Hot Blooded ~ Amanda Carlson

  • Title: Hot Blooded
  • Author: Amanda Carlson
  • Series: Jessica McClain #2
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy
  • Format: Kindle
  • Source: Net Galley ARC
  • Reviewed by: DarthVal
  • Rating: 2 out of 5

Description:  It hasn’t been the best week for Jessica McClain.

Her mate has been kidnapped by a Goddess hell-bent on revenge — but Jessica is playing for keeps.

Because she’s the only female werewolf in town…it comes with its own set of rules…and powers.

Aided by two vamps, two loyal Pack members, and one very reluctant human, Jessica must rescue her man while coming to terms with what being a wolf really means.

All in a day’s work for a girl.

The second novel in the Jessica McClain series is a full on action adventure featuring one angry Goddess and plenty of monsters, demons, and a few newly risen beasties…


Review:  Hot Blooded picked up right where Full Blooded left off. It kind of had to, since Full Blooded ended somewhat abruptly with no firm conclusion. The greatest incentive that I had to give the second book a shot was not so much that I was eager to find out what happens next, but rather that I was granted a free advanced review copy by the Publisher via Net Galley.

Once again, Carlson’s concept was good, but the execution was not. For example, the main character, Jess, was maybe a little too powerful. This appeared to be a go-to plot device for the author. The characters were in a no-win situation, no problem! Jessica would mysteriously discover yet ANOTHER inexplicable super power. Maybe I would have bought into it more if there had been some sort of logic behind the powers, but there was not.

Another over-used trope in this book was that all of the villains adhered to the Scooby Doo school of pontification. “Well, now that I’ve captured you, let me gloat and fill in details so that you can find a chance to defeat me and escape.” Ugh. The hero characters plainly walked into danger half cocked, I couldn’t help but wonder if it would not have been better for the bad guys & gals to shut up and kill them already!

Speaking of half-cocked, I found Jessica to be more annoying in this book. On top of her ridiculously emerging powers, she took head strong to the level of hard headed. Bad decisions made under the guise of being tough are still bad decisions. Rinse, lather, and repeat over and over and the result was one stupid heroine.

The one good side of the heroine rushing head first into danger was that it resulted in a lot of action. The battle scenes were not bad at all and quite frankly, they were what kept my attention and allowed me to finish the book. Well, that and the hope that the world-building potential might just solidify into something decent.

What finally made me bump my rating down to just two stars was the cliff hanger ending. It was pointless that a completely new plot line opened up and was tacked on to the the end of the book. Why do some authors seem to think that they this is the way to make sure readers purchase their next book? Isn’t just simply writing a compelling story enough???? This tactic so annoys me that if I had not already received a free advance review copy of the next book I would drop the series cold. As it stands, this series has two outs with no one on base. We’ll see if the third books strikes out.

**Disclaimer: Reviewer was provided with a digital advance review copy of this book by the publisher via Net Galley.

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The Palace Job ~ Patrick Weekes

  • Title:  The Palace Job
  • Author:  Patrick Weekes
  • Genre:  Fantasy
  • Format:  eBook
  • Source:  NetGalley
  • Reviewed by: Sonja
  • Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Description:  The most powerful man in the republic framed her, threw her in prison, and stole a priceless elven manuscript from her family.

With the help of a crack team that includes an illusionist, a unicorn, a death priestess, a talking warhammer, and a lad with a prophetic birthmark, Loch must find a way into the floating fortress of Heaven’s Spire–and get past the magic-hunting golems and infernal sorcerers standing between her and the vault that holds her family’s treasure.

It’d be tricky enough without the military coup and unfolding of an ancient evil prophecy–but now the determined and honourable Justicar Pyvic has been assigned to take her in.

But hey, every plan has a few hitches.

Review:  I picked up this little gem as I was binge watching Leverage on Netflix. Reading this novel while watching that show provided many eerie similarities – but that’s fine – I always root for the little guy.

In this story we have quite the cast of characters trying to steal back an elven manuscript. The team builds slowly and the novel follows each as they are recruited which makes for a somewhat shakey start as the reader tries to understand the various personalities and how they all fit in – very similar to the beginning of Leverage where they show you the thief, hacker, hitter, grifter, and mastermind. Except here, there is magic involved and the plan is . . . well, the plan is constantly being replanned and reformed to match the circumstances that are happening now. I suppose that is what happens when you are flirting with an ancient prophecy.

The story takes a while to take off. I spent the first half thinking – oh come on already, DO something. It really that there wasn’t any action, there was, it just didn’t seem to have any meaning. Then, at about the 50% mark, it takes off. Suddenly, all the characters seem to mesh, the action starts to make sense, and that can’t wait to flip the page hits.

The characters, with the exception of Loch, are flat. They are mostly one-note personalities who bring one quality to the group and they do that over and over again. Loch, however, is constantly surprising and one never really knows what she will do next. Even though the characters are rather one dimensional, the group of characters together is quite entertaining. I believe this is the only time I have ever enjoyed ‘your mom’ jokes. I usually find them juvenile and tasteless. Not really surprising since I am a mom. Here, however, they are presented in an almost satirical fashion. I laughed.

Each set of characters joins the rag tag team in pairs – with two magical exceptions, a unicorn and a death priestess. And, the characters stay paired off, for the most part, throughout. This allows each to work with another they know well and are used to working with. When plans go awry, and they do constantly, it was fun watching the group/pairs try to pull everything back together.

Although the action here was a little slow and the characters a little stale, I still thoroughly enjoyed this book. I think Mr. Weekes video game background is evident here as I could actually visualize the story coming together in some sort of video medium, whether it be gaming or television. Or maybe that was just the Leverage influence. At any rate, the ‘what on earth is going to happen next’ aspect of the story never let up and the characters were enjoyable enough that I enjoyed the time I spent with them. I also love a good take down of power grabbing megalomaniacs and watching the good guys win!

I give this one 3.5 stars but I will round it up to 4 for the good guys!

Full Blooded ~ Amanda Carlson

  • Title: Full Blooded
  • Author: Amanda Carlson
  • Series: Jessica McClain #1
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy
  • Format: Kindle
  • Source: Own
  • Reviewed by: DarthVal
  • Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Description:  Born the only female in an all male race, Jessica McClain isn’t just different—she’s feared.

After living under the radar for the last twenty-six years, Jessica is thrust unexpectedly into her first change, a full ten years late. She wakes up and finds she’s in the middle of a storm. Now that she’s become the only female full-blooded werewolf in town, the supernatural world is already clamoring to take a bite out of her and her new Pack must rise up and protect her.

But not everyone is on board. The werewolf Rights of Laws is missing text and the superstitious werewolves think that Jessica means an end to their race. It doesn’t help when Jessica begins to realize she’s more. She can change partway and hold her form, and speak directly to her wolf. But the biggest complication by far is that her alpha father can’t control her like he can the rest of his wolves.

When a mercenary who’s been hired by the vampires shows up to extract information about the newly turned werewolf only days after her change, they find themselves smack in the middle of a war and there’s no choice but to run together. When it’s up to Jessica to negotiate her release against her father’s direct orders, she chooses to take an offer for help instead. In exchange, Jessica must now swear an oath she may end up repaying with her life.


Review:  I am a sucker for a good cover and I have to admit that the cover of Full Blooded sucked me in. The cover features a striking, but fierce looking female who is ready to take on the world. Just what I like in my urban fantasy! I won’t lie; the story did not live up to the promise of the cover for me.
It is not a bad story. In fact, the concept is great. The plot builds on the mythology that Jessica is the first of her kind, a FEMALE werewolf. This is a game-changer in the supernatural world, especially in light of some vague, threatening, and apparently lost prophecies.

Jessica is a strong minded independent young woman trying to cope. However, she can be really whiny, which I found annoying, almost as annoying as her tendency to leap before looking. She KNOWS she has gaps in knowledge, yet she seems to have no interest at all in actually spending some time learning.

I guess we can forgive Jessica a little bit, considering the fact that everyone in her life is equally stupid. It made absolutely no sense that everyone kept trying to keep her in the dark regarding werewolf lore. I suspect this was the author’s attempt at creating a situation ripe for conflict. Unfortunately for me, this type of weak plot device turns me right off.

I also felt that the author tried to cram too much into one book. It would have been different if all of the plots and subplots had been handled well, but they all felt short-changed. I think the book would have been much stronger if the story focused on the local pack intrigue with well-executed story development.
Finally, the abrupt ending made me want to throw the book across the room. Lucky for my Kindle, I was able to restrain myself. What is with the trend toward unfinished stories???? I feel cheated. I bought a complete book, but it wasn’t. Grrr.

There was just enough of a glimmer that I will give the next book a shot. It helps that I’ve been approved for a no cost advanced review copy. If I had to shell out money, my journey with Jessica would like end here. Fingers crossed that this series gets better.

Dirty Magic ~ Jaye Wells

  • Cover of Dirty Magic by Jaye WellsTitle:  Dirty Magic
  • Author:  Jaye Wells
  • Series:  The Prospero’s War, #1
  • Genre:  Urban Fantasy
  • Format:  eBook
  • Source:  NetGalley
  • Reviewed by:  Sonja
  • Rating:  4 out of 5

Description:  The first in an all-new urban fantasy series by USA Todaybestseller Jaye Wells. 

The last thing patrol cop Kate Prospero expected to find on her nightly rounds was a werewolf covered in the blood of his latest victim. But then, she also didn’t expect that shooting him would land her in the crosshairs of a Magic Enforcement Agency task force, who wants to know why she killed their lead snitch.

The more Prospero learns about the dangerous new potion the MEA is investigating, the more she’s convinced that earning a spot on their task force is the career break she’s been wanting. But getting the assignment proves much easier than solving the case. Especially once the investigation reveals their lead suspect is the man she walked away from ten years earlier—on the same day she swore she’d never use dirty magic again.

Kate Prospero’s about to learn the hard way that crossing a wizard will always get you burned, and that when it comes to magic, you should be never say never

Review:  This was a Book of the Month in a couple different groups I am in on GoodReads, so when I saw it at NetGalley, I happily snagged it for a review.

Warning: There are slight spoilers ahead. Only slight – nothing major. But, if you resist any type of spoilage, you might want to tread cautiously.

I really enjoyed this book. The world created was a very different tack on urban fantasy – all the fantastical creatures come from potions – potions created by adepts. Ok, so adepts are their own sorts of fantastical creatures – not everyone can actually cook magic – but the vampires and werewolves and what not are not natural to this world.

Kate is a former adept who is now a cop. She is also guardian to her little brother, Danny. Or, not so little – though it is easy to assume he is little based on the way she treats him. She still won’t let him come home to an empty house – he has a ‘baby sitter’. At 16. Even I wasn’t that over-protective . . . As it turns out, she has reason to be over protective, but her protection does little good.

I really like Kate. I completely understand her decision to stay totally away from Magic. Her comment near the end of the book says it all: “I don’t trust myself around magic.” For HER it is easier to stay completely away than to deal with the side effects – both good and bad. Some people can’t even take a dip, others have no problem. Sort of like alcohol. At least that is the way I see it. I would be just like Kate. I never do things by halves – I am either in completely or out completely. I get it. I also get that other people do not react the same way. They don’t understand why others just simply canNOT deal with even small doses of something – whatever it is. Kate has my complete sympathy.

I really liked Drew. Interested to see how things there develop – if they do.I also liked Pen. I loved their relationship. My only quandary is Volos. Is he a good guy or a bad guy? I can see Volos going either way. Did he manipulate Kate? Absolutely. But would he have done the right thing regardless? I think the jury is still out there. I think she may be seeing her past in him rather than the man he has become. Ok, yea, he is powerful and we all know that power begets the desire for more power, but that doesn’t mean he would do bad things to those he loved to get it. I dunno. I still think he could go either way. 

There is the requisite love triangle being established here. And, I gotta say, really? Does every single urban fantasy novel require a love triangle? I like all the characters developed here – I can see the triangle going only one of two ways – with her ex-love or with neither! I don’t think the other guy stands a chance. To me, they are friends – nothing more. I hope it stays that way.

There are some interesting creatures in this novel, not the least among them is Little Man – an homunculus conjoined to his twin sister since birth. She has become fully grown physically, he, mentally. Between the 2 of them, they are very interesting persons, and left me scratching my head going, hmmmm.

We can definitely draw analogies between magic and drugs. ‘Dirty’ magic would be seen as illegal narcotics, while ‘clean’ magic would be seen as prescription over the counter medication sold legally. I can see definite criticisms here for prescription medications for such things as depression – almost from a Scientology angle.

One thing that made me laugh was the curse jar. My knee jerk reaction to the first line of the book was to think, “Really? We have to start off with that word?” Happily for me, it definitely did NOT set the tone for the remainder of the novel – words when used were definitely appropriate. I loved the scene where she put everything she had in her purse in the jar and when she didn’t use up all her $, she used every word she could think of. Haven’t we all been there? 

I think my biggest single issue with this novel was Kate’s reaction to the team that she has grown to love and care for. Once she does the thing – the only thing she can do – there are no two ways about it, she has to do it – she doesn’t tell them. I simply cannot believe that the people involved in the relationships that I watched develop and grow would judge Kate for her actions and find her wanting. I think they would love, support, and encourage here. That they are not even given a chance – and OMG they are COPS – the best of the best – they ARE NOT stupid – to console and aid her – was the book’s single biggest weakness to me.

But, I am left with a  slew of questions. Say you want to leave magic and take your brother out of the world. Do you stay in the city where your Uncle leads the coven? Or do you get as far away as humanly possible? If you ARE going to stay in the city, do you make so much noise as to become a cop and keep poking at the hornet’s nest that you left? Or do you go dig a deep hole and try to hide?I mean, seriously, if it is just YOU – maybe. But, if you have a kid depending upon you? I found that aspect to also be completely unbelievable.

Other than that, I really enjoyed this one. I enjoyed the world. I enjoyed Kate. And, I enjoyed the relationships. I am eagerly awaiting more, and I hope it doesn’t disappoint. I give this one 3.5 stars for its failings – but round it up to 4 for the eagerness with which I anticipate the next.

Royal Airs ~ Sharon Shinn

  • Title: Royal Airs
  • Author: Sharon Shinn
  • Series: Elemental Blessings #2
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Source: Library
  • Reviewed by: Olga
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

Description:  Josetta is a princess of one of the Five Families. But she is far from the throne, so she is free to spend her days working in the poorest sections of the city.

Rafe Adova, an outcast since he was born, lives the life of a career gambler in those slums. He has no ambition other than cheating at the card tables—-until the night he decides to help a girl named Corene, who looks like she’s stumbled into the wrong bar. She, too, is a princess—-sister to Josetta, who finds her with Rafe. He fascinates her.

Josetta has never encountered anyone like him—-someone seemingly devoid of elemental blessings. He is drawn to her, though he thinks they are unlikely to ever meet again—-but their connection grows strong when she nurses him back to health after he is assaulted by foreign mercenaries.
And when they learn the reason he’s being hunted, they know that the truth about his history could endanger not only their love but also their very lives.

Review:  I enjoyed this novel. Not surprising, as Shinn is one of my favorite writers. Her new books automatically go on my To-Read list, and I own most of them. This one is the second in the author’s new series Elemental Blessings.

The story occurs several years after the first book in the series, Troubled Waters, and many familiar personages pop up on the pages. The action revolves around two central characters: Josetta and Rafe. A more disparate set of lovers is hard to imagine.

Rafe is a professional gambler, living in the slums of Chialto, the capital of Welce, and plying his card trade nightly in a semi-respectable tavern. He doesn’t like what he is doing very much (who among us likes their jobs very much?) but he is good at it and he makes a decent living. Until fate brings him in contact with Josetta, he never questions his way of life. Afterwards… things happen, and his life turns upside down. And he doesn’t even mind that, as long as his new existence includes Josetta. His first impression of her: “The door opened, and spring stepped inside.” So simple and so beautiful!

Josetta is a princess. Strong-minded and resilient, with the unswerving moral code and a kind heart, she doesn’t have any royal blood, but her mother was a queen, married to the late king, and Josetta has been in line for the throne of Welce since she was born. She doesn’t want the position though. She hates the palace, detests its endless intrigues and its scuffle for power, and spends most of her days in the shelter for the poor she operates in the slums, where she provides food, medicine, and warm beds to anyone in need. Her life is orderly and well-regulated, until she meets Rafe. Then, all bets are off, and what this princess will do for her guy is not easy to predict.

The world is interesting and original, on the verge of an industrial revolution. It incorporates automobiles and horses, sailing ships and flying planes, test pilots and homicidal princes, and of course magic, subtle but implacable.

The pacing is slower than I would like, and like most Shinn’s novels, this one is low key – a quiet love story between a young man and a young woman, lyrical and enchanting. Despite the adventurous plotline, all the escapades and brawls and general swashbuckling are only surface deep, a painted backdrop for the heroes’ journeys, which unfold inside their souls. Both Josetta and Rafe are trying to find their places in life, establish their mutual zone, and investigate their connection. Their search for each other and for the meanings of their lives is the focus of this book.  

My only objection: I don’t really believe that a princess would be allowed to manage a shelter, or a royal regent would gallivant around the countryside unescorted. The power structure of the society depicted in the book is too democratic for a kingdom, and the power players are too casual and unassuming. If the royal retinue’s fussing makes the king, then what does the lack of such a retinue signify?   

The 4 stars of my rating are comparative, but it’s not a comparison with other writers. I simply like some of Shinn’s other novels better. Still, this is a solid fantasy tale with a romantic subtext and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who likes a blend of fantasy and romance. 

A Study in Silks ~ Emma Jane Holloway

  • Title: A Study in Silks
  • Author: Emma Jane Holloway
  • Series: The Baskerville Affair #1
  • Genre: Steampunk, Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
  • Format: ebook
  • Source: NetGalley
  • Reviewed by: DarthVal
  • Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Description:  Evelina Cooper, the niece of the great Sherlock Holmes, is poised to enjoy her first Season in London’s high society. But there’s a murderer to deal with—not to mention missing automatons, a sorcerer, and a talking mouse.

In a Victorian era ruled by a council of ruthless steam barons, mechanical power is the real monarch, and sorcery the demon enemy of the empire. Nevertheless, the most coveted weapon is magic that can run machines—something Evelina has secretly mastered. But rather than making her fortune, her special talents could mean death or an eternity as a guest of Her Majesty’s secret laboratories. What’s a polite young lady to do but mind her manners and pray she’s never found out?

But then there’s that murder. As Sherlock’s niece, Evelina should be able to find the answers, but she has a lot to learn. And the first decision she has to make is whether to trust the handsome, clever rake who makes her breath come faster, or the dashing trick rider who would dare anything for her if she would only just ask.

Review:  A Study in Silks kicks off a new lightly steampunk series, The Baskerville Affair. I say lightly steampunk, because although the world is powered by steam and clockwork creations abound, the world really does not feel all that different from traditional historical romance. Hmm, romance is not really the right word, either, maybe historical chick lit? Clearly, it is difficult to pin down exactly which category owns this book, and well, defining books by genre has very little practical use, so I’ll move right along.

One can definitely define this book as a mystery. The main character, Evelina Cooper, has an inquisitive mind and a touch of magic, neither of which help her blend into London society any better than her dubious heritage. She is a guest in the family home of her best friend, with whom she is preparing for her introduction to debut into society when a series of mysterious events begin to unfold. Being niece to the illustrious Sherlock Holmes, Evelina, of course, sets out to discover the truth and hopefully protect those close to her.

I have mixed feelings about the use of Sherlock Holmes within the books. Other than solidifying Evelina’s natural inclination toward solving mysteries, I am not sure that it really serves much purpose in progressing the plot of the story. It almost feels as if the author is trying to create the effect of the celebrity cameo, a device which I find trite. Perhaps Holloway intends to use this relation as a resource in future books. Only times will tell.

For a book that is not really a romance, the story relies heavily another over-used trope, the love triangle. Throughout the book, Evelina finds herself torn between her affections for her BFF’s brother and someone from her questionable past. Both characters are depicted as intelligent, dashing, and full-of-life. They are also both a bit full of themselves and prove themselves unworthy of Evelina by the end of the book. I truly hope that Ms. Holloway does not try to use them as potential romantic interests in future books. I feel that both kind suitors leave behind burnt bridges in regards to Evelina’s affections. I have to admit that I love this. It is refreshing to read a story where the female lead is not defined by finding her true and everlasting love by the end of the book. Well done, Ms. Holloway.

Going back to the mystery, it is pretty ambitious, if a little convoluted. I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt, considering this book is clearly also setting up deep intrigue for books to come. I appreciate that the author was unwilling to scrimp on the complexity of the story in favor of world building. I do so love a good enigmatic plot.

No matter how good the plot, it will remain unsatisfying without decent characters. Evelina is a character that I can like. She is smart, resourceful, and independent. I look forward to following her adventures as they unfold throughout the series. I also think there is more to her sidekick, er, I mean BFF.

My overall impression of the book was favorable. I am definitely interested to see where the author takes the series from here.