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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

#HardBall #romance #baseball #erotic #relationships #superstitions