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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:







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!

Follow the author on Twitter: @longshotauthor

#CodexAlera #epicfantasy #adventure #magic #humor #romance #books

REVIEW: "Bombshells" by Jim Butcher

"Bombshells" is a short story of the Dresden Files occurring between Changes and Ghost Story.  Told from Molly Carpenter's POV, she's dealing with the death of her mentor, staying under the White Council's readar and has been keeping up her magical apprentice training with 'Auntie Lea' while assuming the Ragged Lady persona to fight the Fomor's increasing presence in Chicago. When Justine shows up claiming Thomas is missing, Molly does some investigating before teaming up with Justine and Andi (Butters' werewolf girlfriend) to crash a party, thwart the treaty signing between the Fomor and Svartalves, save Thomas and prevent a bomb explosion. All in a day's work, right!?!

This story is featured in the anthology Dangerous Women edited by George R. R. Martin and featuring other stories by Carrie Vaughn, George R.R. Martin, Brandon Sanderson, and Diana Gabaldon. I skimmed through the rest of the book but wasn't enamored by many of the other stories.

I really enjoyed "Bombshells" since I adore Butcher's writing but also the chance to read a story from Molly's perspective. I love her and the growth her character has made since she arrived into Dresden's life in Proven Guilty. Lea, Butters and Andi never disappoint and it is always nice to see Justine and Thomas.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

#bombshells #dresdenfiles #anthology #DangerousWomen #books

Thursday, January 26, 2017

REVIEW: Undead and Done by MaryJanice Davidson

Betsy is back for one final chapter as Queen of the Vampires and chief overseer of Hell. Since her Antichrist half sister, Laura, outed the existence of vampires to the media, Betsy is dealing with the fallout in typical zany fashion.

Her interview on the local news doesn’t exactly put out the fire. It more or less turns it into a fiery blaze. All the attention has the werewolves agitated and making demands. Toss in some mermaids as well as Betsy's new parole program for 'lucky' candidates in Hell and this hilariously funny series ends with a quite literal bang.

Betsy and her crew are still crazy, still hilarious. It is bittersweet to see the series come to an end but it is time. The full scope of the narrative has been explored with satisfactory resolutions for many of the characters and a positive outlook for the future.

I'll miss Betsy's shoe-centric obsession, her snark and sense of consciousness storytelling. It was refreshing to see Fred the mermaid make an appearance!

Goodbye for now, Betsy!

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @MaryJaniceD

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

REVIEW: Eleventh Grave in Moonlight by Darynda Jones

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

Charley Davidson is still learning to balance her life as a sleuthing, part-time P.I. and full-time Grim Reaper. Investigations, talking to the departed plus dealing with all manner of demons, hell-hounds, evil gods and angels are just another normal day. Not to mention lusting after her often infuriating and hot as hell husband, Reyes Farrow--literally the son of Satan.

In this 11th installment to the series, Charley continues to discover the scope of her powers since learning that she is a goddess with extreme abilities and her daughter is destined to save the world from total destruction.  Charley is still dealing with the fact that she cannot raise or even see her child in hopes to protect her from those who mean Beep harm.

Readers are in store for another humorous, sexy and well crafted supernatural mystery/thriller with plenty of unexpected twists. Charley continues her investigative work which often have multiple ties to her personal life. There is definite friction between herself and Reyes since she pursues the case against the Fosters--the couple who kidnapped Reyes as a baby as well as his 'brother' and other children. What she finds is surprising but connected to the supernatural.

The Amber story-line was a surprise turn but a well crafted bit of writing from the author to tie a lot of the narrative together as well as continuing to give readers of glimpse of where this series might be going and steer the course for the spin-off Jones keeps promising.

Eidolon makes a surprising reappearance that again brings about dire turmoil and consequences for Charley and her supernatural crew.  I had an inkling regarding the ending but was not prepared for the shock nor the lingering sense of disbelief that we'll have to wait for the next book for some answers and 'hopfully' peace of mind.

Reading these in print is never a disappointment but I can't wait to revisit it in audio as performed by Lorelei King.

Overall, I LOVED IT!

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @darynda

#11thGrave #CharleyDavidson #grimreaper #humor #paranormal #romance #mystery #reading

Thursday, January 19, 2017

REVIEW: Old Demons (Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10, Vol 4)

With supreme Big Bad, Archaeus (connected to many Slayers throughout time), wreaking havoc, Buffy and the Scooby Gang need more reinforcements.  Defeating this foe poses a challenge, especially when the extent of Archaeus' power and his plans, and their connection to the new rules of magic, are revealed.

For the first few issues, Angel is back.  It is a bit awkward, especially since Spike and Buffy are a thing again. Angel broods, he and Spike fight, they all talk it out, Angel gets a Willow peptalk, then he leaves again basically biding his time until he thinks Buffy and Spike will break up again in the future. Not a whole lot of character progression for him here.

What I did find interesting was pushing Buffy and Spike's relationship further in later issues, especially touching upon the fateful bathroom violence and near rape of television's season 6. The conversation was long overdue.

I enjoyed Giles grown up romp when he's free from his child body for a bit.  It is always nice to see Olivia show back up.  And I'm curious to see where the plot is going with the not-Anya spirit and also dreading that Riley is going to show back up (make it stop!).

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

#buffy #buffythevampireslayer #graphicnovels #comics #DarkHorseComics #vampires #supernatural #humor

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

REVIEW: The Darkest Torment by Gena Showalter

The twelfth book in Showalter's Lords of the Underworld series, immortal warrior, Baden, was driven to his death by the demon of Distrust.He spent years in Purgatory only to be sent back to Earth. But at what cost? Now bound to Hades, he cannot bear the touch of others and continues to spiral into a heartless assassin with an even more uncontrollable temper.

Given the chance to earn his freedom, he must win a contest posed by his master which pits him again his most hated foe, Pandora. Things only get worse when a mission goes awry and Baden finds himself saddled with a bride—just not his  own.
Famed dog trainer Katarina Joelle is forced to marry a monster to protect her loved ones. Taken hostage by the ruthless, beautiful Baden immediately after the ceremony, she's plunged into a war she never imagined.  Although they are meant to be enemies, neither can resist the passion burning between them.

This wasn't one of my favorites in the series.  Baden comes across as the typical alpha immortal with a tortured soul. All it will take is the love of a good woman to set him to rights.  I didn't particularly care for Katarina.  Until I actually saw where the whole "dog" theme was going, I thought she was pretty cheesy. So as a couple and with their story, they don't rank all that high for me.

What was compelling as a reader was the William and Gillian twist.  I desperately want those two to get their own book and I know that is coming but Ms. Showalter get on with it! I'm also looking forward to Cameo's book and to see if she can find any measure of happiness.

Final rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @genashowalter

#LordsOfTheUnderworld #DarketstTorment #paranormalromance #AngelsandDemons

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

REVIEW: Half-Resurrection Blues by Daniel Jose Older

The first in the Bone Street Rumba series, is a foray into paranormal noir.  Carlos Delacruz is an inbetweener--half dead, half alive--working for the New York Council of the Dead.  He thinks he's unique—until he encounters other entities walking the fine line between life and death.

Eliminating a threat at the Council's behest, Carlos learns that he isn't alone.  Guilt and duty lead him to find the sister of his victim. However, what Carlos discovers is an inbetweener sorcerer who has summoned ngks, a horde of imp-like creatures that consume spirits. If they're not stopped, they'll spread through the city like a plague. Revealing the identity of this man means that Carlos must confront his own life and death. Much remains shrouded in mystery for tale to come.

This was my chance to try a genre I'm not as familiar with. At times Carlos reminds me a bit of Harry Dresden (but Dresden has a better sense of humor or an isn't as cynical). Other readalikes are Fated by Benedict Jacka, The Devil You Know by Mike Carey, and Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey.

The city and this interpretation of Brooklyn are very much supporting characters to the narrative. Carlos is intriguing in perspective--jaded, but likeable for readers. What is interesting is experiencing him learn of his own fragmented memories and to see how he deals with some pretty life altering changes. I liked the book for its diversity of characters, pacing and storytelling. I did feel the flow was hampered a bit at times and I didn't particularly like the ending. Furthermore, I'd have to have proof that the depiction of female characters improves in subsequent books. From the covers alone, I think at least Sasha plays a larger role.

Final rating:
3 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @djolder

#BoneStreetRumba #halfresurrectionblues #paranormalnoir #mystery #ghosts

REVIEW: Lost Souls by Kelley Armstrong

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

Expected publication: March 2017

Lost Souls is set between Deceptions and Betrayals (book 3 and 4 in the Cainsville series). This novella features characters from the series embarking on an investigation that has little bearing on the main struggles of the characters.

With Liv away on a vacation with Ricky, Gabriel has too much time to feel insecure about both their personal and working relationship.  Patrick attempts to engage or distract Gabriel with a new investigation. Strange occurrences happen with what appears to be a hitchhiking ghost; however, delving into details on his own and finally Liv, Gabriel discovers that there is also a distinct tie not only the fae but also to his past.

This is very much an opportunity for readers to explore Gabriel's insights and character.  He's had a troubled past and doesn't always play well with others but the introduction of Liv into his life has changed him.  Gabriel is learning, but in Lost Souls he still just can't quite go for it and let loose his emotions and say what he wants or means. It is a big moment for him to be able to admit that yes, his is a lost soul, but in the admittance he acknowledges that he is working toward finding his way. Having recently read Betrayals, I've gleaned more insight into his progress but he isn't quite there yet--we have to see what Rituals has in store.

What I did miss here with the advanced copy was access to the illustrations available with the release in hardcover come March.  Based on similar collaborations from Armstrong and Subterranean Press for her Women of the Otherworld series, I'm sure they are well done and add a bit of extra flair to the story.  I'll definitely be seeking out the print book when it is available. 

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @KelleyArmstrong

#LostsSouls #Cainsville #mystery #ghosts #subterraneanpress #illustrations #netgalley

Monday, January 9, 2017

REVIEW: Phantom Kiss by Chloe Neill

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

Phantom Kiss is a novella serving as 12.5 in the Chicagoland Vampires series. Merit and Ethan are just two months from their wedding.  After attending a joint wedding showing, the couple is once again sidetracked by supernatural duty to help protect Chicago from all manner of paranormal beasties.  When they get a call detailing that someone is disturbing graves and stealing skulls, they are on high alert that a past foe, a powerful sorceress, might be back in town.

When a dangerous spirit seems to have followed them home to Cadogan House, Merit and Ethan realize that vanquishing this evil spectre might be a challenge.

This is a quick, exciting read with just enough supernatural flair! I enjoyed the banter and visits from some of the series' favorite characters. Neill makes it easy for fans to fall right back in with characters and the tone of familiarity between not only Merit and Ethan but the rest of the gang. My only request was that the story be longer so as to build up the sense of intrigue but overall it was engaging and well written.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @chloeneill

#PhantomKiss #ChicagolandVampires #novella #MeritAndEthan #mystery #ghosts #romance

Friday, January 6, 2017

REVIEW: The Bone Collection by Kathy Reichs

This collection of four novellas features three previously available titles in the Temperance Brennan series as well as one new story. Please see the links for my previous reviews of:

Bones In Her Pocket

Swamp Bones

Bones on Ice

First Bones is a unique reading experience for series fan as the origin story of how Brennan embarks on her career as a forensic anthropologist in North Carolina.  It all began with a visit from two detectives, an arson, and a body burned beyond recognition; a case so alluring that she's willing to leave academia behind for the grim but addictive world of criminal investigation.

Another interesting aspect to this story is that it is told in differing time periods. The novella is framed at the beginning and end by Brennan holding vigil in the hospital for a beloved character ( I won't divulge who). The rest takes us back to Brennan's first case involving the crew from North Carolina--Detectives Slidell and Rinaldi, Dr. Larabee and Mrs. Flowers.  Overall, it isn't one of my favorite short stories of the series since it lacks some of the intricacies of the others; however, it was insightful and entertaining.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @KathyReichs

#forensics #kathyreichs #prequel #temperancebrennan #bones #northcarloina #AIDS #arson #bookreview

Thursday, January 5, 2017

REVIEW: Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

Bernadette Fox has a pretty notorious reputation.  To her Microsoft big-wig husband, she's opinionated and fearless. To the fellow private-school mothers, she's a disinterested disgrace. To architectural design students around the world, she's a genius. And to her daughter, 15-year-old Bee, Bernadette is simply the best, pretty cool mom around.

“I'm not too good when exposed to people”--Bernadette

Upon acing her report card, Bee calls in her parents' promise to grant her a reward. And what does she want? A family trip to Antarctica, of course! However, Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle—and people in general—has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands, making a trip to the end of the earth problematic. Toss in a concerned husband, psychiatric therapist and an FBI invitation and things really go awry when Bernadette disappears!

“I'm going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it's boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn it's on YOU to make life interesting, the better off you'll be."--Bernadette

In order to find her mother, Bee compiles her mother's emails and other official documents which create the narrative to a hilarious and touching novel that kept me engaged from start to finish.  The characters are fantastic! I adore Bernadette and Bee so much but love the crazy neighbor, Audrey too--as well as a host of other characters driving this unique story. I can't wait to delve into more novels by Semple!

This is part of my 2017 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge; category--a book of letters.  The compiled, epistolary nature of the story really adds to the appeal and is the driving force of the novel. So well done! I highly recommend the audiobook as well!

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @_MariaSemple

#wheredyougobernadette #humor #mystery #family #agoraphobia #antarctica #seattle #books

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

REVIEW: Slammed (1-3) by Colleen Hoover

Following the unexpected death of her father, 18-year-old high school senior Layken travels from Texas to Michigan with her mother and younger brother.  Grieving the loss of her parent and life as she knew it, things unexpectedly look up with she meets charming and attractive neighbor Will Cooper, who has a passion for slam poetry. Within days of their introduction, they've formed a real connection, giving Layken a new lease on life until a startling revelation slams them both back to reality.

Slammed is told entirely from Layken's POV and explores her feelings at dealing with all the challenges life throws at her from the loss of her father, her complicated relationship with Will, as well as the secret news leveled at her by her mother that will leave her wrecked beyond belief.

This is very much a coming of age novel with a strong emphasis on negotiating responsibility and relationships.  While characteristic of Hoover's writing angst ridden, complicated characters, I could certainly tell this was her debut novel.  The style, structure and word choice lacks the sophistication which she's developed over the past few years.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Told from Will's POV, Point of Retreat is a continuation of Slammed.  The couple have weathered the storm surrounding the unfortunate beginning of their relationship, extreme personal responsibilities and unspeakable loss. When someone from Will's past re-emerges, the core of their relationship is tested.

Honestly, for me, the majority of this book is about Layken being stupid and blowing circumstances completely out of proportion to the point that I wanted Will to 'retreat' and run as fast as he could in the opposite direction. Once Will and Layken get their ducks in a row, readers experience the expected "You've Got to Be Kidding" moment which puts multiple characters in peril but pushes the narrative through to the happily ever after.

I am still a bigger fan of Will and other secondary characters than the female protagonist who is sometimes just 'butterflying' obnoxious.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

In this final book, Will and Layken have managed to work out their issues and have gotten married.  During their honeymoon, she asks Will to recount important moments of his life before he met her as well as key instances of their relationship from his POV.

There are a few surprising confessions on Will's part, mostly serving the purpose to rile Layken up so she acts like a brat, giving this narrative some drama so that the characters can fight, talk and make up.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Overall, I enjoyed the trilogy but these books aren't my favorite examples of Hoover's writing.  She's come light-years as a writing in just over 4 years with respect to honing her craft and style. She's tightened her structure and vocabulary to omit a lot of the repetitiveness which I disliked about the Slammed series.

Follow the author on Twitter: @colleenhoover

#slammed #newadult #grief #relationships #responsibility #romance

Monday, January 2, 2017

REVIEW: Dead Seekers by Barb & JC Hendee

*I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review*

Set in the same epic fantasy world as the Noble Dead series, Barb & J.C. Hendee treat readers to a new adventure.

Noble born Tris Vishal has left his title and lands in order to travel from village to village using his unique gift to put unsettled spirits to rest.  Orphaned Mari Kahleja, a Mondyalitko shapeshifter, has thirsted for vengeance ever since her family was seemingly slaughtered by violent spirits.  She's devoted her life toward tracking the one she believes responsible--the Dead's Man.

When their paths finally cross, Mari cannot fathom that this young and solemn loner could be the one responsible for her pain. Before she kills him, she must be sure.  Traveling as his companion to learn more, they begin a journey where those living are just as dangerous, if not more so, than the dead.

The only question remaining for them is just who is the predator and the prey?

The Hendee's continue to do what they do best--write interesting and unique characters who discover themselves as they journey throughout a well crafted fantasy landscape.  The world building is stellar as are the emerging character relationships. I like both Tris and Mari and am interested to see what develops between these two as the series continues.  In some ways they remind me fondly of how Magiere and Leesil might have been like before readers met them in Dhampir (Noble Dead #1).

In general, the plot and overall mystery adventure was entertaining and kept my interest throughout. I breezed through the book since it had good pacing.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the authors on Twitter: @NobleDeadOrg  @BarbHendeeOrg

#DeadSeekers #fantasy #ghosts #spirits #netgalley #books

REVIEW: HardBall by CD Reiss

Hardball is a standalone, sports themed erotic romance. Professional baseball player for the Dodgers, Dash Wallace is one of the sport's hottest commodities on and off the field. Like many athletes, he's a slave to his rituals and superstitions, necessary evils in his mind to keep him playing well.  One vice is a woman for each city; however, his life changes after a chance meeting with school librarian, Vivian.

Vivian comes across as a the bookish and naive female protagonist, formerly burned by love who is too complacent in her everyday life spent working and caring for her stepfather, who is in ill heath.  That fateful meeting with Dash, followed by their continued interactions sparks desire and other feelings she isn't quite ready to process.

A lot of HardBall is expected from the genre. It is pretty steamy and Dash is definitely an alpha male in and out of the bedroom. Props to Vivian, who does learn when to say, "Enough already." However, I thought she took him back too readily after his bad behavior. This is one of those relationships that readers can let pass with a fictional happily ever after even though in reality it isn't exactly a normal, healthy relationship.  Despite a marriage proposal, in real life, I doubt it would last much past the altar.  Like with most romance books, readers need a good suspension of disbelief for this one.  That said, it delivers what was promised and was a good escapism read for the end of my 2016.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @CDReisswriter

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