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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

REVIEW: Besieged by Kevin Hearne

*Thank you to Netgalley & Del Rey Books for an ARC in exchange for a fair review*

Our favorite Druid is back in a collection of short stories. Besieged gathers many of the previously published tales in the Iron Druid Chronicles with appearances by Atticus, Granuille, Owen, Oberon and many more!  Here's a quick summary of each story:

The Eye of Horus - Atticus is visited by the Morrigan and sent on a mission that will take him to the Library of Alexandria and change the course of his life. ~Super fun. I'm always a big fan of Egyptian mythology but wish the gods present had some more personality.

Goddess at the Crossroads - Atticus tells the story of how he met a drunken Shakespeare, saved his life and changed Western literature. ~Love this story and the others where readers get to see Atticus interact with other historical figures.

The Demon Barker of Wheat Street - Atticus and Granuille visit her old home town and run into a host of demons who are using a carnival to feed their unholy appetites. ~I enjoyed this update and audio narration much more than the original published version which wasn't performed by Luke Daniels.

Gold Dust Druid - Gold rush era San Francisco suffers biblical consequences. ~This was a fun story, loved seeing Atticus in this environment. Poodles!

The Bogeyman of Boora Bog - It turns out that not all druids make for good neighbors. Owen goes Dirty Harry and winds up meeting a young Atticus in old-school Ireland. ~Interesting adventure plus a little backstory into how Owen meets Atticus. 

Cuddle Dungeon - Gods get their freak on. This is very much an adult short story. ~I thought this one narrated by Perun in a BDSM dungeon rather unnecessary. 

Blood Pudding - Granuille has the spotlight to herself in this story. Vampires can't be trusted and it's up to her and some thick necked mercenaries to remind some Polish vampires that they aren't at the top of the food chain. ~Granuille always kicks ass. Love her!

Hunted to Devils - Owen and Atticus team up with Owen's new apprentices to prevent the extinction of Tasmanian devils. ~Interesting story and I like the crossover of characters plus the incorporation of the new generation of Druids.

The End of Idylls - The Morrigan pays Atticus a visit and let's him know that the end is nigh. Loki is on the move and Lucifer is his new bff. Fun time is over and he has the talk with Oberon. ~Eek! The last book needs to get here soon! I'm excited. I'm terrified. What will happen? Will Atticus make it back? That almost goodbye with Oberon was too much!

Overall, I adored Besieged and its audiobook, another perfectly narrated confection by Luke Daniels. I cannot imagine the characters any other way! 

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

REVIEW: White Hot by Ilona Andrews

White Hot is the much anticipated follow up to Andrews' Burn For Me. Quite possibly one of my favorite books in the world. I've actually read it three times already and that rarely happens!

Nevada Baylor has a unique and secret skill—she knows when people are lying—and she's used that magic (along with plain, hard work) to keep her colorful and close-knit family's detective agency afloat. But her new case pits her against the shadowy forces that almost destroyed the city of Houston once before, bringing Nevada back into contact with Connor "Mad" Rogan.

Rogan is a billionaire Prime—the highest rank of magic user—and as unreadable as ever, despite Nevada’s “talent.” But there’s no hiding the sparks between them. Now that the stakes are even higher, both professionally and personally, and their foes are unimaginably powerful, Rogan and Nevada will find that nothing burns like ice.

I LOVED THIS BOOK!

What can I say?  This writing duo has done it again.  There is a fantastic blend of urban fantasy elements (magic, supernatural abilities) along with a thrilling plot steeped in intrigue, greed and a bit of power hungry chaos.

Excellent character development with some twists and plenty of the trademark snarky humor which I love.

I'm not sure there is a hotter couple than Nevada and Rogan. The narrative sizzles with their tension and when these two do connect, I thought the speakers would combust! Another stellar performance by Renee Raudman.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Sunday, July 9, 2017

REVIEW: Trust by Kylie Scott

*Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for a fair review*

Expected publication: July 18, 2017

After being held hostage during a robbery at the local convenience store, seventeen-year-old Edie finds her attitude about life shattered. Unwilling to put up with the snobbery and bullying at her private school, she enrolls at the local public high school, crossing paths with John. The boy who risked his life to save hers.

While Edie’s beginning to run wild, however, John’s just starting to settle down. After years of partying and dealing drugs with his older brother, he’s going straight—getting to class on time, and thinking about the future.

An unlikely bond grows between the two as John keeps Edie out of trouble and helps her broaden her horizons. But when he helps her out with another first—losing her virginity—their friendship gets complicated.

Meanwhile, Edie and John are pulled back into the dangerous world they narrowly escaped. They were lucky to survive the first time, but this time they have more to lose—each other.

I enjoyed this--good premise, angst and romance. The character development is sound; however, I did feel like some aspects were rushed and could use some more transitional development. Best categorized as an emerging new adult title rather than YA, despite the fact that the main characters are in high school.  I say this mainly but some of the sex scenes are rather explicit. 

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

REVIEW: Grave Ransom by Kalayna Price

*Thank you to Netgalley & Penguin Books for an ARC in exchange for a fair review*

Grave witch Alex Craft is no stranger to the dead talking. She raises shades, works with ghosts, and is dating Death himself. But the dead walking? That’s not supposed to happen. And yet, reanimated corpses are committing crimes across Nekros City.

Alex’s investigation leads her deep into a web of sinister magic. When Briar Darque of the Magical Crimes Investigation Bureau gets involved, Alex finds herself with an unexpected ally of sorts. But as the dead continue to rise and wreak havoc on the living, can Alex get to the soul of the matter in time?

This was a fantastic, detailed and exciting urban fantasy read building on the standalone story but also on the world-building and character struggles of the previous books in the series.  I love Alex. She's smart, kick-ass and funny but there is also a vulnerability to her as she explores more of her magic while also balancing the limitations set upon her by her grave magic.

Her love life continues to be complicated and one scene in particular made my heart break. I'm excited to see what might be in store for future books.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

REVIEW: Salvaged by Jay Crownover

Hudson Wheeler is a nice guy. Everyone knows it, including his fiancĂ©e who left him with a canceled wedding and a baby on the way. He’s tired of finishing last and is ready to start living in the moment with nights soaked in whiskey, fast cars, and even faster girls. He’s set to start living on the edge, but when he meets Poppy Cruz, her sad eyes in the most gorgeous face he’s ever seen hook him in right away. Wheeler can see Poppy’s pain and all he wants to do is take care of her and make her smile, whatever it takes.

Poppy can’t remember a time when she didn’t see strangers as the enemy. After a lifetime of being hurt from the men who swore to protect her, Poppy’s determined to keep herself safe by keeping everyone else at arm’s length. Wheeler’s sexy grin and rough hands from hours restoring classic cars shouldn’t captivate her, but every time she’s with him, she can’t help being pulled closer to him. Though she’s terrified to trust again, Poppy soon realizes it might hurt even more to shut Wheeler out—and the intense feelings pulsing through her are making it near impossible to resist him.

The only thing Poppy is sure of is that her heart is in need of some serious repair, and the more time she spends with Wheeler, the more she’s convinced he’s the only man with the tools to fix it.

I ADORED THIS BOOK!

SQUEE!

There is a bittersweet quality to knowing that the Saints of Denver series is finished. However, I know that Crownover always has an ace up her sleeve. So, in the meantime, I'll re-read all the books and wait to see what happens next.

I've been waiting for Poppy's story and happily ever after for a long time and certainly wasn't disappointed. Wheeler is amazing and perfect in every way. Salvaged was romantic and sexy and super satisfying.

Go forth and read!!!

Final rating: ALL THE STARS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Highlighted Reviews July 2017

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now.

One that had been on my 'to-read' list for a long time and our June 2017 book club selection. I definitely found this thought provoking and now I need to watch the series which I've been avoiding.  However, there was a certain level of disappointment.The audiobook narrated by Claire Danes was stellar. The premise is both fascinating and terrifying since it has that definite feel of possibility.  I'm glad I read it but it didn't change my life.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Trinity Carlson might be having the worst day ever. And that was before she started drinking in a dive bar, right across from her ex and his new girlfriend. So when she finally decides enough is enough, she grabs hold of a hot, blond stranger and gives him the kiss of his life.

Walker Lund never expected that a chance at love would hit him right on the mouth. Since the moment his brother decided to settle down, Walker has been dodging his family’s hopes that he’ll do the same. He’s never been interested in following in anyone’s footsteps. But when he discovers his sexy assailant has given him a fake name and number he suddenly finds himself in the mood for a little hot pursuit.

Another engaging and stellar romance from Lorelei James. Super fun and sexy with characters that have depth. Trinity and Walker both have some issues but they balance each other out well.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

PR agent Annika Lund can spin any disaster into a win. But revamping the reputation of a notorious Swedish hockey player will take every trick in her arsenal, especially when his agent insists that convincing everyone he’s no longer a playboy is top priority. And that it requires a sham relationship—with Annika playing the part of loving girlfriend.

On fire in the rink and in the bedroom, Axl Hammerquist couldn’t care less about being anyone’s golden boy. So when his agent forces him to play nice with a new publicist, he takes satisfaction in being as much of a pain as possible. But the more time he spends getting to know Annika, the more Axl starts to think that being Mr. Nice Guy might be worth it if it gets him the girl.

Who doesn't love a good hockey romance? Especially when it brings in elements of the faking a romance and building tension that blossoms into full out attraction and forever love.  Great banter between Annika and Axl. James knows what she is doing with building tension and memorable interaction.  

I enjoyed this third installment to the series and can't wait for the next book!

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Xcor, leader of the Band of Bastards, convicted of treason against the Blind King, is facing a brutal interrogation and torturous death at the hands of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Yet after a life marked by cruelty and evil deeds, he accepts his soldier’s fate, his sole regret the loss of a sacred female who was never his: the Chosen Layla.

Layla alone knows the truth that will save Xcor’s life. But revealing his sacrifice and his hidden heritage will expose them both and destroy everything Layla holds dear—even her role of mother to her precious young. Torn between love and loyalty, she must summon the courage to stand up against the only family she has for the only man she will ever love. Yet even if Xcor is somehow granted a reprieve, he and Layla would have to confront a graver challenge: bridging the chasm that divides their worlds without paving the way for a future of even greater war, desolation, and death.

As a dangerous old enemy returns to Caldwell, and the identity of a new deity is revealed, nothing is certain or safe in the world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, not even true love . . . or destinies that have long seemed set in stone. 
Finally...it felt like readers have been waiting for Xcor and Layla's book for eons.  It wasn't perfect and there was A LOT going on but I still enjoyed this book like I do all the BDB books. There are a lot of interesting twists seeming to peek over the horizon so I'm curious for the next few in the series. 

I still have some hang ups regarding Qhuinn's behavior and the neat little bow wrapped around a lot of what happens in the book.  I'll get over it but it will take some time.

FYI, if you haven't read Ward's Fallen Angels series yet, you better since those events and characters are likely to make their way to meet the BDB soon.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Blade Bound is the final book in Neill's Chicagoland Vampires series!  Fans finally get Merit and Ethan's wedding but it would be out of character for things to go smoothly.

When the House is infiltrated and Merit is attacked by a vampire seemingly under the sway of dark magic, Merit and Ethan realize the danger is closer than they could have ever imagined. As a malign sorcery spreads throughout the city, Merit must go to war against supernatural powers beyond her comprehension.

Our favorite vamps have to work together to not only save the city but each other.  

Remember that prophecy!?! Something important happens, leading into a new spin off series.  Readers won't be disappointed, so definitely check out the conclusion to these books.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Attacked and abducted in her home territory, Mercy finds herself in the clutches of the most powerful vampire in the world, taken as a weapon to use against alpha werewolf Adam and the ruler of the Tri-Cities vampires. In coyote form, Mercy escapes only to find herself without money, without clothing, and alone in the heart of Europe...

Unable to contact Adam and the rest of the pack, Mercy has allies to find and enemies to fight, and she needs to figure out which is which. Ancient powers stir, and Mercy must be her agile best to avoid causing a war between vampires and werewolves, and between werewolves and werewolves.

Not my favorite in the Mercy series but still entertaining. Rarely is Mercy a damsel in distress and she proves this again in Silence Fallen. She can take care of herself in a crisis but usually needs a little assistance from allies. 

What I didn't care for was the overlap in narrative and change in POV writing, shifting from Mercy to Adam. It threw off the storytelling and was too much of a departure from previous books. It gave an odd feel to the audiobook as well. Lorelei King's narrative was amazing as usual.

Final rating: 3.75 out of 5

This was my book with a beach on the cover challenge for summer reading.

For fifteen years, four "girls of August" would gather together to spend a week at the beach, until tragedy interrupts their ritual. Now they reunite for a startling week of discoveries.

The ritual began when they were in their twenties and their husbands were in medical school, and became a mainstay of every summer thereafter. Their only criteria was oceanfront and isolation, their only desire to strengthen their far-flung friendships. They called themselves the Girls of August. But when one of the Girls dies tragically, the group slowly drifts apart and their vacations together are brought to a halt.

Years later, a new marriage reunites them and they decide to come together once again on a remote barrier island off the South Carolina coast. There, far from civilization, the women uncover secrets that will change them in ways they never expected.

Not my typically read but it held my interest, even if it was preditable--pregnancy, divorce, cancer, and some pretty vicious hazing of the new girl. I kept thinking it would make a great Lifetime movie. I don't think I'll rush out and read another Siddons books right away.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Ten years ago, Flynn Carson was the only living Librarian. When the ancient criminal organization known as the Forty steals the oldest known copy of The Arabian Nights by Scheherazade, Flynn is called in to investigate. Fearing that the Forty is after Aladdin's fabled Lamp, Flynn must race to find it before the Lamp's powerful and malevolent djinn is unleashed upon the world.

Today, a new team of inexperienced Librarians, along with Eve Baird, their tough-as-nails Guardian, is investigating an uncanny mystery in Las Vegas when the quest for the Lamp begins anew . . . and the fate of the world hangs in the balance.

As the first novelization of the television series, this was a fun, adventurous story featuring all the aspects fan loves about The Librarians.  What was lacking for me was a bit of the character pizzazz that the actors bring to the show. I missed seeing these portrayals acted out on the screen in front of me.

All in all, still fun.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars


A novella starring Silvio Sanchez, the vampire assistant of Gin Blanco, as he goes on a holiday date that turns out to be more deadly than romantic. All’s fair in love and war, though. Just as Silvio is starting to enjoy himself, he realizes he’s being watched. His nice guy date doesn’t sense the danger, and Silvio wants to keep it that way (and, well, keep the guy alive) so Silvio ends the date early—only to be abducted by some villainous giants.

The story itself had some nice twists.  It was interesting to get to know Silvio a bit more but this wasn't my favorite story in the series.  Maybe it is still because Silvio is such a new character, but for me, he lacks personality in the way that Gin, Finn and the other staple character have established over the course of the other books.

Did anyone notice how much the cover model looks like Sam from HBO's True Blood?

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

When secret organizations are forced to merge after years of enmity and bloodshed, only one person has the fearsome powers—and the bureaucratic finesse—to get the job done. Facing her greatest challenge yet, Rook Myfanwy Thomas must broker a deal between two bitter adversaries:

The Checquy—the centuries-old covert British organization that protects society from supernatural
threats, and…
The Grafters—a centuries-old supernatural threat.

But as bizarre attacks sweep London, threatening to sabotage negotiations, old hatreds flare. Surrounded by spies, only the Rook and two women, who absolutely hate each other, can seek out the culprits before they trigger a devastating otherworldly war.

Stiletto is the quirky yet fascinatingly hilarious sequel to The Rook. O'Malley's genius in creative writing and blending the sci-fi/fatasy genre puts him in an elite class right up there with Terry Pratchet and Jasper Fforde.  I enjoyed the rather bizarre story and character.  However, I did miss the duck (just sayin').

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Natalie Banks and Brady Coldwell are total strangers when they discover they are each other's new roommates, a bit of a masterful plan on behalf of some of their friends. They decide to make the best of it.  Soon sparks fly but will lust and romance stand a chance against the other hurdles in their way?

Roommates is part of a series.  It was a cute read with some good steamy romance elements. I'm always a sucker for a good roommates turned more story. Natalie is a bit irksome as a female protagonist. Readers who enjoy romance and a good sports themed hockey one at that will like this book.

The construction and flow needed some work to improve the narrative but I enjoyed it for what it was.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

When Isabella MacKenzie tries to move on from her disastrous past, Officer William Devine is determined to show her that love is the only way to heal. This sexy enovella, the final installment in Jennifer Probst’s heartwarming Searching For series, follows the high-powered women of the popular matchmaking agency Kinnections, located in the small, picturesque town of Verily, NY.

My attempt at catching up on the installments to the series I might have missed.  This was a quick, engaging novella. Isabella is a recovering addict determined to keep her life on track. Years earlier, her one night stand with Will has always haunted her with the 'what ifs'. 

They finally get their chance at happiness if she won't let her fears get the best of their impending happily ever after.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars
 
Hamilton has been an important activity center in Butler County since its founding in 1791, as its proximity to the Great Miami River made it an ideal county seat and agricultural hub. Beginning in 1845, the Hamilton Hydraulic Company diverted the river's flow through town and developed a system that supplied cheap waterpower to area mills. 

By 1900, Hamilton was "the greatest manufacturing city of its size in the world," and by the 1940s it was home to several of the world's largest industries. Champion Paper milled coated paper, Niles Tool Works manufactured machine tools, Hooven-Owens-Rentschler built Corliss engines, Estate Stove made stoves, and Mosler and Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe Companies earned Hamilton its reputation as the "Safe Capital of the World." More than 150 factories and shops developed diverse product lists in the early 1900s, but only three of these businesses still operate in Hamilton today (which probably isn't even an accurate account as of 2017).

This is my read a book about your hometown for summer reading. Very interesting and fantastic historical pictures!

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars
For maverick LAPD homicide detective Harry Bosch, the body in the drainpipe at Mulholland Dam is more than another anonymous statistic. This one is personal...because the murdered man was a fellow Vietnam "tunnel rat" who had fought side by side with him in a hellish underground war. Now Bosch is about to relive the horror of Nam. From a dangerous maze of blind alleys to a daring criminal heist beneath the city, his survival instincts will once again be tested to their limit. Pitted against enemies inside his own department and forced to make the agonizing choice between justice and vengeance, Bosch goes on the hunt for a killer whose true face will shock him.

My mystery/thriller for the summer.  I'm a fan of the Amazon show Bosch and figured I needed to at least read the first book.  It was a good procedural thriller and I can see the series appeal.  Bosch is interesting but at this point I prefer the television series and would need to see Bosch develop as a character more throughout the books.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.

Then, one by one, they began to be killed off. One Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, watched as her family was murdered. Her older sister was shot. Her mother was then slowly poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more Osage began to die under mysterious circumstances.

As the death toll surpassed more than twenty-four Osage, the newly created F.B.I. took up the case, in what became one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations. But the bureau was then notoriously corrupt and initially bungled the case. Eventually the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to try unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only Native American agents in the bureau. They infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest modern techniques of detection. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most sinister conspiracies in American history.

What I like about David Grann's nonfiction writing is a the narrative quality which makes it easy to read. This is an intriguing if albeit disturbing account of horrific crimes fueled by greed and racism. It was interesting to read about the development of the FBI to help solve these crimes.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

REVIEW: Urban Enemies (anthology)

*Thank you to Netgalley and Gallery Books for an ARC*

Expected publication: August 1, 2017

Villains have all the fun—everyone knows that—and this anthology takes you on a wild ride through the dark side! The top villains from sixteen urban fantasy series get their own stories—including the baddies of New York Times bestselling authors Jim Butcher, Kevin Hearne, Kelley Armstrong, Seanan McGuire, and Jonathan Maberry.

The full anthology features stories by Jim Butcher (the Dresden Files), Kelley Armstrong (the Cainsville and Otherworld series), Seanan McGuire (October Daye), Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles), Jonathan Maberry (Joe Ledger), Lilith Saintcrow (Jill Kismet), Carrie Vaughn (Kitty Norville), Joseph Nassise (Templar Chronicles), C.E. Murphy (Walker Papers), Steven Savile (Glasstown), Caitlin Kittredge (the Hellhound Chronicles and the Black London series), Jeffrey Somers (The Ustari Cycle), Sam Witt (Pitchfork County), Craig Schaefer (Daniel Faust), Jon F. Merz (Lawson Vampire), Faith Hunter (Jane Yellowrock), and Diana Pharaoh Francis (Horngate Witches).

I enjoyed the tone of each story and the fact that Urban Enemies provides a different take on the other anthologies published in the urban fantasy genre. Typically these short stories focus on the much beloved heroes of this narrative; however, even the Big Bad needs a moment to shine.

Highlights for me were the stories by Jim Butcher, Kevin Hearne, Kelley Armstrong and Jonathan Maberry since I am currently most invested in these series. However, there were some strong showing by Seanan McGuire, Carrie Vaughn and Faith Hunter. 

Overall, a recommended read for fans of the genre and these particular writers.

Final rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars


Friday, June 2, 2017

REVIEW: Menagerie & Spectacle by Rachel Vincent

When Delilah Marlow visits a famous traveling carnival, Metzger's Menagerie, she is an ordinary woman in a not-quite-ordinary world. But under the macabre circus black-top, she discovers a fierce, sharp-clawed creature lurking just beneath her human veneer. Captured and put on exhibition, Delilah in her black swan burlesque costume is stripped of her worldly possessions, including her own name, as she's forced to "perform" in town after town.

Delilah struggles for her freedom, and for her fellow menagerie, discovering a strength and a purpose she never knew existed. Menagerie is a powerfully creative narrative that will enthrall urban fantasy readers for its ingenuity and ability to illicit powerful emotions. As a reader, I was so drawn into the story and the premise, that I felt the same apprehension, despair and rage as the characters. I worried for their well being and outcome.

Menagerie certainly isn't the typical entry to the urban fantasy genre. It is full of surprises as well as thought provoking themes that echo significant crisis in our own human history.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars


*Thanks to Netgalley and Harlequin MIRA for an ARC in exchange for a fair review*

When their coup of Metzger's Menagerie is discovered, Delilah and her fellow cryptids find their newly won freedom brutally stripped away as they are sold into The Savage Spectacle, a private collection of "exotic wildlife." Specializing in ruthless cryptid cage matches, safari-style creature hunts and living party favors, the Spectacle's owner, Willem Vandekamp, caters to the forbidden fetishes of the wealthy and powerful. At the Spectacle, any wish can be granted—for the right price.

But Vandekamp's closely guarded client list isn't the only secret being kept at the Spectacle. Beneath the beauty and brutality of life in the collection lie much darker truths, and no one is more determined than Delilah to strip the masks from the human monsters and drag all dark things into the light.

Spectacle is a spellbinding read and in a class all its own in the urban fantasy genre. I stayed on pins and needles throughout the narrative--angry, frustrated and distraught over the atrocities Delilah and her allies have to endure at the hands of Vandekamp and his staff.

While not overtly graphic, the themes of social injustice, discrimination, slavery, forced prostitution, abortion and mental, physical and emotion abuse are not for the feint of heart, so readers should be prepared for the emotional upheaval that not only entices them to engage in the story but also to feel all the feels.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars                                     

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

REVIEW: The Innkeeper Chronicles Vol 1 by Ilona Andrews

*Thanks to Netgalley and Subterranean Press for an ARC in exchange for a fair review*


Meet Dina Demille, a nice Texas gal who runs a seemingly ordinary, quaint B&B. But Dina’s inn is a magic, thinking entity; her fluffy Shih-tzu, Beast really is a beast; and her guests are the kind that no one on earth is supposed to know about: guests like a dethroned galactic tyrant with a massive bounty on her head, the Lord Marshal of a powerful vampire clan, and a displaced—and superhot—alpha-strain werewolf.

So don’t expect a normal stay…and don’t stand too close, or you may be collateral damage….

In Clean Sweep, Dina—with the unwanted assistance of newcomer (and alpha werewolf) Sean Evans and Arland, a cosmic vampire soldier—takes on an extraterrestrial killing machine that could destroy her Inn, her neighbors, and everything she holds dear.

I really enjoyed this book.  The Andrews husband/wife writing team do what they do best, build a fast paced, detailed and adventurous world filled to the brim with action, tension, humor and memorable character.  I love Dina and the other characters for their diversity as much as the snarky humor these authors do so well.

While this is a contained story-line, readers are introduced to enough continuing questions to want to come back for more!  I also cannot speak highly enough of the audio narration as performed by Renee Raudman.  She does a stellar job as she has will all the other Andrews audio titles.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Sweep in Peace
, finds Dina hosting an anything-but peace summit between three warring intergalactic species; Space Vampires, the Hope-Crushing Horde, and the devious Merchants of Baha-char. 

This book was a hoot! I loved the premise and all the details of trying to make the peace summit successful despite some big hurdles.  What I also loved was the crossover from The Edge series and seeing some well loved characters mix with Dina.  However, for me, the best part was Orro, the high strung and masterful chef, who has been disgraced following the poisoning of a diplomat.  I adore him to the moon and back!

Overall, some great twists and surprises to bring back key characters.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

One Fell Sweep sends Dina to the galaxy’s worst penal colony to rescue her sister; and back home to fend off a clan of assassins in pursuit, all while saving a guest’s civilization from annihilation…and searching for her missing parents.

Another excellently plotted adventure with good romantic tension, action, and humor.  I enjoyed the addition of Dina's sister and niece as well as the resurgence of characters and some unexpected twists. Dina is making strides toward finding companionship and answers to her parents' disappearance. 

Fantastic performance in audio again by Renee Raudman.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

REVIEW: Witches of Echo Park (Books 2 and 3) by Amber Benson

The Last Dream Keeper is the second book in Benson's Witches of Echo Park trilogy. Lyse MacAllister never anticipated her visit to Echo Park would make her the master of a witches coven. She struggles to form bonds and to embrace her powers just as a dark force rises. The Flood--A group of fanatics intent on bringing about the end of times has invaded the witches Council—but the Council is turning a blind eye to the danger growing in its midst.

Only one witch is prophesied to be able to stop the encroaching darkness, leaving Lyse and her her coven of blood sisters to protect her at any cost.

Highlights for me include the multiple POV chapters and a uniquely intriguing plot. I did feel as if there were some choppy transitions due to these shifting POVs. As a reader, I think I would have connected more if there was more focus on just one narrator and more development of the villain.

Final rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

*Thank to Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for a fair review*

In this final installment to the trilogy, magic has been loosed upon the world, with the consequences putting those magically inclined in jeopardy as well as the rest of humanity.

Lyse MacAllister used to be like everyone else, blissfully ignorant of magic. However, that was before her Aunt Eleanora died, leaving her to lead the Echo Park coven. Now she finds herself in the middle of a war with The Flood, anti-magic zealots and at odds with her blood sisters.

To save the world, those she loves, and herself, Lyse must come to terms with her magical abilities and figure out a way to regain the trust of her friends and family. 

Overall, I enjoyed this conclusion to the series. The pacing and storytelling were solid and I didn't not feel as if the transitions from chapter to chapter were as choppy as in The Last Dream Keeper.  I particularly enjoyed the ending and its impact on the overall story and character.

Benson continues to surprise and delight me as an author. She's truly talented as a writer and generally a pretty cool person. She was kind enough to Skype with our library book club for the release of The Witches of Echo Park (despite being very ill).  If you have not read this series or her Calliope Reaper-Jones series, I highly recommend them.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Saturday, May 20, 2017

REVIEW: Dating You, Hating You by Christina Lauren

*Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for a fair review*

Expected publication: June 6, 2017


All’s fair in love and work. 

Dating You, Hating You is the first standalone novel by writing duo Christina Lauren. The novel is a contemporary romance that is as sexy as fan would expect but also filled to the brim with humor and sassy dialogue that will keep readers hooked from start to finish. 

Despite the odds against them from an embarrassing meet-awkward at a mutual friend’s Halloween party, Carter and Evie immediately hit it off. Even the realization that they’re both high-powered agents at competing firms in Hollywood isn’t enough to squash the fire.

But when their two agencies merge—causing the pair to vie for the same position—all bets are off. What could have been a beautiful, blossoming romance turns into an all-out war of sabotage. Carter and Evie are both thirtysomething professionals—so why can’t they act like it?

As I reader, I nearly gobbled up the book in one sitting. The story pulls you in based on the the characters and plot. There is a little War of the Roses mixed with Office Space. While both characters have their flaws, and I wanted to smack Carter a few times, I really enjoyed the overall narrative.  As a duo, the writers explore character voice, POV and relationship tensions well. 

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

REVIEW: Firestorm by Nancy Holzner

*Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC*

When Vicky allowed an ancient goddess to possess her, she had no regrets—it was the only way to protect the people she loved. But now Ceridwen, locked in a power struggle with the Hellion that long ago claimed Vicky with its mark, refuses to leave. Both beings believe controlling Vicky is the key to winning the coming war for the human realm.

Despite the forces pulling her apart, Vicky needs all her wits about her. The demons of Hell are growing bold and she can barely keep up with the attacks plaguing the city: sirens in the Mystic River, goblins snarling traffic on Storrow Drive, imps tearing the gold from the State House dome. As the signs of war multiply and Hell threatens to overrun its boundaries, Vicky finds herself torn between her duty to save the world and her desire to save something of herself.

The series ends with a strong finish. Vicky faces her literal and figurative demons to not only save herself, but those she love and pretty much the whole world. She does it with her expected humor and some assistance from her allies. The ending is appropriate and satisfying if a bit bittersweet since I always feel this way at the end of a series.

I commend Holzner for her writing and determination to publish this book despite personal tragedy that threatened to keep her from ever writing this final installment in the first place. I think her husband would be proud of her accomplishment.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Thursday, April 27, 2017

REVIEW: Dogs of War by Jonathan Maberry

*Thanks to Netgalley & St. Martin's Griffin for an ARC in exchange for a fair review*

Robots are no longer science fiction. Autonomous, programmed to react like animals: fast, relentless, deadly. From microscopic nanobots to massive self-guided aircraft. This technology is here, it’s accessible, and it’s dangerous. What’s even scarier is that almost anyone can get their hands on it.

A freelance terrorist uses the latest generation of robot dogs to deliver WMDs into cities across America. Sophisticated military weapons systems turn on their human masters. A technological apocalypse is coming and we may be too late to stop it.

Joe Ledger and a newly rebuilt Department of Military Sciences square off against this new and terrible threat.

Dogs of War is another pulse pounding, action packed bio-terrorism thriller in the Joe Ledger series. What is not to love:

NANOBOTS!

RABIES TURNED BIO-WEAPON!

EXPLOSIONS!

FIGHT SCENES!

DARK, SARCASTIC HUMOR!

CREEPY VILLAINS!

I loved everything about the book, both in print and in audio (seriously Ray Porter is a narrative genius!). Predator One and Kill  Switch were heavy and the fallout for the characters is still very real. None of them are on their game when this new threat comes into play.

Maberry is a fantastic action writer and excels at pacing, character building, dark humor and just general great storytelling. His villains are legendary as are his heroes. My only problem now is that I've gobbled up this new release and have to wait for another!

Final rating: ALL THE STARS!!!

Monday, April 17, 2017

REVIEW: The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane explores the lives of a Chinese mother and her daughter, who has been adopted by an American couple from California.

Li-yan and her family align their lives around the seasons and the farming of tea as well as strict Akha traditions and superstitions. There is ritual and routine, and it has been ever this way for generations. Then one day a jeep appears at the village gate—the first automobile any of them have seen—and a stranger arrives.

Li-yan, one of the few educated girls on her mountain, translates for the stranger. When she has a baby outside of wedlock, rather than stand by tradition, she wraps her daughter in a blanket, with a tea cake hidden in her swaddling, and abandons her in the nearest city.

This is the defining moment of Li-yan's life. While she attempts to adhere to tradition and some semblance of 'normal' happiness, fate intervenes and leads her on a dynamic journey beyond her village and into the modern world.  Her narrative is intertwined with vignettes regarding the adolescence of her daughter and the beautifully written way in which tea binds them together.

I was mesmerized by the story, especially the harshness of the traditional rituals observed by the Akha and Li-yan's slow metamorphosis as she attempts to honor her origins but embrace the modern world and many of its practices. This is a compelling story not only of culture but of love, family, identity and responsibility.

While the ending is beautiful and more than fulfilling, I found myself not wanting the story of these two women to end.  I wholeheartedly recommend the audio as narrated by Ruthie Ann Miles and Kimiko Glenn. Their performances are truly engaging.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars


Sunday, April 16, 2017

REVIEW: Euphrates Dance by Hussein Hussein

Expected publication: May 15, 2017

The narrative follows the life of a young Iraqi man in his search for peace, faith and the pursuit to live a happy and fulfilling life despite a significant series of challenges. The story balances itself in the real while steering toward the mystical with deeply psychological roots.

I originally received a copy to review as a possible book with YA appeal. As contemporary fiction, the narrative, themes, and sometimes sexual content don't lend this to be a teen read. That being said, this is a well written and thought provoking read about a region and culture that I'm not all that familiar with.

Recommended for those seeking a deeply psychological and philosophical coming of age exploring culture, religion and finding meaning when life brings extraordinary challenges.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

REVIEW: Dragonmark by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Centuries ago, Illarion was betrayed– a dragon made human against his will, then forced to serve humanity as a dragonmount in their army, and to fight for them in wars, hating everything about them. He's enslaved and separated from all family, even forced into a fey realm. Illarion's life will change when he meets his mate; however, lies, betrayal and more loss will plague their lives before they can find a chance at happiness.

I'm torn with Dragonmark. I enjoyed it so much as a good chunk of it is a POV retelling of Dragonbane. I will always admire Kenyon for her creativity and imagination to create such a detailed and connected world of characters; however, the narrative is becoming to complicated and at the same time formulaic.

Illarion is another tortured hero who has faced unimaginable heartache.  Enter the woman who will change all that. 

But wait!  Something horrific happens and they're separated :(

Time passes....

Then all is well!

I know this is the format for typical romances but the past few Dark Hunter books lack the umph of earlier titles in the series.  And at least for me, these aren't the page turners that I loved back in the day.  I still love to see appearances by favorite characters but I want a return to more focus. 

My complaint is that readers should have to have a chart to keep characters unraveled.  That Dragonmark is #27 of Dark Hunters, #1 in Dragon's Rising, and #5 in the Avalon series is just too confusing.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Saturday, April 8, 2017

REVIEW: Hamilton--The Revolution

Lin-Manuel Miranda's groundbreaking musical Hamilton is as revolutionary for audiences since its debut.  The hip-hop infused story of a poor kid from the Caribbean who fought the British, defended the Constitution, and helped to found the United States. Fusing hip-hop, pop, R&B, and the best traditions of theater, revitalizes Broadway and brings the history of American Revolution to viewers in a far more compelling way than any of us remember enduring in school.

Hamilton is amazing on its own but I have to say it is even more compelling for me since I live in a town named after him. I've been putting off listening to and immersing myself in this musical world, but now I'm hooked. I think the experience is enhanced since I didn't listen before reading this book. I heard the musical influences more clearly having the knowledge from the book already in mind. 

Hamilton-The Revolution also puts the historical context in perspective for fans. Let's face it, learning about the American Revolution in school was a pretty dreadful and boring experience but in this incarnation, it is as exciting as it is information.

I highly recommend the audiobook as narrated by Mariska Hargitay.


Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Read All The Things, Reading Recap, Vol 6

This third book in the Saints of Denver series follows Church and Dixie.

Everyone else in Dixie Carmichael's life has made falling in love look easy, and now she is ready for her own chance at some of that happily ever after. Which means she’s done pining for the moody, silent former soldier who works with her at the bar that's become her home away from home.

Denver has always been just a pit stop for Church on his way back to rural Mississippi. Church finds himself having to get out of Denver fast and back home. He asks Dixie to come with him and she accepts. When Dixie and Church find themselves caught up in a homecoming overshadowed with lies and danger, they both realize that falling in love is easy but making it stick is hard work.
I loved every word that Crownover writes and Riveted was no exception. We've been waiting for Church and Dixie's story for far too long now. Super sexy and engaging with just enough hints of danger and intrigue.  I can't recommend the audiobook enough.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars


The Operator is the sequel to first in series, The Drafter.
Betrayed by the man she thought she loved and the agency that turned her into the very thing she fought against, Peri abandoned the wealth and privilege of Opti for an anonymous life riddled with memory gaps and self-doubt. But when a highly addictive drug promises to end her dependency on those who’d use her as a tool for their own success, she must choose to either remain broken and vulnerable or return to the above-the-law power and prestige she once left: strong but without will—for whoever holds her next fix, will hold her loyalty.

The narrative of this book is compelling and keeps reader's on their toes.  It is difficult to conceive time travel in most writing; however, Harrison's perspective as well as the abilities pitfalls make for an intriguing read. I like Peri and her band of misfits. It is a challenge to keep track of who to trust and what is real.

Final rating: 4 out 5 stars



Bastien Cabarro survived the brutal slaughter of his entire family only to have his wife pin their murders on him. Made Ravin by The League, he is now a target for their assassins-in-training to hunt and kill. The average life expectancy for such beings is six weeks. But defying the odds is what this Gyron Force officer does best, and Bastien won’t rest until he lays his betrayers in their graves.

Ten years later, he has one chance to balance the scales of justice, provided he relies on his former wingman— the very sister of the woman who testified against him.

Much of this Kenyon book is predictable:

1) Romance (a bit watered down of late)
2) Tortured hero
3) Severe family issues
4) Ongoing war between The League and the rebellion
5) Cameos from other series characters which fit into the growing mythology of the world building

Born of Vengeance wasn't stellar but it is what fans have come to expect of the series and Kenyon's current writing. I feel in a rut when I read this last few publications and wonder if the author doesn't as well. Again, if you are looking to continue the stories already established and want the comfort of Kenyon's style, then pick up this latest title. Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

For nearly six hundred years, Vlad Tepesh cared for nothing, so he had nothing to lose. His brutal reputation ensured that all but the most foolhardy stayed away. Now falling in love with Leila has put him at the mercy of his passions. And one adversary has found a devastating way to use Vlad’s new bride against him.

A powerful spell links Leila to the necromancer Mircea. If he suffers or dies, so does she. Magic is forbidden to vampires, so Vlad and Leila enlist an unlikely guide as they search for a way to break the spell. But an ancient enemy lies in wait, capable of turning Vlad and Leila’s closest friends against them…and finally tearing the lovers apart forever.

I'm a little sad that the Night Prince series has concluded but it was a great ride.  This book has everything Frost fans love - humor, adventure, action, super-sexytime AND Ian! (who still needs his own book btw!!!!)

The overall plot is strong. Good pacing and character progression plus appearances by series favs. Love the audio by Tavia Gilbert.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

REVIEW: Twist by Kylie Scott

*Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for a fair review*

Expected publication: April 11, 2017

When his younger brother loses interest in online dating, hot, bearded, bartender extraordinaire, Joe Collins, only intends to log into his account and shut it down. Until he reads about her.

Alex Parks is funny, friendly, and pretty much everything he's been looking for in a woman. And in no time at all they're emailing up a storm, telling each other their deepest darkest secrets... apart from the one that really matters.

And when it comes to love, serving it straight up works better than with a twist...

I adored this book from the first page. It's smart, sexy and fun to read from start to finish.  The premise works for a great, contemporary romance. There is just enough tension, fun flirtation, down to it sexy-time and narrative tension to entrance any reader and keep them coming back for more. 

Like with most of Scott's books, I gobbled Twist up in nearly one setting. Joe is the kind of book boyfriend we all dream of and I just loved Alex, issues and all. 

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars


Sunday, March 12, 2017

REVIEW: Snared by Jennifer Estep

*Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for a fair review*

Expected Publication: April 25, 2017

Snared ironically finds Gin Blanco aka "The Spider" snared in another's web.  As she continues to investigate the mysteryious members of the Circle and their connection to her family's deaths, Gin must use all her skills to help save a missing girl from a vicious serial killer.

Her search sends her to the vicious streets of Ashland and has all her friends and confidants equally searching for clues.

A series of clues leads Gin down an increasingly dark, dangerous path, and that the missing girl is really just the most recent in a long tangled web of evil. Gin is used to facing down the dregs of society but even this one surprises her. 

I did want a bit more with the Circle but Estep is pacing this arc for readers. The burn is slow but will be worth it in the end.

Snared has everything fans of this urban fantasy series loves: action, good plot, great characters, romance, mystery and sly humor. It is a fast pacing, thrilling read.

Love it! Love Gin!

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

REVIEW: Souljacker by Yasmine Galenorn

*Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for a fair review*

The first in a new series, Lilly Bound, is a succubus owing her own sex salon in the Blood Night District of Seattle. When one of her clients ends of up dead via vampire her livelihood is at stake; however, with the discovery that the 'Souljacker'--an old, tattoo artist friend--has escaped an institution and is hellbent on 'reclaiming' all his artwork, Lilly realized that she and her closest friends are in danger. She hires Archer Desmond, a chaos demon and PI, to track the vampire down before he tracks her. But she didn't expect to fall for Archer nor to receive a new and dangerous job assignment from the Fae's Winter Court.

Souljacker is a fun, engaging and sexy read from Galenorn. Fans of her other books will enjoy the new characters and world-building.  I think Lilly is interesting and we'll see how her character develops with her new professional roles.  I like Archer but this relationship needs work since I felt like the attraction and connection were a bit too rushed.

Overall, this is a great read for Galenorn fans and for those who enjoy urban fantasy with spicy romance.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Friday, February 17, 2017

REVIEW: Gilded Cage by Vic James

*Thanks to Netgalley and Del Rey Books for an ARC in exchange for a fair review*


Gilded Cage is the debut from author Vic James. This narrative, set in Britain, supposes an alternate world where humans are either born with or without magical abilities.  The Equals, aristocrats with magic, have all the power. Leaving the commoners to suffer in servitude, most often hard slave labor, for 10 years.

Behind the enchanted gates of one of the three most powerful estates, Kyneston, a great power rises that just might break their world apart.

There is a lot going on within the book.  One one hand is the haves and have-nots of magical ability and how that affects the characters, the world and the driving force of politics throughout the book.

Is the adult fiction or YA?  Probably a crossover for both. The driving force is the introduction of two families and how they impact each other.  As commoners, the Hadley's are in a precarious place. Eldest daught, Abi, thinks she's negotiated a great deal to have her entire family serve their time together at Kyneston; however, as Equals, the Jardines break their own rules regarding keeping minor children with parents and Abi's younger brother, Luke, gets sent to the harsh labor town of Millmoor. These scenes are brutal but are the driving force for the story.  While at Millmoor, Luke becomes involved with a rebel group trying to improve the lives of slaves and readers later discover that there are more connections and a lot more deceit and power struggles afoot.

The Jardines are an interesting family. Lots of highs and lows with plenty of potential for the rest of the series.  Silyen is proving to be very tricky, dark and apt to show his hand at being an unhinged sociopath. If nothing else, he's creepy. Gavar's relationship with Daisy, the youngest Hadley is also unsettling and I spend part of my reading wanting to shake more sense into Jenner. For Abi, I can see the romantic appeal and attraction to the 'skilless' middle Jardine brother but she's a bit naive.

I do see potential for the series, especially with the events occurring at the novel's end for Abi and Luke.   I discovered the book, thinking that it might have echoes of Harry Potter and in some ways it does.  What surprised me is the bleak, dark and plain cruel nature of this society.  Definitely though provoking given the state of our own world. For the next book, I do hope there is more exploration of magic.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Follow the author on Twitter: @DrVictoriaJames

Thursday, February 9, 2017

REVIEW: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

A storm is coming...

Shadow has spent the last three years in prison. All he wants it so finish his time, go back to his wife Laura and pick up the pieces of his life. 

But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself.

Life in Wednesday's employ is far more interesting than Shadow could have ever predicted. His journey will lead him to discover that myth and legend are far more real than he ever imagined and that there is a brewing battle for America between the old and new gods of the lands. 

Can Shadow survive or will the storm prove too destructive?

Now touted a classic, American Gods has been on my "to-read" for a while now. I wasn't disappointed.  Like all of Gaiman's work, this narrative takes readers on a darkly cerebral journey filled will sex, death, mystery and intrigue while pushing the far reaches of the mind and asks us to consider what we as a society believe and value.

I'm convinced that Gaiman uses far more of his brain than just about any other human--I appreciate the way he pushes me as a reader to strive for more meaning than merely follow the narrative on the page.

Looking forward to the new STARZ series debuting this year!

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

REVIEW: Blood Vow by J.R. Ward

Blood Vow is second entry to the BDB spin-off series Black Dagger Legacy. The Black Dagger Brotherhood continues to train the best of the best to join them in the deadly battle against the Lessening Society. Among the new recruits, Axe proves to be a worthy fighter—and also a loner isolated because of personal tragedy. When an aristocratic female needs a bodyguard, Axe takes the job, though he’s unprepared for the animal attraction that flares between him and the one he is sworn to protect.

For Elise, who lost her first cousin to a grisly murder, Axe’s dangerous appeal is exhilarating and a distraction from her grief. As they delve deeper into her cousin’s death, and their physical connection grows into so much more, Axe fears that the secrets he keeps and his tortured conscience will tear them apart.

Axe and Elise are the main romantic entanglement of the book. Fans of Ward's books know what is in store--lots of sexy time, angst, self doubt and then a mostly happily ever after conclusion for the couple.

The side narrative is a continuation of Rhage and Mary's story from The Beast when an unexpected visitor threatens their newfound family putting everyone on edge.  

Overall, I enjoyed the book. It was an engaging, quick read with all the highs I typically associate with the author and the series.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

REVIEW: The Turn by Kim Harrison

The Turn is the highly anticipated prequel to Kim Harrison's bestselling series The Hollows. Readers finally get the story of how the plague takes hold--killing humans, destroying cities and ultimately bringing the existence of supernatural beings (i.e. vampires, werewolves, and witches) into the light.

Along the way we're introduced to Trent's parents and their extremely complicated relationship. Trisk and her hated rival, Kalamack, have the same goal: save their species from extinction.

Death comes in the guise of hope when a genetically modified tomato created to feed the world combines with the government's new tactical virus, giving it an unexpected host and a mode of transport. Plague takes the world, giving the paranormal species an uncomfortable choice to stay hidden and allow humanity to die, or to show themselves in a bid to save them.

Can science save us when all else fails? Or, will science actually be society's downfall?

There are some series favorite appearances by Quen and everyone's favorite demon, Al. Readers are in store for some long awaited answers, plenty of action, some seduction and a nail biting adventure.

Fans will love to hate Kal, cheer for Trisk and be generally enthralled by the narrative.


Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Read All The Things, Reading Recap Vol.5

In Pieces on the Ground is BtVS Season 10, vol 5. Demon invasions are wreaking havoc as Buffy and the gang attempt to battle three nasty villains. While Willow gets a new job and maybe a new love, Andrews is tempted by evil, Xander by Ghost Anya and Spike and Buffy continue to try and make their relationship work. Dawn has to make a difficult decision but it puts her in a place to be powerful for once even thought it is difficult for the others to handle.

I enjoyed this volume. Good story points and character progressions.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Own It is the final volume of BtVS Season 10.  The team is fractured literally and figuratively. Buffy searches for a way to bring them all back together even as her own personal life is spiraling out of control too. A new Big Bad makes a play for the Vampyre Book and Buffy has to trust in herself to make some tough decisions.  The group comes back together with some great surprises and intrigue for Season 11.

I thought this was a fantastic volume.  Excellent writing and fabulous Big Bad (no spoilers!)

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This all new Dresden Files graphic novel story takes place after White Night and Downtown.  A bizarre double murder attracts Dresden's attention but as he investigates, he encounters more puzzling questions about the culprit. This journey leads him down a dark path which places him in the middle of Chicago's three most powerful factions.  Can Dresden save the day, call a truce and keep a war from destroying the city?

Amazing story, action and graphics. I liked the unexpected villain as well as the incorporation of long standing series favorites. Murphy always kicks butt! Love Thomas and cameos by Lea, Marcone and others.


Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars




In Wishful Drinking, Carrie Fisher tells the true and intoxicating story of her life with inimitable wit. This is a poignant, honest, and at times hilarious memoir from a true Hollywood legend born of equal celebrity royalty.

I'll miss Fisher greatly. Her voice, personality and willingness to speak the truth in her own way should never be forgotten. I can't recommend the audiobook enough.


Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars


Shadowed Souls is a dark and gritty short story anthology—featuring works from Jim Butcher, Seanan McGuire, Kevin J. Anderson, and Rob Thurman—nothing is as simple as black and white, light and dark, good and evil..

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what makes it so easy to cross the line.

Overall, I enjoyed the majority of the stories but do recommend readers have a background into the specific series represented by the authors.  I picked this up with the Dresden Files story, "Cold Case" is my sights. This follows Molly in her first official duties as the new Winter Lady post Cold Days. Excellent story from Butcher with humor, intrigue and some outstanding character developments.

I need a new book!!

Other highlights for me were the stories from Seanan McGuire, Kat Richardson and Tanya Huff.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

REVIEW: Codex Alera (Books 1-6) by Jim Butcher

Furies of Calderon marks the first in an epic fantasy series by Jim Butcher and best summed up as a cross between Game of Thrones and Rome. The political structure is much like that of ancient Rome, with aging First Lord Gaius Sextus' rule in jeopardy due to a lack of heirs and other High Lords looking to claim power.

In this world, human have the ability to manipulate elementals they call furies (i.e. air, fire, water, earth, metal). While the people of Alera use these abilities to help combat the often aggressive other races of the realm, young Tavi is unique in his lack of furycrafting. However, what sets him apart from others also means that he must use his wits and bravery to survive when a savage enemy--the Ma'rat--return to the Calderon Valley.

Whilst caught in a wind storm, Tavi's choice to save a slave named Amara sets powerful pieces in motion that will change his life and impact the whole of Alera.

This is the third time I've read book one. I love the unique world-building and fantastic character development characteristic of Butcher's writing. He's amazing at writing an intriguing and likeable underdog.  Tavi's greatest strength is that he has only himself to rely upon and not furycrafting to get him out of dangerous situations.  Despite his 15 years, he's brave, smart, funny, and can think on his feet.

I enjoy the other host of characters including Amara, Isana, and Bernard.  The villains are well portrayed--truly power hungry and deliciously vile!  I love the unique take on building this world, its peoples and the imaginative races and creatures that threaten to upset the peace.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Academ's Fury happens a few years after book 1. Tavi is studying to become a Cursor; however, he still lacks furycrafting abilities. Ever the underdog, he's formed friendships with other outsiders at school.

Alera is still in political unrest but an awakened, mythological foe now threatens the entire realm. The Vord attack on two fronts, splitting the narrative for action driven scenes following Amara and Bernard as well as Tavi doing his best to protect the First Lord. And boy are the Vord warriors and queens SCARY!!

This book has a lot in store for Isana--placed in a precarious political position and forced to make alliances out of necessity rather than her own desires.  Lots of great surprise revelations with her character and connections to other major players throughout the series.

I also adore the two main romantic relationships--Amara and Bernard are just so adorable.  Tavi and Kitai are as well.  I love the verbal banter for each!

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

In a power-hungry rebellion, High Lord Kalare has challenged First Lord Gaius Sextus. This is again a split narrative following Tavi on one front--sent with a false identity to join a newly minted Legion. It becomes apparent that Kalare has combine forces with Aleran enemies from afar, the wolf-like warriors and sorcerers known as the Canim.  When treachery from within destroys the army's command structure, Tavi finds himself leading an inexperienced, poorly equipped legion-the only force standing between the Canim horde and the war-torn realm. He isn't ready to be "Captain" but he embraces the role readily and leads the soldiers with his tactical ingenuity and intelligence, once again unable to rely on furycrafting like others of the realm.

While Tavi's part in this tale is significant, Isana is a key player. Readers learn more about her past, her connection to Araris Valerian. Butcher weaves in even more narrative surprises. Amara and Bernard's story-line is a bit less impressive during this book; however, their time with Rook and the additional allies they meet will prove important for later books.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Two more years have passed since the Aleran legions have been battling the Canim horde.  Tavi continues to act as captain under an assumed name, fighting the Canin plus deal with power hungry politicians hell bent to relieve him of his command.  In order to put an end to the fighting, Tavi must determine what might appease the enemy to go home, only to then realize that another shared enemy, that's right, The Vord, has forced them from their homeland. Tavi and his allies pull off the prison break of all prison breaks to forge a new alliance and give both sides a chance of survival.

Captain's Fury is a pivotal book for the series.  Tavi learns the truth of his parentage and has it out with his mother about all the lies. He is learning to furycraft. He declares his parentage to all and then has to accept the fallout of his actions.

It is a big book for Isana too. She's much more powerful then she ever imagined. A good portion of Amara and Bernard's story following the First Lord is a bit slow; however, the events at the end are significant and change Amara's role as a Cursor forever.

I adored this book! It is a real emotional page turner. I just adore Tavi and felt so proud during all his moments.  I love Kitai as always too.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Parts of Princeps Fury are a bit of a slow burn.  There is a lot of important stuff happening but this is really the last narrative bridge before the final book of the series.

Tavi, now recognized as Princeps Gaius Octavian and heir to the crown, has achieved a fragile alliance with Alera's oldest foes, the savage Canim. But when he and the legions guide the Canim safely back to their lands, Tavi's worst fears are realized.

The dreaded Vord - the enemy of Aleran and Cane alike - have spent the last three years laying waste to the Canim homeland. And when the Alerans are cut off from their ships, they find themselves with no choice but to fight shoulder to shoulder if they are to survive.

Meanwhile, back in Alera, the Vord are also attacking the realm. What is left of the divided legions must stand together, ignoring feuds and differences in order to fight the enemy. 

Readers get plenty of nail-biting suspense as new alliances are formed, murderous plots are revealed and Gaius Sextus makes the ultimate sacrifice for his people while setting up a few unlikely challenges for those who might succeed his rule.

This was another compelling page turner with plenty of cliffhanger moments. Isana again surprised me as did some other characters. 

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

And now for the epic end. Will Tavi make it back to Alera in time? Will those left be able to save Alera from the Vord?

For years all of Tavi's trials and tribulations have led him to this moment. Now the rightful First Lord, Tavi must lead his Legion as well as their Canim allies on a harrowing journey to face down the Vord in an epic battle.  If they fail in their effort to defeat the Vord Queen, all hope is lost.  All of his skills are put to the test as he'll have to not only prove he is adept at powerful furycrafting but also use his intelligence and wits to outsmart the enemy on his home-turn, the Calderon Valley.

Everything comes together with fantastic action sequences from multiple fronts--Amara and Bernard fighting the good fight on their own, holding out to wait for Tavi's much anticipated arrival as well as a surprising story-line for Isana that fits in with the final battle as well as provides some interesting psychoanalysis time with the enemy queen.

I loved everything about this book. Tavi + Kitai= Forever.  What an epic relationship that never disappoints.  The same for Isana and Alaris as well as Amara and Bernard.  There are a few heart-stopping moments and I adored them all.  It is a bit bittersweet to finally finish these books but the journey was so worth it!

Final rating: ALL THE STARS!


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