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.

Rosemary and Rue ~ Seanan McGuire

  • Title: Rosemary and Rue
  • Author: Seanan McGuire
  • Series: October Daye #1
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy
  • Format: Audio book
  • Source: Library
  • Reviewed by: DarthVal
  • Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Description:  October “Toby” Daye, a changeling who is half human and half fae, has been an outsider from birth. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the Faerie world, retreating to a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, the Faerie world has other ideas…

The murder of Countess Evening Winterrose pulls Toby back into the fae world. Unable to resist Evening’s dying curse, which binds her to investigate, Toby must resume her former position as knight errant and renew old alliances. As she steps back into fae society, dealing with a cast of characters not entirely good or evil, she realizes that more than her own life will be forfeited if she cannot find Evening’s killer.

Review:  Rosemary and Rue is the first book of the October Daye urban fantasy series. It is also the first time I’ve experienced any books by author, Seanan McGuire. For a first book, it holds a lot of promise.

The story follows reluctant fae investigator October “Toby” Daye. She is a changling, half fae, who has tried to distance herself from her heritage and hide away from her problems in the human world. Unfortunately, she is compelled to investigate the murder of a close friend and member of the fae royalty or risk her own life.

Toby’s character fits into the fragile strength mold. She is wounded and flawed, but her intelligence and resourcefulness carry her through. The author keeps her focused on the mystery at hand, although she does occasionally drift off into the land of woe is me. While she is not a stand-out character, she has enough potential for the reader to root for her.

In addition to Toby, we are introduced to entire of ensemble of vibrant characters, who I suspect will turn up in future books. Many of these characters are cast with ambiguity, leaving a lot of room for the world to grow and blossom. She also casts many of the fae in a very anthropomorphic fashion. Take for example Tybalt, Lord of the Cats, a character for which I have a particular fondness. His self-interest manifests itself in a fashion totally fitting feline fashion, as do his speech patterns and mannerisms. I sense this cat-like character has at least as many hidden layers as a cat has lives.

The world building uses the basic framework of fae mythology and then diverges into McGuire’s interpretation. She focuses a lot of attention on the challenges faced by the changlings who fit into neither the human nor the fae realm. Again, there is nothing particularly striking about this world, but it has potential.

There is enough adventure in this book to make it fun. Plus, McGuire does a good job of weaving in elements of future intrigue. It is enough to throw the reader off the trail to solve the mystery at hand, yet not so much that it leaves one frustrated by lack of closure at the end. There is clearly more story to be told, as you would expect with the start of a series.

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.

City of Ghosts ~ Stacia Kane

  • Title: City of Ghosts
  • Author: Stacia Kane
  • Series: Downside Ghosts #3
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy
  • Format: Audio book
  • Source: Library
  • Reviewed by: DarthVal
  • Rating:  5 out of 5

Description:  IT’S A THIN LINE BETWEEN ALIVE AND UNDEAD.

Chess Putnam has a lot on her plate. Mangled human corpses have started to show up on the streets of Downside, and Chess’s bosses at the Church of Real Truth have ordered her to team up with the ultra-powerful Black Squad agency to crack the grisly case.

Chess is under a binding spell that threatens death if she talks about the investigation, but the city’s most notorious crime boss—and Chess’s drug dealer—gets wind of her new assignment and insists on being kept informed. If that isn’t bad enough, a sinister street vendor appears to have information Chess needs. Only he’s not telling what he knows, or what it all has to do with the vast underground City of Eternity.

Now Chess will have to navigate killer wraiths, First Elders, and a lot of seriously nasty magic—all while coping with some not-so-small issues of her own. And the only man Chess can trust to help her through it all has every reason to want her dead.

Review:  Stacia Kane has created a rich world full of interesting characters for her Downside Ghosts series. City of Ghosts, the third book in the series, gets started with a bang. From the very first scene, this book is filled with thrilling action that will keep the reader on the edge of their seat.

Chess Putnam, Church Witch and Debunker, has earned a reputation for solving tough cases. As a result, she has been loaned to the Black Squad to work on a case so sensitive that she must be bound to secrecy. Of course, this case is so far reaching that it impacts Downside, as well. Chess is forced to lay it all on the line to try or everything she may lose everything that she holds dear: her freedom in Downside, The Church itself, Terrible, and possibly her life.

Kane has set the stakes so much higher in this book. She has evolved the magic in her world-building by tapping into the Elder magic accessed by the binding spell. She does this brilliantly, creating more depth, while staying within the confines of the magic system that she has created. This magic also reveals even more about Chess, her pain is almost palpable as she struggles through the binding.

Chess burns bright in City of Ghosts, as we feel her isolated shell start to crack and fragment, revealing some of hidden depths of her character. She starts to let others in just a little bit, and yet her self-loathing makes every step agonizing, especially the conflict between Chess and Terrible. I felt that this was really well-written, because the core of this struggle was a unique trust and friendship at risk, rather than simply some mystical insta-love pull that so many authors rely upon these days.

The tension in this book was literally breath-taking. I would often find myself holding my breath, waiting to see what would happen next. I don’t just mean the inter-character dynamics. The danger was so much greater and the intrigue so much deeper. So much of the story was balanced upon a knife’s edge; the result was a thrill to read.

City of Ghosts is what dark urban fantasy should be, an intense adventure starring a cast of charismatic personalities. Well done, Ms. Kane. Well done.

 

New Release: Taste of Darkness by Maria V. Snyder

US Cover

The third book in the Healer series was released on December 31st 2013! It is currently available in print and ebook in the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand. The audiobook, read by Gabra Zuckman, will be available in January 2014. Take a look at the different covers for the book, read a scene that was deleted from the story and watch the UK book trailer.

The Story:

She’s fought death and won. But how can she fight her fears?

Avry knows hardship and trouble. She fought the plague and survived. She took on King Tohon and defeated him. But now her heart-mate, Kerrick, is missing, and Avry fears he’s gone forever.

But there’s a more immediate threat. The Skeleton King plots to claim the Fifteen Realms for his own. With armies in disarray and the dead not staying down, Avry’s healing powers are needed now more than ever.Torn between love and loyalty, Avry must choose her path carefully. For the future of her world depends on her decision.

o=o=o=o

Deleted Scene from Taste of Darkness

UK Cover

“Oh sure. I’ve done this route a dozen times so far,” Beau said.

“A dozen?” Sounded like an exaggeration. [Avry]

“Oh yes. Sepp wants updates regularly.”

Did he just say… He smiled, revealing yellowed crooked teeth. I reached for my stiletto, but he pulled his sword and nicked my arm with the tip of his blade. Then stepped back.

Oh no. Not Death Lily toxin again. I disconnected.

Beau sheathed his sword and hung the lantern on a hook. “My name’s Pov, not Beau.” He towed my body about twenty feet away from the junction. He returned to the intersection. “Now watch this.” Pov placed his palm on the wall and closed his eyes.

An alarming crack echoed. The sound zigged zagged, growing louder. Then a groan followed by a terror-inducing rumble. Pov backed away, joining me. More cracking and popping filled the air and then a roar as rocks rained down from the ceiling above the intersection. Dust flew up in a white fog. Pov covered his mouth and nose.

The dust settled, revealing a pile of rocks blocking the way back. He’d used his rock magic to create the cave-in. So worried about Sepp, I’d forgotten Tohon had also had a rock hound working for him.

“Even if your friends figure out the symbols, they won’t get far,” Pov said, wiping his hands on his pants. “Shall we?” He grabbed my arm and pulled me along.

We traveled for hours. I tried to keep track of the symbols on the walls, but they changed all the time. One thing I knew, we’d left the three triangles path long ago. Comfortable in the mines, Pov moved with ease. A quiet man, he didn’t gloat, threaten or try to scare me. Knowing Sepp waited on the other end of our journey, I didn’t need any prompting to be terrified. And Pov’s kindness was unexpected.

Before the toxin wore off, he stopped. “Look,” he’d said. “I can keep pricking you with the toxin, but I’d rather not. You’re a smart lady. Without me, you’ll die in here. So how about a temporary agreement? I don’t prick you, and you don’t zap me. Once we get to the exit, then the agreement expires.”

Pov continued towing me until I reconnected with my body and tripped. He stepped back, waiting. I considered grabbing him and forcing him to show me the way out. Except he’d probably bring the ceiling down on my head.

Instead, I clambered to my feet and wiped the dirt off my cloak. “All right, I agree to a temporary agreement.”

He relaxed. “Good.”

We stopped to eat and rest soon after. Pov had stashed food, water and lantern oil along the route. As he navigated the twists and turns, I wondered what my friends had thought of my disappearance. Would they be enroute to the Healer’s Guild? And what about Flea?

At the second stop, I asked Pov how long he’d been Private Beau.

“I joined Prince Ryne’s army before he left Ivdel Realm last spring. King Tohon wanted me to bury the entire army in an avalanche when they crossed the Nine Mountains, but with the dry winter, there wasn’t enough snow.”

Wow a random bit of good luck.

“But what about when we were trapped in Zabin? Why didn’t you tell him where Ryne and the others were hiding?”

“I couldn’t leave the POW camp, it would have looked suspicious.”

True. “And when Tohon was neutralized?”

Australia & New Zealand Cover

“I stayed. Cellina knew of my assignment so I waited for orders.”

“And did they come?”

“Oh, yes. Who do you think found this perfect HQ for Prince Ryne?”

Shocked, I stared at him. Again he didn’t gloat, but seemed proud of his accomplishments. “How did you communicate with her?”

Pov shook his head. “I’m not giving away secrets.”

Right then I gave up trying to figure out the business of war. Spies, double-crosses, ambushes and strategic military positioning, how did anyone keep it all straight? And then I realized, it wasn’t my job to keep track. It was Ryne’s and maybe I should have just trusted him to do his job and I should have focused on my job—healing patients. Or at least I should have kept to the plan to rescue Zila. That was what Ryne wanted, but we took another course of action, which landed me here with Pov.

Hours turned into days and I learned quite a bit about Pov. A smart sensible guy, except for the fact he worked for Sepp and Cellina.

Six…seven days into the trip, Pov stopped. “The exit is a mile down that shaft. Our agreement is at an end,” he said then waited.

Did he expect me to attack him?

o=o=o=o

UK Book Trailer

Hell Bent ~ Devon Monk

  • Hell Bent CoverTitle:  Hell Bent
  • Author:  Devon Monk
  • Series:  Broken Magic, #1
  • Genre:  Urban Fantasy
  • Format:  eBook
  • Source:  NetGalley
  • Reviewed by: Sonja
  • Rating:  4 out of 5

Description:  Instead of the deadly force it once was, magic is now a useless novelty. But not for Shame Flynn and Terric Conley, “breakers” who have the gift for reverting magic back to its full-throttle power. In the magic-dense city of Portland, Oregon, keeping a low profile means keeping their gifts quiet. After three years of dealing with disgruntled magic users, Shame and Terric have had enough of politics, petty magic, and, frankly, each other. It’s time to call it quits.

When the government discovers the breakers’ secret—and its potential as a weapon—Shame and Terric suddenly become wanted men, the only ones who can stop the deadly gift from landing in the wrong hands. If only a pair of those wrong hands didn’t belong to a drop-dead-gorgeous assassin Shame is falling for as if it were the end of the world. And if he gets too close to her, it very well could be….

Review:  This book was released right as I finished the Allie Beckstrom series – which left me wanting more, More, MORE! So, I happily snagged this one up from Netgalley with promises to provide an honest review. Not sure how honest or how fan girlish it will be – but they had no way of knowing that. 😉

First of all, this is a new series – same set of characters, new protagonist, new series. That being said, you will do yourself a favor if you read the Allie series first. While you can certainly jump into the story at this point, Shame does not start off particularly loveable. In order to really understand the whys and the wherefores and the what up, you need to follow his journey through the other series. If you don’t care, then by all means start here. I am, perhaps, ok definitely, a bit obsessive, and cannot tolerate reading out of order.

Shame . . . on the surface, Shame does not appear to be very likeable. He whines. A lot. He drinks. A lot. He is snarky. Very. Yet, those around him love him deeply. And, he returns this affection – and would defend those around him to the death – and he has. But, Shame’s deepest problem is that he wants to suck the life out of everything around him. Literally. That is what it means to be a death magic users in this world. Yet, Shame loves those around him too much to do so – so he is at war with his very nature. Once you understand this about him, it makes his quirks and foibles much easier to understand and accept.

This story is composed of mysteries. Why is the government looking for magic breakers (i.e. ‘soul complements’)? Who is killing people? Who is following Shame and/or Terric? Where is Davy? Who is Jeremy? And what does he really want with Terric? We are given a few clues to unravel a few of these, but by no means all of them. In fact, not all of them are resolved here – for it is a duology: another book will, hopefully, complete the story. But, it is not the mysteries nor their solutions that are the driving force to read here – it is Shame: his sarcastic nature and his desire to love and protect those people around him. He loves deeply and madly – and will do anything to protect. For one with a bent toward sarcastic humor, this book is a gold mine. And, even as I was choking back tears (and make no mistake, this one is a tear jerker), I was chuckling at some of the inner and spoken dialog.

It is also very entertaining to re-visit beloved characters in such a way that their lives are not greatly impacted but we still get to see what has happened with them since last we met. For instance, at least one couple is married and some others have moved out of the area to follow their loved ones. The Authority is learning to adjust to the magic as it now happens. (It is still a very creepy organization.)

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Not that, after devouring the Allie Beckstom series, I am at all surprised. That being said, I was confounded by the amount of death in this book. It leaves me in great fear for those beloved characters still in jeopardy. And, I do not feel entertained by tear jerkers nor deaths of characters. I feel sad and depressed. Yet, this book still worked for me. I love Shame. I am still hoping for his rehabilitation and improvement in his lot in life. I don’t actually expect it to ever happen, but a girl can hope, right? I would love to see him happy. I realize I am alone in a big crowd, but I do not wish to see him alone with Terric (who, if you ask me, has other really good options in the story). I really liked Dessa and their relationship, though it was a bit sudden and beyond reason – the actual relationship worked for me. Not sure how I feel about the revealed bad guy . . . It seems a little too easy and predictable.

It is a function of how much I loved the Allie series that I was willing to pick this one up before the second was published. I am usually a complete story kind of gal. I suppose I was rewarding Ms. Monk for completing the previous series before I actually began reading it. At any rate, I give this one a solid 4 stars. It is a very good story, with great characters and enjoyable mystery. I expect to love the next one more, so I leave it for room for improvement.