Shadowed Threads ~ Shannon Mayer

  • Title:  Shadowed Threads
  • Author:  Shannon Mayer
  • Series:  Rylee Adamson #4
  • Genre:  Urban Fantasy
  • Format:  eBook
  • Source:  Own
  • Reviewed by: Sonja
  • Rating:  3 out of 5

Description:  When children go missing, and the Humans have no leads, I’m the one they call. I am their last hope in bringing home the lost ones. I salvage what they cannot.

O’Shea is AWOL, and Tracking him is proving to be harder than I expected.

Not to mention the small fact that I have the Beast of Bodmin Moor chasing me across Europe, in a race against the odds, and my life as the prize.

But those things are minor compared to the secrets that finally come to light.

Secrets I wish had stayed hidden in the darkness . . .

Review:  Rylee is adding to her menagerie. Sometimes, I feel like Shannon is trying to hard to include *every* mythical being ever conceived of. And, don’t get me wrong – I loved Blaz. I have loved dragons ever since I read my first Pern novel. But, he just seems so . . . dropped in. His presence makes no sense – and his character makes no sense. Maybe all the dragon nonsense will become clear in a future episode, but right now it only leaves me scratching my head.

I found Jack actually useful – I enjoyed him – he seems to be taking the place of Giselle as a mentor to Rylee.

I am totally over Milly. When we began in the first novel, we are told that Milly is Rylee’s best friend – almost a sister. Yet, we see none of this relationship – only Milly being a first class . . . witch.

Eve is growing and maturing. I adore Eve.I felt the characters of Will and Deanna are short-changed – both hold such promise – and are just dropped like a hot potato. Alex. I love Alex. I want an Alex.

But, mostly, Liam is back. Almost everything can be forgiven with Liam back.

These people form the basis of why I shall keep returning to this world: I love Rylee’s passion and concern for everyone around her. I feel for the way she tries to be everything to everyone and even if she fails, her heart is *always* in the right place. The story doesn’t matter so much – which child we are after of why we are after her/him – these are just vehicles to share a journey with Rylee – and her menagerie.

Ugh. I wanted to love this one. I have really enjoyed the series up until now. But, one simple thing took it from a 4 star to a 3 star – the f-word. While it has not been absent from any of the previous novels, it is prevalent in this one – as in several times on each page. I will make no bones about the fact that I *hate* that word. If you use it in conversation with me, I will hear nothing that you say after it. It is just a fact. Not intentional – it just happens. That being said, I will forgive it if used in an “appropriate manner.” You thought you were battling a witch, and her entire coven shows up? Sure. I’m ok with it.

In this novel, however, every time Rylee feels something going wrong – or like it *might* go wrong – or for any reason really – she thinks, “Fword me.” I mean – seriously all the time. She has absolutely no other phrase to use – only that one. I think Ms. Mayer would have found a thesaurus handy. 😀 This doesn’t include the other times she uses it in conversation (even with little Pamela ears nearby.) Its use dragged me out of the story and journey and truly hurt my enjoyment of this novel. Its only saving grace is that it is *not* used (highlight for spoiler) when Liam *finally* returns.

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Forged in Blood I ~ Lindsay Buroker

  • Title: Forged in Blood I
  • Author:  Lindsay Buroker
  • Series:  Emperor’s Edge 6
  • Genre:  Urban Fantasy, Steampunk
  • Format:  eBook
  • Source:  Own Copy
  • Reviewed by: Sonja
  • Rating:  3 out of 5

Description:  The emperor has been ousted from the throne, his bloodline in question, and war is descending on the capital. Forge, the nefarious business coalition that has been manipulating the political situation from the beginning, has the ultimate weapon at its disposal.

 If it was difficult for a small team of outlaws–or, as Amaranthe has decided they should now be called, rebels–to make a difference before, it’s a monumental task now. If she’s to return idealistic young Sespian to the throne, earn the exoneration she’s sought for so long, and help her closest ally win the respect of the son who detests him, she’ll have to employ an unprecedented new scheme…preferably without destroying the city–or herself–in the process.

Review:  Soooo. This one took me much longer to get into than the last 5. It may well be because it didn’t have the impetus of reading them back to back to back. Therefore, I had to pick up and get back into the characters and the ongoing story. I considered re-reading the first 5 before picking this one up – and I even intended to do so. However, I have had such a reading ‘tude going on that I was just not of a mind to re-read anything.

Even though it took me a bit, I did enjoy this one. We get a bit more a feel for Sicarius and who and what he is. I didn’t think I would, but I really enjoyed getting into his brain. Much less of the sillyness that is Maldynado – and I think I missed that a bit. For most of the book, two teams are split up trying to accomplish different goals toward the same end – and I missed their camaraderie.

I don’t know that I am a fan of the typical fantasy plot set-up – slow going at the beginning, build up to discover what is happening toward the middle – until we get to the big, really climactic finish. I mean, most of the stories these days are told in series, and when each book follows the same model, it makes it hard for me to enjoy. I have already had the slow build up – I read the first book. I deserve some action now, doggone it! I shouldn’t have to wait until the end. And, oh yea, when I *do* get to the end, it really isn’t the end – but a darn cliffhanger which means to get to the end of the darn story I am going to have to wade through the beginning of yet another book. (Um, in case you, dear reader, cannot tell, I really don’t care for the slow beginnings.)

Which brings me to the end. Lindsay did not lead us astray here – she warned us of the cliffhanger at the end of book 6. This would be why I did not pick up this one until the next was out. Here is the problem. I was hooked – hook, line and sinker – right up to the last sentence. The VERY LAST SENTENCE. It made me mad. The cliffhanger actually made me mad. I don’t like it. I don’t like where the story must go from here. I don’t think I want to travel that path.

In truth. I bought the next book. I read the epilogue. (So, shoot me. I wanted to know where the story went – though I was fairly certain I knew.) I still don’t know if I will read that book in its entirety. I am still angered by the plot device caused by the cliffhanger.

That single paragraph – on which the book ends – took the book down to 3 stars from 4. Sorry. But, there is the truth of it.

Tempting Danger ~ Eileen Wilks

  • Title:  Tempting Danger
  • Author:  Eileen Wilks
  • Series:  World of the Lupi, #1
  • Genre:  Urban Fantasy
  • Format:  eBook
  • Source:  Own Copy
  • Reviewed by: Sonja
  • Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Description:  The USA Today bestselling author tempts success in this stunning debut novel.

National bestselling author Eileen Wilks draws readers into a bold new world where the magical and mundane co-exist in an uneasy alliance–and a cop balanced on her own knife-edged struggle is their only hope against a cold-blooded killer.

Lily Yu is a San Diego police detective investigating a series of grisly murders that appear to be the work of a werewolf. To hunt down the killer, she must infiltrate the clans. Only one man can help her–a were named Rule Turner, a prince of the lupi, whose charismatic presence disturbs Lily. Rule has his own reasons for helping the investigation–reasons he doesn’t want to share with Lily. Logic and honor demand she keep her distance, but the attraction between them is immediate and devastating-and beyond human reason. Now, in a race to fend off evil, Lily finds herself in uncharted territory, tested as never before, and at her back a man who she’s not sure she can trust.

Review:  Ok, I admit it. I am a sucker for those ‘chosen’ relationships. Not so much because I think everyone deserves someone, but because I like to think that once you have found the *one* nothing will break you up. It is easier to work through the problems and difficulties that *will* arise, if one *knows* in his/her *soul* that it *can* be worked out and that the other isn’t going anywhere. (Note: this does not mean living in misery, it means working through difficulties instead of giving up and walking away.)

Now, all that being said – I still don’t like romances. I find that that Urban Fantasy novels seem to fall into 3 categories with the UF along to tweak the story a bit: Romance, Action, and Mystery. I try to avoid the romances – they bore me. The ones that intrigue me most are mysteries. But, the ones I seem to enjoy the most are the action novels. There is a wee bit of a mystery here as Lily tries to determine who committed the murder and why they did so. But, mostly, it is about getting them once the ‘who’ is uncovered.

The world that Ms. Wilks creates here is interesting, if not outstandingly creative. Much like Briggs’ Mercy’s world, the fantasy elements have come out of the closet and the world is trying to figure out how to deal with them. In *this* world, they are required to ‘register’, and the political arena is set to determine the humanity of the lupi. Currently, if they are killed while they are in wolf form, it is not considered ‘murder.’ The murder, however, of a man by a lupus in wolf form is set to destroy the carefully planned political strategies.

Enter Lily: ‘sensitive’ against whom magic cannot be used but who can ‘sense’ magic and its use. She is used by the police force without being ‘outed’ by the same force. She is a young detective and, therefore, when she is put in charge of this politically charged case, it raises some eyebrows. Lily, aware of the tension, sets out to solve the case with as little damage as possible. This, of course, leads her to investigate the local lupus pack. Where the magic immediately crackles.

Lily is no pushover. She stands strong both with the police and the pack. She understands the political ramifications of the case as well as her appointment as lead detective on the case. She is well aware of the affect that Rule, and the other lupi, have on women. (In this world, it seems only men can transform.) Their mores are different and their actions reflect this. Even so, she lets no one – except her grandmother – push her around.

Overall, I give this one 3.5 stars. I round up to 4 because it does not suffer from the typical 1st book world building problem – the characters, world, and plot are interesting and entertaining.

Ohh, the best part? Rule battling with Dirty Harry for dominance.

Sleight of Hand ~ Mark Henwick

  • Title:  Sleight of Hand
  • Author:  Mark Henwick
  • Series:  Bite Back, #1
  • Genre:  Urban Fantasy
  • Format:  eBook
  • Source:  Own Copy
  • Reviewed by: Sonja
  • Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Description:  “Vampires are the flickering illusions of Hollywood. They don’t exist. We do. We are the Athanate.”

For Amber Farrell, post-military life as a PI has its ups and downs: She’s been hit by a truck. She’s being sued by a client. Denver’s newest drug lord just put out a contract on her. The sinister Athanate want her to come in for a friendly chat. And it’s only Tuesday.

Enter Jennifer Kingslund: rich, gorgeous—a tough businesswoman who’s known for getting what she wants in the boardroom and the bedroom. Someone’s trying to sabotage her new resort and destroy her company—and she wants Amber to find out who.

The answers lead Amber past Were and Adepts, right back to the Athanate—and a centuries-old war that could threaten not just Denver, but the nation that Amber swore to protect and serve.

And all sides want to claim her for their own…

Review:  Ok, this book helped me come to a realization: I still don’t like vampires, but I really kinda like shifters. There is just something about those werewolves . . . (or werecats . . .)

Also, another book (I think that is 2 in a row – I’ve lost the order in which I’ve read) that use another name for ‘vampire’ – here (in case you didn’t read the description) we have “Athanate.” Yet, somehow, they are still creepy. Our heroine, Amber, has, in a previous operation, been attacked by a vampire. She has the ‘prions’ in her blood that will eventually turn her, but hasn’t yet turned. She is fighting this with every fiber of her being. In other words, Amber is smart. 😉 There is some mystery here concerning her turning that is being uncovered piece by piece – so I don’t expect a complete answer for a few books down the road . . .

Amber is also a trained soldier. It was in that capacity that she had her first “other-worldly” encounters. After she was released from isolation, she briefly entered the local police department. After another such encounter, she turned to private investigation – where she could be her own boss. Her (friendly) contacts typically refer ‘weird’ cases to her . . . Not that she is always excited about it. But, this is the case with Jen Kingslund. The chief of police is her friend. Amber is left to decrypt the financials, find the missing, and resolve the whos, whys, and wherefores.

But, at its heart, this is an action novel – not a mystery novel. The action sequences are well written and well delivered. Mr. Henwick does a great job with them. I want to say the characterizations were bit shallow, but many *many* of the characters come vividly to mind . . . The rich beauty, the new initiate, the elite old Athenate and even the werewolf. Not to mention the receptionist and the other people whose lives Amber has touched.

There are some things done a little differently here (even beyond those upon which we have already touched). This is a male writer writing about a female protagonist. This usually would not be of importance to me – but I think it makes a difference here. There is a lot of touchy feely going on in this book. I mean – things I just can’t see happening in any realistic environment. For instance, shortly after they have met, Amber shushes Jen by touching her lips with a finger. Ok, seriously, Jen is her client and a very wealthy woman. And, slightly intimidates her in an oh my God! She has so much money kinda way. I know of no one who would shush someone in this instance but this very personal kind of touch – honestly, I don’t think she would have shushed her at all. At least at this point . . . now, maybe later . . .  And, that is just an example of all the touching going on.

Also, this is a Brit writing a story in Denver. Typically, this is another non-issue for me – certainly other authors write about areas with which they are not completely familiar. And, Mr. Henwick has certainly spent time in Denver. However, I do not believe he is entirely comfortable with the colloquialisms used in the states. And, I may be totally, completely, irrevocably wrong. They may really talk like that in Denver. It is just that the only times I have heard such things have been in the UK. So. It bugged me. Not a great, huge amount – just enough to take me out of the story for a period of time. Such things as – Amber driving on the I-25 or dropping Tullah off on the slip road. Typically, we just get on the interstate (highway or whatever) or I-25. We take the exit . . . not the slip road. This being said, I was happy to see this term used in this manner – my GPS (Australian voice – best sound on the GPS) uses it and I wasn’t entirely sure I understood it.

Not that these issues (which I’ll admit are totally silly) really affect the overall quality of the story. I enjoyed the characters. Wondering what on earth was happening and why it was happening kept me interested. And, the world Mr. Henwick developed is intriguing. While it doesn’t end on a cliff-hanger per se, there are many questions left unanswered. The love triangle includes one woman – another woman and a man. And lots of wondering. The next book picks up exactly as this one ends. I haven’t actually decided whether or not I will move on in the series. There are not actually enough books yet that I feel enough of my questions will be answered. I hate that. Were the series complete, I think I would move right one.

I find this book really hard to rate. In the end, I think it is 3.5 stars. Which I will round down to 3 for no other reason that I just don’t feel it is a 4 star book.

Priceless ~ Shannon Mayer

  • Title:  Priceless
  • Author:  Shannon Mayer
  • Series:  Rylee Adamson
  • Genre:  Urban Fantasy
  • Format:  eBook
  • Source:  Own Copy
  • Reviewed by: Sonja
  • Rating:  4 out of 5

Description:  “My name is Rylee and I am a Tracker.”

When children go missing, and the Humans have no leads, I’m the one they call. I am their last hope in bringing home the lost ones. I salvage what they cannot.

I’m on the FBI’s wanted list.

I have a werewolf for a pet, a Witch of a best friend, and have no need for anyone else in my life.

But when a salvage starts to spin out of control, help comes from a most unexpected direction. One that is dangerously dark, brooding, and doesn’t know a thing about the supernatural.

One whose kisses set me on fire

Review:  I don’t recall ever struggling so with a book review. Yes, some have been easier to write than others, but never before have I just not known what to say. Or, I have just not written the review. But, I really, REALLY enjoyed this book and it seems low on the radar, so I really want to say *something*, I just don’t know *what*.

Honestly, I am not really sure *why* I liked it. There is nothing extraordinarily special here. Oh, there are werewolves and vampires and trolls and orcs. Oh, yes, and trackers. But, none of this is actually *special*. The treatment of werewolves is a tad different . . . Alex is Rylee’s pet werewolf. Why didn’t I find them before I felt such an affinity for the werewolf sector as a whole? Still, what’s not to love about Alex – who hasn’t wanted a dog with whom they could communicate? Oh, yes, and the vampires found here are creepy. I can tolerate creepy vampires. Even though they still scare me – at least they are *supposed* to be scary.

Rylee has people in her life. Her adopted mother who is prescient and thereby spends much of her time zoning in and out of the current reality. Her best friend, Molly, is a witch. And she is preparing to desert Rylee and join the local coven. Rylee’s arch enemy, Liam O’Shea, is an FBI agent who thinks she killed her sister and got off and is still stalking her trying to catch her red handed. None of these relationships do much for me . . . Giselle is not enough of a presence to make an impact. I just wanted to strangle Molly throughout the majority of the novel. And, O’Shea, ok well he is interesting. And, there is always Alex – the wolf dog.

So, with the lack of cozy relationships to keep my attention . . . just what did? I think it is Rylee’s compassion. She really cares for those kids she tracks. They matter to her. She wants to find them – and help them – dead or alive. But, preferably alive. She is devastated that she failed her sister (and her parents) and doesn’t wish to fail any other child. Ultimately, the reason O’Shea thinks she is guilty of her sister’s abduction and murder is that she blames herself.

I had two complaints with the novel. The first may well be an illusion – and that is that it was short. Now, I read this in my Kindle app, so I have no real concept of how long it actually was – I only know it took me just a bit over 3 hours to read. It felt short. Could be that I was just so engrossed I lost track of time while I was reading. The second complaint was the fact that the book shifts persons. Most of the time the story is told from Rylee’s point of view in first person. But, occasionally, the story shifts to third person as we see what O’Shea is doing. It is distracting. Not too awful distracting – just a bit.

In fact, without a doubt, the strength of this series is Rylee herself. She cares for and protects all those around here, even those whose own kind would destroy them. She is irascible and a fighter – but she has a heart of gold. It is this passion that kept me in the game rooting for her. I give this one 4 stars. 4 simple stars because I cannot wait to see what’s next.

 

Touched ~ A. J. Aalto

  • Title:  Touched
  • Author:  A. J.Aalto
  • Series:  The Marnie Baranuik Files #1
  • Genre:  Urban Fantasy
  • Format:  eBook
  • Source:  Own Copy
  • Reviewed by: Sonja
  • Rating:  2 out of 5

Description:  The media has a nickname for Marnie Baranuik, though she’d rather they didn’t; they call her the Great White Shark, a rare dual-talented forensic psychic. Twice-Touched by the Blue Sense–which gives her the ability to feel the emotions of others, and read impressions left behind on objects–Marnie also has a doctorate in preternatural biology and a working knowledge of the dark arts. She is considered without peer in the psychic community.

Then her first big FBI case ended with a bullet in one shoulder and a chip on the other, a queasy heart and a serial killer in the wind, leaving her a public flop and a private wreck. When the FBI’s preternatural crimes unit tracks her down at a remote mountain lodge for her insight on a local case, her quiet retirement is promptly besieged by a stab-happy starlet, a rampaging ghoul, and a vampire-hunting jackass in tight Wranglers. Marnie figures the only real mystery is which one will kill her first.

Too mean to die young, backed up by friends in cold places, and running with a mouth as demure as a cannon’s blast, Marnie Baranuik is about to discover that there’s no such thing as quitting time when you’re Touched.

Review:  Warning: unlike my usual reviews, this one has tons of spoilers. I simply cannot review this adequately without revealing *what* affected me.

I had a love/hate relationship with this book. I am starting with the bad because . . . well because it is mostly what I remember as I look back on the book.

The Bad:  Marnie does the absolute stupidest things. And, it isn’t like she does them just once – even twice – she consistently repeats the same old stupid things. I mean, seriously, after the 4th time that she runs off by herself without telling any of the guys where she is going, and consciously leaves her gun in the car? She deserves what she gets.

The Mark Thing. I understand why, at the beginning, she does not want him around. I get it. But, when the entire ‘engaged’ thing is revealed as a hoax, why does she continue to hate on him? Yet, still lust him. Constantly. I hate him. Let’s have sex. I hate him. Let’s have sex. *rolls eyes*

The Henry Thing. When Marnie isn’t wanting to have sex with Mark, she wants to have sex with Henry. But, he won’t do it. And, then, when he acquiesces, it must be now, right now. And, how does this even work when one or the other of them is always asleep?

The Wes Thing. Strangely enough – this is the one that *really* bugged me. Her brother. Shows up. On Marnie’s doorstep. A ‘revenant’. From a family clearly not comfortable with the whole ‘undead’ situation. Having joined another ‘clan’. And he stays there? No reason is given as to *why* he made the decision to become a ‘revenant.’ No reason is given as to why he shows up on Marnie’s (and Henry’s) doorstep. No reason is given as to why he *stays* there. His entire existence is given no logic or point. It is like the author said to herself, ‘Oooh – I need a telepathic character to read Mark’s mind and let Marnie know that he wants to have sex with her all the time too. Let me put an undead brother on her doorstep!’ Really. Bugged. Me.

The Witchcraft. When I read an urban fantasy, I am ok with shifters, magic, paranormal and even, sigh, vampires. I do not like witchcraft. I am ok if it is ‘called’ something else – magic, sorcery – whatever – but witchcraft – with spells and pentagrams and other ‘witchy’ stuff – just goes against my personal belief system. Just me. I realize this. But, it is a roadblock for me.

The Good: I liked Marnie. Even though she has got to be one of the absolute stupidest heroines on the planet (or the next), I liked the way her brain worked (when she wasn’t thinking about sex with . . . well whomever was in the room.) Yes, she does stupid STUPID things. I’ve done way more than my fair share of stupid things. So, I could forgive her most of these. But, I did enjoy the tone with which the story was written.

The mystery. One of the best actually mysteries I have read recently in an Urban Fantasy. Most stories seem to revolve around the protagonist discovering some evil unleashed upon the (at least local) world and doing battle to do away with said evil. Few actually leave clues and that the reader can follow to pick up on exactly who the evil is. Ms. Aalto does a very good job of stringing the reader along for the big reveal near the end.

The world. The world developed here is totally intriguing. The relationship between the revenant and his ‘day sitter’ was fascinating. The gifts that this brings to both partners in the relationship was an interesting idea. And, the randomness of it . . . of course, this allows the author to bring whatever she desires to the party – but it is still clever.

I think, ultimately, my disgruntlement with this book is the unanswered questions. The only question it seems to answer is who did it? (Who killed the little girl.) But, when it comes to relationships and the people involved, we are left with a whole lot of nothing. Why is Henry resistant to sex with Marnie? Which one of these guys does Marnie really want? Why is her family so mad at her? Why on earth is Wes there? What about those pills? What is going on with Henry and Mark? How does Henry really feel about Marnie? Ugh. Nothing seems to move forward. Including the intelligence quotient of one Marnie Baranuik.

All in all – I am giving this one 2 stars. 2 solid stars. I originally felt that I might give it 3 with the love/hate falling right down the middle. Looking back, however, I decided all I remembered were the bad things and none of the good things and couldn’t justify the extra star to myself. If you cannot abide TSTL (Too Stupid To Live) heroines, seriously pass this one up. If witchcraft bothers you, skip it. If lust for absolutely no reason beyond lust bothers you, skip it. However. If you are able to tolerate all the bad, it actually ends up being entertaining. I will not be moving on in this series simply because of the witchcraft and the ‘lust’ triangle.