think she properly groveled and regained Ricks trust even though he professed to believe her when she said she had learned her lesson. I still felt that under stress she would revert back to using her power regardless of the consequences.
Has: Oh I definitely agree with you about that aspect of Cass but I do think she had genuine reasons on why she did threaten to use her powers like that. But I liked that this was an interesting source of conflict between them and I think if she ever did do something like this then its a loss of trust and that would have damaged her relationship with Rick. And that would be irreparable. I do think they both realised that towards the end and it was a contrast with her parents and how they dealt with the impact of her father’s abilities. It is not easy to be with a fae who has powers that could glamour and manipulate the people around them. But I do think Cass sees this is important that she cannot rely or even use her powers subconsciously.
E: Holly continues to provide entertaining reads. She also ensured the both the tension and stakes were high and continued to get higher as the story continued. One of my favorite scenes was when Cass decided to set boundaries on what she would and would not allow purebred Fae to do. She seemed to signify that they could no longer look down on and discount what half-Fae could accomplish. As I said earlier I did have some issues with Cass and her lack of groveling along with Rick’s acceptance. Yes, he did stay away from her for a while but I still wanted a stronger resolution. Overall, I enjoyed my visit back to Resurrection and spending time with the werewolf cops. I look forward to Holly’s next installment.
I give Hidden Dragons a B.
Has: I definitely agree that Emma Holly is a solid and entertaining author, and I continue to love each new story in the Hidden universe. While there was some issues with Cass and her father who I suspect might also be in the running for his own story in the future, I found the source of conflict was an interesting conundrum. The world-building was also fantastic and Emma Holly further develops the mythology about the mythical inhabitants in Resurrection. And Hidden Dragons definitely offers a different overtone in this ongoing series, which had a sweet and passionate romance which had great touches of humour!
Publisher: Book View Cafe Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: Purchased
“When you have the Gift, your life is not your own.”
I was born to a family that harnessed the winds and could read futures in fire and water. Yet my mother kept her secrets.
Then the werewolf came, sharing his madness.
Now it’s my turn to keep secrets…. ********* Descended from powerful magic-users, but ignorant of her heritage, young Alfreda Sorensson learns magic and wisdom from her extended family in an alternate early 1800s Michigan Territory. This blurb came from Book View Café.
I have been relatively vocal about saying that if an author has a website, they don’t need to have a blog just a place for me to find out what is coming out next, what is out now, what was out in the past and where I can buy them. However, if an author does have a blog one of the things I love is seeing what they have read and enjoyed. I was browsing through Laura Anne Gilman’s blog about five months ago when she had a book recommendation post. She was recommending Night Called and made mention that she felt it belonged on the shelf with The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley. I you have been following us for a while you know that I absolutely LOVE Robin McKinley and tend to re-read both The Hero and The Crown and The Blue Sword on a regular basis so that statement sent me on a clicking frenzy to get to the blurb. I really don’t know why I bothered to read the blurb because the combination of who recommended it and the recommendation itself I knew I was going to buy it. Life happened to get in my reading way so I didn’t manage to read Night Calls until after the New Year when I was dealing with the post holiday slump. After I finished reading it I knew three different things. First, I really hoped she Kimbriel was writing more Alfreda stories. Second, I HAD to review this and spread the word. And finally Gilman gives good book recs.
Night Calls is like an epic fantasy/alternate historic world coming of age with a heroine as the central character. Alfreda lived in a rather small town and dealt with the usual trials and tribulations of growing up and trying to fit in while being slightly different. Then after the visit by a werewolf Alfreda learned she was part of a world that she didn’t know existed. This was a world well known to her family, but her mother’s fears about the very real dangers kept Alfreda ignorant until it became obvious she was in even more danger with her lack of knowledge. Not only was she in danger, but for some reason her town seemed to attract a growing number of creatures or supernatural entities who thought of humans as prey.
Told from Alfreda’s perspective as she learns about this new aspect to hear world and the role she can play in it I found this story an absolute delight. Alfreda did not have all the answers, nor was she all-powerful but she was determined to learn and do the best she could to help deal with the problems. In addition to learning about her abilities, Alfreda was still dealing with school, first crushes, and adults disregarding her thoughts because of her age. I loved the combination of challenges both in her day-to-day life and in her training/apprenticeship.
Kimbriel also created a very interesting world. The merging of magic and supernatural with rustic historic living and superstition was very deftly done. I enjoyed the hints that not all supernatural was evil and sometimes what appeared evil was created by humanity itself. The supporting cast was also evenly balanced, they weren’t all good, bad, or indifferent but appeared to be fully fleshed out. I also think several other families from Alfreda’s town have secrets of their own I am looking forward to discovering. While the focus of the story is Alfreda, her training came from both men and women, which I loved because it showed gender wasn’t a limitation.
Night Calls was a wonderful reminder of why I read epic coming of age fantasy for years and still hope to find that sense of adventure and wonder. I will also agree with Gilman that Night Calls is one I plan to re-read right along with McKinley’s stories. I am looking forward to Alfreda’s continuing adventures.
Publisher: Carina Press Publish Date: 7 Oct How we got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
A human trapped in the world of Faerie, in possession of magic I could not control, I made a bargain for my life: to let the dangerously sensual fae noble known as Rogue sire my firstborn. And one does not break an oath with a fae. But no matter how greatly I desire him, I will not succumb. Not until I know what will happen to the child.
Though unable-or unwilling-to reveal the fate of human-fae offspring himself, Rogue accompanies me on my quest for answers. Along the way he agrees to teach me to harness my power, in exchange for a single kiss each day and sleeping by my side each night. Just as I am about to yield to temptation, I find myself in a deadly game of cat and mouse with an insane goddess. Now my search for the truth will lead me to the darkest of all Faerie secrets. This blurb came from the author’s website.
E: So a while ago I read and absolutely loved the first Covenant of Thrones book, reviewed here with Has Rogue’s Pawn. I enjoyed it so much that I started pestering poor Kennedy about the sequel. Time passed and she notified us that she would be writing more in this series so I was really excited and then she made me wait. Happily Rogue’s Possession is now out and I have to say that once again Kennedy blew me away. I stayed up into the wee hours of a workday morning because I was so hooked. I am recommending that you read the first installment before you start this one because they are very closely entwined.
Has: I also had a very sleepless night finishing this book because the world that Jeffe Kennedy created was so rich and full of seductive and imaginative details that I just didn’t want the book to end. But I so totally agree about reading or rereading in my case the first book, Rogue’s Pawn because this installment really felt like the middle of the story and it was a true follow-up in the trilogy. And this is a series which has rich and vivid characters and an intricate plot, and I loved that the dreamy but dark overtones from the first book continues to be strong in Rogue’s Possession.
E: Gwynn has been struggling with the rules of the world she stumbled into, sometimes winning and sometimes losing. Agreements and interpretation of agreements are all subject to how much power you have, allegiances, and how well you are able to think around the obvious linear answer. Gwynn is at a severe disadvantage because of agreements made in the first book and her lack of knowledge about exactly what her magic can do. She serves Lord Falcon as his battle mage doing what he says while attempting to minimize loss of human life and therefore loss of herself. She also has an agreement with Lord Rogue that she will allow him to sire her firstborn child. He is very eager to make this happen in the fullest extent possible but she negotiated several years before she is required to comply. This also means Rogue has a vested interest in keeping her alive and in as good health as possible. As she starts more intimate magic lessons with Rogue she starts to question why he is so insistent on fathering a child with her only to discover that he can’t tell her. But he is willing to bend/workaround/play with the rules as much as possible to help her discover the answer.
Has: This is one of the reasons why I really adore this series, because Gwynn is an intelligent and engaging character and actually used her wits to get out of difficult situations. And like in the first book, her logic and scientific reasoning is a touchstone in a crazy world, where the fae do not play by logical rules, but I do love how flustered or puzzled they become when Gwynn manages to turn the tables on them. I have to say my favourite scenes are when she has to outsmart the fae, who are pretty wily and tricky to interact with, and it was fun to see all the negotiation and sidestepping questions to get information. But I think the best ones are when she deals with Rogue and the way they flirt with each other by exchanging favours but within the boundaries they set for each other. The tension between them which I thought was hot and sizzling in the first book, was an inferno for this one!
E: I enjoyed the transition from discovering an entirely new world to one of discovering more about its inhabitants, what drives them, and exactly how even the little things Gwynn does have a ripple effect that grows as time passes. Gwynn also came more into her own with both negotiation and finesse in her magic skills. However, nothing, especially in this world, is gained without paying a price and Gwynn continued to learn that lesson. She was forced to face one of her deepest fears, move beyond her experience to take control of the situation, and allow others the right to exercise their own free will. I was really impressed at how much Gwynn grew over the course of this installment from a bewildered person who was basically a puppet with power to someone who was willing to bend the world rules to achieve what she wanted. I also enjoyed her interactions with Rogue even more this time. The initial power imbalance was starting to level out and Rogue’s perception of Gwynn had changed from looking at an obligation who was making things harder to a desirable individual who could become a partner.
Has: Yes! I loved that her character grew so much from the scared and confused woman to a woman who is embracing her magic and using her wits and not taking prisoners. I definitely agree with you that she was more of an equal footing with Rogue, in fact I felt that he was catching up with her a lot of the times especially in the first half of the book. I also liked the hint of things to come with her abilities coming to the fore and that it provided an interesting contrast with Rogue and his own hidden abilities. I really loved the synchronicity of that especially on how it interlinks with their power dynamics. I also definitely agree and loved that Gwynn faced up to one of her major fears in this book, and again highlighted how much growth and changed she underwent, but at the same time she didn’t lose her sense of humanity and empathy.
I also adored the new characters that were introduced such as Athena who joins Gwynn’s ragtag crew of friends and servants. It was interesting to see the follow-on effects from when Gwynn initially changed Athena to her becoming more self aware and developing a more serious and kick ass personality that lived up to her namesake. And Walter the Wizard, who like Gwynn found himself in the land of the fae and is a sorcerer, and was part of several of the most humorous scenes in the book which had me chuckling away. They both added colour and humour to the cast of established characters who were alive and so very vibrant that they leaped off the pages for me. I have also fallen more in love with Gwynn’s pet familiar, Darling. He really shined in this book and was part of one of the best combat scenes and who added his own twist in a lot of levels in the David and Goliath myth – when you read this scene you would agree with what he asks of Gwynn later on!
E: I loved the variety of challenges that Kennedy threw in Gwynn’s path and I have strong hopes that the next book will allow the aspects of Rogue’s character that I caught glimpses of in this story to come to more prominence. Kennedy created and continued to expand a very visual lush different world. She kept the action, tension, and romantic elements nicely entwined as the story progressed. Kennedy also included a couple surprising twists towards the end, well they surprised me even though looking back I could see the trail of crumbs. This was another great installment that was well worth waiting for. Now I can’t wait for the next one! I give Rogue’s Possession an A.
Has: Rogue’s Possession for me was a fantastic followup to the first book, and unlike other trilogies – this didn’t fall into the pitfalls of middle book syndrome but actually answered some questions and pushed the plot further as well as developing the characterization. I am also left on tenterhooks to see how things are played out because the ending brought many things into play, which I can’t wait to see what happens next. But overall, this installment was really highlights that this is one of the most imaginative, seductive and darkly sensual fantasy romances I’ve ever read. There is a real emphasis on the characters and the plot as well as the world-building which is explored in much more depth but retains the surreal and dreamy tone with great touches of humour as well as darkness. While the romance, which has a real sexual frission is more cerebral but leaves me wanting for the next book and I suppose the best things in life are worth waiting for! But overall I loved how this book ended which was beyond perfect and I cant wait to see what happens next with the eccentric and colourful characters that Jeffe Kennedy has created. This is definitely one of the most unique series I’ve read!
Publisher: Seventh Star Press, LLC Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the publisher
HARK! to the sounds of battle. Mighty men and women who take their destinies with the strength of their arm and the sharpness of their blades. These are tales of warriors, reavers, barbarians, and kings. Lands of wonder populated with monsters, black-hearted sorcerors of Stygian power, and heroes who have blood on their hands and on their steel. This is SWORD AND SORCERY. This blurb came from Goodreads
As promised when I reviewed the second volume, Sorcery, last month here are my thoughts on the first volume. I was looking forward to seeing how this with the focus on Swords differed from the other with a focus on Sorcery since swords were also present. I was also wondering if any of these stories would continue to remind me of working my way through my father’s collection of books.
The Horde by G. Jerome Henson Very interesting opening story. It showed the visionary results of a leader planning a long game or strategy instead of a short quick one. The central battle was at least 20 years in the making and reminded me of some historical circumstances that were also part of a long strategy.
Paper Demons by James Requard Unlike the first story, which was pure war, this had some elements of sorcery and mysticism. I found the unexpected twists fascinating. Yet like the first story each side felt they were superior to the other so they failed to take them seriously.
The Wolf and The Crow by D. T. Neal So far this is one of my favorites in this volume because it reminds me the most of raiding the grown-up bookshelf. Lone warrior standing up against the evil conqueror and attempting to rescue the fair maiden **grin**. Granted she wasn’t a weeping wailing thing looking for rescue but determined to face whatever came her way with strength which was another reminder of the Conan era stories. The women in those stories tended to use whatever they could to survive and make their own way and this was reminiscent of that drive.
Forest of Shadows by John F. Allen This one seemed disjointed to me. I had a hard time following the action because of the jumping between flashbacks and present time. I found it more like a collection of scenes than a short story. I also felt the inclusion of a certain character was very random and came out of nowhere.
Emissary by Marcella Burnard Enjoyable read with a strong heroine. I liked the added twists so things were not completely straightforward. I also enjoyed the inclusion of big cats and the need for judgment calls instead of just taking action. Burnard also included a subtle hint of romance.
The Dogs of War by David J. West Oh the Crusades, for glory and honor and loot and…yet in this particular story the struggle was more for personal loyalty and honor. It was an internal struggle so I found it fascinating that protagonist, amidst all the talk of glory and loot, was more focused on other things. Not that he was altruistic but he didn’t have the same motivations as the others in the story.
The Red Hand by Alexis A. Hunter Oh wow. What a story of betrayal, anger, sadness, and more betrayal. I think this one had a stronger sorcery thread than the others but began and ended with the sword.
Where the Red Blossoms Weep by James R. Tuck Umm so I need to check out Tuck’s backlist. The combination of battlefield gore, honor, death, and evil all came together in a vivid short story. I also enjoyed the touch of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” Or does that make my enemy my friend?
Thief of Souls by Loriane Parker This was a lot of fun to read. Love, revenge, sword-fighting, stealth the perfect combination in a short story. I need to check out Parker’s backlist.
The Gnawed Bone by W. E. Wertenberger This one reminded me of soldiers anywhere full of jokes, stories, sometimes crude, and always looking for a way to avoid the rules. Only in this case it slightly back-fired.
All the Lands, Nowhere a Home by Stephen Zimmer Loved the strong warrior woman and how she didn’t tolerate certain things. I also enjoyed the berserker aspect but found myself feeling cheated a bit by the hints of physical attraction and no action.
The Witch of Rymal Pass by J.S. Veter Sometimes it is better not to swear to the gods. Veter wrote a very interesting twist on murder and revenge.
Like most anthologies, I tend to find some stories I really enjoy and others don’t work quite as well for me. I thought as a whole, this group of stories tended to have some rather interesting twists so the tropes used remained fresh. Another thing I found fascinating was that fewer stories in Volume 1 reminded me of stories of yore than Volume 2. Of course that could be a result of my gravitating more towards stories that contained both swords and sorcery as I grew up. Overall I enjoyed this two volume collection and the change in scenery from what I have been reading lately.
I give Thunder on the Battlefield Volume 1: Swords a C...more
Publisher: Seventh Star Press Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the publisher
I vividly recall making my way through my father’s collection of de Camp, Burroughs, Howard, and Moorcock. I found myself fascinated by the fights, the life and death struggle, the importance of keeping your word, the value of revenge or justice, and of course the spoils of war. As a result when I was given the opportunity to review Thunder on the Battlefield whose forward says it was inspired by some of those same authors I had to say yes. I decided to start with Volume Two because a key element of each story is Sorcery which with a little stretch could apply to Science Fiction/Fantasy. Each of these stories also has a person or people doing incredible things for love, ok so it might not be love for a significant other like romance usually included but love nonetheless. Therefore, if you follow my mildly twisted logic this does fit in with our SFR Month. Volume One with the central theme of Swords will be reviewed next month.
NEGOTIATION by Jeffe Kennedy This was unexpected. I found the choices the heroine made fascinating and logical given the options that were open to her. This was certainly an example of playing the long game instead of reaching for a quick short victory. I am super curious to see if/how she will get around one of the stipulations and the results. I think I need to check out this series because it looks like it contains some very interesting aspects.
THE FOURTH RULE by Alex Hughes Ooh the price of command, trust, stubbornness, errors in judgment, and how fickle the willingness to follow through hard times really is. This was a short very poignant story and I think it is a good thing the heroine is determined because she has a rough path ahead of her.
THE RUINS OF ST. LOUIS by Selah Janel Very fascinating world and adventure. Again, there was betrayal but there was also comradeship and adventure. I really enjoyed the twist at the beginning and the sense of hope as well as forbidden romance that was threaded throughout this novella. I need to find out if Janel has written more in this world with these characters because this really caught my attention.
MARK OF THE WARRIOR Steven Grassie Sometimes it is the battle we fight on our own that means the most. The hero’s sacrifice will never be known to those he sacrificed for but he knew why and that is what matters sometimes. A very touching story.
ANGELS OF SCRAWL by James R. Tuck And now I completely understand why one of our other reviewers enjoys Tuck’s writing. This novella really did take me back to the days when I first found several of the authors that Tuck mentions in his forward. I enjoyed the twists and the strength of family.
THE CHERUBIAN, THE LINDWORM, AND THE PORTAL by M.B. Weston A very interesting look at a perspective of how humanity is protected from outside evil. In this particular case it was without betrayal but still involved the pain of command and sacrifice for something other than self. In this particular case I do wish I knew more about this particular world before jumping into the battle. It took me a while to figure out that some of the main characters were angels and not people fighting.
GRINDING THE GEARS by Brady Allen This one also reminded me of the Conan stories but it was written more like someone recounting the story of a legend that then merged into the actual event complete with the hero’s thoughts/feelings. As a result, I had a hard time believing in the altruism of the hero. I really wanted to know what was it in for him.
BLACK ICE by S.H. Roddey Very interesting. Once again we have a heroine and sidekick battling against terrible odds to try to save her people even though she never quite fit the role they wanted her to take. She had a lot of trust and faith in her sidekick even though she was blatantly the more dominant of the two. There was a sudden about-face at the end that I am not quite sure I believe is a true change. The potential is there but at this stage I am taking that individual skeptically.
THE TWO FIRES by Steven S. Long: This was a different take on sorcery as power from the Gods. It took a couple of different aspects and combined them together. Well written but not my favorite because there was mention of errors made during the crusades but no attempt to rectify them. Only the certainty that the victors had the more powerful God. I did like the manifestation of power but I think I like the idea of the victors becoming a bit corrupted by the civilization they conquer. I also thought a certain individual changed his mind a bit too easily about providing troops.
ACROSS THE WILDS by D.A. Adams A very fascinating almost coming of age story. I enjoyed the drive that the hero had as well as everything he faced on his journey. The descriptions were very interesting and I enjoyed the different micro-ecosystems. This is another world that I hope the author either has or will continue to write in.
DARK GENESIS by Mark Taverna: Oh magic and the power and corruption that you bring. An intriguing take on what someone will do when their existence is threatened and then what they will do when they realize what they have done. Not an entirely pleasant story to read but very moving.
WHORE OF JERICHO by Steven L. Shrewsbury: Some serious twists in this story. I enjoyed the well thought out justice. The antagonists certainly had it coming. And the final twist was perfect. This really was a great way to end this anthology. It provided a link from the barbarians of the fictional past to a much more recent past.
Like any anthology, Thunder on the Battlefield: Sorcery had some stories I enjoyed more than others. I enjoyed reading it overall because it was both a nice change from what has become my usual reading and a reminder of what inspired my imagination as a child. I have also found some authors whose backlist I need to explore which always makes an anthology a win.
I give Thunder on the Battlefield: Sorcery a B ...more
Publisher: Riptide Publishing Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
First rule in this line of business: don’t sleep with the client.
My name’s Kate Kane, and when an eight-hundred-year-old vampire prince came to me with a case, I should have told her no. But I’ve always been a sucker for a femme fatale.
It always goes the same way. You move too fast, you get in too deep, and before you know it, someone winds up dead. Last time it was my partner. This time it could be me. Yesterday a werewolf was murdered outside the Velvet, the night-time playground of one of the most powerful vampires in England. Now half the monsters in London are at each other’s throats, and the other half are trying to get in my pants. The Witch Queen will protect her own, the wolves are out for vengeance, and the vampires are out for, y’know, blood.
I’ve got a killer on the loose, a war on the horizon, and a scotch on the rocks. It’s going to be an interesting day. This blurb came from the author’s website.
After reading and enjoying Glitterland by Hall, I heard he had a paranormal mystery series with some interesting twists so I added it to my list of things to read. I found I was more comfortable with Hall’s voice in this story because it went back to my early loves of fantasy, murder, and mystery. As I was reading, I pictured the scenes primarily happening in black and white with the unexpected splash of color like Bogey and Bacall.
Hall created a very different world populated with interesting characters. He took everyday sights and sounds coupled with ancient history and applied a touch of magic to either explain their presence or to give them animation. I traveled to exclusive clubs, isolated boardrooms, wild forests, treacherous sewers, and several other not exactly pleasant places following Kate along her murder investigation path. Along the way Kate dealt with vampires, werewolves, witches, and the occasional other supernatural creature who didn’t necessarily have Kate’s best interests in mind.
I found Kate a very compelling individual. She was smart, tenacious and did not have the best taste in relationships. Kate had a complicated background. She wasn’t exactly human herself and the side-effects of her parentage were not exactly predictable or always controllable even when they gave her what could be perceived as an advantage. Her former partner was killed a few months earlier and Kate thought it was her fault. As a result she spent her days and sometimes her nights wallowing in her office trying to drink her woes away. Then a new client, a vampire walked in. Kate normally avoided vampires because she had a complicated past with them but she couldn’t turn down this particular case.
One of things I enjoyed in this story was how Hall flipped gender expectations around but retained the same title terminology so until you met certain characters you did not know if they were going to be male or female. This added to the difficulty of determining not just who the murderer was but also why the murder occurred. Kate’s investigation was hindered by interspecies rivalry and her own attraction to the powerful, deadly women who ran a few of the more powerful groups. It was at this point I felt the gender of the individuals involved really impacted what happened next.
The mystery aspect was also fascinating. I was initially concerned Hall would solve the murder early in the story but as the events continued to unfold what appeared rather straightforward became a tangled mess stretching over the ages and through a variety of worlds. Kate did have some assistance while she was investigating but I think my favorite was the animated statue and her skill with inanimate mechanical objects. She provided a lovely bit of comedic relief and I hope she is an enduring character in this series.
I said at the beginning that this book reminded me of Bogey and Bacall but there was a crucial difference. The Kate at the end of Iron & Velvet isn’t the same Kate I met in the beginning. She learned a lot about herself and made some decisions that will have repercussions on her life. A few of those were starting to develop as this installment ended. There were a few characters I wished were more developed but I found Kate and the world fascinating. I enjoyed seeing a different side to Hall’s writing and I look forward to exploring this particular incarnation of England in future installments.
Publisher: Thea Harrison Where did you get the book: Netgalley Release date: November 28th
The Bermuda Triangle. Pirates. The Peanut. What could possibly go wrong?
18145096Dragos Cuelebre needs a vacation. So does Pia, his mate. When the First Family of the Wyr head to Bermuda for some much needed R&R, it’s no ordinary undertaking – and no ordinary weekend in the sun. Between hunting for ancient treasure buried beneath the waves and keeping track of their son, Liam—a.k.a. Peanut, whose Wyr abilities are manifesting far ahead of schedule—it’s a miracle that Pia and Dragos can get any time together.
They’re determined to make the most of each moment, no matter who tries to get in their way.
And did we mention pirates?
For fans of DRAGON BOUND and LORD’S FALL, passion, playfulness, and adventure abound in this Elder Races novella
*blurb taken from Goodreads*
Thoughts and final grade
Lou: I got so excited when I learned that Thea Harrison was releasing a Christmas novella about Dragos, Pia, and their little Peanut. Dragos and Pia are one of my favourite couples of the Elder series and this novella was the perfect downtime to see how they interact as a family, and to see the softer side of Dragos who is so in love with his son. Pia wants Dragos to take them on holiday, and she sneakily plants ideas into the dragon’s head. This novella features a baby dragon, missing treasure, smoking hot sex, and a pissed off dragon who will go to any lengths to protect his family. Dragos and Pia are closer than ever and the romance between them has not waned in the slightest. Liam is growing incredibly fast, and his POV was so sweet. The ending was one of the most adorable endings EVA, and I will never tired of this couple so I’m hoping they’ll still have more stories to tell in the future.
I give Dragos Takes a Holiday an A.
MinnChica: I love both Christmas novellas, and all things Elder Races. Getting the two combined was an extra special treat!! Every moment we spend with Dragos and Pia has become a favorite of mine. This couple continues to be my favorite, and getting to see them with baby Liam warms my heart. I loved the way Pia cared for Dragos by subtly pushing for a family vacation. I loved the way that we got to see a few scenes from Liam’s point of view. They are so sweet and innocent and oh-so special! I loved the way that Dragos continues to care for Pia and Liam 100%, above all else. Their relationship is everything from sweet and tender to sexy and rough. The pirates were a fabulous touch that Harrison knocked out of the park. I can’t wait for the next in this series!!
I give Dragos Takes a Holiday an A
E: **Happy sigh** Some authors are able to transition effortlessly between novels and novellas. Harrison is one of those. She uses her novellas to give a glimpse of the the rest of the world or of the everyday and they are just wonderful. I was extremely excited to hear she was returning to the Elder Races world with a novella and even more excited when I found out it would star Dragos, Pia, and Peanut! After all Dragos and Pia introduced me to this world and Peanut has been around almost since the beginning as well. I loved getting a glimpse into the inner workings of the Culebre family. It was great seeing exactly how well Pia and Dragos knew each other and how they worked to keep each other happy. I also really enjoyed how Harrison has given Peanut his own personality and development as he grows. His reasoning for doing certain things was so very logical and made me smile. I also loved the intrigue/mystery and setting that Pia, Dragos, and Peanut explored during this story. It was wonderful to revisit the Elder Races world in this novella. I am adding it to my list when I need a Wyr fix but don’t have time to read a novel.
I give Dragos Takes a Holiday an A+
Has: I adore the Elder Races series and Dragon Bound is one of my all time favourite paranormal romances. So I was excited and looking forward to reading a novella featuring Dragos, Pia and the Peanut who has definitely captured my heart! Dragos Takes a Holiday was a fantastic side story which delved into the private and intimate look at Dragos’ family. The plot with the treasure hunters was entertaining and humorous. It was funny to see Dragos being all ‘dragon mode’ on the hunt for treasure and keeping up with a precocious and trouble-magnet baby son. There were some amusing scenes that I thoroughly enjoyed. Dragos Takes a Holiday was a fun, sexy and action packed novella! It was a great interlude in the lives of Dragos and his family which left me very satisfied with that last click for the final page on my ereader. I really hope we get more in the future!
Publisher: Samhain Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from Lit Connect
They just might survive…if they don’t kill each other first.
Once the future Segestriidae maven, Kaidi lived a privileged life. Now she spends her nights haunting cities ravaged by the plague. Spade in hand, she stalks rows of freshly dug graves for corpses…and then she takes their heads.
Her new life is caked in blood and spattered with gore, but it’s hers. At least until—to her fury—she’s caught napping.
A plague survivor by the skin of his teeth, Murdoch risks his neck to solve the mysteries left in its wake. Bodies have gone missing. Guards have left their posts and never returned home.
When he rouses a female dozing among the dead, he’s unprepared for the violence of her response. Or his. Beneath the grime, she’s lovely. Too bad the blood under her fingernails belongs to his clansmen.
He has no choice but to follow this alluring creature deeper into her world of winged beasts and flesh-eating monsters. She holds the knowledge he craves, but the price is high—and they may both pay for it with their lives.
Warning: This book contains one heroine in desperate need of a bath and one hero willing to wash away her sins. Expect threats, swears and general cursing. Love is a slippery slope, and these two are sliding. This blurb came from the author’s website.
In April of last year I was browsing Samhain’s list of weekly releases and noticed a story called A Hint of Frost. I read the blurb and found myself intrigued by the description of the world and the characters. So I started reading and immediately found myself even more intrigued because the characters had some spider-like tendencies among them possessing fully functioning spinnerets. I mean you don’t encounter such characters unless they are the villain normally. I couldn’t put the book down through its various twists and turns and immediately started looking for information about future books set in the same world. Happily Edwards has continued writing because I have enjoyed each installment. As a result when we received the request to participate in her blog tour/review I leapt at the chance. This latest installment has continued on Edwards’ path of keeping me both intrigued and entertained.
This thing called the Yellow Death has spread quickly across the country killing animals and people alike. Although, men and women aren’t dying or even getting infected at the same rates nor is this disease hitting all of the different enclaves with the same force. The remaining leadership has been scrambling to determine causes, prevention, and even cures against what seems to be a losing battle. Add in politics, secrets, tradition, mistrust, events that are so farfetched they must be seen to be believed, and a great mixture of strong personalities and I couldn’t stop flipping the pages.
Kaidi’s life took a very drastic turn away from the life she grew up expecting with the arrival of the Yellow Death and its aftermath. She discovered a secret kept by her promised husband and ran in fear of her life to some distant relatives. As the Yellow Death spread, she also stumbled upon an ugly aspect of the disease yet when she tried to convince those who knew her of the additional problem no one believed her. So Kaidi decided she would do everything she could to save other cities from what she discovered by beheading fresh corpses. As I am sure you could imagine this was a bloody, gruesome lone task and I had the impression that as time passed Kaidi was having a hard time holding onto the memories that she once had a different life. It was so fascinating to see bits and pieces of her personality start to emerge from the horror her life had become yet she never lost sight of what she was trying to prevent and her duty to her people. The way she was able to give on some things and yet continue fighting on others despite her obvious fears. How innocent she was in the game of politics and yet how fiercely she tried to play the game for what she wanted.
Murdoch was also dealing with a lot. He survived the Yellow Death but lives in a city where most of the women died and some of the surviving men are randomly vanishing. He was tasked to solve the issue of the disappearances but based on concerns about raising fear among the populace had to remain very discreet about his mission. I loved seeing this strong man struggle between his loyalty to his rulers, the worsening menace, and his growing attraction to Kaidi. Even when his suspicions about certain things were proven correct he meekly accepted his punishment without knowing how harsh it would be because he had done it for his people and his ruler. Seeing him shift from being so incredibly by-the-book into someone who was willing to take a chance for the greater good and yet pay the price was pretty amazing.
Edwards also threw in some very interesting side characters. I really hope one, well, make that two in particular get their own stories because they fascinated me. Both had some unexpected depths and secrets. In addition to new side characters, some previous ones made their appearance and played some significant parts. I enjoy seeing the stars of previous installments because they add a sense of connection to the world as well as allowing a glimpse into their evolution. Responsibility can change people to a certain extent so seeing the results of that weight on Murdoch’s rulers from their story just showed how Edwards isn’t letting her characters stagnate even when their time under the spotlight is over.
I haven’t really talked much about the plot here because I think discovering the twists and turns in this particular installment are crucial. If I say much beyond the blurb, I think it will spoil the story. I did really enjoy how Edwards introduced a few new aspects and how they seemed to tie into a suspicion voiced by a character in an previous installment. I am curious to see how this discovery will play out and the resulting chaos. I really enjoyed reading A Time of Dying and I look forward to what Edwards brings to this world next.
Publisher: Entangled: Covet Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the publisher
Luciana de Luca has a PhD in sass and gemology–and a problem. Her twin brother’s gambling debts have gotten out of hand, and a mob enforcer is blackmailing her to rob the latest, greatest mega-casino on the Strip. Although Lucy has worked her whole life to get away from her family’s grifter past, to save her brother, she dons three-inch heels and a sluts-r-us dress and struts into Alec’s Gerald’s casino, determined to put her long-forgotten thieving ways to the test again.
Alec Gerald, a shape-shifting dragon, has built the Crown Jewel casino to provide sanctuary for his people amongst the flash and awe of Las Vegas. Unfortunately, the sexy little thief trying to rob his gem exhibit turns out to be his mate, and he must woo her before he loses his dragon form forever. With enemies in every corner, and the all-important mating ceremony looming, Alec and Lucy must learn to trust each other, before time runs out for Alec and the rest of the dragons. This blurb came from the author’s website.
I was browsing Netgalley when the title of this book caught my eye. I saw the word “Dragon” and as I have mentioned before I have a serious addiction to dragons. I read the blurb and thought this story had the potential for some laughs, some suspense, some angst, and DRAGONs. In short I thought it was something I would enjoy so I requested it. Unfortunately, things did not work out as I hoped and I ended up having several issues with this story mainly the heroine, the pacing, and how things end with her brother.
I did really enjoy the thought of a huge Vegas casino complete with shows, various entertainment rooms, gambling, gem exhibits, shops, and great architecture. Given the expectation of Vegas adding dragons to the mix in plain sight and chalking it up to illusion/magic made me smile each time I thought about it. I loved how humans were scared and disbelieving at the first sight of a dragon but easily accepted that it was part of the show and not real. Made me wonder how much is out there that we refuse to see because it doesn’t fit our mental image of what we “should” see. Alec does a great job of playing on that throughout the book yet it ended up almost biting him in the rear a few times when it came to Lucy. I also liked his struggle between what his dragon self was telling him and what his human brain was telling him when it came to dealing with his attraction to Lucy. I was not as happy when his dragon self provided the stronger impulse and took Lucy’s role-play as her acceptance of their future together. This led to some easily avoidable issues between the two of them.
Lucy received a much more mixed response from me. I loved the fact that she was a gemologist, knew how to pick pockets and locks, and could stand up for herself against Alec. But, that did not outweigh the things I found about her that I did not enjoy. In my opinion, she took an extended journey in the TSTL category when she continually tried to help her brother, Joel, and his schemes with the Vegas mobsters. This was after a lifetime of him using their childhood misery as a prod to convince her to join in. He seemed to tell her several times that he was never going to stop trying to gamble or get rich quick illegally. Yet she kept telling herself that he would stop after each one when instead he dragged her deeper and deeper. It seemed like Lucy was a smart intelligent individual but when her brother came around she started drinking stupid water and didn’t stop until he left. Even when she was committing or planning to commit crimes for him, she knew it was wrong and it wasn’t going to fix things. Lather, rinse, repeat. I had hopes that when she called Joel begging for his help and he refused that she would see the truth about him but she didn’t. It took the threat of losing her memory about dragons before she finally started believing that she needed to stop enabling Joel and his schemes. Because of her extended stay in TSTL territory I was unable to actually like Lucy as the heroine. I am not upset at her family loyalty and trying to help her brother but what really bothered me was the extent of her help into illegal actions whose consequences threatened her dreams, not those of her brother.
I mentioned earlier that I had a problem with the pacing of this story. The bad guy, major source of external conflict for both Alec and Lucy, was killed about two thirds of the way into the story. This meant for the last third, the action and emotional suspense was powered by internal conflict with a sprinkling of Joel on the side. This part really did not work for me because I felt the internal conflict was a result of not communicating and Lucy’s obsessive misplaced loyalty. Both of which dragged out for far too long. Alec never accepted responsibility for his portion of their lack of communication and even when Lucy did make her decision to stop assisting her brother, she did it very quietly and subtly while leaving the door wide open for him to come back into her life without cleaning up his act. Even though he almost ruined his sister’s life he got away with the possibility of his own HEA, no punishment, and no lessons learned. This offended my sense of justice because I felt that he would continue to try to coerce his sister the next time one of his schemes started failing.
Scott built a fascinating world with the dragons and their structure. Each extended group had different abilities corresponding to the different elements and had matching colors. They also tended to live in separate parts of the earth but Alec was trying to unite them in one safe location. I also found it fascinating that only at certain intervals in a certain ritual could dragons find their mate. Male dragons without a mate eventually lost the ability to shift into a dragon while female dragons did not suffer from the same problem. I thought this was very interesting and allowed the women to determine how things would go not the men. I was curious about the interval between mating ceremonies, if it was with the same partner each time, if a partner died during the interval what happened to the survivor, and a few other things. I was also curious about the reasons behind some of the supporting characters and their search for a mate or avoidance of a mate. A few of Scott’s characters also mentioned magicians and magic and hinted at the possibility that magical abilities of a sort were in the blood of both Lucy and her brother Joel but nothing more was said about it. This also left me wondering.
Luck of the Dragon has a neat premise and a fascinating world. I think Scott has a wide range of characters and possibilities to continue writing in this particular world. However, I found that her characterization and pacing to be problematic so I was unable to enjoy this story as I had hoped. Given how the blurb hit several things that I tend to enjoy and the result of my reading, I am not sure if I will pick up another of her books without reading some reviews first.
Publisher: Zebra Publish Date: Out now How we got this book: eARC from the publisher via Netgalley
In this brilliant new novel in the Deadglass series, a fierce young woman’s quest entangles her in an apocalyptic endgame—and unexpected desire…
Grace Mercer’s unmatched wraith-killing ability made her the unofficial defender of a city shattered by supernatural catastrophe. So there’s no way she’ll allow the new regent of Seattle’s most powerful dragon shifter clan to “protect” her from a vicious evil stalking the ruined streets—and keep her from the freedom she’s risked everything to earn.
Leif’s science-honed instincts tell him Grace is the key to keeping shifters and humans safe. But helping this wary fighter channel her untapped power is burning away the dragon’s sensual self-control and putting a crucial alliance at risk. Soon the only chance Leif and Grace will have to save their world will be a dangerously fragile link that could forever unite their souls…or consume all in a storm of destruction.
This blurb came from Goodreads.
E: I had the first book in this series on my wishlist for a while because I thought the premise looked very fascinating. When this came up for review I went ahead and asked for it because I was reminded of my interest in the series. When I went back to read Hearts of Darkness I realized that I had read the prologue last year and thought the world building was complicated and potentially very interesting. Plus there were dragons. The first book ended with a sudden shift in the world order. The previous ruler was killed and a large portion of the infrastructure destroyed in a huge battle and the aftermath. Leif grew up interested in science and technology not in ruling so all of a sudden he has inherited his brother’s kingdom and its associated problems. The humans don’t trust the dragons or the Kivati. The Kivati and dragons are mortal enemies. The dragons think the humans are below them. However, all three species are at risk from an ancient god named Kingu who has been pulling strings as he tries to return to earth in a corporeal form. If they want the world to survive they have to start working together which is almost impossible.
MiscJoy: I also thought the premise looked fascinating and was excited to get a review copy of Hearts of Shadow. What hooked me in, however, was the author’s writing style. I enjoyed Brady’s voice and approach to the story development. She kept the writing active and the pace moving forward. Even though I had a few quibbles here and there, I can forgive much when the author’s writing style is strong.
I enjoyed how Grace and Leif’s characters developed both individually as well as together. I got a sense of who each character was as a person before the romance fully blossomed. I liked Grace’s spunky (if at times, stubborn) attitude and her courage in the face of overwhelming odds. I also enjoyed Leif’s progression from reclusive-scientist-cum-reluctant-leader to someone who fully embraced the challenge set before him. I admired both Grace and Leif’s willingness to make tough choices and find solutions to the dangerous dilemmas that faced them.
E: Leif’s political innocence really showed throughout this book and was evident from the very beginning because he thought that if he provided a logical plan/explanation than the others would see the necessity of working together to defeat their common enemy. However, the other leaders were used to playing politics so they didn’t believe anything Leif said. They reacted as if he was trying to arrange the situation to benefit him as his brother would have done. As a result Leif was forced to rely on one of his brother’s advisers who was an expert in playing the political game and who appeared to have his best interests at heart. I loved watching him transition from a pure geek to someone who understood the power he held and would use it as necessary but not in a self-centered manner. He was also a romantic at heart which I just loved.
Grace didn’t trust anyone. She had been abandoned and abused most of her life. She was extremely skilled at fighting and killing and knew some rune magic as well. All of that made her more determined to free herself from her indenture while doing what she could to save people from becoming a wraith or wraith food. As a result of her treatment from Leif’s brother Grace did everything possible to avoid him and when that didn’t work she tried to provoke him into behaving the way she expected. It was a lot of fun to watch her start to trust, learn what additional skills she provided to the struggle for survival, and decide if she was going to really live or just exist.
MiscJoy: Yes, it was great fun watching both their walls come tumbling down:-) Vulnerability is such a difficult place to get to and yet necessary for two people to come together. I thought these two characters arrived at that place of union in a realistic way and it was great fun to watch it happen.
Brady created an interesting world of blended mythologies. The Dragon society hailed from the Norse mythologies while the danger posed by Kingu came from Babylonian sources. While I appreciated this new and interesting mix, the presentation felt a bit ungrounded to me and I was confused a good bit of the time. At one point, I even had to go research the mythologies myself because it wasn’t clear to me what was “real” and what might be artistic license. I never really figured out what mythology the Kivati hailed from. The references to ravens and Thunderbirds could have been a loose tie to Norse mythology (think: Odin and his ravens), but they also could have been Native American. I *think* that the Kivati were in the Seattle area prior to the Dragon’s arrival one hundred years ago, but there wasn’t anything specific to really key me into the Kivati’s origins in a way that felt concrete. Having said that, I still found the world intriguing.
One little nit about Grace that got to me was how negative she was about her physical appearance (despite all evidence to the contrary). She was often comparing herself to other woman and falling short – her too skinny hips, her flat chest, her too thin lips, etc. And frankly, none of those “flaws” seemed all that “flawed” to me. I’m not sure if this was the presence of author bias leaking into the narrative or if it was used purposefully to show character-growth. There has got to be another way to show a character’s progression from insecurity to self-confidence than by focusing Grace’s internal dialogue on a litany of where she thinks her physical attributes fall short. There is one scene where Grace looks in a mirror to analyze herself and wonders what Leif is attracted to as if her only attractive quality is her physical appearance. While I acknowledge that this is not an uncommon thing for us women to do to ourselves, we never got to come full circle and see Grace acknowledge her value as a whole person.
E: Like Joy I found the world-building intriguing and also confusing. I can’t add much to Joy’s description of the various pieces so I am not going to try. Having read both the prologue and the first book I thought I was somewhat clear on the world until Brady included the story of Kingu, what he was after, and why. Kingu did not seem to fit into any of the pre-established mythology so I found myself floundering a bit although I enjoyed his story.
I did not have as large an issue with Grace’s view of herself because all she had ever known since the death of her parents when she was a child was abuse but it would have been nice to see that perspective also shift. I was more disappointed in the lack of growth and page time for Lucia. She had more page time in the first book (not the heroine) then in this second book (also not the heroine) but she suffered the most damage and she was a key character in the first book. Given her role there I was expecting to see her in a more prominent position here. Brady did provide flashes of her personality in the last fifth of the book when all of a sudden Lucia decided to have a backbone but to me that was too little too late. I also thought that Lucia’s betrothed regressed in his character with the actions of this book as well.
I think that Brady has created an interesting series but it currently suffers from uneven characterization and what appears to be an overly complicated world. I like the conflict between dragons, other shapeshifters, and humans because it adds to the tension but I also think that at some point the rulers need to work for their people instead of against. Leif and Grace have consolidated some sort of order amongst the Dragons but they compose a small percentage of the population. From the way that Brady ended Hearts of Shadow a significant struggle still lies ahead.
I give Hearts of Shadow a C.
MiscJoy: I’m with you there – I was like “who/what is Kingu and where did Tiamat come from all of a sudden and how does that all connect to the established Norse mythology?” and I spent much of the first half of the book quite confused about it all. But the second half of the book began to gel a bit more for me in that regard (in part due to my own research into Kingu and Tiamat) and I liked where Brady went with the mythology in the end even if it was an odd mixture. I thought the tension in the climatic ending to Hearts of Shadows was well done. I didn’t realize how invested I’d become in the main characters until I found myself misty-eyed at a poignant scene during the battle. I also agree with E that the secondary characters in this book were not fully formed leaving me wondering who they’d become, what their current motivations were in this story and why were they only playing cameos — all things I never really figured out as it pertained to Emory Corbette, the leader of the Kivati’s even though he seemed to play a pivotal role (albeit behind the scenes). Perhaps the next book will go into more detail about what’s happening there.
Problems with mythology and nits aside, I really enjoyed this story, the interesting worldbuilding and both Grace and Leif as individual characters as well as their relationship together. Despite the areas I found confusing, for me, I always come back to the writing. As I said earlier, I can forgive much about the story itself when the writing style speaks to me. I will look forward to the next book because many threads have been left dangling and I hope that some of the things I found confusing here will be cleared up.
Publisher: Tor Publish Date: Out now How we got this book: ARC from the publisher
A world in peril. A bond deeper than love.
Psychologist Elizabeth Cole prepared for the worst when she accepted a job on a newly discovered world – a world where every colonist is tethered to an alien who manifests in the form of a dead loved one. But she never expected she’d struggle with the requirement to shun these “ghosts.” She never expected to be so attracted to the charming Irishman assigned as her supervisor. And she certainly never expected to discover she died in a transport crash en route to the planet.
Reincarnated as a ghost, Elizabeth is symbiotically linked to her supervisor, Murphy – creator of the Ghost Protocol, which forbids him to acknowledge or interact with her. Confused and alone – oppressed by her ghost status and tormented by forbidden love – Elizabeth works to unlock the secrets of her own existence.
But her quest for answers lands her in a tug-of-war between powerful interests, and she soon finds herself a pawn in the struggle for control of the planet…a struggle that could separate her forever from the man she loves.
This blurb came from the author’s website here.
E: When I read the blurb to Ghost Planet I found it fascinating. The thought of a new world, symbiotic ghosts, and of course a struggle for planet control intrigued me. I went into this without any expectations and I am glad because Fisher took her story in directions I never imagined. The combination of the ghosts, how they were treated due to the Ghost Protocol and what happened if/when people broke the rules was something else. This reminded me of some of the older science fiction exploratory novels of my childhood with the seamless addition of some romance.
Has: I totally agree with you about this book going into unexpected ways and I adored the premise which was refreshing and oh so haunting. The opening chapters of when Elizabeth finds out her fate and coming to terms to it had a stark and sad tone and I felt that Sharon Lynn Fisher really captured the emotions of grief and loss in a bittersweet way. In a lot of ways, this reminded me of a combination of Ghost and Solaris but Fisher injected her own unique twist on this premise and I freaking loved it!
I also loved Elizabeth’s stubbornness and determination in not succumbing into her fate and fading away and despite the melancholy tone which I have to say the setting of a New Seattle really adds to the overall theme of the story – there were also touches of humour, passion and life which helped to balance the book. The start of the romance between Murphy who is the psychologist who created the Ghost Protocol and ends up breaking all the rules to fall in love with Elizabeth was a fantastic and I loved how themes of love, grief and hope was explored via their unusual bond.
E: I agree the way Fisher started up the story with the initial attraction and then all of a sudden the change… I really liked how this was a case unlike most of the others but the logic fit. I also think that Elizabeth’s background was what enabled her to resist what the Ghost Protocol was designed to do. It also gave her a unique perspective that came in handy as the twists and turns continued. One of the early signs of that was how Elizabeth while promising to stop pestering Murphy started talking to other ghosts and reminded them that they were still alive in a sense with the ability to eat, feel, etc. That the ghosts could talk to each other and therefore experience some contact.
Of course rebellion doesn’t come without a price and that price is initially steeper then either Elizabeth or Murphy could have imagined. They got a very good display of how science can over weigh any thought of human decency but then the ghosts aren’t “human.” I have to admit that I thought the way a few scientists used Elizabeth’s knowledge of science and lab protocol against her inspired in a sick sort of way.
Has: And this is why I loved how Fisher explored these themes in the book, because it really delved into what grief and love is about and what if there was a second chance in regaining someone you lost? But it also didn’t have to be someone a person knew well or was very close to. I liked the fact the planet/alien entity also offered potential possibilities and seeing that Murphy and Elizabeth who were almost strangers on earth but had a second chance was interesting and I loved the dynamic they created with each other. It was also ironic but important to see that here is a human colony settling in an alien planet but trying to control and shape it into their ideas and conventions and not respecting or embracing on what it could offer. That message really rang out loud for me and it was important to see how it panned out over the course of the story but without it being a heavy-handed or preachy.
E: I liked that aspect too. I think it can be important sometimes to remember that just because we have a way of doing things that doesn’t mean that other ways are wrong or won’t work they are just different. One of the other aspects I liked was how Fisher showed things from different angles. We had the more benign side with the Ghost Protocol, then the dark side of the Ghost Protocol and experimentation, and then the ugly side of the flip in power/control that can occur when rage and hurt find an outlet without control. Fisher also showed through Elizabeth that no one had really made any long-term documentation of the results when a settler and ghost were permanently separated for failure to follow the Ghost Protocol. The ghost wasn’t really of concern but the reaction to the former settler was never considered. The long term reaction could have provided some evidence that things weren’t necessarily as the settlers thought they were… It took the combined effort of a lot of different people, ghosts, and outsiders to actually make a difference on Ghost Planet.
I loved how the solution wasn’t a single individual or idea but a combination. As I said earlier this reminded me of the science fiction of my youth. I want to say thanks to Fisher for proving that I still have that love and giving me several hours of enjoyment. I hope she provides more. I give Ghost Planet an A.
Has: Ghost Planet for me was a such a surprise, because although I didn’t have high expectations even though it had an interesting premise. I was surprised HOW much I really liked it because of how it approached themes of love and loss but exploring it in a wonderful way. When a character states “People Die. Love Doesn’t” – this really sums up the book and the characters for me. Despite it being a SF romance, this goes beyond a high tech and high speculative premise because it really examines the full spectrum of human emotions and what it is to be human. And at its heart, there is a fantastic romance, which has flawed but real characters who have been given a second chance at love and by finding it they become truly alive and I loved that message.
This has definitely become one of my favourite books this year and it is a standout debut by Sharon Lynn Fisher who has a fantastic voice. I highly recommend it because it was fresh, and different and it was chock-full of emotions. I want more please!
3.5 I think. Very interesting premise and world. I just think it got cluttered towards the end. I am interested to see future stories set here because3.5 I think. Very interesting premise and world. I just think it got cluttered towards the end. I am interested to see future stories set here because there are a few people I would love to see get a HEA....more
Delilah has certainly decided to start growing up. I really liked how this out of all the Delilah centric novels has spotlighted her growing awarenessDelilah has certainly decided to start growing up. I really liked how this out of all the Delilah centric novels has spotlighted her growing awareness of the changes in her life. Galenorn has repeatedly stated through her novels that the three sisters are actually quite young in Otherworld terms and this really brought that home. ...more
Publisher: Harlequin Luna Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
The end of her journey is only the beginning…
The Barrani would be happy to see her die. So Kaylin Neya is a bit surprised by her safe arrival in the West March. Especially when enemies new and old surround her and those she would call friends are equally dangerous.…
And then the real trouble starts. Kaylin’s assignment is to be a “harmoniste” – one who helps tell the truth behind a Barrani Recitation. But in a land where words are more effective than weapons, Kaylin’s duties are deadly. With the wrong phrase she could tear a people further asunder. And with the right ones…well, then she might be able to heal a blight on the race.
If only she understood the story…. This blurb came from the author’s website.
Hi, my name is E, and I really love Michelle Sagara’s writing. I have been a huge fan of her Chronicles of Elantra series since I discovered it **mumble** years ago. Following Kaylin Neya’s life and exploits as she just tries to do what she thinks is right provides me with hours of reading and re-reading pleasure. Usually there is a brief break between installments if only to let Kaylin heal and rest before diving headfirst into her next adventure but Cast in Sorrow picks up immediately after Cast in Peril ended. I thought that Sagara had left Kaylin and company in a relatively calm place to rest and recover but I was wrong because the nonstop action continued.
I found it very interesting to see how Sagara highlighted the difference between the Barrani who lived in the city of Elantra, traveled to the West March with Kaylin, and those who never experienced Kaylin before. Their very difference in outlook and strict adherence to formality was in sharp contrast to what she had experienced before, even in the High Halls. Some of that I think is because the West March is so very far away from the High Halls and it is another of those ancient Barrani holdings that exists for a definite purpose. The people and land of the West March were also scarred by the events of Teela’s childhood and its reverberating aftereffects.
The combination of Kaylin’s frustration and willingness to ask questions as she tried to learn her role and solve a few mysteries did result in some information about Teela, Barrani culture, and Severn. As a result, I am really curious about the rest of what Severn did when Kaylin left Nightshade so many years ago. But as events progressed it seemed like Kaylin couldn’t do anything right even when the results of her action were positive. It also seemed as if many of the usual laws, customs, and inviolable places within the West March lost their usual effect. The Barrani were besieged by enemies from both outside and within putting much of what made the Barrani themselves as a people at risk. When Kaylin’s pet dragon started demonstrating more of what made him equally feared and coveted I thought the stakes were even higher for Kaylin as the “Harmoniste” than anyone expected.
My review isn’t doing this story justice because so many things developed and some lingering questions from early in the series were finally answered. I loved learning more about Teela, Nightshade, Severn, and the dangers of tampering with things just because. I also found the inclusion of if not love than family loyalty despite all the Barrani said against those feelings played a prominent theme. One of the core elements of Kaylin’s personality continued to shine throughout all of her struggles because she never backed down from trying to protect those she felt deserved protection regardless of her personal feelings towards them. In fact some of her difficulties were caused by that protective instinct. Kaylin learned some serious lessons about what the Barrani will do in pursuit of their own desires. She also learned the importance of developing a strong enough will to hold her own against those who wanted to control her and against a hungry dragon. I think the Barrani and by extension, Elantra will never be the same.
Cast in Sorrow was a multilayered book. Kaylin was forced to make some hard choices. The Barrani had their lives abruptly changed so it will be interesting to see the future effects of the recitation. They also displayed weakness before two humans, which might have some repercussions in the political arena. Kaylin learned some of Teela and Severn’s past which I am sure will come into play in later installments. Nightshade also learned that directing or trying to manipulate Kaylin resulted in a roller coaster ride that deviated from his planned path and ending. After exhibiting some disturbing characteristics, Kaylin’s pet dragon changed into something that was still small and dragon-shaped but with unknown abilities. With everything that happened during this journey I am curious about the state of things with the Hawks and in the Fiefs because I know they did not remain static. Sagara’s storytelling ability continues to keep me hooked on this series.