Daughter of Smoke and Bone ~ Laini Taylor

  • Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
  • Author: Laini Taylor
  • Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1
  • Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
  • Format: Audiobook
  • Source: NC Digital Library
  • Reviewed by: Valerie
  • Rating: 3 out of 5

Description (from Goodreads):  Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

*Potential Spoilers*

Review:  This book started out on the right track. The author created a really interesting character in Karou. I enjoyed the humor of Zuzana’s character. I was intrigued by the mystery of the teeth and the wishbones. And who the heck was this girl with ties to a darker underworld? I was so excited to have found a book that was truly young ADULT.

Then along came that unwanted character, the angst monster. It felt like around the time that Karou and Akiva decided to hang out on top of the world the book began to wallow. There was just so much longing and emoting and nothing really happening.

We interrupt this sequence of over-emoting to resolve the mystery of the wish bone. Ta-da! It’s basically just a wishbone. There were some loosely explained links to memories, but I was hoping for something more. Alas, I found the wishbone reveal to be a let-down.

Just when I felt like to book might to start getting back on track, we enter the flashback phase. There were flashbacks within flashbacks. Oh, and the emoting began anew and had gained many angst point in the meantime.

During the flashback masquerade scene, I could not help but detect a distinct whiff of Romeo and Juliet. I kept waiting for a new balcony scene, “Akiva. Akiva, wherefore art thou seraphim?”

Finally, there was the non-ending ending. There really wasn’t a solid conclusion to anything (was there an actual climax meant to be housed within the flashback?), but rather the introduction of a new major plot thread and three words that I hate to see in any book “to be continued.” We get it. You are writing a series. Please just try to somewhat wrap up your story, and the open plot lines suggest that another book will follow.

I really wanted to like this book. I didn’t dislike the book. In fact, had I read this when I was in sixth grade, I might have loved it. Maybe. However, I can’t really say I liked it either.

There were some really great aspects to this book. The world building was interesting. I found it interesting that she went as far as to outline the opposing mythologies to explain the creation of the seraphim versus chimera world. I cannot help but wonder if the ridiculous nature of both explanations is a commentary on creation mythology in general?

I really appreciated the way she wove artistic theming throughout the book. It lent itself well to some rather vivid mental imagery. In particular, two scenes really stood out to me; the reverse puppetry ballet of Zuzana and the magical moth shawl.

***The next paragraph contains a MAJOR SPOILER. This is your last change to TURN BACK NOW!***

On the downside, I think there were some gaps in plausibility to the story. First, Karou is written as a very precocious and inquisitive character. It makes it hard to imagine that she has not discovered more about herself or the nature of her foster family. Second, early in the book, when Akiva has already fallen for Karou, he agrees to accompany her to seek out her family which he knows centers on Brimstone. It seems like at this point he should be exhibiting at least a bit of the overwhelming guilt and anguish that he experiences at the end of the book. At least some regret.

While I won’t be continuing on with this series (unless the second book becomes a book club read), I can definitely see a market for it. I recommend this one for fans of Twilight, Fallen, Beautiful Creatures, and the like.


Pleasure Unbound ~ Larissa Ione

  • Title: Pleasure Unbound
  • Author: Larissa Ione
  • Series: Demonica #1
  • Genre: PNR, UF
  • Format: Paperback
  • Source: Own Copy
  • Reviewed by: Valerie
  • Rating: 3 out of 5

Description:  In a place where ecstasy can cost you your life . . .

She’s a demon-slayer who hungers for sensual pleasure-but fears it will always be denied her. Until Tayla Mancuso lands in a hospital run by demons in disguise, and the head doctor, Eidolon, makes her body burn with unslakable desire. But to prove her ultimate loyalty to her peers, she must betray the surgeon who saved her life.

Two lovers will dare to risk all.

Eidolon cannot resist this fiery, dangerous woman who fills him with both rage and passion. Not only is she his avowed enemy, but she could very well be the hunter who has been preying upon his people. Torn between his need for the truth and his quest to find his perfect mate before a horrific transformation claims him forever, Eidolon will dare the unthinkable-and let Tayla possess him, body and soul . . .

**Warning: I am giving my review an R-Rating. It is meant for adults. Considering the nature of the book, it is also clearly meant for adults.**

Review:  Take 2 scoops each of paranormal romance and erotica, a dollop of urban fantasy, a generous sprinkle of demons and a dash of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and you get Pleasure Unbound. This is what I would call a bubble bath book; sexy, light and fluffy. It was a bit silly and ridiculous, but once I accepted that, I allowed myself to turn my brain off a bit and enjoy the humor, whether it was always intended or not.

The world-building was not too deep, but it was interesting. I really liked the concept that the demon world is the flip side of humanity, that demons are mostly evil with good exceptions versus there being evil exceptions to the basic goodness among humans. Plus, there were some kick-ass fighting scenes, which always make me happy.

**Spoiler Alert – detour to avoid spoiler content**

Another aspect of the book that I really appreciated was Tayla’s difficulty in reaching the Big-O. Romance authors are so gratuitous with their orgasms that we see the achievement of multiples during virgin deflowering scenes. HUH? I think we can all agree that while we’d love to see fireworks every time, but it is not just reality for most of us. I think this made Tayla much more relatable and Eidolon more endearing for his determination to get her there. Now, as for the lame insta-psychology healing of deep mental trauma, well, not quite as well-played.

Speaking of Eidolon, for a demon he was a bit of a Marty Stu. He heals everyone who comes into the hospital, even if they are the enemy (Hello, Tayla). He takes beatings on behalf of his ego-centric brother with a tortured soul. All he really wants is to find someone to love & raise a family. Aww, do they have picket fences in the underworld?

As for Tayla, she is hot mess of a demon slayer grappling with the discovery that *gasp* she is half-demon. Didn’t see that one coming (said with the barest hint of sarcasm). I was bit disappointed in the Buffy societies gullibility and lack of knowledge. They were portrayed as this elite order with a long history of demon slaying, and yet they knew very little about demons and were very easy to infiltrate. Hmm. Maybe they needed Giles.

**Spoiler detour – you are clear of spoilers beyond this point**

I personally prefer a book with more depth and plot, but I can definitely see the appeal in this book for its intended audience.

Demons Are A Girl’s Best Friend ~ Linda Wisdom

  • Title: Demons Are a Girl’s Best Friend
  • Author: Linda Wisdom
  • Series: Demon’s #1
  • Genre: UF, PNR
  • Format: eBook
  • Source: Own Copy
  • Reviewed by: Soo
  • Rating: 3 out of 5

Description:  Feisty witch Maggie enjoys her work as a paranormal law enforcement officer—that is, until she’s assigned to protect a teenager with major attitude and a sleazy boyfriend. A group of satanic Mayans priests has decided Courtney has a drop of divine blood in her—making her just the virgin sacrifice they need to release their God and rule the world.

To prevent this catastrophe, Maggie must team up with half fire demon Declan, the proprietor of Damnation Alley, an underground club and busy demon portal. Declan will be damned if he’ll allow his demon race to be blamed for the malicious acts of some evil Mayans. So he decides to seduce the sexy witch in an effort to discover what the law enforcement agency knows about the Mayan’s plans, but then things get more than a little hot, and Declan finds himself seriously entangled with the sexiest woman he’s ever met…

*Potential Spoilers*

Review:  Maggie O’Malley isn’t a typical petite blonde in skimpy club clothes. She’s a centuries old Witch and a part of the Hellion Guard. The Guard is a select police force for the supernatural community that lives amongst the uninformed average Dick & Jane. Maggie’s group followed a lead to capture a Bloater at Damnation Alley. Everything went as planned until the Bloater blew up and splattered icky goo all over Maggie and the club. First impressions matter! It’s a good thing Declan, the club owner, saw Maggie before the goo-tastic explosion because more than one kind of spark lite when Maggie and Declan meet for the first time. Add a mouthy, rebellious teenager, grumpy gnome boss, portents of world destruction and a mile high ice cream sundae to get a small but hilarious insight into Demons Are a Girl’s Best Friend.

The story caught my grin with the first page! I was chuckling and laughing a lot as I read the novel. The characters are engaging, the plot moved along at a decent clip, and it was easy for me to imagine the world that Linda Wisdom created for the book.

It’s very cute. I suppose I should think Maggie is badass and Declan is swoon worthy but I see them as a cute couple who kind of fell into another Armageddon plot and kind of saved the world in passing. The story isn’t about being a great warrior or witch. It’s about Maggie’s family of friends, falling in love, and figuring out how to make that all work despite ingrain prejudices.

I love a steamy love scene. However, I think this story would have been better if the love scenes were more vague and leave it up to the reader’s imagination. Most of the time, I thought the scenes were corny or very awkward. The dream sequences were great! I enjoyed the creative flair and depth of a different kind of romance.

Initially, I wanted to rate this story 4 stars because I enjoyed reading it a lot. However, a few consistent points keep me from rating it higher. I don’t get a sense of why certain things work the way they do in the story. Maggie’s magic is very powerful and seems to have no drawback. The deal with the Mayans and the climax feels like a passing byplay that I can’t make myself care about too much. I should have been really engaged by the climax and I found myself not caring by the scene. I grinned when the God of Destruction ends up being a Goddess. I rolled my eyes at the events following her appearance.

Yay for Maggie starting a family of her own and finding love! I look forward to seeing what happens to the gang in the next book. I hope the world becomes more fleshed out and that the action of the story is as important as the characters living in it.

License to Ensorcell ~ Katharine Kerr

  • Title: License to Ensorcell
  • Author: Katharine Kerr
  • Series: Nola O’Grady #1
  • Genre: UF, Mystery
  • Format: ebook
  • Source: Own Copy
  • Reviewer: Soo
  • Rating: 2 out of 5

Description:  Psychic Agent Nola O’Grady isn’t sure returning to San Francisco, and living near her unusual family, is a good idea. Her job, with a psychic agency so obscure even the CIA doesn’t know it exists, can be perilous, and she’s afraid of the relatives getting involved.
Then the Agency saddles her with Israeli secret agent Ari Nathan, and she has a bigger problem on her hands, because tact and compromise are not Ari’s strong points. Their mission is to track down a serial killer obsessed with werewolves. He sees them everywhere and shoots whenever he thinks he has one in his sights. Ari assumes the man’s psychotic, but in truth he’s murdering actual werewolves. Nola should know. Her younger brother Pat, a lycanthrope, was the first victim. Can Nola’s psychic talents and Ari’s skill with guns keep them alive long enough to unravel the greater mystery behind the killings? Can they save the werewolves and the world while stopping Nola’s family from running headlong into danger?

Review:  2.75 Stars

Nola O’Grady is from a large family with peculiar quirks & talents. She works for a unnamed branch of the government that keeps an eye on Chaos and maintains Harmony in the US. Her latest assignment lands her back home in San Francisco, right in the midst of family love & squabbles and joining forces with Ari Nathan to track down a killer. A killer that may have also been the one to kill her brother Patrick, a werewolf.

I’ve had this book listed to read in my pile of books for a while and brought it up as a something to share in a Buddy read with a friend. When asked to pick a book between this one and another, I picked License to Ensorcell because it made me laugh with the very first line! I took that to be an excellent beginning. However, as I read the story, I found myself fighting to read the book. The premise has a lot of potential and the O’Gradys are fascinating group. The mystery or the family should have been the driving force but it’s not.

The setting takes place in San Francisco but I’m constantly thrown into a loop by Nola’s speech. She sounds like a Brit half the time. The slang in the story doesn’t vibe with being in the States. Too much of the story takes place inside Nola’s mind as she worries in a vague manner about the case and her family.

I’m much more fascinated by Michael, the seventh child of a seventh child and the youngest of the O’Grady clan. Kerr’s short “observation” about Michael’s potential of becoming a stark, hard man of intelligence, honor and outsider intrigued my interest more than the whole book.

I think I need to give the series another chance and read the next book. I’ll take a while before I come back to this series. What a disheartening way to react to an author that I love! I’ve been reading Kerr’s work for a good chunk of my life. It’s odd to dislike something she’s written.