Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Best of 2015

2015 was a year of change for me. I became engaged in November 2014, moved across country in February 2015, worked remotely for several months, and have recently changed jobs, bought a house, and planned my wedding. I didn't get as much reading done as normal, and because of that re-reads took up a greater portion of my total reading this year, but I enjoyed - thoroughly - my year in books.


It bothers me, a little, that the list doesn't have even numbers, but it can't be helped. These all deserve to be on the list (no matter if it's 'best of' or 'worst of' or even the 'bonus books' list which I couldn't resist adding).

Here are the book stats: (Through 22 December 2015)
67 Read Books
28 Re-Read Books
39 New-to-Me Books

Of those 39 New-to-Me Books, there were:
7 Five-Star Reads
7 Four-Star Reads
7 Three-Star Reads
4 Two-Star Reads
14 One-Star Reads (10 of which were DNFs)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Review: Grave Witch by Kalayna Price

Title: Grave Witch
Author: Kalayna Price
Series: Alex Craft, Book 1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 21 September 2010

Grave witch Alex Craft can speak to the dead, but that doesn’t mean she likes what they have to say...

As a private investigator and consultant for the police, Alex Craft has seen a lot of dark magic. But even though she’s on good terms with Death himself—who happens to look fantastic in a pair of jeans—nothing has prepared her for her latest case. Alex is investigating a high profile murder when she’s attacked by the ‘shade’ she’s raising, which should be impossible. To top off her day, someone makes a serious attempt on her life, but Death saves her. Guess he likes having her around...

To solve this case Alex will have to team up with tough homicide detective Falin Andrews. Falin seems to be hiding something—though it’s certainly not his dislike of Alex—but Alex knows she needs his help to navigate the tangled webs of mortal and paranormal politics, and to track down a killer wielding a magic so malevolent, it may cost Alex her life... and her soul.

I've been looking forward to this book for a really long time. I bought it when it first came out, and then it languished on my ever-growing to-read shelf. It wasn't purposeful, but I had so many other things to read that I just never really got around to it. So, when some friends of mine decided to do a buddy read of the series, I jumped in!

Unfortunately, this book let me down on multiple levels. The biggest of which was Alex, herself. She's just not a heroine that reaches out and grabs me, connects with me. I like that she's got some stuff going on, that she's strong and powerful - even more so than she realizes, as is pretty normal in UF books, but she still has some weaknesses to work out. I imagine they will be worked out, to make her even more strong and powerful, but for right now there are some pretty significant drawbacks to her using her Sight. And yet...she's boring. I'm not connecting to her. I don't care.

Then there's the love triangle. On the one hand, it's a better than most love-triangle, but on the other...well, I just don't buy it. Falin is an asshole, that I kind of hate. And Death just isn't there enough for me to buy his 'I love her' moment. Though, I'm currently rooting for Death. Weird. I don't know what to do with that. But I can't get behind a guy that says 'For a woman with your reputation, you're incredibly difficult to get into bed,' like she owes him something. Ugh. Rage-inducing moment, there.

The world set-up suffers in weird ways here. There's both too much set-up and not enough. Then you have the fact that every single thing that happens in the book feels contrived, I could feel the author's hand in setting up and pushing the characters through to the desired storyline. Nothing felt organic. Yeah, yeah, I know that this is fiction and the author actually makes this up, but I want to lose myself in the story. And I can't do that if nothing feels real.

I'm thinking that this probably suffers from first-book-syndrome. A lot of first books in series do. And I'm slightly curious to see if it gets better in the second book, if things pick up and I start to actually care about any of the characters, but not enough to actually pick it up at this point. I'll read some friends' reviews and see what they have to say before I jump back into this world. Finishing the first book was hard enough because I only had moments where I was actually interested. I don't want to do that to myself again.

Grade: D

Amazon | BN | kobo | Book Depository | Goodreads

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Review: Magic Stars by Ilona Andrews

Title: Magic Stars
Author: Ilona Andrews
Series: Kate Daniels, Book 8.5
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: Christmas 2015

Novella set in Kate Daniels world...

Derek Gaunt has no family and few friends. Scarred, solitary, he is the lone wolf who separated from his pack. When those close to him are murdered, he’ll stop at nothing to hunt their killer through magic-drenched Atlanta.

Soon Julie Olsen joins him and what begins as revenge turns into the race to save the city. Their search puts them against powers they never imagined and magic so old, it predates history. It may cost Derek his life, but there are things for which even he would risk everything.

I went into this novella knowing very little, except that it had potentially world-changing events within its pages. Now that I'm done - I tore through this on my (extended) lunch break today - I can definitely say that's the dead-honest truth.

I've long wanted a Derek book, and I've been 'shipping Derek and Julie, hard, for a very long time (since the metal rose). To say I was excited when I realized exactly who this would center around is a massive understatement. I could not wait to dive into the world. I thought, initially, that it would be told in Julie's point-of-view, but it's actually in Derek's, and I think I like that better. I think Julie might have begun to sound a bit too much like Kate, not that that would be unrealistic, but it would make it harder to fall into the story.

Derek has a very different voice. Different from Kate, Curran, and just about every other character I've read from Ilona Andrews. And I love that. He's himself. If you've read the rest of the series you know who Derek is (if you haven't, stop here and go start!), and exactly how Kate describes his scars - which is minimally. I like that when we get to step into other characters' heads in this series we learn a bit more about Kate and Curran as well. Kate tends to minimize things that others would see as faults or disfigurements in her friends and loved ones, and even though I suspected that, seeing how true it is in regards to Derek's scars was a bit of a revelation. I think an even bigger revelation, though, was the scars he carries on the inside. He hides them well, until we're in his head.

Julie kicks ass. I'm not usually a fan of kids in stories, because they're generally written so unrealistically. That was never a problem with Julie, she's always been exactly who she is, and it never felt forced or fake (like some kids do). She's grown so much, and seeing those changes in her is amazing. She's strong, and powerful, and smart, and absolutely, awesomely, self-assured and confident. I love her. A lot.

I won't say a lot about the plot because it is a novella and I don't want to risk spoiling anything, but I will say that a lot of new, interesting, world-building things appear. And a few WORLD-CHANGING things are revealed. I think I'd known some of the revelations from previous books, but the extent of the implications and knowledge of that was nothing compared to what I learned here. I can't wait to see how this affects everything going forward. Considering we're in the home-stretch of the main story-arc of the series, this story just amps up my excitement - and worry - for everyone I love in this series.

This book was amazing - I always enjoy the Kate Daniels' World novellas, but this one is something else altogether. I loved every moment and read it in one sitting. Now I just want more.

And I still 'ship Derek and Julie. Harder now than ever before.

Grade: A

Amazon | BN | kobo | Book Depository | Goodreads

Review: The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan

Title: The Great Hunt
Author: Robert Jordan
Series: The Wheel of Time, Book 2
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Release Date: 17 November 2009

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and pass. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow. For centuries, gleemen have told of The Great Hunt of the Horn. Now the Horn itself is found: the Horn of Valere long thought only legend, the Horn which will raise the dead heroes of the ages.

And it is stolen.

I think this series, so far, is presenting me with the hardest time I've ever had writing my reviews. I want to talk, and all that seems to be ready to come out is: "OMG! IT'S AMAZING!!!! READ IT NOW!!!!! I CAN'T STOP!!!!!!

I resorted to bullet points in my last review, and I'm not even sure that can help this time. So bear with me while I spew out whatever I can manage to get out. If you haven't started this series, just go to my review of The Eye of the World and GO START THIS AMAZING SERIES.

The Great Hunt picks up right where The Eye of the World left off, and very quickly ups all the antes. Even more so than the first book, I was locked in suspense for the entirety of this novel. I hated having to put it down, because I worried about everyone. Would they be hurt? How would they be changed? What was going to happen? There's too many people in danger! Gah! Help! It definitely wasn't an easy read, I was incredibly stressed while reading, but it made for one hell of an amazing roller-coaster of a ride.

The Horn of Valere is one of the most important things that needs to be found prior to the Last Battle. It recalls the heroes of legends to fight - for whomever sounds it, good or evil. Ever since the horn was first mentioned in The Eye of the World, I've been waiting to see what would happen with it. I hoped that it'd be our heroes that found it, sounded it, and couldn't wait to see the heroes of legend return. After hearing so much about them, from so many different sources, to say I was excited would be a gross understatement.

All of my favorite characters from the last book are here and we get to know them so much better. Plus, there are new characters that are given more time and more depth. Some we'd met briefly in the pages of The Eye of the World - like Bayle Domon - others, we hadn't yet met at all - Ingtar was a particular favorite of mine in this book. None of them has an easy path. Obstacles, despair, trickery, and the Pattern itself throws them all into disarray and sometimes complete confusion.

I still love Rand, even if I want to occasionally smack him and make him take three-seconds to actually listen. Two Rivers stubbornness, in truth. Mat's growing on me. Especially at the end, I think I might end up loving him. Perrin....well, I think when he truly accepts himself, that's going to be something to see. I can't wait for that moment. I absolutely LOVE Lan, and he's not in this enough - though when he is, they're awesome and impressive moments, that sometimes broke my heart. And Nynaeve. I love her. She's absolutely amazing. Strong and determined, stubborn and smart. I even grew to appreciate Egwene a bit more. She ... scared me at one point, and might have had one of my favorite lines in the book. And Min, I'd hate to have her ability, but I love her to death. I'm so glad we got more of her here.

Lanfear scares the shit out of me. She's not only one of the Forsaken, incredibly powerful, and crazy, she thinks that Lews Therin - her lover before he married - is hers. No matter the incarnation. You can imagine how this might be bad for certain other characters I love. It's not only that she lays a claim on him, it's that she so obviously doesn't even know the man she claims. I don't think she knew Lews Therin, probably why they never made it, and she definitely doesn't know his reincarnation now. If she did, she wouldn't go about her machinations in the way she does.

There's the Children, who I think I will always hate. Their superiority and self-righteousness is impossible. Not only do they punish people who have no reason to be punished, but they then decide that the 'sins of the father' be visited TEN generations down, and the 'sins of the mother' SEVEN generations down. Are you freaking kidding me? Actual children are guilty of things they know nothing about? You choose to be bigoted assholes. Maybe you should look for actual Darkfriends instead of accusing innocent people, or people that you just don't understand. Ugh. I hate you. I hope you all die.

But the real threat in this book, besides the Dark One himself, is the Seanchan. They arrive from seemingly nowhere to demand obedience and punish those who didn't wait for them - over hundreds of years - to return. This might not seem too bad, but add in the fact that they ride enormous bear-like creatures, with scales, three-eyes, and sharp, hooked beaks. Then add in that they're big fans of slavery. Not only of their servants (who'd rather kill themselves than live without their masters), but of wielders of the One Power. I think that's the thing that scared me the most. They chained and control women who should be Aes Sedai. I can't even deal with that kind of insanity. And the way they control them? I just can't.

I haven't even mentioned all the threats, there's still the Trollocs, and Myrddraal. And the various Darkfriends - which are in every aspect of this world, infiltrating some of the most unexpected places, which is scary as hell. There's the threat of the Black Ajah - an Aes Sedai that serves the Dark One. I know, WTF? The guy that I won't even name, because he might scare me a little more than the Dark One does.

All of these things, all of these worries, all of these threats...and I was nearly having a coronary while reading. Right up through the ending my eyes were wide with wonder.

I'll be starting the next one, soon. Very, very soon. I know I've got twelve books left, and there's a lot that can happen to everyone I love. I'm still worried, truth be told. There's a lot at stake, and they're right in the middle of it. Ta'veren. Pulling me in.

Grade: A

Amazon | BN | kobo | Book Depository | Goodreads

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Review: Faefever by Karen Marie Moning

Title: Faefever
Author: Karen Marie Moning
Series: Fever, Book 3
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 16 September 2008

Mac's quest for the Sinsar Dubh takes her into the mean, shape-shifting streets of Dublin, with a suspicious cop on her tail. Forced into a dangerous triangle of alliance with V'lane, an insatiable Fae prince of lethally erotic tastes, and Jericho Barrons, a man of primal desires and untold secrets, Mac is soon locked in a battle for her body, mind, and soul.

As All Hallows Eve approaches and the city descends into chaos, as a shocking truth about the Dark Book is uncovered, not even Mac can prevent a deadly race of immortals from shattering the walls between worlds with devastating consequences.

I never wrote a review for this before. How the hell is that even possible? Scratch that. I know why. This book is ... world-changing, heart-breaking, intense, mind-blowing. I'm not sure that I could ever begin to do justice to the emotions that I feel throughout it.

Even now, even knowing how things turn out, what happens and how it all goes down, I was on the edge of my seat for the entirety of this book, needing to see, needing to know.

Spoiler-free? This book is amazing. I quoted as much as I could without spoilering anywhere, but there's so much more that I wanted to. Even in this, dark as it sometimes is, there was a great amount of humor, and I wished I could share more of it.

If the walls come down completely, all the Unseelie will be freed, not just the lower castes that are currently managing to get through somehow. The most powerful of the Unseelie Royal Houses will escape." He paused and when he spoke again, his voice was low, urgent. "Myth equates the heads of those four houses, the dark princes, with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse."

I knew who they were: Death, Pestilence, War, and Famine.

Mac's Growth: I love how consistently it's increased. Mac doesn't just become stronger and better and smarter. She learns - sometimes difficultly - and grows organically. I know that some people have issues with Mac in the first few books, but I get her. Even when I want her to trust Barrons, I applaud her for not. Yes, he gives plenty of reasons to, but there are those times when his actions are more ambiguous. I love that she doesn't trust him just because. I love that she doesn't really trust anyone, except herself, and she's using all she can to make herself more self-reliant.

But left to my own devices I'd prefer to skim over the events of the next few weeks, and whisk you through those days with glossed-over details that cast me in a more flattering light.

Nobody looks good in their darkest hour. But it's those hours that make us what we are. We stand strong, or we cower. We emerge victorious, tempered by our trials, or fractured by a permanent, damning fault line.

I never used to think about thinks like darkest hours and trials and fault lines.

Barrons: That being said, god-damn, do I love this male. He's so freaking....everything. I can't even help it. The small moments of humour. The moments of approval. The moments where it's very clear he wants to help her become everything she can be. The way he ensures that she maintains her agency. And when he does answer questions? Damn. Love.

"What are you? I said irritably.

"In the Serengeti, Ms. Lane, I would be the cheetah. I'm stronger, smarter, faster, and hungrier than everything else out there. And I don't apologize to the gazelle when I take it down."

V'lane: I don't love V'lane. Never did. But in this book he ... became something different for me. He redeemed himself to a small degree, for a time...

"Your wards are laughable. They could not prevent a nightmare of me from getting in."

Sidhe-Seers: I love that there are more strong females out there. Females that have the will to make their own choices, even in the midst of crisis. This is probably my favorite thing about these books: Women are STRONG. Don't forget it.

"You are not one of us."

"I say she is, and she just got off to a bad start. She didn't have anyone to help her figure things out. How would you guys have done in the same situation? She's just trying to survive, like we all are."

The Plot: OMG. JFC. Everything's coming to a head. Things are getting real.

"Speaking of which, I've decided I see the wisdom of your advice."

"Has Hell frozen over?" he said dryly.

"Funny. I'm not going to ask you questions tonight, Barrons. I'm going to ask you for three actions."

Interest uncoiled like a dark snake in his eyes. "Go on."

This book was the hardest ending for me to read on my first read. It's dark. And final. And there was no Dreamfever in sight for more than a year. I had to wait, and speculate, and wonder. I'm glad I don't any longer.

Grade: A

Amazon | BN | kobo | Book Depository | Goodreads

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Review: The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

Title: The Eye of the World
Author: Robert Jordan
Series: The Wheel of Time, Book 1
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Release Date: 16 January 1990

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, and Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

For a very, very long time this series has intimidated the hell out of me. I first started hearing about it sometime in the late 1990s. At that time there were seven or eight books out (less than the fourteen that finalized the series), but I was scared as hell because they are DOORSTOPPERS, and there was NO END in sight. I worried that the series would never end. I worried that it'd suck and I'd be stuck reading thousands of pages of books that I hated (this was back in my MUST FINISH EVERYTHING stage of life). But most of all, I worried that I'd love it and be stuck waiting forever for the end (also back in my no-bigger-than-a-trilogy stage with a few exceptions). So I put it off, waiting for the right moment. I've had this book on my to-read shelf for nearly 2 decades.

Honestly, I'm glad I waited. I'm not sure 15-year-old me would have appreciated this in quite the same way that adult-me does. Even though I thought I knew it all and read far beyond my age at the time, I know there are ideas and concepts that just wouldn't have held the gravitas that they do now. I wouldn't have missed them because they'd have flown right over my young head, but it wouldn't have been the same experience.

I still should have read them long before now, but by that time the length of the series started to intimidate me for a whole other reason. It is SO LONG. Good gods, we're talking over ELEVEN THOUSAND pages in total. Eleven thousand. That's an epic story if ever there was one.

Thankfully, I have some friends that praise the hell out of this series and finally convinced me to pick up the first book and start my journey.

This last month while reading this book has been one of the best book experiences of my life. I'm not sure I can do a review justice, which is probably why I've spent so much time talking about my journey to this book. What I can, definitively, say is that it is very worth it. Maybe a bullet-review will help...

  • The World: I've read a lot of books. I've read my fair share of fantasy, even. I've never, never entered a world that is so intricate, well-built, and detailed as this one. One book and we've already seen and learned so much of it, but I feel like we've barely touched the surface. Not only is there a vast amount of geography to cover, there's a ton of cultures, races, species, and magic. The history here is so intricate that I have a hard time imagining Robert Jordan being able to keep it all straight, but he does, beautifully in this first installment. I never floundered over what or who something was, never felt like I was reading info-dumps of information, and was always glued to the pages to learn more, more, MORE.
  • The Characters: I tried, the other day, to say my favorite character and ended up with a list of about fifteen. There's such diversity and complexity to the characters that I can't help but be interested in almost everyone that I meet. I'm rooting for them, worried for them, and hoping that I get to see a lot more of each of them (with 11,000 pages, I should certainly see a bunch of some of them).
  • The Prose: This writing. Holy shit. It's lyrical and beautiful, sparse and pointed. It's everything it needs to be in every place it needs to be it. There are some passages that are so arresting I had to stop and re-read them several times before I could even move on. Not only is the prose gorgeous, but the writing itself is tight. You'd be forgiven for thinking that such a long book has some (large) amount of fluff, but you wouldn't be right. There's nothing extra here, just what's needed, and it makes the book fly by.
  • The Plot/Pacing: All I can say here is that I never wanted to put it down. I always resented work, sleep and my commute for getting in the way of my continuing this story. The pacing is spot-on, the plot is amazingly suspenseful, and in the end it's everything I could have hoped for.

That's all I've got. The rest is fangirl squeeing, and incoherent muttering about how fucking amazing this book is.

Now excuse me, I have to go start The Great Hunt.

Grade: A+

Amazon | BN | kobo | Book Depository | Goodreads

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Review: Sweep in Peace by Ilona Andrews

Title: Sweep in Peace
Author: Ilona Andrews
Series: Innkeeper Chronicles, Book 2
Genre: Science-Fiction/Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 13 November 2015

Dina DeMille doesn’t run your typical Bed and Breakfast. Her inn defies laws of physics, her fluffy dog is secretly a monster, and the only paying guest is a former Galactic tyrant with a price on her head. But the inn needs guests to thrive, and guests have been scarce, so when an Arbitrator shows up at Dina's door and asks her to host a peace summit between three warring species, she jumps on the chance.

Unfortunately, for Dina, keeping the peace between Space Vampires, the Hope-Crushing Horde, and the devious Merchants of Baha-char is much easier said than done. On top of keeping her guests from murdering each other, she must find a chef, remodel the inn... and risk everything, even her life, to save the man she might fall in love with. But then it's all in the day's work for an Innkeeper...

I think it's a fairly well-known fact that I'm a HUGE Ilona Andrews fan-girl. I try not to let this influence my reviews of their books, and in fact I think it makes me judge them a little more harshly in some lights, but the fact of the matter is that I just flat-out enjoy their stories. It's hard for me to find serious faults with them. And when I'm having fun, when I'm invested, and when an author can bring out the sort of emotions that Ilona Andrews manages - well, that results in an excellent review from me.

Dina's stuck in the middle of some serious peace negotiations - where neither side is really sure if they can even begin to compromise on their terms to reach peace. Each faction wants peace, I think that much is clear, but I think I've never had a fiction novel show me so clearly how hard it is to get to that when you've got years of war and devastation behind you. This novel struck at my heart for many reasons, not the least of which was the fact that war is devastating. I think that's clear from our current events, and peace is something we need now, more than ever. I find myself wishing that we could protect all of Earth's inhabitants with a peace summit - even one as difficult as the one here.

I wish I'd written this review yesterday, before I heard about the devastation that's happened in Paris, before I was reminded about how much we hurt each other on this planet. I'm finding it hard to think of anything else, now.

This is an excellent book. A great addition into the series, and I really, honestly, can't wait to see where they take us next. The world keeps getting bigger - when you have a full universe to work with, it should - and I find there are more and more characters that I care about and want to see a LOT more of.

The stakes are high in this novel, not just for the races seeking peace, but for Dina herself. If you've read The Edge series, you're familiar with George and Jack - we get quite a bit more of them here. And all I can say is that it's not enough. I need so much more with them, because it's more than obvious that none of their stories are finished yet either.

Ilona Andrews is my favorite author. With good reason.

Grade: A

Amazon | BN | kobo | Book Depository | Goodreads

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Review: Girl From Above: Escape by Pippa DaCosta

Title: Girl From Above: Escape
Author: Pippa DaCosta
Series: The 1000 Revolution, Book 2 (Serial)
Genre: Sci-Fi Erotica Romance
Release Date: 19 June 2015

"There’s no quicker way to get yourself killed than trusting someone in the black." ~ Caleb.

Caleb Shepperd knows Fran has her own motives for helping him escape prison, but he’s not about to let a little thing like past betrayal stand in the way of his next paycheck. Until he’s forced to meet with the sexy and psychotic pirate, Adelina Cande. They’ve met before. When he seduced her, cleared out her credit account, and left her for dead in-the-black.

Caleb figures Adelina holds a grudge when she plants a bomb on his ship and demands he steal a fleet freighter for her, that is, if he ever wants to fly again. Get him drunk enough and he’ll try anything once, but this time, he has to balance his own greed, with the needs of a vengeful pirate and the scheming of his dubious second-in-command, Fran. What could possibly go wrong?

In the heart of Chitec headquarters, #1001 enlists an eager young technician to aid in her escape. But it’s not freedom she wants. It’s revenge. The memories of a life that don’t belong to her demand she finishes what she started. She believes she killed Caleb, now she's targeting Chitec CEO Chen Hung, and not even the hopeful technician can dissuade her.

Synthetics don't make mistakes.

She thought she knew the truth.

She was wrong.

It's not often that a second book in a series (or serial) will get a higher grade than the first from me. This one does. And earns it. Partly because it blew through all my expectations and gave me something that I wasn't expecting - more than once.

Everything I said in the first one still holds. Our protagonists are not heroes - they're not good people, and yet....I still root for them. I think that probably says more about me than it does about them.

There's a HUGE twist at one point in the book. Something I did NOT see coming, and still really shocks me with its simplicity and I-should-have-known moment. Then there's the moment when I start to complain about something, thinking that one thing is going on, thinking that it should go a different way, and something even better than I imagined happening, happened. Hell yes. Loved it.

There's a lot of sex, or near sex, in these books. It's usually angry sex, without a lot of "good" emotions behind it. But it's freaking hot as hell. And, to quote my friend Navessa:
Also, I figure in a near-lawless space setting, sex would be as common as violence, which seems to be the case in these books. Now that I think about it, I tend to feel that way about any setting in which humanity breaks down.
It's a good point, and I definitely agree. Violence and Sex are BIG in this series. So is self-recrimination, questionable actions, double-crossing, and lawlessness. For a society that's supposed to be "perfect" with Fleet and Chitec...it's pretty fucking grim.

And the ending? I saw it coming, I knew it would happen from the moment the scene started, and still - I read that last sentence and groaned that I have to wait (at least) a month-and-a-half for the next book. I needs it, precious. I needs it, NOW.

Grade: A

Review: Girl From Above: Betrayal by Pippa DaCosta

Title: Girl From Above: Betrayal
Author: Pippa DaCosta
Series: The 1000 Revolution, Book 1 (Serial)
Genre: Sci-Fi Erotica Romance
Release Date: 21 April 2015

WARNING: 18+ only. Adult content. Including sex, drug use, violence, & swearing.

"My name is #1001, and I am not ready to die." I’d only just begun to live.

When Captain Caleb Shepperd is released from prison, all he wants to do is keep his head down and earn a living smuggling illegal cargo through the nine systems. So when a synth stows away on his ship, and brings with her a crap-ton of problems, including guilt-ridden secrets he thought he’d escaped, he’d prefer to toss her out the airlock. The problem is, she’s priceless tech, and he’s fresh out of credit.

#1001 is not meant to exist. Created for a single purpose, she has one simple order: to kill. But not everything is as it seems. Buried deep inside, she remembers... Remembers when she was human. And she remembers what Shepperd did to her. She’s not ready to die, but she is ready to kill.

Novel length: Approximately 43,000 words. 155 Kindle pages. 177 paperback pages. (Not including sample chapter)
Genre: Space opera.

I feel awkward reviewing this because it's not an entire story. It's the beginning of the story. It does have a nice arc - for which I'm thankful - but it's so clearly just the start that I almost want to wait until I've read the next 2 books (which should finish it out, I hope) before I review and grade it. The ending can make a huge difference in how I feel about the earlier sections. However, this part of the story still made a really big impression on me and I have to talk about it.

One of my best friends recommended this book to me - in all CAPS - and we usually are on the same exact page when it comes to awesome books. So I immediately bought this one, and the second one from Amazon. (Sidenote: $2.99 for under 200 pages? Not cool. I'm going to end up paying around $9 for a full-length novel. Ugh. Do not like. Anyway.)

I flew through it. Read most of it on my lunch, and then did some sneak-reading because I just couldn't stop.

The world is interesting, but a fairly light background to the story and characters. It's a prop for them to play in front of. And I'm okay with that here. I would like to see it further explored, and see the implications of the characters' actions dig deep into that world, but that's for the second and third parts to live up to, I think.

What really shines here are the characters - which is kind of ironic, because none of the characters are what you would consider "good" people. Caleb (I love this name, I hate when it's shortened to Cale) is our "hero." And I use that term incredibly loosely. He's a womanizer, smuggler, asshole. He thinks with his dick, and has little regard for consequences. He also has a TON of guilt and self-recrimination (justly and rightly so).

Fran, Caleb's second-in-command (and only crewmate, so the title confused me a bit) fascinated me. She's Caleb in a female body. Everything I hate about him, I hate about her. They have little regard for anyone, including themselves. They're destructive and assholes. But...I love them. They're the kind of characters that I want to see - not redeemed exactly, but whole. I want to see them have the contentment they deserve, whatever that may entail. I want to see them stop hating themselves.

#1001 was a mystery for most of the book, though I began to guess about a third of the way in, so I don't want to spoil too much. Suffice it to say that I'm most interested in her. She has a hell of a story, and I'm really, really, really looking forward to seeing how Pippa DaCosta brings it all together.

The plot doesn't seem like much of anything until you get near the end - which is why I say that this is a starter story. It doesn't finish much of anything. What it does do is pull you in, sit you down, tie you up and demand that you finish. It builds beautifully, and upon finishing I immediately grabbed part two. I'm already lamenting the fact that the third (and final) part isn't available until December 2015.

Grade: B+ (I reserve the right to change this)

Monday, October 19, 2015

Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

I love both of these covers. So much. So I had to share both of them in this review.

Title: Uprooted
Author: Naomi Novik
Series: (Stand-alone)
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: 19 May 2015

Naomi Novik, author of the bestselling and critically acclaimed Temeraire novels, introduces a bold new world rooted in folk stories and legends, as elemental as a Grimm fairy tale.

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

Where do I even start. I've had this book on my to-read pile for-ever. It's stared at me, urging me to start it and I, stubbornly, delayed. I wish that I hadn't. This is - easily - one of my favorite finds this year. It's an amazing fantasy book, told in the fairy-tale way.

Our Dragon doesn't eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that's not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he's still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we're grateful, but not that grateful.

I was immediately drawn into this world, it's so lush and vividly described. For some this might be a negative, as it's very much a fantasy in this aspect - the world is beautifully rendered, a painting that you could spend hours looking at and still see new details that maybe you've placed there yourself, and maybe the artist has creatively hidden with light and shadow. I could feel the pull of the land, the menace of the Wood, the heart of the stream. Even now, having just finished and set my Kindle aside with some reluctance, I want to re-visit this world, staying there to meander amongst the trees.

Those the walkers carried into the Wood were less lucky. We didn't know what happened to them, but they came back out sometimes, corrupted in the worst way: smiling and cheerful, unharmed. They seemed almost themselves to anyone who didn't know them well, and you might spend half a day talking with one of them and neve realize anything was wrong, until you found yourself taking up a knife and cutting off your own hand, putting out your own eyes, your own tongue, while they kept talking all the while, smiling, horrible...If someone we loved was taken by the walkers, the only thing we knew to hope for them was death, and it could only be a hope.

The story is classic fairy-tale, exactly what I was looking for and didn't even realize. Agnieska is the unlikely hero, set out to accomplish the impossible task. What makes this so much more than just another fairy-tale-like story is the beautiful prose that it's woven in. Time and time, again, I had to pause and simply appreciate a beautiful turn of phrase or description, or bit of speech from the characters. I felt each and every word that was written, as if the story had a life its own and was telling it to me.

I was in the Wood again, underneath the boughs, that cold hateful presence watching me. The momentary silence in the room was only its pause for breath. Stone walls and sunlight meant nothing. The Wood's eyes were on us. The Wood was here.

...But, and I hate to even bring it up because everything about this story left me full of wonder and marvel, except the romance. It was lightly incorporated, not integral to the story, and honestly the entire thing was fairly unnecessary, but I liked having it there. I just needed a little more to make it satisfying. In the end he felt too unwilling and begrudging about it, and she too forgiving and full of acceptance of his gruff behavior. It felt lopsided. Perhaps just another little bit at the end to show how it went from there? I don't know, but it left me hanging in a way that the rest of the story didn't. The relationship between Agnieska and Kasia was more nuanced and full of (obvious) love than the romance.

And I wasn't old enough to be wise, so I loved her more, not less, because I knew she would be taken from me soon.

One minor complaint, I've said it and I needn't think about it again - I'd rather go on and on about the lyrical prose, beautiful story-telling, and wonderful world that Ms. Novik's created here.

Grade: A-

Friday, October 16, 2015

Review: Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

Title: Halfway to the Grave
Author: Jeaniene Frost
Series: Night Huntress, Book 1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 30 October 2007

Flirting with the Grave...
Half-vampire Catherine Crawfield is going after the undead with a vengeance, hoping that one of these deadbeats is her father - the one responsible for ruining her mother's life. Then she's captured by Bones, a vampire bounty hunter, and is forced into an unholy partnership.

In exchange for finding her father, Cat agrees to train with the sexy night stalker until her battle reflexes are as sharp as his fangs. She's amazed she doesn't end up as his dinner - are there actually good vampires? Pretty soon Bones will have her convinced that being half-dead doesn't have to be all bad. But before she can enjoy her newfound status as kick-ass demon hunter, Cat and Bones are pursued by a group of killers. Now Cat will have to choose a side . . . and Bones is turning out to be as tempting as any man with a heartbeat.

This was an attempted re-read. I first read this book years ago. Sometime around when it first came out. I had issues with it then. I had more issues with it now. I look back at years-old reviews and I know that I was incredibly forgiving back then, but I don't think I realized just how forgiving until I read this. Back then, I read everything to the end, no matter what. Now I get bored and will gladly stop in the first few pages. In the interest of nostalgia (and remembering that I enjoyed some of the sequels a lot), I persevered quite far in this book, but still only to 57%.

This book is a strong mix of Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance. In fact, going by my own rules I can barely decide where I'd classify it. If it weren't for the other books in the series, which I know point more to UF, I'd go PNR. At any rate, plan on sexy times, a lot of innuendo (for the job, of course), and insta-love. Yeah, yeah, it's been a few weeks, but they still both fall in love really quickly. Cat is strong and kick-ass, with a huge chip on her shoulders about vampires. Understandably, but even when evidence clearly points in a different direction, that there could possibly be an exception to the rule. I liked her, but she irritated me at the same time.

Bones, well, I don't know what to say here. I remember loving Bones the first time I read this. He was swoon-worthy. Maybe he still is. He's stronger than Cat, of course, being centuries older, but he'd never really hurt her. And he doesn't want her involved in hunting down these really dangerous vampires - never mind that she seems to keep getting into the middle of it and probably the best way to keep her safe is to keep her close. He trains her, and gives her the tools that she needs to continue doing what she wants to do. I love that. But what I didn't love was how quickly he fell in love with her. Why do so many of the UF heroes like prickly girls. Not just strong-minded, but these women are genuinely mean and jerks to the hero most of the time. They give off mixed signals like they're a strobe lights. They are, in turns, turned-on and disgusted by them. They attack and then kiss. They run away, and then demand. But he fell in love with her the first time she challenged him. That'd intrigue me too, but love? Meh.

The storyline moves at about a snails' pace. It's soooooooo slooooooooooow. My gods, can't it get moving already? For all the tempting and killing of vampires you'd think something more would be happening. But instead I feel like I'm just reading page after page after page of Cat's internal monologuing. Should she or shouldn't she? She's disappointing her mother. She's shaming her grandparents. She's doing everything for someone else's life, instead of her own. I just want her to live for herself (and this is a complaint I remember having throughout the series).

Then there's the corniness. Keep in mind that Bones is basically Spike (as confirmed by the author at one time). There were too many times I rolled my eyes at their interactions. They felt forced instead of organic.

I couldn't do it anymore. So I quit. Even if I do remember the next couple of books getting better, I just finally had to admit defeat and recognize that it was over between us.

Grade: DNF / C

Amazon | BN | kobo | Book Depository | Goodreads

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Review: Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews

Title: Magic Rises
Author: Ilona Andrews
Series: Kate Daniels, Book 7
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 29 July 2014

No matter how much the paranormal politics of Atlanta change, one thing always remains the same: if there’s trouble, Kate Daniels will be in the middle of it...

As the mate of the Beast Lord, Curran, former mercenary Kate Daniels has more responsibilities than it seems possible to juggle. Not only is she still struggling to keep her investigative business afloat, she must now deal with the affairs of the pack, including preparing her people for attack from Roland, a cruel ancient being with god-like powers. Since Kate’s connection to Roland has come out into the open, no one is safe—especially those closest to Kate.

As Roland’s long shadow looms ever nearer, Kate is called to attend the Conclave, a gathering of the leaders from the various supernatural factions in Atlanta. When one of the Masters of the Dead is found murdered there, apparently at the hands of a shapeshifter, Kate is given only twenty-four hours to hunt down the killer. And this time, if she fails, she’ll find herself embroiled in a war which could destroy everything she holds dear...

This is my second or third read of this book. When I started reading it this time, I was amazed (and shocked) that I hadn't yet written a review for it. I usually do that immediately upon finishing the first time. But what I realized, as I got further and further into the book, was that to review this was to have paragraph after paragraph full of spoilers. There's no avoiding talking about certain things, there's no way to be vague and still give an idea of what happens and what it means. There's no way to even start without giving away things that have been going on in the last six books. So, I guess I'll start with this warning: Spoilers ahead for everything through Magic Rises (Book 6).

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Review: Princess of the Sword by Lynn Kurland

Title: Princess of the Sword
Author: Lynn Kurland
Series: Nine Kingdoms, Book 3 (Trilogy 1, Book 3)
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Release Date: 6 January 2009

The Nine Kingdoms Trilogy now explodes in the fiercest battle yet as the fate of a kingdom lies with a man and woman bound by love, magic, and a legendary—and perilous—sword.

When darkness falls...

As the mercenary daughter of Gair, the black mage of Ceangail, Morgan is the only one who can stop the terrible sorcery her father unleashed. To do so, she must race against time and find the spell that will allow her to close the well of evil he opened. But that quest will lead her to places she never dreamed existed and into a darkness she would give anything to avoid.

The magic rises.

With the fate of Neroche intertwined with the closing of Gair’s well, the archmage Miach must help Morgan find what she needs, not only because the safety of the Nine Kingdoms hangs in the balance, but because he will do anything to protect her. Now, as they search out the mysteries of Ceangail—and the dangers of Morgan’s own bloodline—Morgan and Miach have only each other to trust, heart and soul…

How to review this book....Hmm....

Here's the thing. I don't feel comfortable even talking about the events of the first two books in detail - because this is really one, long story. It should be handled as such. So I feel like it's really:

Spoiler spoiler spoiler, spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler. Spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler. SPOILER.

Spoiler, spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler. Spoiler spoiler, spoiler spoiler; spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler. Spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler.

Spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler. Spoiler, spoiler, spoiler. SPOILER!!!!

You get the point. I guess I could just say: I loved it.

This trilogy - the first in the overall Nine Kingdoms series - is definitely fantasy romance. However, the fantasy world - while built enough for its purposes - is light. It's a stage for the story of the romance to take place. The entire trilogy, a single story as I said, is fun, light, sweet, and romantic as hell. The first book builds it nicely. The second book is a bit slower and more focused on the romance. The third book brings it all together: romance, action, plot.

This series is such a comfort read for me. The characters (especially Morgan and Miach) are just wonderful - and though some might consider them Mary Sues, well, I simply didn't care. I love following their story over and over and over again.

Grade: A

Amazon | BN | kobo | Book Depository | Goodreads

Monday, October 5, 2015

Review: Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews

Title: Gunmetal Magic
Author: Ilona Andrews
Series: Kate Daniels, Book 5.5
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 31 July 2012

After eviction from the Knights of Merciful Aid, Andrea is a wreck. She starts work for best pal PI Kate Daniels. Shapeshifters under Raphael Medrano — Clan Bouda male alpha, Andrea’s ex-lover — die suddenly at a dig site. With Raphael, she seeks killer in deep dark Atlanta. Her feelings for him may take a back seat to saving the world...

Bonus: Kate Daniels novella "Magic Gifts"

Okay, here's the thing: I don't love Andrea. I know there are a lot of people out there that do, but I just don't. I also don't love Raphael. I never had prior to this book. They're both spoiled, think little of others, and whine when things don't go their way. Meh. I'm not into it.

That being said, by the end of Gunmetal Magic, even if I still don't LOVE them (like I LOVE Kate), I like them - although truth be told, I think it's because the drama between them is over now. At least I hope it is. Please gods, let it be over.

Anyway. So, with the fact of not loving Andrea and Raphael, I wasn't expecting to enjoy the romance, but I actually did. When the two of them decided to stop hurting each other purposely (which didn't do a lot to endear them to me), and get out of their own way - they found their HEA. I'm glad they did. They're actually better together than they are apart - truly. I like them much better as a couple than I ever did them individually. And while I also think that Kate and Curran are better together than apart, it's for different reasons. Kate and Curran are perfectly awesome, capable, GOOD people. They're whole and able to function without each other. They're not as happy as they deserve to be, and they are definitely stronger together, but if they had never gotten together they'd still be the kick-ass people they always were. Andrea and Raphael, on the other hand, seem to need each other to truly complete themselves. They're not whole, strong, good people without the other to balance them out. So, I'm glad they're together now.

The best part of this book is the plot and mythology. I was completely fascinated with it, and love that Ilona Andrews continues to bring amazing mythologies to play in their series.

And the saving grace here? Roman. I adore Roman. Black volhv. Eeyore-pajama-wearing. Geek. Former Army Ranger. He's funny (somewhat surprisingly), good-natured, powerful, and kick-ass. I definitely want more. A lot more.

It's always fun to see Kate and Curran from different points of view, and this was no exception. Make sure to check out exactly what Kate's up to during most of this book in the novella "Magic Gifts", which is at the end of Gunmetal Magic. It should really be read prior to Gunmetal Magic, though you're not really missing out on anything if you read it after, I suppose.

So, good plot, better than expected romance, and some favorite characters really shining. I'm happy with this story in the series.

I still need more Roman, though. Can someone make that happen?

Grade: B

Amazon | BN | kobo | Book Depository | Goodreads

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Review: The Mage's Daughter by Lynn Kurland

Title: The Mage's Daughter
Author: Lynn Kurland
Series: Nine Kingdoms, Book 2 (Trilogy 1, Book 2)
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Release Date: 2 January 2008

Please see my review of Star of the Morning, Book 1 in the series if you haven't read it already.

Lynn Kurland’s trilogy of love, intrigue, and fantastic destiny continues as a female mercenary fights for her life, her future, and the one man who can save her...

Darkness in the kingdom...

Neroche is under assault by a magic that has stripped its king of his powers and unleashed nightmarish creatures in a war of evil in which Morgan of Melksham is fighting for her life. Recovering from a near-fatal attack, Morgan realizes that she must decide between two fates: that of being a simple shieldmaiden or accepting her heritage as an elven princess. If only she could ignore that she was the daughter of the perilous black mage of Ceangail...

Magic in the blood...

Duty bound to aid his king, Miach of Neroche is torn between what his responsibilities demand and what his heart desires. He is willing to risk his life to rescue Morgan from the darkness that haunts her, but he must do so at the peril of his realm. Forced to choose between love and the burden of his mantle, Miach sets out on his most deadly quest ever.

I said in my review of the first book that I have a hard time reviewing these. And I do. I think this one may be even harder for me.

There are flaws - these books would not pass a Bechdel test by any stretch of the imagination. Miach tries to make decisions for Morgan, which nearly results in tragedy (thankfully she quickly puts him in his place). And it's a transition book - there are things happening, but really it's all about getting to the final act of the story.

That all being said, I still love this book. It's FULL (to bursting) of romance. If the romance was light in the first book, it's here in abundance. I love watching Morgan and Miach figure out the definition of their relationship and how they're going to be going forward. It's sweet, and sigh-worthy, and absolutely beautiful.

Morgan may seem like a bit of a different person in this book than the first. But it's really just her getting to know herself. She has a bunch of shocks (you might remember from the end of the Star of the Morning), and most of those are dealt out in the first 30% of the book. That the hits and needs keep coming throughout the book does nothing to really let Morgan gain her balance. But she does, as she always has, through determination and strength. I think what I appreciate most about her in this book is that she is intensely vulnerable (after her convalescence) and yet she's never treated as inferior in any way.

Miach continues to be one of the best male characters I've ever read. He consistently makes it on my top 5 list of heroes, but it's not because he's an ALPHA, or a BARRONS, or an ass (which, let's face it - those guys definitely can be). It's because he's absolutely honorable, stead-fast, and kind. He's funny, down-to-earth, and honestly cares. He gives and worries little for himself. Though he does make me mad at one point in this book (listed earlier), he quickly realizes the error of his ways. I can forgive him. I get why he did it, even when I didn't like it. So when he finally realizes that it wasn't the right decision, and honestly apologizes, I'm good again.

Characters tend to be the number one reason I read. They'll keep me engaged when all else is failing. And there are a number of secondary characters here that I truly enjoy (Sosar, Turah and Weger to name a few). They added to the tapestry of Morgan and Miach's world in such an interesting way.

I did say that this was pretty much a transition book. While reading it, I am never bored. There's always battles and rushing from this to that, or something happening that needs to be seen to. But looking back? Not so much happened. We delved deeper into characters' histories, and learned more about the task to come. We traveled and had misunderstandings. We had a few battles, gained a few enemies, saw a few taken care of. And, of course, we had the incredibly satisfying romance of Morgan and Miach.

Don't worry, if the romance and middle-book-syndrome turns you off, the last book is well worth it. There's a LOT that happens in it, and I can't wait to dive into it again.

Grade: A-

Amazon | BN | kobo | Book Depository | Goodreads

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Review: Radiance by Grace Draven

Title: Radiance
Author: Grace Draven
Series: Wraith Kings, Book 1
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Release Date: 13 January 2015


Brishen Khaskem, prince of the Kai, has lived content as the nonessential spare heir to a throne secured many times over. A trade and political alliance between the human kingdom of Gaur and the Kai kingdom of Bast-Haradis requires that he marry a Gauri woman to seal the treaty. Always a dutiful son, Brishen agrees to the marriage and discovers his bride is as ugly as he expected and more beautiful than he could have imagined.


Ildiko, niece of the Gauri king, has always known her only worth to the royal family lay in a strategic marriage. Resigned to her fate, she is horrified to learn that her intended groom isn’t just a foreign aristocrat but the younger prince of a people neither familiar nor human. Bound to her new husband, Ildiko will leave behind all she’s known to embrace a man shrouded in darkness but with a soul forged by light.

Two people brought together by the trappings of duty and politics will discover they are destined for each other, even as the powers of a hostile kingdom scheme to tear them apart.

Wow. Just wow. I'm so glad that Kaynan urged me to read this RIGHT NOW. This is an incredibly good book, and I had a really hard time putting it down to deal with (very necessary) tasks, like: getting kids ready for school, helping with homework, making dinner, bedtime routines, and playing with the kids...Oops.

The very best part of this book is the two main characters, Brishen and Ildiko (how the hell do you pronounce her name?? Every time I see it in the text I took 5 seconds to try to reason it out before moving on. I'm quite sure I'm saying it wrong in my head).

Brishen is the spare prince of the Kai. Ildiko is the niece of the Gauri king. Both are unimportant in their respective kingdoms. Left aside to be used as pawns in some negotiation or another. A negotiation, it turns out, that finds them wed to each other.

I don't think there's anything particularly spectacular about either character alone. They're both nice, kind, honorable people. They face life rather than bemoaning their circumstances. They don't take their frustrations out on those that are undeserving of them, and the genuinely try to be good. In fact, it's kind of hard to find a flaw with either of them. But that's okay. Because the true love that I have here is them together.

Together, Brishen and Ildiko are amazing. They are one-hundred-percent honest with each other. Their love is built on friendship and mutual care and respect, not attraction and the desire to have sex at every other turn. They learn each other, they are honest with each other, and - to start - they find each other hideous.

"You find me ugly, don't you?"

Brishen had faced abominations on the battlefield without flinching, leapt into the thick of the fighting against creatures born from the nightmares of lesser demons. Not once had he been tempted to run away in fear. Now, his leg muscles rippled with the urge to flee. He clenched his teeth instead, prayed he wouldn't start a war with their newest ally and answered honestly.

"Hideous," he said. "A hag of a woman."

Another peal of laughter met his words. Brishen wilted, relieved she took no insult in him so bluntly validating her assumption. He didn't even know her name, but he liked her and didn't wish to hurt her. Assured she wasn't planning to flounce off and send a pack of offended relatives after him, he turned the same question on her.

"And you," he said. "You don't think me a handsome man?"

She shrugged. "I've only seen your hands and eyes. For all I know, you're hiding the face of a sun spirit in that hood."

Brishen scoffed at the idea. "Hardly." He'd never lacked female company, and his people thought him well-favored. Certainly nothing as wretched as a sun spirit. He slid the hood back to his shoulders.

The woman's eyes rounded. She inhaled a harsh breath and clasped one hand to her chest. Her mollusk skin went a far more attractive shade of ash. She remained silent and stared at him until he raised a hand in question. "Well?"

She exhaled slowly. The space between her eyebrows stitched into a single vertical frown line. "Had you crawled out from under my bed when I was a child, I would have bludgeoned you to death with my father's mace."

How could I *not* love them after that meet-cute??

Because their marriage is to secure and alliance there's obviously some other machinations going on in the book, but really this is the story about Brishen and Ildiko growing to love each other. Two outcasts that find true love and companionship in each other.

The slow burn of their budding relationship was so refreshing. Without attraction and sexual desire mucking up the works, they form their relationship organically - on friendship and respect. Who'd have thought that could work so well? Don't get me wrong, I love the attraction and sexual tension as much as anyone (and you get some of that here too, don't worry), but can't there be a time and place? Can't our characters have something more to fall back on than ... well, their backs?

This book says, emphatically, YES!

I said that this is really the story of Brishen and Ildiko's falling in love, and that's probably where my only real complaint lies, too. I love their story. A LOT. But I do wish that we'd gotten more of the world, more of the threatening war, more of the politics, more of the cultures of both peoples.

And then we get to the ending. After such a sweet moment between our heroes, that epilogue hit me over the head and shocked the hell out of me! What? Where did that come from?? Things just got real!

I NEED to see what happens next. Eidolon, please. Gimme.

Grade: A-

Amazon | BN | kobo | Book Depository | Goodreads

Monday, August 31, 2015

Review: Firewalker by Josephine Angelini

Title: Firewalker
Author: Josephine Angelini
Series: Worldwalker, Book 2
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Release Date: 1 September 2015

Worlds divide, magic slays, and love lies in the second book of Josephine Angelini’s The Worldwalker Trilogy.

"You think I’m a monster, but my choices, as ruthless as they seem, are justified."

Lily is back in her own universe, and she's ready to start a new life with Rowan by her side. True, she almost died in the Pyre that fueled their escape from New Salem, and must hide her magic for the safety of everyone she cares about, but compared to fighting the Woven, the monstrous creatures inhabiting the alternate Salem, life is looking pretty good.

Unfortunately, Lillian, ruthless ruler of the 13 Cities, is not willing to let Lily go that easily. If she can’t persuade Lily to return to her world, she will force her to come back by doing away with the ones she loves.

Picking up right where Trial By Fire left off, Firewalker is another sexy, fast-paced, heartbreaking thrill ride from internationally bestselling author Josephine Angelini!

I raved about the first book in this series, Trial by Fire. It absolutely blew me away and I have been extremely excited for the last year for this book, the second in the series. I'm not sure if this affected my feelings about this book, or if I would have felt the same regardless, but it didn't - quite - live up to my expectations.

**Warning** There will be spoilers and references to events in the first book. It can't be helped. Honestly, it's going to be hard enough to talk about this book without spoiling everything in it. If you haven't yet read Trial by Fire, please check out my review for it.

Because the last book ended with Lily and Rowan world-jumping back to our world at the end of Trial by Fire, I knew I could expect that we would be spending at least some time in our world and I wasn't really looking forward to it. I enjoy being in Lillian's world. It's fascinating and I have been absolutely dying to know why Lillian ended up as tyrannical as she did. This meant that the first quarter of the book was ... well, boring for me. I wasn't into it, and I was could easily put the book down. Added to that, it was obvious what was going to need to happen - the fact that it was being danced around and not being done just frustrated me. Lily never was one to back away from what she knew was right, and I totally understood the break that was needed, the respite from the insanity that they'd come from, but I knew there was still too much to resolve. Lily and Rowan knew it, too.

After that, though, things really started to pick up. I loved that we got some answers - that blew my mind - about questions I'd had, but at the same time Josephine Angelini introduced new questions that I'm so incredibly interested in. I love that Lily doesn't just accept things at face value, she challenges and questions nearly everything, even when it frustrates those that surround her.

Speaking of the people surrounding her, well, things are starting to really build. I love that there aren't any clear answers. That maybe there's not a single person that's right in this, and that Lily has to find her own way, her own answers, and trust herself more than anyone. I love that. It's so nice to see that - even if someone she loves dearly doesn't agree - Lily doesn't shy away from doing what she believes, in her heart, to be right. I love that she still struggles against becoming like Lillian, and realizing that it's so possible because she is Lillian. I love her relationships with the people around her, and her struggles in the power imbalance between the majority of them and her.

What I didn't love so much were a few of the people surrounding her. One, I thought, was forgiven a bit too quickly. Another completely pissed me off. I'm 99% certain that something is going to be revealed to be not quite what we were shown there, but I'm still furious. The treatment, the reaction, the inability to trust....Grrr. I literally put my Kindle down and swore at my book.

That being said, the ending? Oh.My.God. My mouth was hanging open and I'm - once again - dying for the next book in this series. I'd begun to suspect, along with Lily, that things weren't quite the way they'd been portrayed and accepted, but that ending left me salivating for more. I have to see how this resolves itself.

There were some heart-wrenching moments in this book. I had to set the book down multiple times to give myself time to collect myself. There haven't been a lot of books that have been able to affect me so deeply, and I love that this one can.

Grade: B+

Amazon | BN | kobo | Book Depository | Goodreads

Review: Archangel's Enigma by Nalini Singh

Title: Archangel’s Enigma
Author: Nalini Singh
Series: Guild Hunters, Book 8
Genre: Urban Fantasy / Paranormal Romance
Release Date: 1 September 2015

Naasir is the most feral of the powerful group of vampires and angels known as the Seven, his loyalty pledged to the Archangel Raphael. When rumors surface of a plot to murder the former Archangel of Persia, now lost in the Sleep of the Ancients, Naasir is dispatched to find him. For only he possesses the tracking skills required – those more common to predatory animals than to man.

Enlisted to accompany Naasir, Andromeda, a young angelic scholar with dangerous secrets, is fascinated by his nature—at once playful and brilliant, sensual and brutal. As they race to find the Sleeping archangel before it’s too late, Naasir will force her to question all she knows...and tempt her to walk into the magnificent, feral darkness of his world. But first they must survive an enemy vicious enough to shatter the greatest taboo of the angelic race and plunge the world into a screaming nightmare...

**Disclaimer: I am a HUGE Nalini Singh fangirl. I’ve loved her books since I first discovered Slave to Sensation back in . This means that I tend to love her books, but it also means that I measure each of her books against her other books, so the competition is stiff.

**Spoiler warning: There will be spoilers from the previous 7 books (and various novellas) in this review. If you haven’t read the previous books, please go see my review for Angels’ Pawn and Angels’ Blood

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Review: Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs

Title: Dead Heat
Author: Patricia Briggs
Series: Alpha & Omega, Book 4 / Mercy Thompson World, Book 11
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 3 March 2015

The Alpha and Omega novels transport readers into the realm of the werewolf, where Charles Cornick and Anna Latham embody opposite sides of the shifter personality. Now, a pleasure trip drops the couple into the middle of some bad supernatural business…

For once, mated werewolves Charles and Anna are not traveling because of Charles’s role as his father’s enforcer. This time, their trip to Arizona is purely personal, as Charles plans to buy Anna a horse for her birthday. Or at least it starts out that way...

Charles and Anna soon discover that a dangerous Fae being is on the loose, replacing human children with simulacrums. The Fae’s cold war with humanity is about to heat up—and Charles and Anna are in the cross-fire.

The last several months have been life-changing for me. First, I got engaged. Then I moved across country (Wisconsin to Washington state). Then I was looking for a new job, while assisting the transition remotely for my old job. Then I was buying a house...And still I freaked out and wondered how the heck I had managed to forget that I had this book to read on my Kindle. When I was going through my 'must-have' releases to be happening I suddenly realized that I hadn't ever started this book! I was horrified, and immediately set about correcting that.

I'm really glad that I did. This book was quietly satisfying. I say quietly and I hope that people don't take that to mean a bad thing. This wasn't as action-packed as some of the books, the mystery wasn't as urgent to me - for whatever reason - but I loved how the story moved the world in a new direction, how we got to meet up with some new (and varied) characters, and how we got a lot more from Anna and Charles.

I admit it, I'm pretty tired of the +child aspect to a lot of books lately, I started in Urban Fantasy because I was pretty bored with the 'must have a child' thing in Romance. So it's not my favorite addition to the storyline. That being said, it makes sense here. Anna was changed without even knowing that she'd never be able to have kids. So much was taken away from her, it's understandable that she's going to fight to regain as much as possible. What I really liked about this (almost) side-plot was that Anna never forced Charles hand, she tried to figure out the root of the problem, offer logical solutions and let him figure out where he wanted to be on the subject. They're a team, and it's never in doubt that they are together for it all.

What I loved most here was the cast of characters, both those we know and love already and those that are new to us - even if not to Charles. Seeing true friends of Charles was a treat, and I liked them immensely. There were a couple of new characters in particular that I loved meeting, and I hope we get to see more of them in the future.

I already mentioned that the mystery aspect of the book wasn't that enticing to me and part of that is because I figured out who the "bad-guy" was as soon as we met them. It was a little out of character for Anna - and especially not Charles - to suspect this person when the clues kept lining up pointing to a particular place. Accusing would have been too far, but the way they studiously avoided even thinking that this person could be the culprit left me feeling bland about the whole process. I was really interested in the fae's powers and the consequences of their actions - both for the fae, the werewolves and even the humans. Patricia Briggs definitely knows how to continuously up the stakes in this ever-changing world, I'll never deny that.

Like I said, it was quietly satisfying. We got a lot of time with Charles and his friends - of which we know he doesn't have many, a lot of time with Charles and Anna, and a lot of time learning more about other packs of werewolves. I also particularly enjoyed some of the investigation that was detailed and the things that our investigators found out.

Dead Heat isn't as exciting or flashy as some of the other books in the Mercy Thompson World, but it's definitely satisfying and creates intriguing new directions for our favorite supernatural beings to go in. I'll tell you though, after all the stuff with the fae I'm really curious as to what's going on with the vampires - especially Stefan. Here's hoping we get to see him again in the next Mercy book.

Grade: B

Amazon | BN | kobo | Book Depository | Goodreads

Monday, August 10, 2015

Review: Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews

Title: Magic Shifts
Author: Ilona Andrews
Series: Kate Daniels, Book 8
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 4 August 2015

SPOILERS WARNING: If you haven't read this series (GO START NOW), do not start with this review. This is the 8th book in the series, and therefore there are MANY spoilers for major plotlines that are better experienced as the author wanted them. Seriously, even the blurb of this book spoils things learned in previous books. Start at the beginning. You may find the first book a little rough (it's a common complaint), though I loved it from the very first chapter, but I promise you: it becomes amazingly awesome. I very highly doubt that you'll regret starting on this journey.

Here's my review for book 1 in the series, Magic Bites.

For this review, head below the break.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Review: Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

Title: Ink and Bone
Author: Rachel Caine
Series: Great Library, Book 1
Genre: Young Adult Steampunk
Release Date: 7 July 2015

In an exhilarating new series, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine rewrites history, creating a dangerous world where the Great Library of Alexandria has survived the test of time...

Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.

Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family, who are involved in the thriving black market. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service.

When he inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn...

First, when I requested this book there wasn't series information about it anywhere (at least not that I found), so I thought (silly, I know) that it was a stand-alone book. That thought probably had some effect on my final feelings and thoughts about this story.

This cover is gorgeous, beautiful, and works with the story. I'd love to see it in person and see if it has the texture that the image implies. Once seeing it and finding out that the story revolved around the Library at Alexandria surviving...I couldn't *not* request it.

And I'm glad I did. It gets off to a bit of a slow start, with a lot of things that confused me. There's names for people that do things that aren't really explained (you do start to get the feel for them as you get further in the story), and you're kind of tossed right in. Normally I like that. Here...well, it didn't work as well for me. The beginning felt slow. It was setting up the world and story, I know, but a lot of it simply doesn't make sense to me.

For example, in one of the earliest scenes in the book we find out that books are contraband. Owning a printed (hand-copied) book is illegal. So, of course, there's a flourishing black-market trade for them. Jess is the son of one of these black-market book experts, and because of that he's a 'runner.' Which basically means that he transports the books from his family's interests to the purchasers'. The problem I had with this is that he was RUNNING everywhere to do this. Not only that, but they run in a pack - like wild animals. Huh? Doesn't anyone understand that running draws attention to yourself? And running with a large group of other kids draws even MORE attention? Pretty damn good way to get the Garda after you, don'tcha think? Illogical actions didn't make me have a lot of faith in the author to make things more logical.

Fortunately, for me, she did manage to pull it around and I started to have faith in the storytelling and the characters' actions. The story is fascinating. A library - those that are supposed to allow knowledge to be at the worlds' fingertips - is actually oppressing ideas, progress and knowledge. I still have a little trouble with the premise, but it all comes down to power. Who has it, who wants to keep it, and what they're willing to do to meet those ends. The fact of the matter is that the Library is willing to do anything to keep their power. And that's exactly what the postulants - including Jess - start to learn as they're competing for positions inside the Library itself.

I definitely enjoyed this book. The story moved at a good pace, there was a lot of variety of places and things happening. There's definitely diversity in characters and world. There's a small romance (one that moved a bit too quickly for me even if it wasn't the main focus of the story). There's friendships that I hope stand the test of what's to come. And we're settled right on the cusp of change.

What I didn't love so much was the simplicity of things. Simplicity is maybe the wrong word, but instead of shocking with well placed hints and drawing out the revelations, they were almost shoved in my face immediately. I had no chance to speculate and be surprised by anything because it was all revealed almost as soon as it was a thought. And while that's not necessarily a bad thing, it did disappoint me a bit.

I did mention that I wasn't aware this was part of a series, so when I got to nearly 90% of the book and realized there was no way it was going to be able to wrap up satisfactorily...well I was irritated. I don't mind "cliff-hangers", or multi-part series. I enjoy them, and read quite a few of them (KMM, I'm still looking at you for ruining years of my life waiting on the next books in the Fever series). But this one just kind of stops. It's not a cliff-hanger. It's not a 'OMG! What's going to happen next?!' moment. It's just ... done. And while I *do* want to know what happens in the next book, I'm not anxious and on the edge of my seat for it.

That being said, I *am* going to be putting the next book on my list. I do hope there are some surprises in store for me (and all of the characters), and that - I can't believe I'm saying this: I get to see the Library fall.

Grade: B-

Amazon | BN | kobo | Book Depository | Goodreads
Related Posts with Thumbnails